In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?The brief we were given in the beginning of our A2 course was to create the opening fiveminutes of a television documentary of a subject of our choice. We brainstormed theseideas as a group and I put forward several such as binge drinking, teen pregnancy and bodyimage and in the end we chose to do binge drinking. Along with the documentary we wereto produce two ancillary tasks, a radio trailer and a double page spread for a listingsmagazine to advertise our documentary. Most documentaries are about an hour long so wehad to ensure we researched and planned what goes into the first five minutes of one tocreate a professional looking documentary of our own.While researching for our documentary we looked at Bill Nichol’s theory for documentarymodes which consisted of; Expository, Observational, Participatory, Reflexive andPerformative mode. Our documentary is expository as it addresses the viewer directly toadvance an argument, for example the name of our documentary includes the question,‘Fun or fatal?’ which sparks an argument for the audience to decide for themselves what theoutcome of binge drinking is. This type of mode is characterised by a hidden narrator,whose voice is supported by images rather than the other way round. Our documentaryfollows this convention as we had Zoe do the voiceover and have the footage supportingwhat she says which I think is effective as our documentary is aimed at mostly at students soby having the voiceover of a female and of a similar age to the viewers, they may relate toher better than a authoritative male voice. However a convention of this mode is that it’ssubjective and often polemical and our documentary challenges this as it is more of arhetorical question so that the audience can decide for themselves what they think of bingedrinking, rather than having an intrusive narrator with a one sided view. This mode is alsocriticised as being overly didactic and preachy which our documentary challenges as wedidn’t want to be preachy but rather show the audience equal amount ofinformation/evidence for each half of ‘fun or fatal’.There are also different types of Narrative Structure which basically means the plot of thedocumentary. Our documentary is multi-strand as it has more than one main plotline whichis, is binge drinking fun or fatal. It will be a series, so in each episode it will follow thestructure of looking at the fun effects of drinking in contrast with the fatal effects. Thismeans that it will follow a realist structure because as directors we wanted the audience tobelieve what they are watching is real life. Following the realist structure, because wewanted viewers to feel involved, I suggested the opening sequence and introduction wasedited to be faster than it was filmed and accompanied with upbeat music to create theimpression the viewer was in a club/bar environment. Our documentary was linear whichmeant the events happen on screen as they would in real life; hence our documentary was
structured like a story in two halves; the fun, and the fatal effects of binge drinking. Westarted with showing the fun effects of drinking by interviewing students at a college andthen went on to film formal interviews with serious information leading into the fatal halfand ending as if we were about to go into a Doctor’s room. This will then follow onto thenext episode of the series, starting in the Hospital.There are also components of narrative structure which is the beginning, middle and end orproblem, quest and resolution. Todorov (1997) was a theorist who studied stories and saidthat each one followed a structure. Equilibrium – introduced to normal life Opposing force/disruption – life is disrupted e.g. evil force Unifying force/quest – some sort of journey e.g. hero going on a quest Resolution – normal life is restoredOur documentary is similar to this as our opening sequence and introduction into bingedrinking is the equilibrium, the opposing force is alcohol, as directors we go on a journeyinto looking at the effects of binge drinking and eventually if we finished our documentarythere would be a resolution.Levi strauss introduced the theory of Binary Opposition which is when characters/themesare in direct opposition to one another e.g. hero and villain/good and evil. Our documentaryfollows this idea as our two contrasts are ‘Fun or fatal’ which are binary opposites, andhopefully will create a debate whether to which one binge drinking is or isn’t.TV documentaries also come under different styles and influences which are; Direct Cinema,Cinema Verite, Institutional, Docusoaps, Public affairs, Video Diaries and Drama. Ourdocumentary is a public affairs style as it’s the most traditional format and an example isPanorama. They are usually shown on BBC or Channel 4 and explore current affairs andissues which is a convention of our documentary as it is on Channel 4 and explores the bingedrinking epidemic of Britain that is constantly in the media.In preparation for making our own documentary, we had to researchother documentaries and see what the conventions of them were. Inclass we watched the documentary ‘Supersize Me?’ by MorganSpurlock but we thought it would be a good idea to research similar documentariesto our own. We researched several documentaries which can be found on our blogsuch as, ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’, ‘Party Paramedics’, ‘Teen Trouble’ and‘Booze-a young person’s guide’. I thought that instead of commenting on theconventions in ‘Supersize Me?’ I would focus on a documentary that is morelike our one on binge drinking.The documentary ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ is narrated by Emily Attack as she takes a look atthe culture of drinking in the UK. A convention of this documentary was that the
