Lessons for Science Consultants

I already covered 8 lessons from being a science consultant over on Physics Today last month; now it’s time a few more promised stories that were cut from the final draft. To bring it up to a numerically-satisfying 10:

Be consistent.

Cramped into an office.

Now, add five more people...

Replicablity is the hallmark of experimental research, consistently producing similar results in repeated tests to establish data as a reflection of reality and not an experimental fluke. On-screen science demands every variable stay identical between takes, consistent results with no tolerance for standard deviation.

 

 

Camera operators perch on ladders and squeeze to stay out of frame during filming of Stargate: Universe “Human,” too many people and too much equipment crammed into a tiny office in the summer heat. Each cut, I dart in to reset equations, replace thrown pens, remove crumpled paper, and slip back out. I watch filming from a room away, tucking behind the woman in charge of continuity, her eyes split between a monitor and the script. Her praise is rare and valued, earned when the scene starts with the same equals sign over the actor’s left shoulder, an alpha by his hip, take after take after take.

Be fast.

Uncounted tasks need to be performed as a scene is repeated in endless variations and filmed from countless angles. Lighting and sound adjusted, camera angles changed, makeup fixed, hair perfected, and objects returned to their original locations. Each department designates someone to care for their tasks, rapidly resetting for the next take.

I fall into a pattern: photograph, erase an actor’s equation, and re-write mine they erased in turn. The on-set property crew takes his own photographs, scoops up thrown and dropped objects and deposits them in their starting locations. Tasks completed, we retreat and watch the reset continue. He gives me a grin that we once again finish not first, but far from last, and will not be the ones to have an entire production waiting for us to finish.

Yes, I’ll dig out a few more stories once I’ve finished unpacking my luggage!

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