Embed Size (px)
Q1) In what ways does your media product use, develop or
challenge forms and conventions of real media
products?A2 Media Evaluation 2013
By Ferdous Audhali
How to all began..
• At the start of the academic year as a new year13 student, I was told that this year’s coursework would be to create the opening 5minutes of a television documentary. Alongside this, the coursework would also entail completing two ancillary tasks which were to create both a radio trail and a double page magazine spread which will be used to ‘advertise’ the documentary.
Documentary as an academic topic• It is through this year’s A2 course that I found myself
correcting my own misconceptions, by finding myself fully appreciating the deep context of the field of ‘documentary’. What I thought was a basic media portal for factual information to be shared, I soon found to be in fact an academic topic that many people have written books on..
• One of these people we looked at was by Bill Nichols, who is an American film critic/theorist best known for his pioneering work as founder of the contemporary study of ‘documentary film’
Bill Nichols theory of Documentary Modes (2001)
• Nichols identifies six different documentary 'modes' in his schema: poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive, and performative.
-These all seek to distinguish different traits & conventions of various documentary film styles.
(Furthermore, through studying Nichols’ work, we realised that one single documentary could have a combination of these 6 different elements/modes within them)
• Myself and my group learnt a substantial amount from Nicholls’ work and thus tried to apply his modes of documentary into our own documentary in order to increase its validity as a ‘real media product’..
• Documentaries which take the Poetic mode tend to take a fragmentary structure (meaning they are quite disconnected and patchy in terms of having a structural pattern. This is done through editing, whereby the continuity of the editing is considered not as important compared to other modes of documentary.
• Documentaries that take the poetic mode tend to be quite subjective in their interpretations of its subjects.
• It is quite impressionistic in the sense that it stresses mood and tone more than it displays facts as a form of persuading the viewer.
• Before Nichols created this ‘poetic mode’ as one of his modes, early documentary film-makers encouraged by The Soviet montage theory and the French Impressionist cinema are found to have used these very poetic techniques in their documentaries.
Expository Mode• The expository mode speaks to the viewer directly, with visual titles or
audio via voiceovers and commentary that propose a perspective/view in regards to a specific argument.
• It uses rhetoric in order to persuade the viewer into taking the side of the particular viewpoint portrayed in the documentary. This is usually through either voice over commentary where the speaker is heard but never seen or interviewed commentary where the speaker is heard and seen.
• Where documentary in the poetic mode thrived on a filmmaker’s subjective visual interpretation of a subject, expositional mode collects footage that aims to strengthen the spoken narrative. Cutaways during an interview are a particularly good example of this.
• This mode tends to be the most popular mode used in many Film features, news stories and various television programmes as well as making up the bulk of most documentary products.
Observational Mode• The techniques of Observational mode pretty much take after the name- they
observe lived life. Unlike the subjective content of poetic documentary, or the rhetorical style of expositional documentary, observational documentaries tend to simply observe, allowing viewers to reach whatever conclusions they like.
• There are some rules for observational documentarians at their purest- there is to be no music, no interviews, no narration and no arrangement of scenes.. everything is natural. (tend not to include voiceovers)
• Because of this observation, on most occasions the editing consists of long takes and few cuts (keeping it as original as possible) And it is because of this, that the observational mode is often referred to as ‘fly-on-the-wall’ – hence suggesting that there is very little intervention between the camera and the focus of the documentary. The camera simply moves with the subjects playing as a personified ‘eye’ for the viewers to simply observe the action that is occurring.
• An example of raw footage which used the observational mode would be the hit campaign trail with President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Participatory Mode• This mode is when the film-maker is actually viewable to the viewers
(most cases the presenter hosting the documentary) and other times as a social actor within the film. This gives them the opportunity to freely discuss their own perspective in regards to the topic of debate during the documentary- in most instances, the film-maker clearly asserts their message.
• In contrast the objectivity displayed by the observational mode, films using the participatory mode can become a major channel for the broadcasting of a film-makers agenda. A good example of a film-maker who implemented the participatory mode directly in their world would be Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911.
