Published on March 3, 2014
Evaluation Question 1 In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
INTRODUCTION At the beginning of our A2 coursework we were given a brief. The brief was to produce a five minute opening sequence to a documentary of our choice along with two other ancillary tasks of making a radio trailer advertising out documentary and also a double page spread article in a magazine. Our chosen topic was teenage drinking. As a group we searched the internet for documentaries aimed at a similar target audience (teenagers) and those based around a similar topic. An example of this was BBC Three’s ‘Binge Drinking: My Big Decision’. By watching a documentary with a similar topic we were able to record conventions that our documentary should follow such as the use of voiceover, interviews with the public (vox pops) and also expert opinions. Although these are examples of conventions used in most documentaries, I felt that it was important that we researched documentaries following similar topic to ours. For example, in this documentary archival footage is quickly edited to show the fast paced nature of teenage life.
STYLES AND INFLUENCEDOCUMENTARY Our documentary would follow the styles of a public affairs documentary as we aim to bring attention to what we believe to be a much debated issue. In addition to this, we had planned to broadcast our documentary on BBC Three, a public broadcasting channel. Public affairs documentaries are usually aired on such channels as they are available to a much larger audience as to provide them with information on an important topic. Seen as the traditional documentary format, by following conventions of programmes such as panorama and dispatches we attempted to investigate both sides of an argument. Our documentary also followed the conventions of one of Bill Nichols’ documentary modes. The mode that our documentary follows is the expository mode which emphasises verbal commentary often using a narrator. Something which our documentary makes use of with ‘voice of god’ style narration throughout. This style of documentary is the most common and is what people usually associate documentaries to be like.
VOICEOVER DOCUMENTARY One way in which we followed the conventions of public affairs documentaries as well as documentaries in general was through the use of our voiceover. As in public affairs documentaries, our voiceover was extremely important to the overall product. It allowed us to progress from the point of view of one certain group of people, for example teenagers, to another group such as ‘experts’ on the subject. Our voiceover also used conventions of those in public affairs documentaries by providing information on the topic as well asking questions the audience would be want to themselves. These questions would then be answered by an interview giving an opinion on the subject. This form of narration meant that our voiceover was able to provide the audience with important information as well as remain impartial, allowing them to make up their own minds, something which is also a convention of expository documentaries. We also used a ‘voice of God’ style narration so that the voiceover would appear to be all knowing to the audience This is something that we discovered to be effective through watching ‘Supersize Me’ showing how we developed this convention. A common convention of documentaries, this is used to make the voiceover trustworthy and credible and to make the audience feel as though the information is reliable.
USE OF CAMERA DOCUMENTARY This image taken from our documentary displays how we followed conventions of real media products. For example our interview with our expert was set up to resemble interviews of real media products. We did this by using a medium close up shot. This shot is commonly used in professional documentaries during interviews. In addition we also considered the mise-en-scene, as interviews with those considered ‘experts’ are often conducted in offices in order to suggest that the interviewees are credible and educated, providing trustworthy information and valuable opinions. We also took the ‘rule of thirds’ into consideration. The technique that places subjects of interest in places that the audience’s eyes are drawn to. By placing our interviewee to the right of the frame we followed the rule ensuring people’s attention would be drawn to her immediately. This is supported by the image on the right, taken from the theatrical documentary ‘Supersize Me’. In this image, a medium close up is used, just as in our documentary. The subject of the image is also framed similarly to ours in order to draw in the attention of the audience. Also, the mise-en-scene is also similar. Although due to the mans clothes he is clearly a doctor, he is also an ‘expert’ interview and is sitting in an office just as our interviewee in order to show authority.
In addition to this, we made use of the allocated time for archival footage. In order to find appropriate footage that would fit in with the topic of our documentary, we looked thoroughly on YouTube for footage that we felt would benefit our product. Not only this but we felt that there were some aspects we wanted to include in the documentary that would have been difficult to film ourselves. An example of this would be accidents that could potentially be caused by alcohol abuse. Although we could have achieved this through reconstructions, having watched this technique used in other student documentaries, it can look unprofessional. The type of archival footage we took from YouTube involved CCTV footage of anti social behaviour as well as adverts for alcohol. We decided to use this to show that alcohol can be dangerous and to emphasise how ‘alcohol is everywhere’. This is a convention that is often used in expository documentaries such as BBC ‘s ‘Panorama’ series and Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’. This is usually CCTV footage that they have not filmed themselves but demonstrates the point they are making effectively This is an example of where we have used archive footage in our documentary, placing facts and figures over it. This is an example of how an expository documentary Panorama’s ‘Immigration Undercover The Student Visa Scandal’ has used archival footage. Although this is an interview it still presents how we followed the convention of using archival footage.
These conventions were also followed in our ‘vox pop’ interviews as shown in these images. We framed the shots so that the rule of thirds was followed as well as using medium close up shots as with our expert interview. However, the mise – en-scene was changed so that the audience could identify with the interviewees. As shown for example in the top right image where we conducted the interview outside of the college.
