Evaluation; Question One
In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
Before beginning my project it was imperative to ensure I researched the codes and conventions of several documentaries to gain a diverse understanding of the techniques required to present my argument in the documentary. It was vital filming and editing were done to perfection to introduce evidence, a variety of information and an argument which the audience would trust and believe. Before filming I looked how professional medias constructed their own documentaries and began to notice a number of similarities. I learnt I had to build my documentary upon these conventions as they were extremely important to maintain a professional product and to manipulate the audiences opinion to the argument I was presenting through mise en scene, dramatisation, exposition, evidence, interviews, archive footage and observation.
Being a significant part of the documentary, interviewing was a factor I analysed in great depth before early in my project. The basic structure of an interview was vital to maintain audiences attention, as this could offer conflict in the documentary and difference of opinion. To do this, most professional documentaries edit an interview to be spaced throughout the programme by cutting and pasting this into different parts of the documentary, or also overlapping the interview with cut away shots.
Similarly to ‘Three Minute Wonder’ on channel four, once interviewed I filmed every interviewee acting upon what they had been discussing to produce relevant cut away shots, this would anchor meaning to the interview and add variety to the interview instead of one long shot, which would become boring to the audience.
These cut away shots were filmed through a variety of mid shots, long shots and close ups to show each interviewee in their natural environment. Not only can this anchor meaning to the information given, but the audience will trust that the interview is legit and the interviewee is not only talking about the topic but also demonstrating there love or knowledge of the subject.
The positioning of the interviewee is another convention designed to keep the documentary interesting and varied. I found any interviewee would never be filmed centre screen, always to the left or right of the camera. The side the interviewee was on varied, usually using opposing angles when two interviews were played alongside one another. I found difficulty when filming this technique as I had to consider not only the position, but then the angle the interviewee faced. Some mistakes were made in my initial attempts of this, leaving the interviewee looking unnatural on screen. However with more practice it became natural to position and decide the angle of the interviewee. Unfortunately due to the trouble I found I positioning the interviewees in the beginning, I was unable to include some high quality interviews in my documentary, as the interviewee was then unable to film again. However this resulted in myself ensuring all following interviews were filmed twice and strictly kept to the conventions to produce some high quality outcomes.
Other cut aways partnered with the interview could demonstrate relative shots with not the interviewee in it. Once again this adds a variety of shots to the interview, whilst also adding excitement and meaning.
The Untold Great Fire of London, Channel 4.
Here I have been inspired by a professional documentary which uses an establishing shot as a cut away to anchor meaning and relevance to the interview.
Also it was important the interviewee’s eye level was one third of the way down. It was vital the interviewee never looked straight into the camera, so it appeared there was always a third person when filming the interviewee was talking to. I also had problems with this as some interviewees felt uncomfortable in front of the camera and although were told not to look into the lens, subconsciously were doing so. Because of this I was again unable to involve these interviews in my documentary, although I learnt to be stricter when filming and also filmed every interview more than once.
Another convention not only documentaries, but all media products use is mise en scene. This technique cleverly manipulates the audiences opinion through portraying a character to create a deliberate impression through costume, lighting, make up, setting and props. Through carefully planning these I was able to portray in my documentary who was of importance, there knowledge and relevance to the topic.
When filming all interviews we had to take into account the importance of the presentation and position of the interviewee, meaning pre planning the setting, lighting and costume. For all interviews we seated the interviewees nest to a computer set up, through doing this it relates back to the social networking theme, and signifies the interviewee is an active user of social networking. However, it was important the setting represented who the interviewee was, so when filming the parent we did this in a home set up, portraying the mother in her natural environment. This stressed the fact she was a mother, and not only a social networking user. Every documentary I analysed used this similar technique in every interview, it is compulsory to present the interviewee in this way to maintain a professional, legit documentary.
As social networking was the documentary topic, I looked into other documentaries on a similar theme, and how they represented the digital society through mise en scene. When using vox pops, the mise en scene should be kept simple and similar through out, this signifies the similarities between the interviewees, and consequently the audience will feel they can relate. Also the quickly edited shots presenting lots of information in a short space of time is much easier to absorb when the setting is simple and similar throughout.
Love, Virtually, Channel four, is a documentary based on online dating websites, by researching this documentary I was able to compare how they portrayed each interviewee through mise en scene, next to my own documentary and seeing where I may of improved or have been successful.
I have found that Exposition is an element used in every documentary I have analysed. This creates the line of argument in a documentary, so the presentation of the topic is biased. However this is made up through language of the voice over and editing only select comments from the interviewees, meaning this is hidden to the audience, manipulating their opinion without us having the knowledge it is happening. Through narration sub consciously I was able to tell the audience what to think about social networking, however it was important to not only base my documentary on opinion but fact also. To incorporate exposition in my project, I presented social networking in a biased light through the radio advert and print advert, I did this through a shocking, chilling image for the print advert and both advertisements shared the creepy slogan ‘a place for strangers.’ the radio advert produced a chilling feel to social networking through the backing music being extremely mellow and slow placed, this paired with the dialogue which itself was negative, created exposition.
However in the actual documentary I knew a stronger product would be produced if I opened the documentary with all areas and opinion to social networking. Although introduced the exposition towards the end as interviewees claimed they were addicted to social networking and gave the audience an insight to bad experiences, I also presented a positive love story an interviewee found on social networking. By doing this I introduced exposition to the documentary but not to strongly for the opening scene.