Codes and Conventions
By Shara Bull
A Documentary is a recording of an event, generally
based on peoples perspectives and/or genuine facts.
“Creative treatment of actuality” – John Grierson
Actuality footage – This may be a recording of an actual event which is documented with the real
people involved and not actors.
Example: London riots
Voiceover – Unseen commentator who explains or tells a story during the documentary, as an audience
we are encouraged to believe what they say and claim it as the truth.
Narrativisation to communicate (events or experiences) in narrative form, in order to better understand them
Interview –This allows people being filmed to speak directly about events prompted by specific
questions. Interviews in a documentary give viewers a sense of realism. Interviewees generally answer
questions looking at the interviewer, this is done to gain emotion, it is proven that a person will give far
more emotion looking into the eye of someone rather than a camera.
Text – The insert of information, dates, time etc..
New programmes commonly use this to their advantage, it’s a quick way of conveying and reiterating
information or can be used to give further information which may not have been previously presented.
Sound – This is used to give off a certain effect, for example in ‘Supersize Me’
they use childish music to undermine and degrade McDonalds as a business.
Dramatization – This is the reconstruction of an event played by actors which is
used to give the audience a further insight into the real event which occurred.
Realism – Documentaries may achieve this through: archive footage, interviews,
location shooting and following the action.
Signifiers of a documentary being real and live:
Uneven and wobbly hand-held camera work
Example: Japan’s Tsunami: Caught On Camera
6 Modes Of Documentary (Bill Nichol)
Expository – Doesn't’t follow the strict conventions of most documentaries.
Uses voiceovers and addresses the audience directly, may gather a variety of material to support argument.
Observational – This type of documentary focuses on just using one camera, it observes the world.
Location shooting, no interviews are used and rarely uses a voiceover
Participatory - The documentary maker is visible within the documentary, they normally also
Participate as the voiceover.
Reflexive - Bases on real life moments and objects, these types of documentaries are based more on
Suggestions and opinions rather than facts.
Performative – Based on emotion, the documentary maker/crew may interact with the subject.
Poetic – Subjective representation of reality.
News programmes are dedicated to presenting/reporting
current events, often using interviews and commentary.
Studio News Readers – A person/people who present news during a news programme.
E.g. Mary Nightingale and Alastair Stewart are
ITV evening news readers
Field Reporters – This is were an on the scene reporter/foreign correspondent are (generally) based
in a distant remote location. The benefit of this is that, viewers can get an image of what is actually
happening at that time and place.
Links To Studio – This is where a televised news show such as channel BBC links with another
studio e.g. ITV.
Mode Of Address To Viewer - The mode of address is the way in which news readers
deliver the news to its audience/viewers.
Interviewing Experts And Witnesses – By using expert and witness interviews news
programmes are able to give its viewers a further insight onto the subject matter.
Reporters will usually try and gain as many witnesses as possible to gather lots of
information which may not be necessarily based on factual content or knowledge
however an expert provides the reassurance and trust to believe the opinions and facts.
Report Structure – This is the way in which a report is presented e.g. main story told
in studio, goes to a reporter who's at the location, shows interview of witness/expert
then goes back to studio.
Actuality Footage – This is live footage taken from a scene/event that news channels
broadcast. An example of this is the twin tower crash on September 11th 2001
Single camera production is a method of filmmaking and
video production, this is where one camera operates at a
time during each set.
Series – Usually broadcasted weekly, series focus on the same characters which are faced with
different situations in each episode, there’s NO continuity.
Such as in New Girl there are four main characters Jess, Nick, Winston and Schmidt who live in
apartment together. For example in one episode Jess gets hit on by a students dad and then in the
next episode the group went to the bar to get drunk as they thought Nick was going to die.
Each week something new happens, there's NEVER a follow through.
Serial – Usually broadcasted weekly, serial programmes continuously carry on a storyline on
through to the next episode. This encourages viewers to want to watch again and find out what
They may do this through a cliff hanger, for example in The Lying Game (Season 2 Episode 8) we
are left shocked and entranced with the uncovering murder of Derek. We know who the murderer
is but now what will happen? Will Emma uncover the truth? Did Ted really kill Derek?
Signifiers – Previously… Next week on…
Single Drama – Often based on topical issues such as Saving Face, which focuses on the life of
Pakistani women victimized by brutal acid attacks, Single dramas are designed as single one-off
Single camera: Shots are taken in order of flexibility then by using a lot of editing the shots will be put in order.
Retakes are crucial to guarantee the perfect shot. Using one camera is far cheaper then multi camera production.
Sound: The sound used in the drama are mainly diegetic sounds of people talking, machinery, animals, sea waves, etc.
but it also uses non-diegetic sound by included dramatic sound tracks to build suspense and an atmosphere
within the scene. For example in the clip just shown sound has been inserted to build tension.
Lighting: The lighting is very dark and dull to create a sense of mystery and tension within the scenes. It is mostly
natural light and filler lights to help light up the scene. Being a single camera production this allows lighting to
be moved, there's more freedom.
