Showtime's The Chi - How Script Supervisors Keep the Storyline Together w/ iOS Monitoring


The Chi TV show filmed with Teradek Serv Pro iOS monitoring

Anyone who’s ever worked on set has encountered the elusive script supervisor - those mysterious members who work from the video village with their pens & papers, taking notes on anything and everything that goes on during each take. What exactly is it that they do?

“We’re the ones in charge of ensuring continuity through the show,” explains Marianna Harrison, Script Supervisor. “Our jobs are to know what’s going on in everything. What did the makeup look like? Did we film this particular scene yet? What kind of dialogue changes did the talent make? I make sure the right people have the right information on set and in post.”

Marianna, who has worked on an impressive number of large productions like Chicago PD and Fox's The Exorcist, was on set of Showtime’s The Chi (actually pronounced ‘the shy’. Crazy, right?) Season 1, and tells us about her experiences using Serv Pro and having her very own personal monitor.

Limited Resources

Frame grab on VUER. Image by Marianna Harrison.

The biggest struggle for script supervisors on set is not having more access to the shot. Because most of the crew huddle around the monitor, taking notes and photos gets more convoluted as different crew need the monitor for different reasons. At the same time, Directors these days tend to stay away from the video village, making it hard to work closely while being bogged down in the village.

“As script supervisors, we’re responsible not just for taking notes, but keeping other departments informed as well. Sometimes the Director will ask me if there’s any shot we didn’t get yet, or makeup will ask me what someone looked like in the previous take if they weren’t able to see the shot,” says Marianna.

iOS Monitoring

As members so crucial to the consistency and storyline of the show, it’s important for script supervisors to see the shot properly and adequately. That’s why Marianna counts on the Teradek Serv Pro.

Serv Pro in action. Photo: Parrish Lewis.

The Serv Pro is an iOS monitoring unit that allows for monitoring of the shot on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch at just 2 frames of latency. It connects to a video source via 3G-SDI and broadcasts the feed to up to 10 iOS devices within 300 ft of range (can be extended with external WiFi router). In addition, the Serv Pro’s free companion app VUER comes loaded with a suite of monitoring features that are typically found on professional hardware monitors like vectorscope, frame lines, LUTs and much more.

South Side Setup

A/B cameras fed into the A/B monitor, which went to a Kramer switcher in video village. The switcher sent video to Marianna’s Serv Pro, which allowed her to monitor the shot using her iPad with the VUER app. This gave her access to her very own handheld, personal monitor as well as a game-changing tool for script supervisors: frame grab.

Monitoring the shot on VUER.  Photo: Parrish Lewis.

Frame grab captures the screen on VUER’s control surface but without the side buttons. While it’s a pretty simple tool, having screen grabs allows Marianna to have references when she needs them, especially when having to work closely with the Director.

Additionally, with the new integration with the ScriptE app, frame grabs taken in VUER now have a timestamp (local time) of when the screenshot was captured. Since ScriptE knows when you took the screenshot, it can automatically assign to the scene & take. This means no more having to take photos with the iPad back camera of the physical monitor. Frame grab gets the job done.

A Better Management Tool

Frame grab on VUER

“Before the Serv Pro, I had to share the same monitor as everyone else in video village, and you know how difficult that can be,” said Marianna. “On top of that, like many other script supervisors, I was using a laptop taking in a feed from a Blackmagic Mini Recorder. Every time we jumped locations, it was really time-consuming to get everything set up again.”

Monitoring on an iPad allows Marianna to have her own lightweight, handheld monitor at all times on set, which helps her perform better at her role. In scenes on The Chi where there are many several Steadicam shots with lots of background detail, having those screenshots allowed her to look back at references and be more effective at spotting reflections and inconsistencies.

Serv Pro can broadcast to up to 10 iOS devices on set.  Photo: Parrish Lewis.

“I would never do another show without this. If costumes, makeup, hair, set dec. ever have a question about something, I have an instant answer. Also, if they don’t have an iPad, I send them photos as well at the end of the day.”

As a production’s last line of defense when it comes to consistency, Marianna’s role is as important as any other. Tools like iPad monitoring assist script supervisors like to ensure that story details make sense from episode to episode, scene to scene, and take to take. Also, the added value of a personal monitor and unprecedented mobility can’t be understated.

“Some Script Supervisors are on their Macbooks and are tethered to the video village using the Blackmagic Mini-Recorder. With up to 3 full location moves per day, and the fact that many directors aren’t even at village these days, iPad monitoring allows me to be anywhere the director is and not stuck at video village.”

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