background footage shown related to binge drinking and what the narrator was saying. Ourdocumentary followed this convention as we linked what the narrator was saying to theimages on the screen. This was effective as it backed up what the narrator was saying, whilstalso keeping the audience’s attention because the footage was interesting whilst beingfactual and true.Another convention of this documentary was that Emily Attack was telling her own storyand showing the audience her journey making the documentary, which is what MorganSpurlock does in ‘Supersize Me?’ as he takes a personal approach throughout thedocumentary. Our documentary challenges this convention because we couldn’t personallytake part in the experiment because it would be too risky to be around intoxicated people incase something dangerous happened.Another convention of ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ was that the title at the start of thedocumentary was shown on top of a background of a deck of cards and glasses of alcohol ona pub table. We adhered to this convention as we put our title on top of posters about bingedrinking blowing in the wind which we thought was a clever and appealing way to presentour title as ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ did.In ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’, Emily interviewed groups of friends informally whilst they weredrinking which was effective as the target audience would relate to this atmosphere. Ourdocumentary followed this convention as would have interviewees speak amongst friends insome interviews so that they would be relaxed as they were in groups. We found that thiswas effective as the audience found it entertaining and funny because the intervieweeswere being themselves but also got some serious points.
We challenged the convention of this documentary as Emily Attack took part in experimentsfor her documentary such as using a breathalyser, and we didn’t. This is because it would’vebeen too dangerous for us to do because some of our group are under aged and it could betoo risky to be around intoxicated people on a night out. However we did improvise andshow wine being poured into a glass and have the narrator say what happens after eachglass of wine. This was a good eye opener for the audience as it showed the realism of howquickly the number of units affects the human body.‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ had formal interviews with a number of professionals such as analcohol specialist to show the seriousness of alcohol. We followed this convention as weinterviewed a number of professionals, such as a Policeman, Psychology teacher and aStudent Development Officer. The best formal interview we did was with PC Patel as it wasthe most hard hitting and serious which would affect the audience and make them thinkabout the outcome of binging on alcohol. PC Patel also wore his uniform which made himmore authoritative as it showed he was in a serious profession and had a respected job role.‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ interviewed the alcohol specialist in her work place which we didn’tmanage to do for PC Patel as he offered to come into College for us but as we were filmingthe footage for our ‘Hospital’ rooms, a science teacher in her white lab coat walked pastwhich we took advantage of and filmed her walking down the corridor and into a room ofour ‘pretend hospital’. This chance happening has allowed our documentary too lookprofessional and appear to have an experts place of work filmed, like ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’.
Another convention in ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ was that they interviewed celebrity RussellKane who expressed his views through humour. Our documentary breaks this conventionbecause we couldn’t film a celebrity but we did however follow the convention of comedyand used vox pops that were funny and comical. For example one student we interviewedsaid, “I have sex with people I wouldn’t usually”. This clip has been used in our documentaryas well as our radio trailer and as a quote in our TV listing magazine article because it’scomical and attracts our target audience as they can relate with this student’s behaviour.DocumentaryOther conventions in our documentary that I found were things such as the use of camera,such as shot types, sound and special effects. In our documentary the most common type ofcamera shot was the medium close up in order for the audience to get a good view of theperson’s facial expression and how they felt, in order to provoke an emotional connectionwith what was happening on screen and the viewer.