Camera angles/shots: The camera angles mostly used within this drama are close up shots and over the shoulder shots.
This is to create drama and tension, and to show the conversation. Due to space, single camera productions
will get far better shots compared to multi camera productions however, there is not much space for equipment.
Costume/makeup: The actors are always a ‘perfect’ representation of their character. They do this by specifically
assigning each character their wardrobe. Make up will be reapplied during shots to guarantee they look the way
they should throughout.
Linear - Todorov (sequential) = Events go in chronological order. (Equilibrium-disruption-equilibrium)
Example: Beginning – introduction of film, main characters are introduced, everything is normal and fine.
Middle – ‘perfect’ normality begins to deteriorate, problem occurs. End – Problem is resolved.
Non-linear (non-sequential) = Opposite meaning of linear - Events are portrayed out of order e.g. middle-middle-beginningflashbacks-ending
Narrative devices - e.g. flashbacks and cliff-hangers
Flashbacks - This is where an event that has already occurred in the past tense, is then inserted into a scene in the present
Realist – Realist narratives are story lines that are believable by that audience because they appear real, they may also be
based on a true story that has happened in the past e.g. The Inbetweeners
Anti-realist – Not realistic! Not compatible with reality!
Lots of effects may be used to achieve this (computer generated) E.g. Star Wars
Open endings – This is where programmes leave the audience in suspense, there is no complete ending, it leaves the
audiences questioning what will happen next e.g. cliff-hangers.
Closed endings – This is occurs when the drama is finished and complete, there's a story resolution.
(The story has a start, middle, end. Tadorov’s theory)
Single Camera Production
Camera – Due to having an edge on artistic quality single cameras are used in
many productions. They’re easy to set up and move and require a small crew.
Lighting – Single camera production allows the freedom and time to set up shots, lighting can be moved and
adjusted leading into shots being far better quality then if it were a multi camera production.
Sound – There are two types of sound within production these consist of:
Diegetic which is commonly used in multi camera production, this is where all sound comes from within the shot
e.g. noises coming from people being filmed. Non-diegetic, commonly used in single camera production, this is
where sound has been added e.g. placing music between scenes.
Editing – The editing process can be very time consuming and costly this is due to all the shots being captures on
one camera, everything has to be cut after filming has finished.
Scripting – (Building a scene/story) - Refers to the process of building realistic models of scenes or objects.
Many single camera productions use real life houses/building when shooting, they then use props such as
photo frames and lamp shades to add a touch of realism. Better shots are produced, especially when
doing close ups compared to multi cameras which use a larger space as a result when zooming in a
further distance it reduces the resolution. However, a downfall of single camera productions is that there
may not be much space for equipment.
Codes and conventions documentaries - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_film_techniques
Codes and conventions news programmes – http://www.slideshare.net/954869/codes-conventions-10458033
What is a news programme - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/news+program
What is realist - http://stramsbottom.edublogs.org/narrative-structures/
News readers http://static.guim.co.uk/sysimages/Guardian/About/General/2011/9/13/1315924261154/The-newscasters-Mary-Nigh-007.jpg
Field reporter - http://johnryanrecabar.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/1_110578761l.jpg
BBC news - http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47563000/jpg/_47563522__44766357_bbc_news_channela_512-1.jpg
ITV news – http://www.creativereview.co.uk/images/uploads/2013/01/itv_news_logo_0.png
The Lying Game - https://cinefilm90.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-lying-game.jpg
New Girl - http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-G-Zp3mHrsZ4/TnFA2619g1I/AAAAAAAABaQ/HUSiGx0DWD4/s1600/New-Girl-S1Poster-1.jpg
Saving Face - http://img.ibtimes.com/www/data/images/full/2012/02/27/240306-saving-face.jpg
Single camera production - http://productivemedia.com/single-camera-production-detai/
Twin Tower Crash - http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00084/77968357_Twin_Towers_84465b.jpg
Sky news - http://tvnewsroom.co.uk/wp-content/section-images/wallpapers/skynewslogo-stevjdavies.jpg
Sky sport news - http://tvnewsroom.co.uk/wp-content/section-images/wallpapers/wall3.jpg
Five news - http://tvnewsroom.co.uk/wp-content/section-images/wallpapers/fnbg1.jpg
Revenge - http://samsia-unit22.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/genre-and-technical-examples-of-single.html
Channel 4 news - http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/journalism-communication/files/2012/02/c4news.jpg
London riots - http://geographics.blogs.casa.ucl.ac.uk/files/2011/08/LondonRiots.jpg
Revenge girl - http://xfinity.comcast.net/blogs/tv/files/2012/04/emily-vancamp-revenge-justice.jpg
Revenge girl 2 - http://m5.paperblog.com/i/39/391443/revenge-season-2-L-bGGeUJ.jpeg
Supersize me - http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JW1207ZAL._SL500_AA300_.jpg