‘NCIS’: How Long Does It Take to Film an Episode of ‘NCIS’?

When you watch NCIS, you might wonder about the details of the show, such as where certain scenes are filmed and how long it takes to produce an episode. Here’s what Showbiz Cheat Sheet knows about how long it takes to film an NCIS episode.

The ‘NCIS’ crew starts working on an episode as soon as they receive the script for the week

Wilmer Valderrama, Mark Harmon, and Sean Murray on NCIS |  Eddy Chen/CBS via Getty Images
Wilmer Valderrama, Mark Harmon, and Sean Murray on NCIS | Eddy Chen/CBS via Getty Images

During an interview with CBS about NCIS Season 9, Avery C. Drewe, supervising producer for NCIS, says a lot of work goes on behind the scenes as soon as a script comes in. No time is wasted because each show requires a quick turnaround:

The term post production technically means after production, but in reality, post production begins, especially on NCIS, the minute we get a script. And while we’re shooting, the minute [we begin filming], it’s in post production.

If there’s a technical issue, if the editor wants to communicate with the director, the flow begins the minute the camera starts rolling. Once it’s out of the camera, it’s technically in post production’s hands.

How long does it take to film an episode of ‘NCIS’?

Sean Murray, Emily Wickersham, and Mark Harmon on NCIS | Eddy Chen/CBS via Getty Images
Sean Murray, Emily Wickersham, and Mark Harmon on NCIS | Eddy Chen/CBS via Getty Images

Gregory Gontz, NCIS supervising editor, says it takes eight days to film one episode. After filming, a lot goes into making sure the episode is as polished as it can be. “It’s an eight-day shoot on NCIS, so they’ll shoot, say, on a Monday, and I get those dailies on a Tuesday,” Gontz told CBS. He says he starts his work after the episode is filmed, so he’s always a day behind. It takes him roughly three days to edit, add music and sound effects, and review his work:

I’m always one day behind the shooting. So, on the ninth day, I’ve edited pretty much all the footage that they’ve shot up until that point. And they give us three days to do what’s called an editor’s cut, and in those three days, I’m putting temporary music in, sound effects, and I’m shaping the show, because the scenes have a different life as individual scenes than when you put them together as a show.

So, it takes me about a day and a half to watch it all cut together. I’ll usually show my cut to the director about three or four days after they finish shooting.

Gontz says the directors and producers each get three days to finalize edits and then they go through a process called “walk the show,” where no one is allowed to make further changes.

What you see on your TV screen is a result of many scenes being carefully put together by editors

Diona Reasonover and Mark Harmon |  Patrick McElhenney/CBS via Getty Images
Diona Reasonover and Mark Harmon | Patrick McElhenney/CBS via Getty Images

Drewe says the final product viewers see is a result of the editors putting together individual scenes so that everything flows a certain way:

When you watch a movie, it flows, from beginning to end. Someone talks, someone answers. You see what you were supposed to see, but that’s shot in many pieces. It’s taking the story that the script tells—the story that the director and cinematographer are telling, and puts them together into a cohesive story.

And the editor will work with the director and the executive producer to make it fit within the time constraints of television. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes you really hate to see a scene go, or a bit of a scene go, but sometimes you have to.

Read more: ‘NCIS’: Secrets of the Ship Set

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