At the start of out A2 coursework we were given a brief which was to create the first 5 minutes of a
documentary on a topic of our choice. We then had 2 ancillary which were to make a radio trailer and
double page spread designed to promote the documentary. The aim of the radio trailer was to
encourage people to watch our documentary. The aim of the double page spread was to give
information to the audience about the topic of our documentary and have it in a tv listing of our choice.
We undertook a series of research and planning to make sure our documentary was as good and professional
as it could be. We researched into documentaries as a genre, similar documentaries to our product, our
target audience, existing radio trailers and existing double page spreads.
We began by looking into the genre of documentaries and researched the typical conventions that makes a
documentary what it is. We found out about different conventions such as, voiceover, exposition,
interviews and the effect of expert interviews on the viewer. These would help us achieve the task of
making an effective and professional documentary.
We felt our documentary used the convention of actuality as it was important to give the viewer a realistic
view of our topic. We did not want it to seem or be made up or seem unrealistic. Our documentary is also
expository as we use a voice over to present the information to the viewer. This convention uses
narrative to ask rhetoric which Is gained from factual information and contrasting opinions of expert
interviewees and the information is passed on in order to persuade the viewer. Narration is used to give
both sides of the opinions of experts and interviewees so that the viewer can make their own mind up
about which side they are on. The expository convention is also highly informative as it presents lots of
statistics and facts to the viewer. The voice over we used did both these things in our documentary. We
filled up an early part of the documentary with many statistics and facts early on so the documentary
was informative and the viewer felt they learnt something new afterwards. We overlayed the pre
recorded narrative over the soundtrack and shots
We also used Vox Pops and expert interviews to get opinions from both the general public and experts so that
their views could back up the topic views shown in our documentary. We asked them questions about
our topic so that they could directly about their thoughts on the questions and so that we could gather
appropriate yet individual responses. This convention makes the viewer feel that this is the only view and
the view that must be the correct one. We attempted to keep the interviews balanced and give an
accurate representation of the interviews opinions so we had to show both sides of the argument. We
did not want to make the documentary too one sided as it would have given the viewer an untrue
Another convention of documentaries is archive footage. This is where footage is obtained from a film library
and put into the documentary to show historical events or add detail without the need for additional
filming. We did not use this convention in our documentary as we did not think any archrival footage
would benefit. However if we would have we could've taken the footage from youtube and used it in our
documentary to give the documentary a bit more variety for the viewer.
Reconstructions is another convention of documentaries. This is where artificial scenes of an event are set up
and acted out on film based on an event. They give factual information and a sense of realism. We didn’t
feel a reconstruction would add to our documentary as there was no relevant information to act out and
wasn’t appropriate to our topic choice.
Before creating our documentary we researched into Bill Nichols documentary modes theory. A
documentary mode is a conceptual scheme that seeks to distinguish particular traits and conventions of
various documentary film styles. Nichols identifies 6 different documentary modes:
poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive, and performative. After completing and
reviewing our documentary, we discovered that it falls under many of these modes. However we felt our
documentary fitted best under the expository mode. The expository mode addresses the viewer directly
with titles or voices that propose a perspective or advance an argument. Within our documentary we felt
we did this, we addressed the viewer with lines such as “could you live without your phone”. We also felt
we advanced an argument on the topic of mobile phones in schools. Also under the expository mode is
the voice of god narration which is where the speaker is heard but never seen. Our documentary uses
voice of god throughout through our voice over. It appears many times during the documentary but the
speaker is never seen. We used footage with the aim that it would strengthen the spoken narrative so we
made sure all shots filmed and used in the edit were relevant to what the narration was saying. We also
use rhetoric in our voice over which is another feature of the expository mode.
The observational mode simply observes allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusions about what
they are watching. The camera remains unobtrusive mutely filming events as they happen. Often known
as fly on the wall perspective. We used this technique a few times when filming people using their
phones and for the shots of people in the streets. We left the camera rolling for 2 mins while people go
on with their day to day business.
The participatory mode is where the filmmaker steps out from behind the camera and appears in their own
work. This means that the filmmaker is free to openly discuss their perspective and assert their message
on the viewer. We did not use this technique as we did not feel it would benefit to our documentary as
we already had a pretty solid voice over. We also wanted the viewer to make their own decision about
the message we were trying to put across.
