In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
Could You Live
In what ways does your media product use, develop
or challenge forms and conventions of real media
Below is the brief for our A2 Media Coursework.
After receiving this brief we immediately began mind mapping ideas as to what we could base
our documentary on. We ciphered through a range of different topic ideas, Social Groups,
Racism, Bullying, Public Transport and Alcohol Abuse to name a few. However, we eventually
decided to go for Mobile phones as our topic and more specifically “Could You Live Without
Your Mobile Phone?” We chose this topic area as it is a subject that we all knew quite a lot about
and we all agreed that the growing reliance of our generation on our mobile phones is a real
concern which needed to be addressed.
There are a number of categories that all documentaries tend to fall under be that serious, light
hearted, resigned, pessimistic, optimistic etc. For example a documentary about the creation of
a Disney film would most likely be a very light hearted and ‘happy’ where as a documentary
about the murder of Princess Diana would be very serious and informative. The documentary
we created was also quite a serious documentary however we tried to avoid it becoming
pessimistic or depressing because at the end of the day it wasn’t a life or death topic and we
wanted the documentary to be appealing to all ages. The only action from our audience that we
aimed to achieve was a conversation between family members discussing their reliance on their
mobile phones especially between teen members of the family as these are the age group that
statistically use their mobile phones the most. We knew that we were unlikely to reduce the
publics reliance on their phones, although we felt that informing them on how much of a social
pandemic phones have become may prevent growth on mobile reliance.
In order to grasp what the key concepts of documentaries are we done some research into Bill
Nichols Documentary Modes (2001). The 6 modes are Expository, Observational, Participatory,
Performative, Poetic and Reflective.
Expository – main purpose is to create an argument. The structure is based around a series of
assertions backed up by evidence, using ‘Voice of God’ narration to present the information.
Observational - This mode uses the observations of an unobtrusive camera to create direct
engagement with the everyday life of subjects.
Participatory – this mode focuses heavily on the interaction between the film maker and the
subject. Documentaries utilising this mode will use a number of interviews along with archival
footage to examine historical issues.
Performative - These films reject objectivity and favour emotion. The subjective or expressive
aspect of the film makers own involvement is highlighted to heighten the audiences
responsiveness to the subject.
Poetic – this form emphasizes visual associations, tonal or rhythmic qualities, description, and form.
Reflexive – the audience has the assumptions and conventions that govern documentary film
making brought to attention this increases our awareness of how films construct representations of
reality. This form also includes the format of Mockumentaries.
The documentary we created used mainly the Expository Mode, this follows conventions as it is
the mode which is most often associated with documentary in general. The primary purpose of the
Expository Mode is to make an argument, and our argument is debating whether or not people of
our generation could live without their mobile phones. We as the film makers come down on the
side that our generation cannot live without their phones, and we convey our points through many
facts and statistics and ‘Voice of God’ narration, another factor of an Expository Documentary, is
used throughout the documentary.
Documentary following the progress of a group of teenagers over two years, as they leave childhood behind them and become young adults
Documentary following the progress of a group of teenagers over two years, as they leave childhood behind them and become young adults
In order to further understand the conventions of a TV documentary we watched a range
of different documentaries in class.
Supersize Me is an American Documentary directed by and starring Morgan
Spurlock. It follows a 30 day period where by Spurlock eats 3 square meals of
McDonalds food a day. The documentary fits in with a number of Nichols’
documentary modes: Expository (due to the argument within it about the health
effects of eating McDonalds food), Participatory (due to the fact Spurlock plays a
key acting role in the documentary) as well as Performative (due to the fact we
see Spurlocks emotions throughout and how the experiment is effecting him
physically and mentally).
Airline uses the Observational Mode as it is a fly on the wall documentary
following members of the English public as they face all the trials and tribulations
in Luton Airport before heading off on their holidays. Even though the
documentary follows the conventions of the Observational mode, it also does
overlap in some areas with our documentary such as their use of ‘Voice of God’
This is a documentary following the progress of a group of teenagers over two
years, as they leave childhood behind them and become young adults. This
documentary utilises the Expository mode as it is full of information and uses a lot
of interviews, graphics and images to convey this information. ‘Voice of God’
narration is utilised rather than a ‘Voice of Authority’ with a presenter on screen.
A Good Smack
This documentary discusses whether smacking a child is an effective form of
punishment. In the documentary they talk to a number of families who are for
smacking even though it is now illegal. The documentary uses the Observational
form as it is a lot of unobtrusive camera work, however it also uses expository due
to the number of interviews and the fact it sparks an argument.
