Review of documentary
Our class was asked to make a documentary based on the Lewis chessmen; we were
split into groups of 3-4 peers in each group. We were then given an option of taking
different options on what we wanted to talk about with the Lewis chessmen; such as
the background or the historical context of it.
We had help from the chocolate films and the British museums; who were experts in
making documentaries, chocolate films gave us tips with the editing and how to get
useful footage. The documentary had to be at least 2-3minutes long. We first we
started planning how our documentary would look like and what camera shots and
conventions we would use in the documentary. We then watched known
documentaries and analyzed them and rote what conventions, editing and what
camera shots they used. We started the planning
The target audience for the documentary was 16+ because some teenagers like to
play chess and some are interested in learning about the background of chess and
how it started hundreds of years ago. This documentary was also targeted at tourists
because 85% of the people that come to the British museum are tourists. We wanted
to make a documentary that would explain in detailed to the people that didn’t know
what the Lewis chessmen pieces were, or if they did know what they were then what
happened to them, where they were discovered, who made/found them, how they
got to the British museum etc.
When we met with people from chocolate films at the British museum, we took notes
of what they said about making a good documentary; so that we could apply it to our
documentary to make our documentary more professional.
To make a documentary we needed to collect information about the chessmen
pieces, material and how old the chess pieces were. we looking into documentary
conventions such as voice overs, archival footage etc. about which is uploaded onto.
We looked at the background of the museum and who discovered it. We learnt many
new things during this experience.
The research and planning could have improved if I found out more information
about the British museum and the Lewis Chessmen Pieces so I could have more
knowledge on the archival objects I was doing a documentary on. It would also have
helped if I sorted out what each person in my group had to do, or help. This would of
made it more organised and easy to find out specific knowledge on the chesspieces.
In order to understand how to make a successful documentary we watched previous
documentaries that the talking objects collective project produced and we looked at
some documentaries on YouTube such as the Tupac Shakur's documentary about his
relationship with biggier smalls another rapper and how they lived their lives
together in other peoples prespectives such as their close friends, who knew them
and family members.
I learnt most of the conventions and picked out what Tupac’s documentary had;
here are some of the conventions the producers used in tupacs documentary:
interviews, titles and text, visual coding, a lot of archival footage,
I have learnt that in most documentaries the most common convention producers
use in the documentaries is archival footage, archival footage is when you use old
footage from, which is also known as stock footage, file footage is film or video
footage that can be used in other films. Stock footage is beneficial to filmmakers as it
saves shooting new material. It is material obtained from a film library or archive and
inserted into a documentary to show historical events or to add detail without the
need for additional filming.
To make a documentary we had to do some primary research with the British
museum and some secondary research by ourselves, primary research consists of a
collection of original primary data, and secondary research consists of second hand
data which is someone else’s data. We watched many documentaries to get a good
view of what a documentary should comprise.
Making a short documentary we had to learn how to get a lot of information in a
short amount of time, making it entertaining for the audience, we had included most
conventions such as visual coding: links to the idea of mise-en-scene, (e.g. doctors
wearing white coat in a hospital will make it more realistic) montage: conveys ideas
visually by putting them in a specific order in the film, Talking heads is when the
camera catches the facial expression of an object/person.
Titles and text is used to quickly explain what you are looking at without spending
time guessing who the person is or what they are talking about, which makes it very
effective, but that’s another convention we didn’t use and in order to improve our
documentary we would need to position titles and texts in the documentary.
Before we made our documentary, we made a storyboard showing the different
scenes and shots that where going to be used in our documentary also we wrote how
long each camera shot should be; the background music and voice over’s, it also
contained what the framework of the documentary. This is why we made the
drawing on the storyboard as accurate as our drawings could be, and tried to make it
as detailed as we could make it.
The strength and weaknesses of producing our footages was difficult at times.
Recording footage without effecting the cameras still position was tricky, at some
points of the interviews, because we didn’t have equipment’s for making the camera
stand in the same position without any movement. The strength would be taking
immense shots of the chess pieces; the other groups also used the shots in their own
documentaries. We took some great close ups shots of the chess pieces carved faces
and getting all the facial details of most of the chess pieces, we also took some shots
of the museum; inside and outside, we showed where the chess pieces were in the
museum so when people watch the interview they would know where to look if they
wanted to check out the Lewis chessmen pieces. We also took shots of the museum
outside; we used panning shots for the beginning of the documentary.
The most important thing about making this documentary was the way our group
worked together as a team, everyone had their part in the documentary, and we all
did excellent individually and as a team. To improve the documentary; We could of
spent more time editing the documentary as we spent more time taking good shots
of the chess pieces. we didn’t edited as much as we would of liked to because of the
time limit we had on editing the documentary, but overall the documentary went
better than we thought and we were very pleased with the finishing result.
My favourite shots that worked great in the documentary were the panning shots we
used during some parts of the documentary. My least favourite thing about the
documentary was the lighting whilst filming the lighting wasn’t as clear as we
wanted. Some parts of the documentary were darker which made the documentary
look dull; we had the fix it by editing it on the mac’s we used.
After we finished the documentary we went to the museum to watch the
documentaries the groups made. We got so much positive feedback from the
audience in the museum: teachers, chocolate films people and the other groups. we
got feedback from teachers saying “how entertaining satisfying it was” and how we
made it look like an actual documentary for us first timers at making documentaries
“made it look like a real documentary”. The editing skills we learnt from our teachers
and the chocolate films helped a lot; now we can make our own documentaries
without any help this time.
Overall we managed to instruct people who didn’t know about Lewis chessmen, in a
very interesting and entertaining way.