We used the tripod a lot for shots such as an establishing shot of the College and of thePolice Station in order for the audience to know where the next scene was about to takeplace and to link with what the voiceover was saying e.g. ‘We went to Solihull Sixth Form’and a long shot of the college would follow.Using a tripod in our formal interviews was important as we needed the camera to besteady and follow the rule of thirds when setting up the screen.The interviewee should be looking out into space and positioned athird of the way in with their eye level at a third of the way down.Using a tripod also meant that we could use skills such as panning,tracking and zooming to make our documentary look professional.We also used the handheld camera in our documentary to makethe viewer feel as if they were there, as well as for our informalvox pops. It was important for the vox pops to be filmed handheld as we wanted these to feel ‘real’ and on the spot as thestudents were speaking honestly of their experiences andlaughing with us about them etc. This was good as it made thefootage look like the students felt that we as directors werereliable and they could open up to us, this made our documentary have an honest insightinto the life of a student who binge drinks.Another convention in our documentary was the use of sound such as background music,voiceover, presenter, diegetic and non-diegetic sound. In ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ they used apresenter (Emily Attack) and had a voiceover but we felt that our documentary didn’t needa presenter so we only used a voiceover. We thought this would be more effective as wedidn’t want it to be too intrusive by having a presenter because we wanted the audience todecide their own opinion about binge drinking. We also thought that having a presenterwouldn’t work for our humorous student vox pops because the students would feelpressured and scared if a microphone was pointed at them by a loud and confidentpresenter and in fact just having a voiceover would work better as the footage would bebetter too. We also thought a presenter wouldn’t work in the serious half of ourdocumentary as it would be difficult to talk about the ‘fatal’ effects of binge drinking face toface on camera and that a voiceover would work better.Background music was something that we used in our documentary just like ‘Ready, Steady,Drink’ did. Because our documentary was in sections of binge drinking being either fun orfatal we needed two different types of music. For the fun half we wanted an upbeat dancesong and for the fatal half we wanted a slower, sombre instrumental as shown below.
I created a Prezi presentation which can be seen on the blog where I looked at differenttypes of music for our documentary. ‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ uses the dance song ‘I’m notalone’ by Calvin Harris at the start but for interviews doesn’t use any music. This carries onthroughout the documentary as the next footage of a night out uses a Gorillaz song butthere is no background music for the interview with a Taxi driver. Because we couldn’t usecopyright music in our documentary we had to use non copyright music provided by us on awebsite used by our College. We selected a upbeat dance song for the fun half to mimic a‘night out’ but chose a darker, sad song for the fatal half. We challenged the convention of‘Ready, Steady, Drink’ where they didn’t use any background music in interviews but insteadkept the music running throughout but faded and changed the sound level of the music so itwas quieter. Our documentary also used diegetic sound for example background noise inthe canteen when doing vox pops and the sound of cars. We didn’t use any non-diegeticsound in our documentary because didn’t want too overcrowd it with sound effects etc. butrather keep it simple.An additional convention was the use of special effects in our documentary. In ‘Ready,Steady, Drink’ the title uses the effect of changing focus as the focus is on the pint of beeron the table surrounded by playing cards and the drinks behind it our out of focus. Thespeed also changes when as the students drink, the camera zooms into them and their drinkand then speeds up after each person has their drink. In our documentary we changed thespeed of certain clips, for example the opening sequence was sped up so that the footagemimicked a fast paced, drink fuelled ‘night out’ and put the viewer into the position of astudent binge drinking on a night out straight away.We also used the zoom a lot on our actual camera, for example zooming out on theSkeleton in the Science lab. Using these special effects keep the audience intrigued in our
documentary as the speed and zooming creates an element of fun if it changes. It allows theaudience to be ‘kept on their toes’ and remain interested in the documentary.TV Listing Magazine articleThis is our final TV Listings magazine which we produced for ‘What’s on TV’ magazine. EachTV listings magazine differ from one another, for example ‘Radio Times’ is more serious andformal whereas ‘What’s on TV’ is more colourful and fun but they still all follow similarconventions. As our documentary was based on a serious UK epidemic, there had to beelements of seriousness, hence the simple layout and appropriate images but because ourdocumentary is titled ‘Fun or fatal?’ there has to be an element of fun and therefore thebright colours blue and red are used as well as a comical pull quote, “I get mashed, I’m amess”.A masthead is the headline or the title of the magazine page and is a common convention tobe used. Some TV listing magazines use quotes or plotlines etc as the headline butsometimes the title of the documentary is used, especially if it’s a one off series.