Quality Camera work is one of the many essentials needed to create a
professional and effective documentary. In order to gain some knowledge we spent
some time analysing the key camera shots, these are ECU (Extreme Close Up), CU
(Close Up), MCU (Medium Close Up), MS (Mid-Shot), LS (Long Shot), Cutaway, TwoShot and many more. We looked closely at the 4 example documentaries to see
what shots were used most regularly and what other shots we felt would be
effective for our documentary. We found out that a lot of CU’s were throughout the 4
documentaries as you can see above. We feel these shots are used to draw
attention to important things such as the plane controls from the documentary
“Airline” and the teenager drinking in “Teen Species”. We therefore decided to use a
number of CU’s in our documentary for effect such as in the opening sequence we used an ECU so that the viewer
can read the documentary title from the phone screen.
In “Teen Species” we found a LS with two girls watching down a pavement, however the clip has been ever so
slightly slowed down using a Special Effect in order for the narrator to read all the necessary information. We
decided to take this idea and build on it. We took a LS of the general public and slowed it down to 80% of the
original speed. However we then decided to add a fade onto the shot so that we could add stats over the shot this
created a very professional and creative shot which challenged the conventions.
Could you Live Without Your Phone?
The majority of our Camera shots were done so using a Tripod, we done this to ensure that we got clear,
professional shots. Tripods are a key part of many documentaries, as well as producing a steady shot for
situations such as interviews, tripods can also be very useful when a Pan is needed to create an Establish
shot for instance. We found a pan shot in “Teen Species” that looked very effective and so decided to
implement a Pan Shot into our documentary.
Pan in “Teen Species”
Pan in “Could You Live Without Your Phone?”
Another area where the camera placement is essential is with the interviews. The convention we followed was the
“Rule of Thirds”. This is where the interviewee is placed in either the right or left third of the screen looking out into
the other two thirds of the shot. Rather than having them placed in the centre of the shot. This helps make the
interviews feel more engaging to the viewer and also fills the screen nicely.
Interview in “Supersize Me”
Interview in “Could You Live Without Your Phone?”
All professional documentaries will use Sound effectively, whether that be with the voiceover, presenter,
backing music, diagetic or non-diagetic sound. The key to professional sound is making sure that all the
sound levels are correct for example making sure that the backing music isn’t so loud that it distracts the viewer from the
“Supersize Me” uses both a presenter (Morgan Spurlock) and a voice over (Also Spurlock) in their docufilm and this works
very effectively for them as the programme is based around the various events that happen to Spurlock whilst he
undergoes the fast food binge, so it is good to see him doing “piece to camera” shots with the viewer to provide us with a
commentary of what he is going through. The voiceover used in the programme is also the voice of Spurlock which
provides good continuity when going between presenter and voiceover. Even though the combination of both presenter
and voiceover works well on “Supersize Me” we have decided to stick to the more common convention of just using a
voiceover due to the fact that our documentary is a lot more informative, and full of statistics.
“Supersize Me” uses a number of different non-diagetic backing songs such as “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen in order to
keep an atmosphere throughout the documentary. We challenged the convention due to the fact that the majority of
existing songs are copyrighted and therefore couldn’t be included in our documentary, and so we simply used one
simple techno beat made on ‘Garage band’ and repeated it throughout the documentary this worked quite well as it
linked in well with the technology theme to our documentary hopefully it meant the viewer didn’t get distracted by it as I
personally seemed to get distracted by the music in “Supersize Me” and missed out on some important parts of the
In “A Good Smack” diagetic sound is key to the documentary as we hear the smacking noise and the noises the children
make when they react to the smack such as crying and shouting. We have challenged this convention and removed the
diagetic sound from our documentary except for in obvious parts such as interviews and vox pops.
Within the highlighted areas above you can see just a few of the areas where we have had to Edit the backing music
in order to accommodate for the voiceover and ensure that it can be heard and understood clearly. This keeps our
documentary professional and follows conventions of all other documentaries out there that utilise a voiceover and
backing music simultaneously.
Our documentary was heavily reliant on facts and figures and in order to give reliable statistics we needed
to have done sufficient Research into the subject prior to production. In order to achieve this me and my
fellow group members spent a number of weeks reading up on the subject and visiting lot of different
websites regarding mobile growth in order to gain up to date facts that could be included in the
“Supersize Me” uses a number of different animations and graphics in order to present their statistics and
other findings, and so we decided to follow this convention by adding in some graphs to show some
primary research we had undertaken into phone usage.
