There Are Several Kinds of Continuity Lists
Everything that is shot in front of a camera needs a corresponding written record for many purposes, including having a legal transcript when filmmakers such as PAUL and MARY for example decide to make a documentary film together about their marriage. A CCSL (Combined Continuity & Dialogue List) is in essence a very detailed transcript that a studio or distributor will need for subtitles, dubbing or legal records but they are time-consuming, tedious, and quite the opposite of a basic transcript. CLICK ON EACH TYPE BELOW TO SEE EXAMPLES.
A spotting list is generally considered the simplest variety that a studio will order and is usually anywhere from 3 to 5 columns wide but, just like beer and Mexican food, they too vary greatly. There is no single format that is universal and standard but there are variations that are closely related. The spotting list usually contains three basic elements: Time code in, time code out, duration between to measure the length of the scene and the actual subtitles and/or dialogue. Odds are, if our imaginary couple PAUL and MARY are shooting a documentary, a spotting list would primarily have value for them before they edit their film. However, for everything that’s required after that such as when they go to sale their film abroad and get it subtitled or translated, they’ll need more such as one of the formats below.
Scene description is exactly that, what is PAUL doing when he’s with MARY at the playground? Is he throwing the football to her? Is he chasing her with an engagement ring in hand? Is he trying to get her to give him the pepto-bismol because of an upset stomach? Well, we need to know. Cut-by-Cut description will describe each action within a scene once the camera CUTS to something else and this depends on a director’s particular shooting style. What if the next scene is PAUL is at a Thai Food restaurant with MARY and she’s hammered? Your post-production people will want to know that to gather the potential sound effects. This can also include camera shots such as: CAMERA TILTS UP as MARY slams a pecan pie over PAUL’S head or CAMERA PANS RIGHT as MARY leaves PAUL for his best friend. Minor things like that. Then, you’ll want the dialogue also such as: MARY: “Listen, I’m keeping the ring!” PAUL: “But it belongs to my mother!”
We already know what an SL is but how about a CD? Clue: It’s not something obsolete from the 80’s. A dialogue list is generally the most simple of all and can be CHARACTER and DIALOGUE two columns wide or three columns wide when you add TIME CODE. And that can also be regarded as a basic transcript. The more elements you combine, the longer it takes and the more cost you add, kind of like PAUL and MARY’S divorce. Or, you can add SLUG LINES/SCENE LOCATIONS such as: INT. LAWYER’S OFFICE - DAY or EXT. DIVORCE COUNSELOR’S OFFICE - NIGHT.
This basically combines elements of the first three formats into one. Sometimes this can be 5 to 8 columns wide with each column containing data such as time code, character ID, dialogue, scene description, music cues, camera movement, subtitles, duration and more, especially if FOOTAGE AND FRAMES is requested and then we’re looking at enough time elapsing at that point that PAUL and MARY will forgive each other or, the CCSL with FF (Footage and Frames) is completed or the Earth explodes, whichever comes first.
The bottom line for the studios and any filmmaker or producer is that you must have a written record of anything that is shot on camera, the only variation is how detailed that record is. The more details that are required, the more you are wandering into the territory of not just Paul and Mary and their perfect marriage, but the four major kinds of CCSL’s.