We were given a specific brief at the start of the A2 coursework task. Thiswas to create a five minute introduction to a documentary based on atopic of our choice. We also had two ancillary tasks to complete, both toadvertise and support the documentary. The first being to create a radiotrail with the aim to encourage people to watch the documentary, thesecond to create an informative TV listings article for a specific magazineof our choice. To ensure that our documentary was effective andprofessional, we had to do a lot of research and planning into thedocumentary genre as a whole, specific similar documentaries, our targetaudience, other similar radio trails, magazine articles and much more.Initially, we researched into the documentary genre by looking into thetypical conventions. We knew that the film had to present information ona factual topic for a number of different reasons such as to record importantevents and ideas, convey opinions, inform viewers and create publicinterest. By looking into conventions of the genre like actuality, exposition,voiceover, interviews, interviews with ‘experts’, archival footage andreconstructions, it highlighted what we had to do in order to make ourdocumentary effective overall and achieve its purpose. Having completedthe documentary we have been able to asses what conventions we haveused and why. We felt that actuality was an important factor to includewithin the documentary in order to give the viewer a true insight and arealistic portrayal.
Our documentary portrays information in an expository way, presentingfacts, figures and various different opinions on the topic from interviews wecarried out. This expository mode of the documentary is reinforced by thenarration which explains the content and portrays both sides of theargument in some places serving rhetorical purposes. We felt that bymaking the start of the film dramatic and fast paced it not only attracts theviewers attention but also relates to the topic effectively. The voice-overpresents lots of facts to ensure that it is informative and contributespositively to the film. We added the pre-recorded voice-over to thesoundtrack so that we could marry both visual and audio togethereffectively. ClipsAudio fileWe included both vox pops and interviews to give both general opinionsfrom the public and informed opinions from professionals and relevantindividuals to authenticate views presented. We prompted ourinterviewees with questions in order to get balanced, appropriate responsesbut unique and individual ones also. We tried to give a true representationof the interviewees opinions, this meant providing both sides of theargument to a certain extent. We have also incorporated somearchival/stock footage recorded from YouTube, we did this to add varietyto the documentary, give a more well-rounded insight and ultimatelyimprove the viewers experience.
We didn’t use reconstructions within the documentary. We felt that theywouldnt benefit our film in any way and wasn’t appropriate given the topic.We decided that it would benefit the film if we concentrated on the otherconventions we have used and making those areas as good as possible.In order to clarify the options available to us at the start of the process andhighlight the different directions that we could take the documentary, weresearched into Bill Nichol’s theory of Documentary Modes (2001):poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive andperformative. Having completed the documentary it is clear that our filmcontains a mixture of different modes but the expository mode seems themost suitable for our style of documentary addressing university tuitionfees. The ‘voice-of-God’ style of the voice-over addresses the viewerdirectly and presents facts mainly for rhetorical purposes. For example‘fifty thousand less students applied to university in two thousand andtwelve’. This provides clear evidence that the rising fees are having anegative impact but by providing positives like ‘maybe they can improvetheir facilities’ the film remains balanced to an extent.The poetic mode puts more emphasis on mood and tone as opposed toknowledge or persuasion. This is something that we wanted to avoid andremain relatively emotionally detached to give a professional, informativeexperience, it also tends to be more subjective. This contrasts with theexpository mode as this tends to be more objective and provides a wellsupported argument. The poetic mode also forsakes traditional narrative
which is something that we felt was important to our documentary. Ourvisual representation is generally used to support the engagement ofrhetoric rather than being the main focus of the film.The observational mode allows the viewer to reach any desiredconclusion by simply observing. This is whats known as the ‘fly-on-the-wall’approach and elements are reflected slightly within our documentary whenobserving students working and going about their daily business withminimum intervention. The observational mode is evident in ‘Welcome toIndia’. This is a documentary that we watched and analysed within theresearch stages of our project.The film maker is visible to the viewer in the participatory mode andopenly discusses their perspectives and personal opinions relating to thefilm. A clear message is asserted in a rhetorical fashion and the film canbecome a channel for the film makers agenda. We could have adapted thismode to fit our documentary but we opted for a different approach.
Similar to the participatory mode, the performative mode also engages thefilm maker in the story, but in contrast it is in an autobiographical descriptionof the subjects truths that are significant to the film maker NOT evident toeveryone. An excellent example of this that I have watched and we used asa group was ‘Super Size Me’. In this case Morgan Spurlock portrays hisviews clearly and the autobiographical style personalises the film and, bytaking the viewer through the experience with him, it makes it moreeffective.Finally, the reflexive mode draws attention to the constructed nature of thedocumentary, and sometimes shows the film makers wrestling with thecontent of their findings.Taking all of the modes into consideration the expository mode is the onethat is most suited to our documentary which is not surprising given thetopic and the way that we presented our information. Our documentarycould also fall under the serious and pessimistic categories with anemotionally detached voice-over and a relatively formal, authoritative tenorthroughout. It was important to us to do this as it is a very serious topic andsomething that impacts many people in various different ways. The openingfive minutes of this documentary needed to reinforce these elements,aiming to fully engage the viewer but also be very informative right from thebeginning.
