A2 Media Documentary
12 Going on 20 –
In what ways does your media product use, develop or
challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
For the A2 course we had to create a 5 minute documentary alongside a radio trailer and a magazine double
page spread for a TV listings magazine to advertise our documentary. We decided to base our documentary on
the rapid maturity of young girls in todays society. We carried out plenty of research into the topic and we
also had to consider our target audience for this documentary. To inspire our creative decision making we
researched different real life media texts for all three of the texts we were going to produce.
Before creating our documentary, as a group we needed to discuss what sort of documentary we were going
to create. In class we had learnt about documentary modes that were established by Bill Nichols who is an
American documentary theorist. He has identified six different modes: expository, observational,
participatory, reflexive and performative.
Addresses the viewer directly to advance an argument or recount history. Characterised by hidden, authoritive narrator, whose
voice is supported by images.
Example – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k73q9KiKyIc Child Genius
Events observed and recorded objectively. Fly on the wall type of documentary that can however lack history and context.
Example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZJsqHC_BQc BIG BROTHER
Film-makers appear in their own work, interviewing and expressing their views to the camera. However it can be too intrusive
and one sided.
Example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR7AEuynqRQ MILEY: THE MOVEMENT
Frequently reflects on it’s own artificiality drawing attention to this. However it’s too artificial.
Example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40W_hc_q8XU LOUIS THEROUX - AFRICAN HUNTING HOLIDAY
Personal approach where individual film maker tells their story. Often political stories are told by members of minority groups.
However too abstract and they can lose sight of the actual issue.
Example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q-ezCOCVmg SUPERSIZE ME
I feel that our documentary fits into the expository mode because we use a voice over which narrates the
documentary and is supported by images. The documentary also can relate to the target audience in a
We firstly researched into existing documentaries. We did this to identify key codes and conventions that
would influence the way in which our documentary would look as we wanted it to look professional. Looking
at documentaries such as ‘Supersize Me,’ ‘Miley: The Movement’ and ‘Pop, Sex and Videotapes’ it was clear to
see that they all share similar characteristics in the way the documentaries flow. For example in ‘Supersize
Me’ the interviews that are shown have the interviewee positioned either to the left hand side of the frame or
to the right hand side of the frame. Also the interviewee usually looks at the person interviewing them
instead of looking directly into the camera. They also include captions with the name of the person being
interviewed and their occupation. The same layout was used in ‘Pop, Sex and Videotapes’ also. These
influenced our decisions on how to present our interviews so as shown below we followed the same
12 GOING ON 20
POP, SEX &
When analysing ‘Supersize Me’ we established
that an array of shots were used such as zooms
and pans when background footage is shown.
This varies what the viewer is watching and it
helps them to keep interested. To ensure that
our documentary flowed smoothly throughout
and that the interviews were professional we
used a tripod to make certain that the shots
used were not shaky. Using the tripod we were
able to take steady pans and zooms of
background footage which we used to display
statistics on. When it came to filming the
interviews we wanted the camera to be still on
the expert being interviewed. Also by using the
tripod we could set the positioning of the
frame so that the interviewee was either
towards the left hand side or the right hand
side of the frame. We also had to make sure
that there was hardly any head space between
the top of the frame and the interviewee’s
head as when researching into documentaries
we noticed that these features were carefully
Pan– 12 Going On 20 (Background Footage)
Various Shots – Supersize Me
Between 5.12 – 5.42
Zoom – 12 Going On 20 (Background Footage)
When researching into existing documentaries I have learnt that the
music is an important convention. In ‘Miley: The Movement’ the
music that is used throughout varies and it sets a serious tone for
the documentary as she goes onto explaining how she has
developed as an artist. The music is edited so that it doesn’t
interfere with what is being said and that the audience watching will
be able to understand her clearly. However when no-one is speaking
the volume of the music increases. In ‘Supersize Me’ again the music
varies throughout and lowers when the presenter speaks. For our
documentary we decided to follow these conventions by using
background music throughout and we lowered the music for the
interviews, vox pops and when the presenter is speaking. Some of
our background footage that we decided to include were music
videos from Rihanna and Miley Cyrus so this also added to the
background music. We also decided to include two different styles of
music that we merged together as we couldn’t find one suitable
soundtrack to play throughout. We chose to use background music
for our piece because every documentary we have watched when
carrying out research and also that I have watched on TV have
involved background music. I feel that without it the documentary
would be incomplete and unprofessional . With the end result I feel
that the music could’ve been edited better in regards to the sound
levels when the experts are being interviewed. However it works
well as it accompanies the topic that we discuss.
Supersize Me Introduction
When it came to editing our documentary we had to
make sure that the sound levels were consistent
throughout so that it was clear to hear the diegetic and
non-diegetic sounds. In most documentaries there is
usually an on screen presenter. For example in ‘Supersize
Me’ there is the use of an on screen presenter and a
voice over. The on screen presenter is mainly used for
the introduction. In this case the documentary is based
on him so he is shown throughout.
