Real Time

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There are no artificial attempts to show time compression, everything is occurring as it is happening. One minute onscreen equals one minute in show time.

Compare Back to Front, Anachronic Order, and Comic Book Time. All examples of The Oner not involving over- or undercranking are in real time by nature.

Not to be confused with HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. But yes, granted, the trope does apply there as well.

Examples of Real Time include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Variation: The Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch manga was released in Real Time, except in chapters that were tied too closely together to be a month apart.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has many scenes that are drawn-out pauses, with no attempt to "speed up" the action: sometimes this is actually realistic. In one episode, Rei and Asuka are in an elevator and both are completely still for about 30 seconds, the length of a long elevator ride. Presumably this is to make the awkwardness of their interactions more prominent; it is also very cheap to film. NGE also shot the final battle of the ninth episode in real time (and synced it to music).
  • The Maison Ikkoku manga also ran in real time, as the series, which was published from 1980 to 1987, spanned seven years in the characters' lives.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The DC Comics series 52 is a year-long weekly series where each issue covers a week of story time; the name refers to (among other things) the number of weeks in a year, and is a Shout-Out to 24.
  • In the famous The Spirit story "Ten Minutes", about the last ten minutes of a man's life, Will Eisner times the comic to take approximately ten minutes of the reader's time. This was in 1949.
  • Marvel's The New Universe was supposed to run in real time, but due to the whole line being canceled after only three years, the intended effects could hardly be noticed.
  • Y: The Last Man generally kept time passing at the same rate as it did for the reader. It generally had a few issues covering a set few days, and then a time skip filling the difference.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The sequel of the German screwball crimedy Der Wixxer is "set in real time. Only much faster".
  • The film Nick of Time (starring Johnny Depp), while not the first example of real-time storytelling, was probably the first to make such a big deal about it.
  • The film Timecode combined it with cinema verité; its action was shot in a single take, by four Steadicam operators. The film was a four-frame Split Screen, like a security monitor, and sometimes action took place on more than one camera at a time.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's Rope not only unfolds in real time but was actually filmed in single continuous takes, each the length of a reel of film, with reel changes disguised by having the camera pass behind an obscuring object for a second as one reel ends, and emerging again as the next reel begins.
  • 12 Angry Men takes it even further, with not only almost all of the movie taking place in real time, but almost all of that period is set in one room. Even more remarkably, it had to be shot four times, each from a different angle with one of the walls removed to accommodate the camera, with the jurors getting progressively more sweaty and dishevelled. When all four angles were cut together it worked perfectly in continuity.
  • High Noon is arguably the most famous cinematic use of this trope.
  • Phone Booth takes place in real time. Interestingly, the antagonist was played by Kiefer Sutherland, the star of 24.
  • Reservoir Dogs is an hour of real-time in one location with 30 minutes of flashbacks.
  • Run Lola Run
  • The Man From Earth takes place in real time, except for the final shots. And almost completely in one room.
  • My Dinner With Andre takes place mostly in real time, what with most of the film being Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The entire film Real Time takes place in, well, real time.
  • Running Time is another one that not only takes place in real time, but looks like it is done in one continuous take.
  • Titanic: Everything from the Iceberg hitting to the boat fully submerging is in real time.
  • Russian Ark is a single take. All 93 minutes of it. Since it was shot digitally, there was no need to stop and change reels.
  • Carnage


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Tiffany Aching has aged in time with the publication of her books.
  • At first, so did Harry Potter. Books one through four were released one year at a time and each one covered a year in Harry's life... then came the Three-Year Summer, and the timeline was never the same again...


