1. In what ways does your media
product use, develop or challenge
forms and conventions of real media
The brief that we were given at the beginning of A2 media
was to create the first five minutes for a television
documentary. We also had to produce two ancillary
tasks, consisting of a radio trailer and an informative
double page spread for a TV listing magazine to help
promote our documentary. In order to produce a
professional documentary we had to research into the
documentary genre so we had an idea of what our
introduction should be like, alongside this we had to plan
and research our chosen topic, target audience, similar
radio trails, documentaries and magazine articles and
For our research into the documentary genre we decided to watch some
documentaries like supersize me, Bowling for Columbine and a few 5 minute clips of
documentaries covering issues like unemployment. This research was helpful as we
picked up on effective conventions and techniques that we tried to adopt. These
variety of suitable shot types and many more.
Furthermore the use of camera in these examples
were very creative which added more interest into
An example of this was
establishing shots, we decided to use this as it
was a good cut away shot during the
voiceover, especially when beginning a new
chapter in the documentary.
Another shot we used was close
ups, this shot is effective as it
focuses on close up detail in the
Medium close ups were common in our documentary because we included a lot
of interviews. The rule of thirds is important when framing an interview, the
interviewee usually sits within the left or right third, while the free space on the
opposite side is usually filled with relevant objects for example notes on the wall
(mise en scene).
A typical feature for interviews is using
graphical titles that dissolve on/off the
screen. They often include the name of
the person and the position of their
job, this is good for expert interviews as
it looks more professional.
Much like the documentaries that we studied we took full
advantage of the tripod. During filming it was important that
we had steady shots for our documentary to be as
professional as possible.
o For our interviews the tripod allowed us to maintain the
position of the frame, and avoided any disturbances. This
meant our medium close up and rule of thirds was
consistent throughout the documentary.
o The tripod was handy when executing the pan before the
vox pops, if we had not have used a tripod it would not
have looked as good as it did.
Mise en scene/sound/lighting
The mise en scene is important in making the documentary effective and ascetically
Props – used to contribute to the mise en scene, usually relating to the subject area or
person being interviewed. One example of this is during the interview with Ryan
Jones, the posters behind him fit in with the rock/metal type music commonly
associated with tattoos and piercings.
Location – the location of our filming was all relevant to our topic and flowed in time
with the voiceover. For example the expert interview with employer Steve Brown, the
office location was appropriate for the interview and topic.
Lighting – we tried to use mostly natural lighting throughout the documentary, which is
common in the documentaries that I watched for my research. Choosing natural lighting
meant that it was unlikely to have different lighting in every clip, which is something we
tried to avoid.
Sound – from our research we found that
many of the documentaries had background
music throughout, this is something we
chose to include in our documentary. We
wanted music that would be relevant to our
topic as well as not being too overpowering.
We used the programme Garageband where
we selected a number of guitar based tunes
that were suitable.
Diagetic and non diagetic sound - it was important for us to to include
both diagetic and non diagetic sounds in our documentary. The diagetic
sound was effective as it made the documentary more professional.
However during vox pops and interviews we had to manage the levels of
the diagetic sounds so they were not too overpowering.
The non diagetic sound, mainly from the voiceover combined well with the
diagetic sound as it was not too fussy and made it an easy watching
Our voiceover followed typical conventions of a narration, firstly it was
delivered in standard English relating to the topic. We also made our
voiceover fit around the interviews and vox pops, so that everything
For the voiceover we used a audio recording device in a quiet room to get
a clear and undisturbed narration. We used this device instead of the
shotgun microphone as it is more suitable for a voiceover and easier to
upload onto the macs.
During all interviews and vox pops we used the conventional shotgun
microphone. We chose to do this as it is good quality as well as easy to use
and manoeuvre. However we had some issues where the microphone was
in shot and we did not realise until watching the footage over on the macs.
Nevertheless we sorted out the problem easily by either re filming or
using wireframe to zoom the frame in.
Both primary and secondary research was vitally important in the creation
of our documentary.
o Primary research – was gained through vox pops, interviews and
questionnaires all of which were mainly from our target audience. This
was clear in ‘super size me’ where he included vox pops in his film.
o Secondary research – we collected this from factual internet sites and
other resources, which was mainly found in the introduction with the
history of tattoos.
From our research into documentaries we found that special effects and
graphics were popular in presenting information. However we did not have
the equipment or tools to create this effects, although if we did we would
have liked to have incorporated this into our film.
During the research stage we found that straight-cut was an effective feature that
we included in our documentary.
Cross dissolve was an effective
transition to use, as it added interest
and allowed the audience to have a
slight break between clips, so they did
not follow each other too quickly.
The cross dissolve tool was also useful for our
introduction where we layered on pictures, as
it stopped it from being too harsh appearing
Modes of documentary
By researching and considering all the modes of documentaries available we found
that the expository mode was the most suitable for our subject matter as it is formal
and has an emotionally detached narrator. The opening five minutes has to be effective
and informative enough to interest the spectator so they carry on watching it.
Narrative structure is very important, whether its linear or non-linear, open or
closed ending or circular. For our documentary we decided that a closed structure
would be the most appropriate given the style of the film. A closed ending would
allow us to have a clear conclusion by the end, as well as hopefully covering all the
information needed to answer any questions the viewers may have. However it is
quite difficult to define the narrative within the first five minutes of the
documentary, but we figured it was important for the research and planning stage.
The first couple of minutes of the narrative was purely to introduce the
documentary and topic and allowing the rest of the film to flow easily. We did this
by informing the audience on the history of tattoos and how they began, although
these facts might not be based on the employment aspect it is factual and
interesting for the viewers. From there we gradually went into opinions of people
and finally onto the more important employment issues.