Drop cap is nearly always used in TV listing magazines to show the beginning of the text as it makesit look more professional if it sticks to the conventions, as shown in our article.A pull quote is used to grab the reader’s attention and lure them into reading the article ifthe pull quote is interesting enough. We have used a quote from our documentary which iscomical and suits the target audience we want to read the documentary. The quote willattract teenagers aged 15-20 because it’s humorous and they will relate to the situation, itwill make them reminisce and laugh whilst pulling them into watching the documentary.Although it’s comical, this pull quote will attract the attention of our second target audienceof parents of teenagers because they will read it and be shocked that teenagers allowthemselves to get into that state. It will influence them to watch the documentary and seewhat people their child’s age get up too.
Articles are also conventionally written in columns which we have done to make ourmagazine fit the codes and conventions of a professional TV magazine listing, but also tomake the layout look clean and clear to read. By having columns and making sure the textisn’t hyphenated, our article looks professional. They are also separated sometimes bysubheadings as shown in our magazine article and an article in ‘What’s on TV’.We also conventionally added the date, time and channel that our documentary will beaired on at the end of the article, as well as at the start on a banner. This is conventionallyused by ‘What’s on TV’ in the article that I annotated and therefore to make our article looksuited to ‘What’s on TV’ I added one to ours.
Radio trailerFor our radio trailer, we listened to other student’s radio trailers who did the same task thatwe are doing, as well as other professional ones such as ‘Five Live Sports Extra’ on the BBC.This helped us get an idea of the conventions that they use and what makes them effective,however I thought that in order to get the best idea of the conventions used, I researchedanother radio trailer similar to ours. I found a radio trailer about binge drinking done byanother student in a different college wish can be heard below.https://soundcloud.com/#tags/ancillary%20task-%20radio%20trailerThe advert starts with an opening of slow, moody and dark instrumental music which carrieson throughout. It then plays short clips of conversations, one being, “Come on then, do youwant some do ya?” which is an argument where someone is suggesting a fight. It is thenfollowed by a conversation between a drunken girl and a boy who is trying to takeadvantage of her by suggesting she comes back to his house because she is alone wanderingthe streets. A sound effect of someone being sick follows this. The trailer then ends oninformation being given about where those listening can watch to find out more about thedangers of drinking, such as the channel and time of the documentary.Our radio trailer follows these conventions as it has background music throughout which isthe same music that was in our documentary, with the split between the dance music andthe slower music.We then used a voiceover like this radio trailer, but ours was to tell a sort of story as weasked rhetorical questions such as, “A night to remember?” or “or one crazy disaster?”followed by a clip of either a vox pop or an interview which contrasts or answers thevoiceover. For example, our trailer starts off with, “A night to remember?” and is answeredby a vox pop of a student saying, “You’ll probably forget the night your experiencing”. We
thought this was very effective and an attention grabbing way to advertise ourdocumentary. We use elements of fun such as the comical vox pops which students willrelate with, as well as serious quotes such as those from PC Patel which will shock our targetaudience. These rhetorical questions are personal so that the listener will want to answerthem and find out more about the documentary. We also follow conventions as we end thetrailer with the channel, date and time the documentary is on, but before that we use thedeclarative sentence, “Find out for yourself”. This immediately draws the listener in as itaddresses them personally so they feel involved. A convention of radio trailers are that theyare normally between 20-40 seconds. Our trailer is 30 seconds long which is a good as it’s inthe middle of the two but also is enough time to sell our documentary without it being longand boring.Overall I think we have used and developed forms and conventions of real media productsand I am pleased with what we have done.