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • 24 is the most notable example of "real-time", with the script writers conveniently forgetting that if the show were really happening in Los Angeles, Jack Bauer would be spending the majority of each show stuck in traffic. The very first episodes of the program featured Kiefer stating at the beginning "Events occur in real time." This was quickly dropped once it became obvious that there were inconsistencies. This phrasing was brought back, however, for the TV movie Redemption, as well as the series finale.
    • Not to mention a bunch of other inconsistencies. i.e. Morris' introduction. Did he just teleport to CTU as soon as they mentioned they were going to re-hire him?
      • Or how everyone either blacks out for 20 minutes of every hour, or else the show exists in a strange parallel dimension where hours are only 40 minutes long, due to commercials. This is however mostly done by placing the adverts over when characters would otherwise just be driving from A to B, or waiting for someone/something.
  • The Sitcom Watching Ellie was initially shot entirely in Real Time. This format was ditched after the first season.
  • The episode "Life Time" on [[M*A*S*H (television)]].
  • The Dead Zone's episode "Cabin Pressure".
  • Friends episode "The One Where No One's Ready"
  • Seinfeld's famous "The Chinese Restaurant" episode was in real time. The commercial break is spanned by a Long List that Jerry rattles off.
  • A number of action-adventure shows over the years have attempted real time or near-real time in relation to some critical event, usually a bomb.
  • The American Gothic episode "The Beast Within", although with a bit of cheating at the climax.
  • Frasier did two real time episodes, Season 1's "My Coffee With Niles" and Season 6's "Dinner Party". In the former, the real time even continues during the commercial break, as Frasier goes to the bathroom just before the break and returns straight afterward.
  • Titus was designed to imitate a play. Thus, most episodes take place on a single set in Real Time. It was even filmed in order, for the benefit of the studio audience.
  • The Doctor Who episode "42" supposedly takes place in Real Time, however there are a few conspicuous breaks from the gimmick. Here, the title refers to the number of minutes the protagonists have in their Race Against the Clock, and is a Shout-Out to both 24 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • A first-season My Three Sons episode has Steve and the boys racing to get out of the house and off to work and school after Bub mistakenly sets the clocks ahead an hour instead of turning them back at the end of Daylight Savings Time. The action unfolds against the background of a televised NASA satellite launch.
  • The aptly-named Stargate Atlantis episode "Thirty-Eight Minutes" has been the only Real Time episode throughout the entire run of Atlantis and its parent series, Stargate SG-1.
  • The Babylon 5 episode "Intersections in Real Time" plays out in real-time, but only between commercials. During commercial breaks (the "intersections"), it is assumed that much time passes.
  • Most of Starsky and Hutch's "The Shootout", in which the restaurant our heroes happen to be at is taken over by two Mafia hitmen; Starsky is seriously injured and Hutch has to keep him and everyone else alive while the clock ticks away.
  • ER, "Time of Death"
  • Most episodes of The Royle Family before "The Queen of Sheba" appear to take place in real time, and entirely within the Royles' house. Since then they've used a more conventional format.
  • There was an episode of the 1970s British kid's drama Ace of Wands where a character had been poisoned and had 23 minutes (the length of the episode minus titles) to find the antidote.
  • Numerous Reality Shows have dabbled with 'Real Time' episodes, ranging from live tasks (say, for shopping budgets or other prizes) all the way up to 24-hour streaming.
  • Honda once broadcast a live TV advert in the UK, taking an entire ad break to broadcast a parachute display team form the letters to spell out HONDA in mid-air. They succeeded.
  • The first season finale "Johnny B Gone" of Married... with Children takes place in real time, it is basically one long scene. This concept was reused ten years later for the penultimate episode "The Desperate Half-Hour".
  • In the Numb3rs episode "One Hour", the cast have one hour to resolve a kidnapping—minus Don, who's spending the hour in a therapy session and has turned off his phone at the insistence of the therapist.
  • Roger and Val Have Just Got In is a bittersweet Sitcom featuring two characters in a house, and every episode not only takes place in real time, but (as the title suggests) at the same time of day.
  • Rachael Ray's "Thirty Minute Meals", this is the whole point of the concept


Radio[edit | hide]

