‘ I N W H AT WAY S D O E S YO U R M E D I A
P RO D U C T U S E , D E V E L O P O R
CHALLENGE FORMS AND
CONVENTIONS OF REAL MEDIA
P RO D U C T S ? ’
At A2 level we were told at the beginning of the year that we would
be expected to produce the first 5 minutes to a documentary on a
topic of our chose that we felt would be insightful. Along with two
more ancillary tasks that will help to promote the documentary, these
were a radio trial that would capture the interest of the target
audience and persuade them to watch the documentary. As well as a
TV listing article double page spread for a specific magazine we could
We firstly conducted extensive research into documentaries as a whole to get a
feel for what our finished product would hopefully resemble in some way. To make
sure our products looked professional we studied not only documentaries, but radio
trails as well as double page spreads for TV listing magazines.
We watched and analysed Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me’ documentary to
see what conventions he used, another we watched was ‘A Good Smack’. My group
took it upon ourselves to watch a documentary that was closely related to our own
topic of tattoos to get a feel of what we should be including, therefore we watched
‘My Tattoo Addiction’
To enable us to start brainstorming ideas for the documentary we must first decided
what kind of documentary it would be. We studied Bill Nichol’s theory of documentary
modes (2001) to see what our options were. We found the 6 types were; the expository
mode (Voice of God), the poetic mode (subjective, artistic expression), the observational
mode (window on the world), the participatory mode, the reflexive mode (awareness of
the process) and finally the per formative mode (film maker as participant).
We found the most common was the expository mode as this emphasizes verbal
commentary and argumentative logic, often using a narrator (voice over). It assumes a
logical argument and a "right" and "proper" answer.
Therefore we decided our documentary would be expository.
We then researched into the typical conventions of a documentary we
found that these aspects were of particularly high importance;
actuality, voice over, expert opinions, vox pops, archival
footage, interviews, reconstructions, montage of images with a variety of
shot types used throughout as well as many more conventions.
As we chose our documentary to be expository is must be factual, and
must include details that our viewer did not know before as well as figures
that would be relevant and interest them.
I wrote the voice over script so that the viewer could be guided through the documentary where
needed. However we did not want to have an over reliance on the voice over as we thought it would be
more advantageous to gain the interest of the audience by using more of our interview footage. The
voice over is there when needed to display facts and raise questions in the audience’s mind to keep them
actively thinking about what they are being shown.
We included facts such as: ‘Currently around 20 million people in the UK have been inked’ as well as:
‘tattoos began thousands of years ago originally associated with the aristocracy in England’
As well as keeping balance in the argument: ‘This is one view, however, on the other hand many
describe it as an art form’
Furthermore we included the rhetorical question of: ‘Are tattoos just a way of expressing yourself in
As mentioned previously our documentary has a lot of interview footage as this is were the information is. We have included
an expert opinion as we found in all expository documentaries this is necessary as it shows knowledge the audience can rely and
supports the point you’re making.
We also used three case studies that had information and stories to tell about their experience of living with tattoos. Our
viewers can hear about how discrimination does or does not affect them along with employment aspects. All these interviews were
framed purposely, they were medium close ups that were filmed using a tripod therefore no shaking. The frame is tight and has
mise en scene specifically chosen. The employer Steve Brown is in an office environment in his usual attire which conveys
actuality to the audience. Ryan Jones has a background full of heavy metal band posters which links with the stereotype of
tattooed people all being into rock, also typically most of the people in the posters have tattoos too. Katie Williams is in a living
area where there are a suite and blinds visible this subverts the stereotype of tattooed people as she could not look more ‘normal’
in how she is dressed and her environment. Finally Mike Smith also has appropriate mise en scene of a plain green background
with artwork to the side of him which links to how tattoos are portrayed as art work. His tattoos on his arms are also visible.
Following another convention all interviews used the rule of thirds to ensure they looked professional. With the interviewees
slightly off centre allows the audience for looking room in the way that the person is facing.