The narrative structure of a documentary is always important, whether it islinear, open, closed or circular. Being the first five minutes of thedocumentary there cannot be any definite narrative structure to reflect thewhole documentary, but given the style I feel that the closed structure wouldbe a suitable option. This would give a definite ending and consequentlygive the audience a clear conclusion to ensure all questions are answered,all areas considered and all information presented.Within the first five minutes the narrative contained various rhetoricaldevices used like rhetorical questions, pre-modified noun phrases like ‘so-called positives’ and shocking factual numbers like ‘50,000 less studentapplied for university in two thousand and twelve’ and ‘a maximum of£9,000 a year’. These features coincide with the majority opinion within thedocumentary which was that the increase in fees was a bad thing. Expertinterviews that also take this stance strengthen the rhetorical elementswithin the narrative further.In order to gain a better understanding of the documentary genre, wewatched a few documentaries, such as ‘Super Size Me’, ‘Welcome toIndia’, a ‘Panorama’ episode and ‘Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald’.By doing this differences were emphasised but also certain conventionsand techniques stood out to me that featured in most of the documentariesthat I watched. I felt that these conventions, ideas and techniques workedwell, contributed positively to the overall documentary and allowed us toincorporate some of these into our documentary.
The use of the camera within these documentaries was very interestingand in all cases improved the aesthetical impact of the film. There were a variety of shots on display in all of the documentaries, forexample close ups of food were used within ‘Super Size Me’ to goodeffect, similarly close ups in ‘Welcome to India’ worked well in puttingemphasis on certain things, in this case gold and money. We liked the ideaof using close ups to place emphasis on certain things so we used them onuniversity folders, students work and other significant, symbolic elements inorder to clarify the intentions of the documentary.Long shots of school signs and the low angled long shot of the corridorfrom the floor within ‘Super Size Me’ all combined to make it aestheticallyinteresting. We felt that the low angled long shot worked extremely well andconsequently decided to incorporate this shot into our documentary. Byusing a low angled long shot of a corridor in the Sixth Form College Solihullit added an element of intellect, related directly to education and increasedthe validity and therefore the impact of our documentary. Birdseye highangle shots in run down areas within ‘Welcome to India’ and the use ofhand-held camera reflects the busy, brutal lifestyle of these people. Weused an over-the-shoulder handheld shot following a studentInto the internet cafe, this gave a personal element from the students
perspective and emphasised how daunting this period can be.We also used establishing shots, similar to the other documentaries. Thishelped us to reinforce the topic of the documentary, particularly whenpanning across The Sixth Form College Solihull and the main High Street inSolihull, synchronise the visual with the voice-over and imply a change inlocation.
Much like these documentaries, we also made good use of the tripod. Thishelped us throughout the filming process for various reasons, one of whichis ensuring that our shots were stable normally and whilst panning or tiltingbut also the use of the tripod within interviews allowed us to position theframe exactly how we wanted it (most of the time medium close up),maintain looking room, rule of thirds and include significant and relevantobjects (books, phones, computers etc.) within the frame that contributepositively to the mise-en-scene.This is also reflected within the expert interviews in ‘Super Size Me’.
Another typical feature incorporated within the interviews throughout thesedocumentaries was the use of graphics, particularly throughoutprofessional interviews. By using graphical labels or tags, it helps to informthe viewer as to who the interviewees were and their occupation. Wedecided to use this convention throughout our professional interviews andalso use the conventional white serif font so that they are easily read. Thebackground strips opacity was also customized to avoid it being too harshand imposing on the interview but also being clearly visible.
We also made good use of various other elements within mise-en-scene inorder to make our documentary effective and present information to theviewer efficiently. For example the locations that we filmed wereappropriate to both topic and voice-over. This is particularly reflected withingeneral shots like when we panned across one of the main buildings at TheSixth Form College Solihull and filming students in the library but also withininterviews which we organised to take place in offices and classrooms torelate directly to education and the topic of university tuition fees.The lighting throughout the majority of the documentary is natural lighting,similar to all of the documentaries that I have watched. This seemed themost obvious choice given the serious topic and the informative purposesof the documentary.Props were used within the documentary to contribute positively to themise-en-scene and give a professional element. For example the telephonein shot throughout the Emma Hurst interview, the computer within the Kareninterview and the books within the Owen interview. Also pens and paper inthe shots were useful when observing students studying and again referredback to the topic well. Also the close up of the ‘Good university guide’ bookreinforces the topic and the close up of the penny spinning shows how thefinancial aspect is at the forefront of student’s minds at the moment and thespinning symbolises the uncertainty of their futures.