  • One iconic episode of radio drama Dragnet, "City Hall Bombing" (July 21, 1949), gave Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner Ben Romero less than thirty minutes to stop a bombing at city hall.
  • In the 1990s BBC Radio produced an adaptation of Len Deighton's Bomber that not only took place in real time, but over the course of an entire day. In other words, it comprised several acts which were broadcast at various times during the entire day's schedule, with the events of each act taking place at the time of day they were actually broadcast.
  • Orson Welles' broadcast of The War of the Worlds was initially presented as a live news program, with real-time breaking reports streaming in. Notably, however, while the broadcast was skillfully produced to encourage suspension of disbelief, it would be wholly impossible for the events portrayed to all occur (including, e.g., the mobilization of large numbers of troops, government cabinet meetings, and several major battles) within its mere one hour running time. Jack Bauer's ability to reach any location in 10 minutes is downright plausible by comparison.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Among single-player video games that have an In-Universe Game Clock, few also have Real Time. One that does is Animal Crossing.
  • Jordan Mechner's The Last Express is set in real time, and the ending changes based on where you are at certain times, meaning that the player must very carefully manage where they are to get certain endings. The only time this is broken away from is when the player character is knocked out or goes to sleep.
  • Also from Mechner, Prince of Persia (the 1989 original); the protagonist of the game has one hour to rescue the Damsel in Distress, and you have one real-life hour to beat the game. The 1992 sequel does the same, but gives you slightly more time.
  • The SNES game SOS follows this concept. In the middle of a fierce storm, a luxury liner capsizes. In one real time hour, the ship will sink. The player character must reach the exit before then (and preferably bring a few other survivors with him). "Dying" advances the clock five minutes.
  • Impossible Mission. You get infinite lives, but the clock keeps on ticking.
  • While not entirely in real time, Fable II has the player receiving rent from owned properties in real time, even when the Xbox isn't on.
    • Which of course, means it's laughable easy to become a gazillionaire by simply setting the clock on your Xbox forward a few hundred years. Not that there's anything to buy with the real estate money anyway except...more real estate.
  • Half-Life 2 has the player in control continuously from the opening to the ending, and so everything is in real-time. There is one incident where what was supposed to be an instant teleport takes a week, and this allows a Time Skip without breaking from the format. It was still real time from Gordon, Alyx, and the player's perspective. Relativity: it's awesome!
  • The same can be said of Portal, from start to finish barring some long elevators. Portal 2 has some timeskips and periods of unconsciousness in both the single player and co-op, so they don't pass.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Oddly enough, the Web Comic Narbonic used this, as opposed to Webcomic Time - while certain storylines actually did take weeks to play out for the viewers, there was considered enough 'fluff' between events that Christmas, Valentine's Day, and particularly New Years' Eve wound up being bracketed by storylines around those time frames. Most notably, it was actually 6 years between Davenport moving into Narbonic Labs and breaking up with Helen, both IRL and in the comic.
  • Sluggy Freelance had a parody of 24 that took place over 24 hours. Of course, since the comic updates once every 24 hours, the parody started with the strip for January 17... and ended exactly one strip later on January 18, with the characters talking about how exciting it was.
  • The long-running Rogues Of Clwyd Rhan was supposed to be set exactly 1,000 years in the past, but that notion was eventually dropped due to Schedule Slip, so that by 2011 the characters were living about 1005.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The South Park parody of 24's format.
  • The Simpsons episode "24 Minutes", with a crossover appearance of some of 24's cast no less.
  • The Justice League episode "Wild Cards" takes place in real time, with Joker's timer in the corner of the screen keeping track for most of the events. In between part 1 and part 2 there's a minor "rewind".
    • Lampshaded by The Joker when the clock starts at 22:51, the amount of time left in the episode. "Oh what were you expecting from me? A round number?"
  • Similarly, the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Appointment in Crime Alley" took place in real time, with frequent shots of clocks counting down to a dramatic explosion. The episode came to be because the network wanted to see an episode showing a day in the life of Batman, hence the numerous events that pile up in the fifteen minutes of the countdown.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends, in which Garfield has to not eat anything for five minutes.
  • In the pilot episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, the speedy pegasus Rainbow Dash claims she can clear the sky of clouds in "10 seconds flat". She lives up to her word, in exactly 10 seconds real time the sky has been cleared.
  • The unfinished episode "Ten Minutes to Doom" of Invader Zim invokes this when Zim gets his PAK taken and has 10 minutes to get it back, or else he dies.