Reflexive Mode• The Reflexive mode draws specific attention to the constructed nature of
documentaries where sometimes the film maker is shown wrestling with the content of their findings. As well as the fact that most film-makers who chose to use the Reflexive mode, do so, by being sceptical of the idea of ‘realism’ captured in documentary film.
• An example of a documentary which takes on the Reflexive Mode would be Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera where he features footage of his brother and wife in the process of shooting footage and editing.
• He said that the goal in including these images was, “to aid the audience in their understanding of the process of construction in film so that they could develop a sophisticated and critical attitude.” (Ruby 2005)
• So overall, it highlights that this specific mode attempts to reveal the art of making a documentary which tries to challenge the audience’s view of the topic/text at hand, in a much more objective way.
Performative Mode• The performative mode, the last of Nichols’ 6 modes, is quite often confused
with the participatory mode.
• .. But the crucial difference lies in the fact that, where the participatory mode has the film-maker in the story and attempts to shed light on truths that should already be obvious to everyone, the performative mode engages the film-maker in the actual story- creating a type of autobiographical description of subjective truths (that may also be significant to the film-maker himself)
• This is personally my favourite mode, as it opens a gateway to enable the film-maker to stress their own personal/emotional experience through an often unconventional method of attempting to connect their own experiences to the wider population. Many find that Nichols’ conception of performative documentary is the direct opposite of observational documentary.
Modes used in real products
Supersize Me (2004)Morgan Spurlock’s documentary ‘Supersize
Me’ is an example of the Performative mode being used, as he was the main
feature of the film (the film-maker actively engaging in the film) The performative
mode also enabled him to tell his story on his deep/personal hatred of the dominance and irresponsibility of most major fast food companies- offering him a brilliant chance
to air his perspective/view on the issue.
Children Underground (2001)This documentary is an observational documentary shot over a year in the
subways and streets of Romania. There is no music, and few editing (long takes) to keep it as original and untouched as
possible. However, there are some interviews contained (to gain the
Andrew Marr’s History of the World (2012)
BBC’s political commentator and British journalist created a series of documentaries on the history of the world. This is an example of participatory mode as he was physically visible hosting/narrating the show and actively present throughout some of the scenes. This mode gave him the opportunity to freely discuss his own fascination on the particular stories from history which he was presenting.
In my spare time, I watched numerous documentaries, taking notes on various elements of its codes and conventions.
Here are just 3 examples of documentaries with specific modes that I noted.
Underage Binge Drinking (My product)
• After watching a variety of different documentaries from different channels and different outlets using different budgets, it helped me come to grasps with the wide range of modes available and how they are productively used (more importantly, how they help shape the style and message of the documentary)
• Therefore, I then used this information to help me when it came to planning my own documentary with my group later on, where we discussed what modes would be most suitable to use for our own product.
Continued..• The main mode we utilised was the Expository mode however, our documentary
also included some aspects of the Poetic mode aswell..
• Expository: The main majority of our documentary took the elements of the expository mode, ‘the expository mode speaks to the viewer directly’ and this is exactly what our documentary does. It does this through various ways, some of which are: the narrative (voiceover- voice heard but never seen) which addresses the viewers, visual titles and prompts and an overall commentary which proposes a certain perspective/view in regards to the topic of underage binge drinking (that it is a current rising issue). Furthermore, by using the expositional mode, it enabled us to collect footage that aimed to strengthen the spoken narrative (eg. Interviews relevant to the specific sub topic the narration as just introduced) In our eyes, the expositional mode was deemed to be the most sensible choice as it is generally the more popular mode choice for most media film features (not only documentaries, but news stories and various TV programmes)
Poetic: We took the idea of ‘subjectivity’ from the poetic mode. This was done through the fact that our documentary was based on/largely influenced by our own personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. Although different views were expressed (when some young people thought that ‘’underage binge drinking as a whole, is over rated’) the majority of our opening 5minutes was generally swaying to the larger opinion of underage binge drinking being a dominant and dismissed issue in society. Moreover, the idea that our documentary is quite impressionistic, is debatable. Simply because, although we did tend to exploit the idea of stressing moods and tones more than displaying just hard core fact as a form of persuading the viewer, we were quite limited as we are just sixth form students with £0 budget to add a more poetic style increasing the stressing of moods and tones.