To follow conventions and add variety to our visual representation, wemade our own track out of chairs and wheels, this enabled us to capture atracking shot across some university folders. We also used the camerasprovided to zoom, and manually change the focus using the focus ring tocreate a focus rack. This worked particularly well within our documentaryand improved the experience for the viewer making it more interesting.We also noticed that these documentaries used sound to their advantagein various different ways. All of the documentaries that we watchedcontained relevant background music. This was reflected particularlywithin ‘Welcome to India’ as the music contained Indian instrumentationwhich correlated with the location of the documentary and provided a slightinsight into the culture of the country. ‘Super Size Me’ also usedbackground music effectively for example the use of the flute right at thestart adds an element of humour and light-heartedness. We wanted tomake the music relevant but the main objective for us was to create a pieceof background music with variety and interest that would not distractattention away from the main focus, the documentary and the voice-over.We created two different simple, original, ostinatos in Garageband to givevariety to the background music. Here is the final exported backgroundmusic in Final Cut Express:
We feel that we created an effective piece of background music that wasn’ttoo dissimilar to that of professional, conventional documentaries, it addedinterest without distraction and therefore achieved our desired purposes.Diagetic and non- diagetic sound are conventions that also played a bigpart in our documentary. It was appropriate to include some non-diageticsounds to reinforce that insightful and well-rounded element and it is quitehard to avoid it during vox pops and interviews. Diagetic sound such astelephones ringing in offices in the background during professionalinterviews, people walking past and talking during vox pops and studentstalking in the canteen. Although this contributed positively to ourdocumentary, we had to manage these levels and make sure they wereaudible but not overpowering.Audiolevels(dB)The non-diagetic sound that we used within our documentary, mainly fromthe voice-over, worked well in our opinion and combined with the diageticsound to create a relatively easy watching documentary.
The voice-over within our documentary is quite similar to that of otherdocumentaries that we have watched and follows typical conventions of astandard piece of narration. It is delivered in Standard English which relatesto the topic and academic semantics of the film, facts and figures arepresented as well as some rhetoric. We also tried to mould the voice-overaround the clips that we had, one particular part of the voice-over where Ifeel this worked well was ‘... and highlight any academic anxieties thatthey may possess, whether it be ...’. Here alliteration is a feature that hasbeen used to add interest to the voice-over and ultimately increase theimpact on the viewer. This piece of narrative fits with the visual clips andallowed us to move the documentary on, in this case to vox pops. A bigfactor regarding the voice-over that we had to consider when creating it wasmaking sure that we included some enthusiasm. This was a big part of thevoice-over in ‘Super Size Me’ and when Morgan Spurlock was presenting.The enthusiasm in his voice and physical actions made me as a viewermore interested and he appeared more genuine and sincere. This issomething that we wanted to replicate through our voice-over.We also used the conventional shotgun microphone throughoutinterviews and vox pops, this proved to be easily manoeuvrable, goodquality and easy to use. We did have some issues when using this, wepositioned the frame how we wanted it and how it appeared on the camerascreen, but when preparing to edit we realised that the shotgun microphonewas sticking into the frame slightly. This was easily solved though, we usedthe wireframe to drag/zoom the frame in.
Research played a big part in the creation of the documentary, bothprimary and secondary research were vitally important if we were tomake a well-rounded, informative documentary. Or primary research wasgained directly from people, mainly our target audience. Our documentaryportrayed lot of primary research, a form of this was through interviews andvox pops where we were relating to people directly and gaining usefulinformation from this. This is similar to the way that ‘Super Size Me’ usedprimary research, with vox pops on the street of New York for example. Incontrast, our secondary research from factual resources proved to be veryuseful in informing the viewer and integrating the content we found into thevoice-over. This was also evident at the start of ‘Super Size Me’ with factslike ‘nearly 100,0000 Americans are today either overweight or obese’which is also a feature we used at the start of our documentary.From watching ‘Super Size Me’ it became apparent how special effectsand graphics particularly computer generated imagery have been usedto good effect. These sort of things require quite sophisticated equipmentand it is something that I would have like to incorporate into ourdocumentary if we had the possibility. Effects like multiplying the frame:
graphics like the cartoons:and population representations:add interest to the documentary and reinforce the professional element.Also given the opportunity to produce our documentary again, I woulddefinitely include still images as I felt these worked really well in ‘SuperSize Me’.