Graphics in “Supersize Me”
Graphics in “Could You Live Without Your Phone?”
Overall I feel we have used all the relevant forms and conventions, coming from the four example documentaries
that we analysed, within our documentary in the camera, sound, editing, Mise-en-scene and research areas of the
coursework. In the areas where we have decided to challenge conventions I feel all the challenges have been
relevant and added an individual yet professional feel to our documentary.
We have kept a good flow to our documentary thanks to the straight cuts used and the large amount of short vox
pops that get the point across quickly and keep the viewers attention.
If I could make any changes to the documentary it would be in some of the timings. For example when the graphs
come up on the screen they needed to remain there for a bit longer in order for the viewer to take in the information.
I would also of recreated a more interesting backing beat as the one we used was very repetitive even though I do
think the style of music we went for was relevant.
We looked at a number of different TV Magazines to find the right one for our documentaries double page
spread. In the end we went for TV Choice an extremely popular TV Magazine sold nationwide to over 1.2
million customers each week. We chose this magazine due to the fact its target audience is very similar to
ours and so the chances are there would be more people reading that magazine that would also want to
watch our documentary.
On the right is an actual double page spread from TV
Choice magazine advertising a popular show called
“The Vampire Diaries”.
Some of the conventions you can see from the double
page spread are: the small red box in the top left
corner that it put on all the double page articles in
order to tell the viewer that this is a must watch
programme. Just below this box we can see the Main
Heading off the article, the headings of TV Choice
spreads will usually have a bolder word then a thinner
word just to give it an individual look, also they will
never just be the title of the programme it will just be a
phrase relating it. Directly under the masthead is the
By-line a sentence just giving a brief statement that
should draw the reader in. We can see that the Main
Image dominates the page on this article, other
spreads form TV choice don’t always cover the page
completely however it will always take up a large
section of the page at least. Next we have the
Date/Time box which gives channel, name and date
the programme will be aired this box stands out well
on the page due to it being yellow and red, and this is
important as it has all the information the customer
needs to be able to watch the programme. The copy
in a TV Choice article will usually have images
protruding into it just to break the text up a bit and give the reader time to breathe. We can see that in a TV Choice article
there will never just be one image, there will be several subsidiary images so that the reader gets a good look at the
people in the programme and familiarises themselves with them. Finally we have the Pull Quote which separates an
important quote from the programme out to ensure the viewers reads it.
Here is our attempt at creating a TV Choice article its no where near perfect and if there were a few things I
would change, it would be to change the column structure as the columns currently straddle over the
central crease of the double page making it difficult for the viewer to read the copy. I would also add
pagination in on the corners. However these can be easily changed. In general I think our double page
spread would fit in quite well within a TV Choice Magazine.
Main Image taking
up a large section
of the article
Must Watch Box
Main Heading that
fits with TV Choice
added a drop cap
as I feel it makes
the article look
Image and quote
embedded into the
Before creating our Radio Trailer we tuned in to a number of different radio stations such as Radio 1,
Radio 2, 5Live, Radio 4, Capital and Heart FM in order to get a feel for what a radio trailer needed to
include and how we should convey our message. We then narrowed this selection down to the three
stations which differed the most and offered the widest range of conventions and these were Radio 1,
Radio 4 and 5Live.
Typical radio trailers would include the following conventions: Backing Music, Voiceover, Documentary
Extracts, Date/Time/Channel Details. Therefore using these sheets we have been able to analyse 3 radio
trailers for our specific stations and note down what conventions they included.
In the end we went for Radio 1 as the station to broadcast our trailer on due to the fact is has a larger range of
listeners of all different age groups and mainly from Social Class C1 and 2 which is what we are aiming to
We set up a script that would take about 45 seconds to read the script included
some rhetorical questions such as “Have we created a generation of Nomophobics?”
along with extracts from the documentary and then yet again used “Garage Band” to
create a simple backing track for the trailer that would create a decent atmosphere
but not distract the listener from the voiceover and documentary extracts.
Overall our radio trailer met all the conventions that we needed to include for it to fit in on
Radio 1, if I had to change anything about it I would probably just re-record the voiceover as there are some
bits that are a but un-clear we could also do with adding a bit more bass to the voiceover as it sounded a bit
tinny, however I am pleased with it as we met all the forms and conventions that the trailer needed to be.