Other codes & conventions..• Film makers go to great lengths to ensure that their documentaries are very
factual and will generate some sort of public interest.. and some ways this is achieved is through 4 key components of documentary, these being: Actuality, Voiceover, Interviews and Reconstruction.
• Actuality is a record of real events as they unfold. This in turn, is a key component as documentaries are a way in which viewers are informed on a specific topic, therefore, it is important that documentaries give a realistic perspective which is as accurate as possible (not made up fiction like one would find in most films with written scripts and storylines)
• Voiceover is used as a form of narrative within documentaries, and in some documentaries- is the backbone. Narrative is used to Used in documentaries so the the filmmaker can speak directly to communicate directly with the viewer, a channel in which the film maker can voice their view of the topic as well as offering certain explanations and opinions.
• Interviews are a common way in which a film maker can strengthen the validity of the information they are offering. By filming formal interviews with experts of a specific field (in order to provide a rationale that supports the main theme presented within the documentary), as well as filming vox pops with members of the general public – it expands the viewpoint and hence strengthens the legitimacy of the information in the eyes of the viewer (making them believe what they are hearing is the majority view point and hence correct leading them to be more inclined to trust in the opinion put forward by the film maker) On the other hand, interviews can also be used to highlight other issues in regards to the certain topic, eg. Providing a contrasting view, thus challenging the main viewpoint (giving comprehensive info on the topic)
• Reconstructions are sometimes used to portray factual information in a much more interactive and realistic way- through real life visual scenarios. These scenarios are reproduced (hence the name re-construction) and although are artificial re-enactments of a real scene, help put things into more perspective for the viewers. Sometimes, when more sensitive issues are being explored, film makers edit using blurs, lighting effects and colour enhancement within the footage to protect confidentiality of the individuals or topic.
Extra commentary..• Reasons for mode choices:
We decided against using the participatory/performative modes, as although I thoroughly enjoyed documentaries which utilised this mode (Supersize me in particular) I really thought that this wasn’t ideal for our product as we didn’t want to include a presenter in the fear that we may make the documentary look amateur due to bad acting/unprofessional attributes etc.
• Which of the 4 conventions did we make the most of?:We tried to incorporate all 4 conventions however only Actuality, voiceover and interviews were fully used. We were going to reconstruct an interview with a student at the college who had their stomach pumped due to excessive alcohol intake, however this plan didn’t make the cut.
Documentary styles & influences• Public Affairs Documentary is probably the most influential style that we
assimilated in our final product. Reasons for this is due to the fact that most public affairs documentaries are shown on Public Service Broadcasting channels such as BBC and Channel 4 and examples of these types of documentaries are Panorama and Dispatches. Furthermore, these documentaries can often be ‘polemical’ meaning they draw attention to a perceived wrong (underage drinking) hence has the power to ultimately leave a significant impact..
• Our documentary:
Broadcasted on Channel 4
Investigating a social issue (Public Affair)
Directly based around the public and their lives (..their children)
Direct similarities between our product and a real media product (Supersize Me)
Supersize Me was the main documentary that we used to adapted on some of its key selling points. Above is a screen shot from one of the first scenes of our 5minute opening (Alcohol bottles lined up on the floor outside a pub) And to the right is where we got our inspiration from (a close up shot of different McDonalds size drinks from Supersize me)
Of course it was only sensible for us to benefit from the codes and conventions
of real media texts by watching and taking notes on documentaries and
hence implementing some of the techniques they used into our final
filmed and edited the
bottles appearing on
the screen one-by-
one similarly to how
the fast food drinks
appeared on the
screen in supersize
Similarities in Interviews..Here is yet another similarity between Supersize Me and our documentary.When interviewing the academic, Spurlock made sure to position him in his office and in one third of the shot, looking over the dead space..
We also followed these codes & conventions by interviewing Neil in his office and made sure that he looked over the dead space to his left. We also ensured that the computer screen displayed one his college initiatives in regards to alcohol awareness and made the canteen viewable through the window behind him, to make the setting relevant to the topic and to help paint a visual picture of his work with young people.