It also became apparent whilst watching these documentaries that thestraight-cut is a big feature. We did use lots of straight cuts within ourdocumentary to ensure that we did comply with the convention.But we also used transitions like cross dissolve. We felt that it wasimportant to add an element of variety and add interest to the documentary.So we did use conventions in this area but also added extra elements.Cross dissolve in progress
This is our final TV listings magazine article:We had to produce it for aspecific magazine, ourchosen magazine was‘TV and Satellite week’.We looked through lots ofdifferent magazines like‘Radio Times’ and ‘What’son TV’. Most of themagazine articles that Ilooked into had similarconventions and styles, Ithen looked into the actualarticles and picked themagazine that contained the most articles that were based around a similartopic to ours. This confirmed the choice of ‘TV and Satellite week’ and thegeneral conventions used within this magazine like columns, stand first, theuse of integrated images and the general simple layout allowed us to adaptthis style relatively easily.Although, in many ways, we abided by the conventions used within thismagazine, one way in which we defied it was the use of the main headeror title of the article. We decided to integrate this into the main image and Ifeel that it worked well in doing so.
The use of columns within our article highlighted specific similarities as tothose used by ‘TV and Satellite’. But we like the way that they integratedimages into their columns and decided that it was appropriate to do sowithin our article and also to reinforce the elements belonging to thatmagazine.In contrast to this particular article we have not filled the whole of thebackground with our main image, we felt that the actual article would bequite lost within our main image if we did this and in this particular instanceit wasnt appropriate in our opinion to do so. If I created the article againand created a different main image this may have not been the case.We also used the exact design that ‘TV and Satellite Week’ have created todisplay the show title and the date and time. This again reinforced ourintended magazine and is also a typical convention of any TV listingmagazine.
Another convention that we used in the creation of the article was thecaptions used to illustrate pictures. This helps to inform the reader furtheron the person in the picture, gives contextual information and adds anelement of professionalism. Also, in relation to the example article from ‘TVand Satellite Week’ magazine, we integrated a circular image which wemade using the circular frame tool in In Design.We also used a By-line which is a common convention used in real mediaproducts.Page numbers were also an essential within our magazine article,although these are features used all of the time it is still a genericconvention that we have used.Also, we have used a cross-head which clarifies what the next section oftext is based around and also helps to break up the main body of the text inorder to make it slightly more interesting.
A pull quote was used to break the main body of the text up slightly, alsothe bold capital font with a drop shadow adds interest and variety to theaesthetic. This quote was directly from the voice-over in the documentarywhich connects the two very clearly. This helps the article support thedocumentary effectively.In contrast to many articles, we decided not to use a drop capital at thestart of the text. We felt that it wasnt needed as we had the stand first, soin one respect we were using a convention but on the other we werechallenging one. But overall I feel that it worked out reasonably well.
During the research and planning stages for the radio trail, I listened to afew professional trails like ‘Piano season’, ‘British grand prix’ and‘Glastonbury giveaway trail’. Having listened to these, it was clear that therewere a few conventions that all three used. For example they were allaround 30-45 seconds long. We opted to go for around 45 seconds as wefelt that this was suitable time to keep listeners interested but also provideall of the relevant information relating to the documentary.It was important to keep the listeners interest as our main priority whenmaking the trail. One way in which I feel we did this was the use ofbackground music. We used the same music as the documentary, whichwe created on Garageband. This adds an element of continuity andemphasises how the main role of the trail is to support the documentary.Again, much like the documentary, we wanted something that wasinteresting and relevant but did not distract attention away from theinformation being presented, this confirmed the choice of the same musicfor us as we felt that the documentary music worked well.
Also, whilst still incorporating relevant bits of the voice-over from thedocumentary like ‘Fees rise to a maximum ...’ we changed the mainvoice-over for the radio trail. We made sure that our speaker was confidentand matched the enthusiasm portrayed in the documentary. We alsoincluded audio snippets from two vox pops and one expert interviewwithin the documentary to reinforce the main product and hopefullyencourage the audience to watch the documentary.Finally, as well as incorporating facts from the documentary, we alsoincorporated the date, time and channel that the documentary would bebroadcast on. This is vital information for the consumer and was definitelyan important part of the voice-over.Overall I feel that we used the majority of the conventions within thedocumentary genre, TV listings magazine article and radio trail in order tocreate our final products and I feel that we had well justified reasons as towhy we didnt use some conventions. We used current media products toour advantage to see how they had used and adapted conventions and theresult of these adaptations. I feel that by researching into similar,professional media products, we had a solid foundation of knowledge ofwhich we built upon and formed our finished products.