We noticed in many documentaries it is popular to have a section where vox pops are used to get the
opinion of the general public. We only included 3 short clips as they aren’t informed opinions but none the
less add another dimension to the views already explored. They help bring in more opinions that many may
have, representing their demographic. Not only this we found they also helped to create a breather for the
audience and break up the interviews.
To again look professional we tried to keep the background consistent, however they could have been
framed better as they are in the middle of the screen yet looking to one side this is due to cropping we had
to do further into production and as they were put on the spot they were nervous therefore some did not
feel comfortable enough to look down the barrel of the camera.
As our vox pops were filmed in the college canteen there is the background noise of a busy area but
this could help to create ambience of the college as we stated what location we were filming at.
Archival footage is a popular feature in the media, even on the news you may still see
archival footage of the riots from surveillance cameras. In documentaries they help to
show what you’re talking about is important and already in the public eye. We found it
added diversity to our documentary.
We used the archival footage of the introductory titles of tattoo show LA Ink that
runs without sound whilst the voice over is playing. It is fast paced and adds excitement
as well as being aesthetically pleasing as there are all kinds of shots, also famous tattoo
artist Kat Von D’s tattoos are visibly displayed which clearly links to our subject topic.
The show is something that our viewers are probably also familiar with.
At the beginning of our Skin Deep documentary we used a montage of images. We noticed that
Morgan Spurlock in SuperSize Me used many montage of images of fast food, obese people and fast
food restaurants and as you can see below images of his mum cooking, we found this interesting to
watch as the audience so therefore thought we would also include this convention.
We used tattooed people we were aware of in the public eye this immediately is recognisable for the
viewer as they are subconsciously picking out who they know and what tattoos they have. It also helped
highlight a point in our documentary that tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, the fact so many
images are used together shows this statement to be correct.
This took time and patience for us to get right as we YouTube’d how to do it and watched a video
of somebody explaining how it is done. Getting the right images to come in at the right time and in the
right place was tricky but we thought in the end was hopefully effective.
We also researched into narrative structures to ensure that the structure of our
documentary worked and emulated a professional style.
Todorov’s narrative theory states the classic notion that a story has a beginning a
middle and end and documentaries often follow this order that in the end leads to
the audience reaching a goal and coming to their own conclusions.
Although we only had 5 minutes to create an opening we tried to make what we
had look as if it would follow in the same structure and follow this feature where
the audience comes to a decision on their thoughts after hearing all the point and
Shot types are extremely important when creating a documentary. After watching various documentaries we noticed
that interviews were medium close ups. When entering a relevant place establishing shots would be used hence why we got
a shot of the Solihull Sixth Form sign and did a pan of the whole college, this makes the audience feel like they are also
coming on a journey with you.
Another shot type we used was an extreme close up of the dictionary with the definition of discrimination stated. This
is used as a cutaway. As well as an extreme close up of a tattoo being done. We used a zoom into an extreme close up of
the front of a tattoo book so you can see the artwork clearly.
In addition I used a close up shot of the employer typing on the laptop to give the viewer variety this is also a cutaway.
Another shot we used was the slow pan of the artwork on the wall, this was then accompanied by a downward pan of
the skeleton, this was relevant as it was a piece of artwork as well as it being the human body which is appropriate with
people getting their bodies tattooed. We also panned the background of Ryan’s frame so all the posters were visible, this
allows the viewer to feel as if they are exploring his environment.
The lighting throughout a documentary is usually really important as it helps to
create mood and atmosphere.
However we did not have control over this aspect therefore all of our footage
was using lights that were already fixtures in the rooms we were in or natural
In majority of places this was not a problem, however in one of the case study
interviews, the one with Mike Smith there were spot lights in that room so it was
not ideal as it creates a shadow over his face and leaves a very bright head but he is
still visible therefore is not too much of a problem.
All the documentaries we saw had background music however it was only evident when it was pointed out as we decided if
you as a viewer were focusing on the music when a voice over or interview was on then the information is not interesting enough.
We used a copyright free track found from Garage Band, its main feature is the guitar this seemed appropriate for our
documentary as tattoos are stereotypically linked to music and bands so this was perfect.