Following real media conventions we included a caption to highlight important details about the interviewee.
Similarities in visual aids (Statistics)
Not only is this an example of how we displayed a statistic using real media conventions, but also the background image used behind the ‘60%’ statistic is not random- it is very relevant to the topic choice (empty alcohol bottles outside a pub etc) we did this because we considered the fact that Morgan Spurlock also made the background image relevant in his documentary, by including obese people who required the use of a wheelchair when discussing the health implications of obesity.
Our DocumentarySupersize Me
Extra Creative styles..
Short documentary on teenage drug use on Youtube
To the left is a snippet that I suggested to the group in order to add a more creative, unique clip to our opening 5minutes of the documentary. I had once been a part of a short film (pictured below) and the professional cameraman used extreme close ups when interviewing the young people about the sensitive topic.
I thought this idea would be good to use in our documentary as we too, were interviewing young people on a sensitive topic, and thought that by preserving their identity (confidentiality) they may be a bit more open and more inclined to give their opinions rather than hide their true thoughts and give inaccurate answers due to the fear of social desirability.Furthermore, the mosaic thumb nail effect adds to the variety of frames used. Also it was quite a fiddly task which required an array of editing effects and checks (See next slide)
Here is an example of how we edited each of the individual clips to be black and white (unless the individual was speaking) This helped to distinguish which individual was speaking so that the viewers could match the voice with a face- otherwise it would be too confusing
To smooth out the editing, so that the cuts between each of the shots wasn’t jumpy, I used the pen tool to fade out this specific clip, with all the extreme close ups, simultaneously.
I also used the pen tool on the audio as well.. This was used to smooth out the transition between each persons vocals. The pen was a very useful tool for adjusting the volume of each person (trying to get all of the volumes to be the same so that it sounded professional) as well as fading out the persons voice towards the end of their segment so that the move from one individual is not abrupt.
Special effectsTo display a statistic, we wanted to follow real documentary codes and conventions by adding a blur effect on top of a still image of the bottles lined up outside the pub. So for this, we inserted a blur video effect on top of the specific clip, then inserted a text box to write the percentage and display it on the screen.
Another example of a blurred out edit (of students walking in and out of the canteen)
For this clip of some students sitting in the canteen (to the right) the camera panned from one side of the canteen to the other. However, when we uploaded this clip for editing, we realised we were not happy with the speed, therefore, using Final Cut features, we sped up the pan (making it faster) as well as reversing it.
Overall, which codes & conventions were implemented into our product?
By using a large amount of codes and conventions that I have seen featured in many professional documentaries I had watched, I was able to try and implement these into my own documentary
to try and make it appear a lot more professional.
So how well did we really keep to the documentary codes and conventions? And if not, how did we challenge them?
• Variation of camera angles • Voice of God; the influence of the narrator on
the audience• Archive Footage• Linear Narrative to make it easy to understand• Credits/Titles to introduce the documentary or
an interviewee in an interview• Diegetic/Non Diegetic sound• Audience never hear questions asked• The interviewee never looks into the camera.
(Always at interviewer)• Vox Pops: The voice of the community• Rule of thirds• Shot on location
• Continuity editing (the predominant style of film editing and video editing in the post-production process of filmmaking of narrative film and television programs. The purpose of continuity editing is to smooth over the inherent discontinuity of the editing process and to establish a logical coherence between shots)
• Montage of clips (usually at the beginning of the narrative)
• Ambient sound of surrounding environment• Experts as evidence• Graphic's font and colour doesn't distract from
General Camera shots & editing
Archive FootageWe included about 20seconds of found footage which brought to life the underage binge drinking culture, helping visualise the issue a bit clearer.
Variation of camera anglesA variety of camera shots and angles are essential conventions of documentaries- and without this of course, the documentary would look very amateur indeed.
Shot on locationSeeing as we were investigating teens (underage drinkers) in our documentary, it would have been rather strange to not have shot the interviews in their ‘natural habit’ meaning their school or their areas where they like to hang around. Due to our restrictions of using college cameras and property, we thought it was best and most sensible to shoot the majority of the 5minutes on the college campus with the students themselves.
