What the aim of the project was:
In this project our class got put into groups of 3’s and 4’s, the project aim was to create a
documentary/short film about the Lewis Chessmen. We received help from people who work in the
British Museum on the research side of the project. For the filming and editing we received help
from Chocolate Films. The target audience for our documentary was those who visit the British
Museum and also for people who would like to know more about the Lewis Chessmen.
Our research process consisted of watching lots of different types of documentaries. For example we
watched documentaries which use archival footage in order to get its message across rather than
using voiceovers. This is a good convention to use as it shows historical footage without needing to
do additional filming. A documentary which uses archival footage is the Tupac and Biggie
documentary; In the beginning it shows photography of the bullet holes in the car. This works well as
it shows audience real footage of the actual murder scene which certainly will grab their attention
especially as it was shown in the beginning of the documentary. Grabbing the audience’s attention
from the start is essential in order to have a successful documentary.
In order to understand how to make a successful short documentary we watched the
documentaries; Apology line and Pong. Apology line is a documentary which has voiceovers
throughout the whole video. The strengths of voiceovers are that it gives people a better
understanding of what is happening and gets the message of the documentary across. A weakness of
voiceovers is that if it is used throughout the documentary people may lose interest. One thing I
believe is that for a voiceover to work effectively it needs to consistently have visuals such as
pictures relevant to what is being said in order to maintain interest.
Pong focused on using lots of interviews. A strength of interviews with experts is that the words are
coming from an experts mouth therefore it will educate people who are watching the documentary
and those who would like to gain more knowledge will have the ability to do so. Interviews in
general are really good to use in documentaries as it keeps the interest of the audience but also
gives an insight in to the opinions of other people. One weakness of interviews is that it could be
bias for example if the aim of a documentary is to make the audience have a certain view towards
something. Overall from watching these 2 documentaries I learned that in order to make a
successful documentary me and my group must have a right balance of the codes and conventions in
which we use for ours. Being repetitive with certain conventions could cause the audience to lose
The conventions that I will be using in my documentary are Interviews with experts, real footage of
the Chessmen, text and titles, visual coding and finally music. I will use these because my
documentaries main aim is to inform and educate people about the Lewis Chessmen and the best
way I believe to do this is by having Interviews with experts. I believe this because an interview with
experts really educates the audience members who want to know more. They know exactly what
they’re talking about and they really give the audience a better and more detailed understanding of
the Lewis Chessmen. By using real footage of the chessmen it gives the audience a visual of the
actual pieces. I believe this is effective because showing the pieces in its display is a must as the
documentary is about them. Text and titles allow the audience to know what is being talked about
or shown, whether it’s the history of the chessmen or whether it’s where they were found. This all
makes it easier for the audience to understand what is going on in the documentary. I will also be
using sound/music; I aim to use a relaxed, slow and quiet piece of music as I believe it will go with
the documentary in terms of the theme and also because, if the audience members enjoy the music
then it’s a bonus.
Using visual coding will be important as I would want the people who I am interviewing to look as
professional as possible. This will help make my documentary better as it will generally make it seem
more realistic and make it more believable for the audience.
Evaluating Pre-Production Process;
I undertook various pre-production tasks to help with making the documentary; I created a
storyboard, planned my interview questions and did research on the Lewis Chessmen. By creating a
story board for my documentary I saved a lot of time and found it extremely helpful. This is because
a story board gave me an idea of when and what shot types and conventions I will be using. So when
it came to actually filming I saved plenty of time as I had already had an outline of what shots I
needed to have and in what order my documentary would be. This helped me avoid shooting
unnecessary shots for the short film. Story board also gave me an outline of what order I will have
my footage in, meaning when it came to putting my short film together, it was so much easier.
Planning interview questions was useful because my documentaries main focus is the origins of the
chess pieces, so by planning the questions, it enables me to get the right and required information in
which I need from the interviews. This made the interviews relevant as the answers which I received
were relevant to my theme of the documentary.
Doing research on the chessmen was useful as it improved my knowledge on the chess pieces and
helped me choose a theme which I want to focus on for my documentary.
Evaluate how effective research and planning was;
Things that went well for my planning and research was planning the interview questions and
creating a storyboard. They went well as I saved a lot of time; I did not film any footage that was not
needed due to my story board. Planning interview questions went well as it helped the documentary
by getting answers out of the experts which were needed and relevant to my documentary theme.