The poetic mode stresses mood and tone more than displays of knowledge or acts of persuasion. We did not
want to take this approach with our documentary…
The reflexive mode explains the making a documentary in an attempt to make the audience view the text in
a more objective way.
The performative mode is very similar to the participatory mode the difference being that the participatory
mode has the filmmaker in the story but attempts to create truths that should be obvious to the
viewer., the performative mode uses the filmmaker in the story creating an almost autobiographal
description of truths that are related to the the filmmaker themselves. They are usually deeply
personal, this mode is perfect for telling stories of filmmakers. The removal of rhetoric allows for this
mode to have more creative freedom. This was not a suitable mode for our documentary as we were not
telling a story about the filmmaker.
After researching into these modes and then watching our documentary we decided that it most likely suited
the expository mode. We felt this because our documentary has most of the conventions found in this
mode. We chose to use a voice over throughout and we made it very factual which is a key convention of
the expository mode. We also used rhetoric effectively which is another key convention of the mode.
We watched many documentaries during the research planning stage to gather an understanding of how the
camera is used effectively in documentary and so that we could use the techniques in our own
documentary. We wanted to make our documentary look as professional as possible so research into the
camera work was key. We researched into extreme long shots, long shot, mid shots, mid close ups, close
ups, big close ups and extreme close ups. We wanted to use shots effectively to get our message across.
For example the documentary supersize me shows close ups of food to show the vast amount so we
used this and showed close ups of mobile phones to get the point across of how many people use them
and how often.
Another technique we found was the mid shot on a tripod for interviews. This is a common technique used in
real documentaries so we used this technique also. The tripod keeps the shot steady whilst the people
are being interviewed. Using a handheld camera would not have stuck to the conventions of
documentaries and would’ve meant our documentary was not professional.
We used the medium close up shot for this shot as this is what most of the interviews we saw used. We also
used rule of thirds as this is important in a documentary . We wanted to stick to the conventions to make
it as professional as possible. Using a tripod also allowed us to have smooth pans and tilts like the ones
seen when we filmed the establishing shot of the college. Pans are important in documentaries as they
give the viewer a chance to see the environment being filmed in.
The sound in documentaries is vital whether it be the background
Music or the voiceover. All the documentaries we watched used
Voice overs to get their message across which we found highly
Informative. Unlike Educating Essex, supersize me uses a presenter to
Do this. We didn’t want to follow the same path as supersize me so
Used a voice over to present our statistics and findings.
The music we had choose for our documentary was very important to us. We realised this when we saw
documentaries like educating essex. It made the viewer know what to feel. It also had to somehow link
to the topic. We did this in our documentary by using music that linked to the topic so techno music
rather than classical as our topic is mobile phones. We also needed it to compliment the voice over and
speaking. We didn’t want something that would draw the viewers attention being pulled away from our
In documentaries such as supersize me graphics were used widely. They were used to put statistics and
facts across as well as express an opinion. We wanted to also do this to give the viewer a visual statistic
to reinforce the voice over.
For our radio trailer we analysed existing radio trailer to gather an understanding of the different
conventions used. We looked at trailer from Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 4 and 5 live. We found that a strong and
informative voice over was used throughout all the trailer to get the message across. We decided to do this
as well to make sure that our audience was captured instantly and was automatically interested. Another
important convention of radio trailers was the music. The music set the scene for the listener and needed to
be suitable for the target audience. Also the music needed to represent the style of the documentary. For
example radio 4 used strings to represent a documentary about history. We were targeting 16-50 year olds so
used electronic music as this is a popular genre in our target audience. Also with our topic being mobile
phones we wanted to use music that would represent the topic and we found electronic to be perfect for
that. The final vital convention in the radio trailer is the clips used from the documentary in the trailer. In a
trailer for the f1 snippets of exciting commentary were used to try to get the listener to watch the race. We
did this by using clips that were opinions and would make the viewer want to watch the documentary.
We used existing double page spreads to find out the conventions so that we could apply them to our own
product. We first found that using a big main image of the documentary would be key as it would capture the
eye of the reader and would therefore lead to them reading the article.
We also needed a big title again to
capture the eye of the reader. It also
needed to make the reader want to
continue. We achieved this by putting
an outline around the title so as soon
as the reader turns the page they are
instantly attracted to it.
Finally the date and time of the program is
usually shown on the page so that the user
knows when to watch. We did this so that the
viewer knows when to watch.
Anotherwas the text. It is usually in
columns however we did not do this.
We would need to change this if we
made another DPS.