Continuity editingOur opening 5minutes of the documentary followed a simple continuous structure. There was no inherent discontinuity of the editing so as to establish some sort of logical order between each of the shots.
Montage of clips (usually at the beginning of the narrative)The topic of the documentary was introduced via short quick previews of the clips-to-come in the rest of documentary (including clips from different interviews and the bottles lined up in front of the pub.
Extreme Close upsPanMedium Shot
Long Shot Close up
NarrativeVoice of God narrative(the influence of the narrator on the audience)
Our narration/voice over was authoritative and anonymous, making it known as ‘’the voice of God’’ approach. This is when the voiceover is a separate audio track, isolated from the audio of the video, and recorded separately in a studio/room (free of any ambient background noise or room echo/bounce)
Our voiceover was scripted well before the making of the documentary, as we made a storyboard and used this to write out a detailed narration of the 5minutes. This was then recorded separately at a later stage then placed where appropriate once the editing process began. (The narration not only tells the story and creates the flow for the direction in which the documentary is going, but it also gives detailed and accurate figures/statistics providing deeper background information on the topic)
Linear narrativeA linear narrative is a structured narrative over the film (voice over) it follows a linear sequence, therefore, from start finish.
We started off by introducing the topic of the documentary:“It is clear that there is a strong binge drinking culture within our society, but worryingly it is effecting our young people greatly”
Then introduced the main chunk of the documentary:“We went into a local sixth form to ask them of their opinions’’
Followed by segments of introductions for each interview:“Neil Attewell is a Student Development officer and therefore works closely with young people, what’s his opinion?”
Audio/SoundDiegetic/Non Diegetic soundDiegetic Sound: Diegetic sound is the sound which is made visible to the audience on the screen therefore originating from the source within the documentary. This could be both on and off the screen. Examples of diegetic sound in my documentary, would be the voices of those being interviewed both vox pops of students and professional interviews alike. As well as the sound of the students in the background of the canteen or the noise of the cars and hustle and bustle of the high-street in the background of the interviews.
Non Diegetic Sound: Non-Diegetic sound is artificial/inserted sound, therefore it does not originate from the source within the video (not visible on the screen) It is sound represented from a source outside of the direct action within the documentary. Examples of non diegetic sound in my documentary would be the commentary sound of the voiceover and the music that was inserted over the video sound track (not too loud or overpowering so that it steers interest from the talking)
Audience never hear questions askedThroughout the whole documentary, we knew that if we had included our voices in the middle of the bustling college canteen or busy high street asking the public the question of ‘how many units they thought were in the vodka bottle’ then this would not be following the codes and conventions of documentary. It would have sounded extremely amateur and out of place, therefore, when editing, we ensured that we deleted the unnecessary parts.
Ambient sound of surrounding environment‘Ambience’ is the natural background sound/atmosphere. Of course this was included throughout our documentary eg. student chitter chatter within the college – natural environment left unedited to allow realism.
InterviewsThe interviewee never looks into the camera (Always at interviewer)As can be seen in the screenshot image of one of the interviews taken from our documentary, the interviewee is not looking at the camera, but rather looking straight at the interviewer asking him the question. This eliminates the dead space to his left.
Credits/Titles to introduce the documentary or an interviewee in an interviewHere is an example of how we used this convention in our documentary. Listed below the interviewee is his name, and details about what he does and why he is relevant to the documentary topic (giving viewers necessary information)
Experts as evidenceThere is no way that a documentary could avoid interviewing experts within the field of the topic in question. In our documentary, we interviewed a representative from a local alcohol awareness charity who work on raising the profile of the serious health implications of recreational drugs such as alcohol, and also interviewed Neil who works with young people.
Graphic's font and colour doesn't distract from the subjectThe text font and colour is completely neutral and does not distract the attention away from the interview, rather settles in nicely in the frame.
Vox Pops: The voice of the communityVox Pops are a common convention of documentary as it is an easy way of directly interacting with the public and gaining their perspective on the particular topic. We took this on board went out to the local high street to ask adults how many units they thought were in the vodka bottle so as to compare their answers with the answers of the students in the sixth form college.
