Hey man, nice scarf!

Ever since watching an episode of Power being filmed in New York City last year I have paid extra attention to watching extras move in the background of a street scene. While it may appear that there’s just a lot of passerbys walking past the characters, many of these people are hired help – clothed to fit the weather the episode is supposed to be set in, instructed to walk in the background as inconspicuously as possible. The actual background is usually closely (and, to my dismay, fiercely!) guarded by staffers so nobody who doesn’t belong there can get caught on film. Of course, there’s a limited amount of extras walking around so it can occasionally be difficult not to have the same person walk past twice, so the editor and continuity manager have to pay attention.

And that’s just the problem in the latest episode of Elementary¬†which featured a nice street scene set at the corner of E 44th Street & 3rd Avenue. As soon as I watched the episode I just knew I’d have to inspect that scene because something felt off, and I was right, although I had the wrong extra in mind. There’s a man with a dark beanie with a brown stripe passing behind the actors, and for a split second, it seemed the same guy was walking past twice. As it turned out, he was blameless – which can’t be said for this fellow sporting an even more memorable hat and a red scarf to boot:

(c) CBS

(c) CBS

As we’ve learned from that Castle epsiode with similar problems, it’s not a good idea to have extras with very colorful clothing mixed with others that wear rather plain garments – they stick out like a sore thumb if they walk past twice …

(c) CBS

(c) CBS

… because just seconds later, he’s there again, still walking around with no care in the world. Good for him!

These guys are everywhere

This is from the latest episode of Castle (season 7, episode 11). Please take note of the guy marked with a red arrow:

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

He’s standing there, holding his super-sized coffee to go, staring intensely at past the camera. I wonder if he’s got anything to do with production?

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

Hm. Now he’s on the other side of the road, trying to look harmless. Wonder how he got there, but no matter! Instead, focus your gaze intensely on the guy with the bright yellow backpack, helpfully marked with yet another red arrow. Also, observe this harmless young man wearing a scarf. He’s looking down, because he’s not involved with production in any way.

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

Now would you look at that … the guy with the backpack, in an entirely different scene, over 20 minutes later! But that’s not all …

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

.. here’s the guy with the coffee again, and who is he talking to? The young man with the scarf! It’s a small world …

Picture (c) ABC

Picture (c) ABC

… really small:

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

I found that one later, but the scene is actually at the beginning of the episode, when Beckett and Esposito first visit the school. For comparison purposes, I’ve added a blowup of the backpack wearing guy in the third picture – they are identical in every way. It’s really okay to reuse background extras, but if you do, at least have them wear stuff that doesn’t make it so easy to identify them.

Talking about easy to identify – everyone knows Castle isn’t actually filmed in New York. While they try to cover it up by putting NYC taxis and signage up, sometimes they just can’t help themselves:

Image (c) ABC

Image (c) ABC

One quick Google search reveals that the historic Haas Building is at 219 W 7th Street, Los Angeles. Would have been easy to avoid that one by just shooting a bit down the road or having Castle’s head covering the background …

Picture (c) ABC

Picture (c) ABC

… and waiting for the bus to pass before rolling the scene would have been a good idea too.