Another example would be in ‘Miley: The Movement’ as
similarly to ‘Supersize Me’ the documentary is based on
the person who is presenting it so they will appear
frequently. However there is also the use of a voice over
when background footage is shown. This method is
effective as it makes the documentary more personal to
the audience as its about the person who is voicing it.
From watching these documentaries and identifying that an on screen presenter is a popular
convention used we decided to use a voice over instead. We chose to do this because we
learned that an on screen presenter is formal and to address our target audience we wanted an
informative way of narrating the documentary which would be a voice over. We used the voice
over for the introduction of the documentary, the introduction to the expert interviews only.
Overall I feel that the voice over worked well as it was suited to the younger age group our
target audience was categorised in (13-18 year olds).
The purpose of statistics are to provide the audience with factual and informative information that is visually shown
and supported with an explanation through the use of a voice over. In ‘Pop, Sex & Videotapes’ statistics were used
to reinforce what the presenter was articulating. The statistics were shown through the use of text that was placed
on top of background footage which was simple and easy to read. Through research into different documentaries I
learnt that when these type of statistics are shown, there would be a source alongside them which would state were
the facts were retrieved from. In ‘Supersize Me’ Morgan Spurlock used an array of statistics such as
graphs, newspaper articles and visual objects to emphasise his idea to the audience which also puts what he is
saying into perspective. Because of the topic we chose to base our documentary on we found it difficult to research
statistics for it. We also didn’t feel that visual statistics such as graphs/charts and maps would be appropriate.
Instead we decided to emulate the statistics used in the ‘Pop, Sex & Videotapes’ documentary by simply using text. I
feel that we challenged this form of convention as typically statistics are researched on various reliable sources on
the internet. We however decided to carry out our own internal survey’s at the college and we ensured that we
stated the source of our statistics which is a common convention that we decided to follow.
As well as creating the opening 5 minutes to our documentary we also had to create a radio trailer
and double page spread for a TV listings magazine which would both advertise the documentary.
Our Double Page Spread – 12 Going On 20
Existing TV Listing’s Double Page Spread
Just like we researched into existing documentaries we also looked into existing TV listing double page spreads. We
did this to identify the typical codes and conventions that are featured as this helped us to plan and create our
double page spread. We had to ensure that the documentary, double page spread and radio trailer all relate to each
other in some way and that a clear link between them can be distinguished. This means making sure that the title of
the documentary can be seen and mentioned in the radio trailer and double page spread and making sure the time,
date and channel is made explicit to the target audience so they are informed thoroughly.
The double page spread we created has all the typical conventions that a magazine double page spread will include.
We chose to follow these codes and conventions because they work well together and they all make the double page
spread look professional. I have compared the two and they both have similar features such as the article being in
columns and they both include a masthead, main image, sub-heading and other images that give the reader an insight
into what is included in the TV programme/documentary. Also in our documentary we included page numbers which
is a typical convention that is essential for a double page spread. When researching into other magazine double page
spreads we identified that the article starts with a drop cap so we decided to follow this convention. I feel that we
challenged the codes and conventions of a typical double page spread article as we didn’t create a Q&A (question and
answer) article. Instead we chose to write a description. We also included bylines which states who wrote the article
and who photographed the images. Within the article we used a pull quote from the documentary which is a
professional convention typically used. Overall I feel that our double page spread looks professional and effective so I
am pleased with it. It also links to the documentary as we used images extracted from the documentary.
To enable us to create the radio trailer advertising our documentary we carried out research into existing
radio trailers. We did this to recognise the typical codes and conventions that a radio trailer consists of such
as: a voice over, music and vox pops/interviews extracted from the documentary.
The most effective radio trailers that we listened to we decided to emulate. These radio trailers consisted of
using short clips from the documentary that they were advertising. They used the most controversial and
shocking quotes/clips from the documentary which were used to gain the attention from the audience
The radio trailers end with a voice over that states the title, channel, date and time that the documentary is
broadcasted on. By ending the radio trailer with this information it sounds more dramatic and it is more
likely to be remembered by the audience. This is because it would’ve been the last bit of information they
would’ve heard at the end of the trailer.
Therefore we decided to follow these common codes of conventions because they are subtle yet effective
so they fulfil their purpose. We started our trailer with short clips from the documentary to give the
audience an insight into what the documentary will contain. We then decided to emulate the ending of the
trailers we researched by informing the audience of what time, date and channel the documentary will be
featured on. We also came to the agreement of using the same voice over as we used for the documentary
and the same music we used which will ensure continuity across both media texts. Overall I feel pleased
with how the radio trailer advertises the documentary as it sounds simple but professional.