At the beginning where the title of ‘Skin Deep Tattoo Discrimination’ type writes across the screen we have imported
copyright free sound of a tattoo gun buzz to create a feel of being in a tattoo shop and what diegetic sounds you’d hear there.
We used 2 different non diegetic sound tracks throughout the documentary to eliviate the audience getting bored of the
monotonous repetitive track. Both seemed to interchange quite nicely.
These tracks were played were we deemed necessary, below the voice over which helped make sound levels appear more
consistent, when footage alone was played and also under the vox pops in attempt to mask the diegetic background noise of the
busy canteen . Not only this we also repeated the track on the last clip and made it come in slowly towards the end so it wasn’t an
abrupt finish as the documentary would have continued as this was only the first 5 minutes.
We used microphones and headphones in order to get a loud and clear sound from the interviews.
We predominantly used straight cuts in our documentary as this is what is used in most documentary therefore
we followed this convention in attempt to stay professional. It was important for us to ‘snap’ the clips together on
Final Cut Express so that there were no accidental flashes of black screen where nothing was playing.
The other feature we used was fade to black and cross dissolve. We thought this would be more professional than using
lots of varying transitions as then it loses it’s serious nature. The fade to black allowed the audience to take in what had just
being said and chance for them to think about it without moving straight onto the next feature, therefore acting as a
We also found fade to black helped the documentary flow better as you can tell that one segment was meant to end and
something new was beginning.
We may have challenged usual conventions of documentaries by not including certain
features. These aspects include;
Reconstruction- we felt it would be too hard to create a reconstruction that would
seem realistic and would be relevant to add to our footage, it would seem inappropriate to
have somebody discriminating against somebody with a tattoo as it would not come
across as genuine and we would lose the serious and professional vibe.
Graphics- this was another convention we decided not to use, it can be very effective
at the right point as we witnessed in SuperSize me. However we did not feel there was a
point where computer generated images would have worked, not to mention we wouldn’t
know what images to create, as this didn’t seem fitting we decided to leave it.
Research became a main factor again when thinking about creating
a double page spread for a TV listings magazine.
We had to pick what magazine we wanted our double page to be
featured in; we chose the Radio Times, therefore we must ensure we
follow all the correct conventions so it would be compatible.
We did not include any other
images apart from the main
one, here we are challenging
the conventions of a double page
spread as most have more than
one image. We did cut another out
ready to use however we were not
sure where to place it therefore left
it out as our main image is 3 main
images really. I think it works fine
on its own.
We used Times New
Roman for the font at size
12 as this is the same as the
Every magazine writes in columns
Drop capital- signifying
where the beginning is.
Title/ mast head- at the top of the
page so is noticeable, clear and
easy to read. Font is artistic to link
with the topic. We chose this
colour as it is a skin colour.
Bold lines found in all
Details of the documentary
Pull quote- an important/
interesting quote from the
copy that will entice the
Cut out images with
feathered edges so they
fit together neatly
Text wrap- a common
convention so the text
goes around the image
Main image- it is
always essential to
have a min image, on
the Radio Times they
take up majority of the
Image relating to the
topic, tattoos are on show
for the reader to see.
Channel 4 logohighlights the
Date of issue and magazine title
Before creating our radio trail we researched some professional ones to give us an idea of how ours should sound.
We analysed David Attenborough’s Life Story, the Italian Grande Prix and Stephen Fry’s English Delight.
After listening to these we noticed that they last approximately 40 seconds, in the end our s lasted 36 seconds therefore we
followed the time length convention.
Another aspect we picked up on was the fact that most of that time was taken up by clips from the documentary this in
attempt to interest the listener and hopefully would make them want to tune in. The radio presenter does not say a lot, other than
what it is called, maybe a little bit of information on it, the channel, time and date. Those key features are then repeated at the end
so the viewer can try and retain the important information.
We included 5 different clips from the documentary all a few seconds long giving a quick opinion, as you can tell it is
different people’s voices I think it works quite well it’s short and sweet as well as intriguing to what else these people may have to
say in the whole documentary.
Music was also used underneath the clips and the narration, again this must not be too overpowering as we want the audience
to hear the facts. We used the same music clip that we used in our documentary to keep a constant between the different products.