Rule of thirdsA basic convention of films and documentary is the rule of thirds, which is used to discourage placement of the subject to be in the centre of the frame, but rather centred to the side (where the body is lined up with a vertical line representing 1/3rd of the screen and the eyes are in line with a horizontal line)
Radio Trials• Before looking into drafting our radio trial, we listened to several different real
radio trials (real media texts) The job of such radio trials is to ensure they grab the attention of the listeners, persuading them to watch the documentary or programme that is being advertised
One of the examples we looked at was BBC RADIO FIVE LIVE’s broadcasting of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
• The basic codes and conventions we learnt from listening to radio trials like thiswas that they included a main narration (voice over), clips from the real product and music – all to be played together at the same time. Therefore, it was about balancing it properly and ensuring that the voiceover was never drowned out by the music or the clips. This is how a radio trial would sound good and therefore appealing to the listeners (making them intrigued in what is being said and hopefully wanting to ensure they watch the documentary being advertised)
Our Radio Trial• Following the common codes and conventions of the radio trials that we had previously analysed, our radio trial
included all three main components: Voice over, Clips from the documentary and Background Music.
• Voiceover: The first words that were said in our radio trial was: ‘’Underage Binge Drinking..’’ (getting our documentary topic/name straight out there)
Followed by a rhetorical question: ‘’..is it getting too much to handle?’’ (to grab attention)
• Background Music: The background music we included was upbeat and lively (but not too domineering so as to divert the attention away from what was being said in the informative voice over) The music choice was down to the fact that the topic was about young people, therefore we thought we’d make the music relevant to the topic of reckless underage binge drinking
• Clips from documentary:The inserted clips from the documentary were not only relevant, but also provided a variety (giving the radio trial more of a chance to relate to the wide array of listeners) The clips included the interviews with adults (such as Neil) as well as young people (from the extreme close ups)
• Furthermore, our radio trial included persuasive words which pulled in listeners interest and attention such as ‘’hot topic’’ ‘’controversial issue’’ also, we included interesting & relevant statistics ‘’did you know that 30,000 hospital injuries are caused by alcohol? “ And most importantly, it included details of the time, date and channel for the screening of the documentary.
Creating the trial on Garage Band
• Here is a link to our radio trial:• https://soundcloud.com/a2columnc12/underage-binge-drinking-radio
All 3 core elements of the radio trial arranged in specific order in order for the radio trial to flow and make sense (takes it structured)
..and the green lines are for toggling with the music sound levels (the music was inserted from a large selection Garage
This is how we adjusted the sound levels (using the pen tool). The blue lines are for toggling with the imported clips (eg. the voiceover and the clips from the documentary)
Magazine Double Page Spread
Here is the main introduction to the article and it is coloured and in bold. Ours wasn’t coloured, however it was put in bold.
This is considered to be the main image of the spread, and I like it as it is not a common convention to have the main image to spread horizontally across the page, it tends to be vertically in most instances. Therefore, it could be here that we have challenged the majority.
The grab lines are a common convention as it gives a quick insight into what the rest of the article entails.
Although the top horizontal third of the spread is considered the main image, it is also conventional to include another image or two so as to reduce the heaviness of the text.
A nice striped border to separate the main image from the main body of text.
A website for more information on the channel or the documentary.
Main body of text in simple plain font, and in neat columns.
Page numbers have been creatively edited into a wine/cocktail glass (relevance to documentary topic)
Did our Magazine follow common codes & conventions?
• I feel out of the 3 tasks, I personally feel that our magazine was the weakest and the radio trial was the strongest. One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that we stuck very firmly to the codes and conventions of real radio trials in comparison to how much we stuck to the codes and conventions of magazine publishing.
• Furthermore, our magazine wasn’t exported out properly, leaving a few unnecessary boxes being left on the final piece which unfortunately reduced the legitimacy of our final product (making it look amateur) Also, we challenged too many of the codes and conventions, leaving our magazine looking a bit too unlike most magazines such as ‘The Radio Times’ where double page spreads are used to advert documentaries.
• However, from this I have learnt a great deal!