Things I could have improved on in my research and planning is the actual research. When it came to
deciding on what theme I would want the documentary to be about I took extremely long with my
group members on choosing one. It wasted valuable time and gave us less time to actually spend on
making the documentary itself. This is definitely something I would want to change if I were to do
this project again.
Some of the different footage we collected was of inside the gallery, outside the museum, close ups
of the actual chess pieces and of the replicas. We collected footage of inside the gallery to show the
audience where the chess pieces currently are, as it is in people’s interest. We collected footage of
outside the museum to use as an establishing shot to start off our documentary. This worked
extremely well because people who watch the documentary, that can’t come to the museum can
have a visual insight as to where the chess pieces are. Also because most of our filming was done
inside of the museum, it was a good way to open the documentary by showing the museum from
I used close ups of the real chess pieces and the replicas to show the people who haven’t seen them
the actual pieces, because the documentary is on the chess pieces so it was vital to have some sort
of footage of the pieces. Also whilst the experts were answering questions, my group and I thought
that it would be nice to fade and cut in to the chess pieces whilst the experts are giving information
on them. This worked outstandingly as it made our documentary look extremely professional.
Things which went well with the actual production was my groups overall teamwork and our
technical ability. Our teamwork was great as we all got along and I believe this made it easier for us
to make our documentary. We all pitched forward our opinions on how to do certain things for
example whether we should put certain footage in, we all listened very well to each other and
compromised fabulously. Our technical ability was good as we managed to collect a lot of footage
relevant to our theme.
Something we could have improved on is the time management, although my group finished our
documentary before all other groups, I still believe we could have finished it quicker. We particularly
wasted time deciding what area of the chess pieces we should focus on and also our editing. Also we
did have to film some last minute footage which means we could have maybe planned a little more
When filming with chocolate films, we had professional lighting equipment. For some of our
interviews we had great audio and great lighting. This worked out really well. The only negative from
this was that we could not film all our footage with this equipment as we only had one day with the
people from chocolate films. This meant that when we filmed with our own equipment the quality
and audio sound differed from when we filmed with chocolate films. Our interviews worked well as
we gained the required information, which made up a large chunk of our documentary and highly
educated the audience. We used shots of the chess pieces out of focus and behind them pieces
there would be pieces in focus. Shots like this gave our documentary an extremely professional look
and improved our visuals, as this was a unique shot. One shot which definitely needed to be
improved on was a shots of the chess pieces however in the background there was a crisp packet
which made it seem less professional and in all honestly made it seem as if we rushed in to taking
With the editing I believe my group did exceptionally. We each had turns editing for example we
added fades, titles and music. Things which worked well were our technical ability with our editing.
At first I was new to the editing but as we gradually got further in to the project I learned from my
group members and improved on my editing which was a major positive. I learned how to cross cut
and add fades. We used these 2 very often throughout our documentary because as a group we
agreed that these were extremely effective transitions. With regards to our teamwork when it came
to editing we were superb as a team. We all had turns editing and we all gave in our own input to
the documentary. For example I made the music, Bart had found appropriate pictures and Munira
added the better audio on to our documentary.
I made the music via garage band. I attempted to create a perfect, relaxing and peaceful loop to play
throughout the documentary. I had to make the music as long as possible and then at the end I
shortened it down to the length of our documentary so it can be played throughout.
The strengths of our documentary is definitely the fact that our aim of educating the audience on
our theme; the origins of the Lewis Chessmen was definitely achieved. The documentary had
footage and interviews which explain lots about the origins. Also the shot types which we used such
as the close up of the chess pieces and the establishing shot of the museum seemed to have gone
down well with the people who have seen it. Overall the professional look on our documentary is
extremely high. Our documentary was appropriate for the target audience as it had appropriate
images, footage and music to it.
A weakness of our documentary is that maybe we have too much interviews, although the content
was superb from the feedback we have gotten, some people seem to think that maybe we should
have used other conventions to get our message across rather than consistently using interviews. I
completely agree with this.
The feedbacks which we have had are all extremely positive as teachers, friends and people from the
museum have said that our documentary looks extremely professional due to the shot types we
used and the transitions which appeared in the documentary. Also they said the content in it is