Timing (ERT) – Narrative Scripts
Timing a script is very important for production. It helps ADs with their daily scheduling, producers know how many shoot days the project will need, directors on how long a scene should run, and the editor for post. Your timings are essential to the project, so I recommend the rule of three: time each scene or storyboard three times, then choose the average of that number.
For narrative scripts such as features, shorts, and television shows, you should speak the dialogue out loud, and perform some action such as standing, walking across the room, or using a prop. Obviously, if the script is action packed, or vague on movement/blocking, this will be harder to do. Try your best to predict the length of these scenes using a stopwatch. This will become your Estimate Run Time (ERT).
What I usually do:
- Start my stopwatch
- Start the action
- Begin the dialogue
- Give some action a generic :05 seconds on my first read
- Refine for the second and third reads
- Average my timing for that scene
You can also judge a scene’s length based on it’s 8th count (as mentioned in the last lesson). But be wary of this, as some shorter 8ths are heavy action notes. Examples: storm the castle (measuring at 1/8th).
If you are unsure about a specific scene, or get drastically different times for each read through, you can bring this up at the All Hands meeting. Also, ask a producer for a table read if possible to get familiar with the cast’s cadence while speaking.
Bottom line: do your best to as accurate as possible on your timing. Then, once you’ve completed your eighths and ERT, total them up on your breakdown for easy reference.