Evaluation Question 1
In what ways does your media
product use, develop or challenge
forms and conventions of real
At the beginning of our A2 coursework we were given
a brief. The brief was to produce a five minute
opening sequence to a documentary of our choice
along with two other ancillary tasks of making a
radio trailer advertising out documentary and also a
double page spread article in a magazine. Our
chosen topic was teenage drinking.
As a group we searched the internet for documentaries
aimed at a similar target audience (teenagers) and those
based around a similar topic. An example of this was BBC
Three’s ‘Binge Drinking: My Big Decision’. By watching a
documentary with a similar topic we were able to record
conventions that our documentary should follow such as the
use of voiceover, interviews with the public (vox pops) and
also expert opinions. Although these are examples of
conventions used in most documentaries, I felt that it was
important that we researched documentaries following
similar topic to ours. For example, in this documentary
archival footage is quickly edited to show the fast paced
nature of teenage life.
STYLES AND INFLUENCEDOCUMENTARY
Our documentary would follow the styles of a public affairs
documentary as we aim to bring attention to what we believe to
be a much debated issue. In addition to this, we had planned to
broadcast our documentary on BBC Three, a public broadcasting
channel. Public affairs documentaries are usually aired on such
channels as they are available to a much larger audience as to
provide them with information on an important topic. Seen as the
traditional documentary format, by following conventions of
programmes such as panorama and dispatches we attempted to
investigate both sides of an argument. Our documentary also
followed the conventions of one of Bill Nichols’ documentary
modes. The mode that our documentary follows is the expository
mode which emphasises verbal commentary often using a
narrator. Something which our documentary makes use of with
‘voice of god’ style narration throughout. This style of
documentary is the most common and is what people usually
associate documentaries to be like.
One way in which we followed the conventions of public affairs documentaries as
well as documentaries in general was through the use of our voiceover. As in public
affairs documentaries, our voiceover was extremely important to the overall
product. It allowed us to progress from the point of view of one certain group of
people, for example teenagers, to another group such as ‘experts’ on the subject.
Our voiceover also used conventions of those in public affairs documentaries by
providing information on the topic as well asking questions the audience would be
want to themselves. These questions would then be answered by an interview
giving an opinion on the subject. This form of narration meant that our voiceover
was able to provide the audience with important information as well as remain
impartial, allowing them to make up their own minds, something which is also a
convention of expository documentaries. We also used a ‘voice of God’ style
narration so that the voiceover would appear to be all knowing to the audience
This is something that we discovered to be effective through watching ‘Supersize
Me’ showing how we developed this convention. A common convention of
documentaries, this is used to make the voiceover trustworthy and credible and to
make the audience feel as though the information is reliable.
USE OF CAMERA
This image taken from our documentary displays how we followed
conventions of real media products. For example our interview
with our expert was set up to resemble interviews of real media
products. We did this by using a medium close up shot. This shot is
commonly used in professional documentaries during interviews.
In addition we also considered the mise-en-scene, as interviews
with those considered ‘experts’ are often conducted in offices in
order to suggest that the interviewees are credible and educated,
providing trustworthy information and valuable opinions. We also
took the ‘rule of thirds’ into consideration. The technique that
places subjects of interest in places that the audience’s eyes are
drawn to. By placing our interviewee to the right of the frame we
followed the rule ensuring people’s attention would be drawn to her
This is supported by the image on the right, taken from the
theatrical documentary ‘Supersize Me’. In this image, a medium
close up is used, just as in our documentary. The subject of the
image is also framed similarly to ours in order to draw in the
attention of the audience. Also, the mise-en-scene is also similar.
Although due to the mans clothes he is clearly a doctor, he is
also an ‘expert’ interview and is sitting in an office just as our
interviewee in order to show authority.
In addition to this, we made use of the allocated time for archival footage. In order to
find appropriate footage that would fit in with the topic of our documentary, we looked
thoroughly on YouTube for footage that we felt would benefit our product. Not only this
but we felt that there were some aspects we wanted to include in the documentary that
would have been difficult to film ourselves. An example of this would be accidents that
could potentially be caused by alcohol abuse. Although we could have achieved this
through reconstructions, having watched this technique used in other student
documentaries, it can look unprofessional.
The type of archival footage we took from YouTube involved CCTV footage of anti social
behaviour as well as adverts for alcohol. We decided to use this to show that alcohol can
be dangerous and to emphasise how ‘alcohol is everywhere’.
This is a convention that is often used in expository documentaries such as BBC ‘s
‘Panorama’ series and Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’. This is usually CCTV footage that they
have not filmed themselves but demonstrates the point they are making effectively
This is an example of where
we have used archive footage
in our documentary, placing
facts and figures over it.
This is an example of how an expository
documentary Panorama’s ‘Immigration
Undercover The Student Visa Scandal’ has
used archival footage. Although this is an
interview it still presents how we followed
the convention of using archival footage.
These conventions were also followed in our ‘vox pop’
interviews as shown in these images. We framed the shots so
that the rule of thirds was followed as well as using medium
close up shots as with our expert interview. However, the mise –
en-scene was changed so that the audience could identify with
the interviewees. As shown for example in the top right image
where we conducted the interview outside of the college.