Modes of documentary
We also researched into the typical conventions of a documentary; like actuality, archival
footage, exposition, (expert) interviews, reconstruction, voiceover and vox pops. We knew
that in order for our documentary to be effective we had to try to include a number of these
conventions. However we already knew that our film had to produce information on a factual
topic for a number of reasons such as to document important events and ideas, inform
viewers and generate public interest and to express opinions.
After completing our documentary my group and I have been able to assess what
conventions we included and why.
Our film is more of a expository documentary because it presents facts and a variety of
opinions on the topic from the use of interviews. This is reinforced by the voiceover which
presents both sides of the argument so our documentary doesn’t come across as biased. Our
narration starts straight after the title sequence, we tried to make it upbeat and informative
from the beginning and throughout so the spectator would not loose interest.
We added the pre-recorded voiceover onto the soundtrack and edited the sound levels so it
could be heard clearly over the background music.
Red line shows how we edited sound levels from high to low.
Modes of documentary
We included both interviews and vox pops so we had a variety of public opinions as
well as expert. We gave the interviewees an idea of what questions we were going to
ask them so they could give us balanced and strong responses, as well as their
individual opinions. For our topic we needed to demonstrate a diverse range of
outlooks, which meant we had to present both sides of the argument which is why
honest interviewing was effective.
We felt as a group that actuality was important to include in order to give the
spectator a true insight into the subject matter.
We included a very short bit of archival footage in our documentary at the beginning
that we imported from YouTube. It is only a couple of seconds long and unlike many
stock footage in documentaries it doesn’t have any sound. Apart from the short
archival footage at the beginning of the film we didn’t really have any more space.
In addition we did not include any reconstructions, as we felt this convention was not
going to be useful to our topic and that we should perhaps work on the more
Modes of documentary
Thorough research into the different options available to us at the start was what allowed us to
choose the most suitable direction for our documentary. Firstly we researched Bill Nichols theory
of Documentary modes 2001: poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive and
preformative. Although our documentary may contain a mixture of different modes, expository
mode was the most suitable for our topic of tattoo discrimination and employment, as it aims to
collect footage that functions to strengthen the spoken narrative. For example the ‘voice of God’
style of narration addresses the audience directly and effectively.
Poetic mode emphasises more on tone and mood opposed to knowledge and
persuasion, which is a feature that would not be suitable for our documentary as we have
tried to make it a professional and informative experience for our target audience. In
addition to this the poetic mode tends to be more subjective too, however this contrasts
with the expository mode as it is more objective. The poetic mode rejects more traditional
narrative which as a group we thought was important if we wanted to make a strong and
Observational documentaries simply allow the audience to observe and come to their own
conclusions, this is also known as ‘fly-on-the-wall’ approach. However we did not choose
this mode because of its bylaws which include; no music, no interviews, no scene
arrangement of any kind and no narration, they also consist of long takes and few cuts.
These features would not have worked for a documentary that’s purpose is to be
informative for its viewers like ours.
Modes of documentary
One example of an observational documentary is Gimme Shelter, a
documentary based on the rolling stones. The camera crew works as
unobtrusively as possible viewing events candidly as a fly on the wall
might see them.
Reflexive mode draws attention to its production, it sometimes shows
the film maker editing and making the film. The reason for this is to
demonstrate to the audience their ‘understanding of the process of
construction in film so that they could develop a sophisticated and
Participatory mode is where the film maker is visible to the viewer and they openly
discuss their personal opinions on the topic. This mode could have suited our
documentary but we decided the expository mode would be better suited.
Similar to participatory mode is the preformative mode which also
engages the film maker in the story, but in a more autobiographical
way. One example of this is super size me. In this case Morgan Spurlock
portrays his views clearly and takes the audience through the
experience with him.
Double page spread
We chose our double page spread to be in
popular TV listing magazine Radio times.
We looked at many different articles from
Radio times so we had an idea of how their
articles are written and structured, as well
as studying into the general conventions
used in this magazine like columns, stand
first, images and layouts so we could adapt
our double page spread easily.
Columns –we did not stick to the usual three column convention like most
articles, mainly because of how much space our image took up. In spite of this we
used text wrap so that the article would shape around the main image
effectively, this way we can use the space wisely.
On the other hand we tried to re create the show title and date, time, and channel
information you would find in our intended magazines articles. This is another
typical convention found in any double page spread.
We did not include a caption on our image, this is something we would probably
change if we were to do it again mainly because it is used to inform the reader.
Double page spread
Pull quote – these are used to break up the main body of the text and
gives the reader a sort of breather and idea of what the next section is
going to include. In our case the quote was from one of our
interviews, this supports our documentary effectively.
Page numbers – are essential for a magazine
article, as it allows the reader to navigate through
the magazine easily.
Stand first – is another convention we complied
with, mainly because it introduces the article nicely.
Byline – is another common convention we used in our product.
We also used a drop capital to begin our article off, mainly because it is a
common convention that makes it more professional.
During the research and planning stage we listened to a number of different radio
trails, to understand what conventions they use and how they are structured.
o We learnt that they are usually between 30-45 seconds long, so they can keep
listeners interested as well as include the important information needed. From
this we decided to go for 36 seconds.
Background music is a effective way of
keeping the listeners interested. In our
case we used the same music from our
documentary which was created in
Garageband, this links the two products
In addition the radio trail consisted of our interviews and vox pops taken from the
documentary, this also added a sense of continuality throughout our products. We
used the same narrator from the documentary as they had a clear and confident
voice which would be attractive to listeners.
• Overall, I feel that we used a majority of the
conventions from the documentary genre,
radio trail and double page spread. The
researching into media products was very
important as it inspired our product and
showed us how they used and adapted the
different conventions to get the final result as
professional and effective as possible.
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