COMMON CODES & CONVENTIONS
Modes of documentaries
Framing of shots
MODE OF DOCUMENTARY - NICHOLLS
Addresses view directly to advance an argument or recent history. Mainly
Polemical (ones opinion).
The documentary frequently reflects on its own artificiality by drawing
attention to it.
Film makers appear in their own work, interviewing and expressing views to
the camera. This can be polemical.
Events observed and recorded objectively with no authorial intrusion. Mainly
A much more personal approach than participatory, individual film
makers tell spectators their story. Often Polemical.
TV DOCUMENTARIES: STYLE AND INFLUENCES
Public Affairs Documentary:
There are two types of interviews these are formal
A formal interview is an interview that consists of
questions designed to elicit specific facts attitudes
and opinions. These interviews are mainly
conducted with ‘experts’.
Informal interview usually put interviewers and
candidates in more relaxed settings such as
restaurants or coffee shops.
Vox pop is basically the voice of the people, the
presenter would normally ask questions to
members of the public so they can record their
opinion. This is very useful as it also helps the
spectator to trust the documentary because Vox
pops (public’s opinion) are not biased
It’s a footage that contains stock shots.
In documentaries they are used without particular
Most documentaries use this footage in the
background so they can place information on top
like statistics so the information stands out.
Statistics are facts, so they do not lie. It can help
documentaries convince the spectator to follow
their arguments. A good example would be in
‘Super size me’ where the presenter uses stats to
portray how unhealthy America is due to fast food’s
such as Mc Donalds. This may allow the spectator
to take the documentaries preferred reading which
is what the producer would want.
Not all documentaries use statistics, e.g. ‘Touching
the void’ but other documentaries such as ‘super
size me’, it can be very significant.
The sound in all documentaries must be extremely
clear as the information needing to be said must be
vivid so the spectator can hear.
Similarly to films, documentaries also use non
diegetic music within certain scenes. Music is vital
as it can help manipulate the spectator into creating
certain responses that the producer would want,
e.g. emotional response.
In most documentaries, the editing is a lot different
to Hollywood films, there’s less special effects,
editing is less appealing but more realistic as
documentaries tend to be realistic and relate to real
Depending on the documentary the editing can
vary, some can be fast quick cuts whereas other
documentaries can do long takes which can create
certain effects. E.g. quick cuts allow the spectator to
be more focused as it tends to be less boring.
FRAME AND CAMERA SHOTS
Framing and Camera shots in documentary type
films do vary but one aspect most have in common
is the process and setting of interviews.
When setting an interview, documentaries take into
account a lot of information. This can include the
rule of third, lighting, and camera angle.
Most documentaries set the interview as a medium
close up but may change the angle or shot within
the interview so the spectator is not bored.