USE OF GRAPHICS and EDITING
Another way that we used conventions of
documentaries was through our use of
graphics and editing. For example, similarly to
‘Binge Drinking: My Big Decision’, we decided
to use a title sequence. This helps the
audience to understand what the documentary
is about and was included in our documentary
to follow convention and thus make it look
We also followed documentary
conventions during our interviews by
having our interviewee’s name and
occupation briefly appear below them.
This is done in most interviews and
documentaries as shown in the image on
the right taken from ‘Supersize Me’. This
is to show that the interviewee has some
authority on the subject they are talking
about and that they should be listened to.
We also used some graphics in our documentary such as
having stats and figures appearing on the screen as the
voiceover says them. For example ‘the number of under 18
drinkers in the last 10 years has doubled’. This is a convention
used in documentaries, especially in expository
documentaries where the facts and figures are important for
the audience to make up their own minds on the subject. By
having the facts and figures appear on the screen, their
importance is emphasised and it makes them easily
memorable. This is an important convention especially if
these statistics are meant to shock the audience as they are
in our documentary.
In order to make our radio trailer sound professional, we researched other radio
trailers in order to pick up on some of the conventions that appear. For example, we
analysed a ‘formula one radio trail’. This provided us with knowledge of what sort of
thinks we should include in our radio trail.
For example, the trailer used sound extracts from a live formula one race. This
showed us that it was important to include clips from the documentary it is
advertising. We included extracts from our own documentary such as the question
‘What is the legal age to drink alcohol?’ and also the answers people gave. This
helped to solidify what the topic of our documentary was as well as create
continuity between the two products.
Another convention that we followed in the production of our radio trail was the use
of a backing track. The backing track is not usually too noticeable but helps to keep
the pace of the documentary and fills any parts that would otherwise be silent. In
the ‘Formula One’ radio trail, the backing track is fast paced in order to reflect the
speed of the sport. However our backing track was much more mellow in order to
express the seriousness of the subject. In addition to this, we used the same
backing track that is used at points in the documentary again in order to create
continuity between the products.
Having listened to radio trails, we also discovered that most radio trails last
around 35-50 seconds. Taking this into account, we followed convention by
making ours 42 seconds long. This way we were able to get the necessary
information across to the audience, such as the channel and time of the
programme as well as extracts from the documentary, without boring them
by having the trailer drag on for longer.
However, we slightly strayed from convention with the narrators of the radio
trail. Usually in radio trailer, there is a single person that does the voiceover,
however in our radio trail there are three. This was because we hoped that it
meant our trailer would appeal to a larger audience as we used both male
and female voices. We hoped that this would show that underage drinking
effects both sexes and that it is an issue that concerns everyone.
DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD
This is our final double page spread article.
Having read a number of articles in magazines
such as ‘TV and Satellite Week’ and ‘The Radio
Times’. We decided that we would print our
article in ‘The Radio Times’. This was because
it is a nation wide magazine with a large
readership meaning that a large number of
people in our specific target audience and
also those that are not would be exposed to
Having looked over articles from this
magazine, we managed to discover that most
magazine articles follow similar conventions.
In order to keep our product looking
professional, we decided to follow some of
these widely used conventions.
Some of the conventions that we followed included the use of a pull quote, the use of
columns, the use of a main image and also the use of drop capitals.
This is an article taken from the Radio Times and is the main article we used to follow the
conventions of TV Listings magazines. Although this magazine has a different layout to our
magazine they both follow many of the same conventions.
For example, the use of a pull quote. In the magazine from the Radio Times, they have used 2 pull
quotes as they are interviewing 2 people whereas we only have one main interview in our article.
The use of a pull quote is meant to engage the reader and give them a flavour of what the rest of the
article will be like. We followed this convention as we felt it was important to interest our audience
as soon as they look at our double page spread. As you can see, this is a convention that is
commonly used in professional magazines.
Another convention that we chose to follow was the use of drop capitals. This decision was made
purely for aesthetic purposes and to make our magazine article look more professional as this
convention is also commonly used in TV Listings magazine articles such as the image on the right.
Another convention that our article followed was the use of columns. This not only improved the
appearance of the article, it also organized the page well. This meant that our article was easy
to read, something which is key in creating a successful double page spread. This convention is
followed in virtually every professional magazine article
Another convention followed by all magazine articles is the use of a main image. This image is
almost always edited to improve its visual quality. Our magazine is no different and our audience
commented on the fact that our main image was visually pleasing. Overall, I think that our double
page spread followed conventions of professional media products as displayed by it’s similarities
with the article from the Radio Times.
One way in which our double page spread slightly strayed from convention was through the use of
other images taken from our documentary to use as a background for the article. This idea may be
dismissed by a professional magazine as they may feel that it would obstruct the text. However,
we edited the images accordingly to make sure this didn’t happen as well as making the page look
better visually. I believe that this slightly challenged convention.
However, overall I think that our documentary followed convention.