USE OF GRAPHICS and EDITING DOCUMENTARY Another way that we used conventions of documentaries was through our use of graphics and editing. For example, similarly to ‘Binge Drinking: My Big Decision’, we decided to use a title sequence. This helps the audience to understand what the documentary is about and was included in our documentary to follow convention and thus make it look more professional We also followed documentary conventions during our interviews by having our interviewee’s name and occupation briefly appear below them. This is done in most interviews and documentaries as shown in the image on the right taken from ‘Supersize Me’. This is to show that the interviewee has some authority on the subject they are talking about and that they should be listened to.
We also used some graphics in our documentary such as having stats and figures appearing on the screen as the voiceover says them. For example ‘the number of under 18 drinkers in the last 10 years has doubled’. This is a convention used in documentaries, especially in expository documentaries where the facts and figures are important for the audience to make up their own minds on the subject. By having the facts and figures appear on the screen, their importance is emphasised and it makes them easily memorable. This is an important convention especially if these statistics are meant to shock the audience as they are in our documentary.
RADIO TRAIL In order to make our radio trailer sound professional, we researched other radio trailers in order to pick up on some of the conventions that appear. For example, we analysed a ‘formula one radio trail’. This provided us with knowledge of what sort of thinks we should include in our radio trail. For example, the trailer used sound extracts from a live formula one race. This showed us that it was important to include clips from the documentary it is advertising. We included extracts from our own documentary such as the question ‘What is the legal age to drink alcohol?’ and also the answers people gave. This helped to solidify what the topic of our documentary was as well as create continuity between the two products. Another convention that we followed in the production of our radio trail was the use of a backing track. The backing track is not usually too noticeable but helps to keep the pace of the documentary and fills any parts that would otherwise be silent. In the ‘Formula One’ radio trail, the backing track is fast paced in order to reflect the speed of the sport. However our backing track was much more mellow in order to express the seriousness of the subject. In addition to this, we used the same backing track that is used at points in the documentary again in order to create continuity between the products.
Having listened to radio trails, we also discovered that most radio trails last around 35-50 seconds. Taking this into account, we followed convention by making ours 42 seconds long. This way we were able to get the necessary information across to the audience, such as the channel and time of the programme as well as extracts from the documentary, without boring them by having the trailer drag on for longer. However, we slightly strayed from convention with the narrators of the radio trail. Usually in radio trailer, there is a single person that does the voiceover, however in our radio trail there are three. This was because we hoped that it meant our trailer would appeal to a larger audience as we used both male and female voices. We hoped that this would show that underage drinking effects both sexes and that it is an issue that concerns everyone.
DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD This is our final double page spread article. Having read a number of articles in magazines such as ‘TV and Satellite Week’ and ‘The Radio Times’. We decided that we would print our article in ‘The Radio Times’. This was because it is a nation wide magazine with a large readership meaning that a large number of people in our specific target audience and also those that are not would be exposed to the article. Having looked over articles from this magazine, we managed to discover that most magazine articles follow similar conventions. In order to keep our product looking professional, we decided to follow some of these widely used conventions. Some of the conventions that we followed included the use of a pull quote, the use of columns, the use of a main image and also the use of drop capitals.
This is an article taken from the Radio Times and is the main article we used to follow the conventions of TV Listings magazines. Although this magazine has a different layout to our magazine they both follow many of the same conventions. For example, the use of a pull quote. In the magazine from the Radio Times, they have used 2 pull quotes as they are interviewing 2 people whereas we only have one main interview in our article. The use of a pull quote is meant to engage the reader and give them a flavour of what the rest of the article will be like. We followed this convention as we felt it was important to interest our audience as soon as they look at our double page spread. As you can see, this is a convention that is commonly used in professional magazines. Another convention that we chose to follow was the use of drop capitals. This decision was made purely for aesthetic purposes and to make our magazine article look more professional as this convention is also commonly used in TV Listings magazine articles such as the image on the right.
Another convention that our article followed was the use of columns. This not only improved the appearance of the article, it also organized the page well. This meant that our article was easy to read, something which is key in creating a successful double page spread. This convention is followed in virtually every professional magazine article Another convention followed by all magazine articles is the use of a main image. This image is almost always edited to improve its visual quality. Our magazine is no different and our audience commented on the fact that our main image was visually pleasing. Overall, I think that our double page spread followed conventions of professional media products as displayed by it’s similarities with the article from the Radio Times.
One way in which our double page spread slightly strayed from convention was through the use of other images taken from our documentary to use as a background for the article. This idea may be dismissed by a professional magazine as they may feel that it would obstruct the text. However, we edited the images accordingly to make sure this didn’t happen as well as making the page look better visually. I believe that this slightly challenged convention. However, overall I think that our documentary followed convention.
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