Published on March 3, 2014
A2 Media Coursework Evaluation – Question 1 – Tamera Lall
For this A2 coursework we were given the task to create the opening five minutes for a short documentary based on a chosen topic, in which we decided ourselves. We were also asked to create a radio trail and a double page-spread magazine article. These ancillary tasks would be used alongside our documentary to help promote and make our target audience aware of what to expect. We chose to base our documentary on social networking and the concerns around it, for example cyber bullying. In order for all of our finished products to look of high-quality we needed to carry out a lot of research and planning. This was in order to make ourselves familiar with the conventions of real media products, therefore making it more likely that our products would look professional. In this stage of research and planning we looked at examples of documentaries, radio trails and magazine articles so we could draw inspiration for our own.
To start our research for our documentary we first looked at the typical codes and conventions of this genre, these were: • Actuality – We used real people and locations in order for our documentary to be as realistic as possible for the audience to be able to relate and understand the topic of cyber bullying. Also using actuality made it easier for the viewers to trust what they are watching. • Voiceover – We felt a voiceover was important to include as we knew that this was our main way to directly address the audience. We also used the voiceover as a way to portray and explain the information, facts and figures in an engaging way. • Voxpops – These are short interviews with members of the public which we did not use in our documentary. • Interviews – We had interviews with students as well as experts in this particular field, in this case it was teachers at a sixth form. We used a variety of people in order to provide different viewpoints on the topic. • Archival footage – We used footage from news shows that were discussing the problems of social networking, for example cases of suicide etc. We found this clips on YouTube and decided to use them as it would be a hard-hitting, effective introduction to the documentary. • Reconstructions – Some documentaries include reconstructions to help demonstrate events that had happened previously. We did not feature one of these as it we did not feel it was needed.
We also decided to apply Bill Nichols documentary modes to ours. The potential modes are: •Poetic – This mode discusses the lyrical, rhythmic and emotional aspects of the historical world. •Expository – This mode often uses a verbal commentary through a voice over that allows the film maker to speak directly to the audience. •Observational – Attempts to just observe subjects without any interference of a voiceover or on-screen actor. •Participatory – Normally features interviews etc that allow the filmmaker to be seen within the text. •Reflexive – Sometimes draws attention to the fact that it is a documentary and sometimes features people reflecting on the discoveries found. •Performative – Illustrates a personal, emotional experience which may be connected to other bigger issues. Our documentary, I feel, included elements from multiple modes. The expository mode was present as we had a voiceover talking to the audience. As the people in some of the background footage were not aware that they were being filmed our documentary was also somewhat observational.
When discussing the narrative structure of the documentary, it is not too obvious as this is only the opening to the whole documentary therefore is only introducing the topic to the audience. The narrative during this part of the documentary is somewhat rhetorical as the audience are only provided with information and facts about social networking and start to look at the potential harms of cyber bullying. The inspiration for this form of introduction to the was from watching documentaries like ‘Supersize Me’ etc. in which the film-maker and on-screen presenter or voiceover introduced the subject of their documentary by stating a few facts and figures relating to the topic. As our documentary featured a lot of background footage the camerawork and cinematography was important when producing our documentary. For the background footage we knew it was essential that all of these shots related to the topic around social networking as well as technology. Due to this we had a lot of close ups of various objects and people such as; computer screens, keyboards and smartphones as well as people actually using them.
Our documentary included students from a sixth form and so we felt that is was necessary to include establishing shots from within the college so the audience could get familiar with the environment in which it was filmed. An example of this would be of the slow panning shot in library. We also used medium close ups for our interviews as it allows the audience to see the interviewee amongst an environment that portrays a bit more about their occupation. For example, the expert interviews with the head of IT took place in an office, giving him a more professional impact on the audience. The expert interviews also contained a form of graphics as the interviewees were captioned with their names and occupations which was done to make the audience aware of who they were.
The mise-en-scene in the interviews were also of high importance as it was important that the backgrounds were not too distracting but also representative of the people in the frame. The interviews with the students took place in a canteen in sixth form to give a more laidback, relaxed feeling as they were also dressed casually whereas the expert interviews took place in an office again giving a more professional touch whilst they were dressed up fairly smart and corporately. The props that are present within our documentary all relate to the topic around social networking and technology. In the expert interviews there is either a laptop or computer visible on the screen. We felt this was a good idea to have as it made the points raised by the interviewees more feasible as it illustrates and gives the impression that they have knowledge in regards to the topic. On the other hand, the posters present in the background in the student interviews are on cyber bullying which obviously relate to our documentary and what the interviewee is talking about.
To ease the viewing experience we ensured there was background music played throughout. The music was created on GarageBand and was fairly upbeat and modern. The music could be heard throughout the majority of the short film consistently without being too distracting, however I feel that maybe it was repetitive to some extent and so to improve this next time I would maybe have a variety of music that could be listened to. We used natural lighting during the filming process of our documentary as everything was filmed during the daytime and also there was a lack of equipment A final convention that fulfils a normal convention of a documentary is the existence of a voiceover, which was informative as it guided the audience through the start of the documentary. We chose the voiceover we felt that it would allow us to directly address the spectators in the same way we would be able to if we used an onscreen presenter.
The research and planning stage of creating and producing our documentary was so significant as it was the main way that influenced our decisions to help make the documentary, as well as the ancillary tasks, look professional. To help make it look more skilful there are some conventions that we could have included to ensure this. For example we could have used animations, like in ‘Supersize Me’, to help explain some of the more technical terminology relating to our subject in a way that was both interesting and visually pleasing to the eye. We could have also put in a voxpop which would give the audience a chance to hear members of the public voice their opinions in which they may agree or disagree with. Also one thing I would try to include if I had the chance to do it again, would be to include some interesting transitions, which again could include animations, just to make the viewing experience of our documentary somewhat more exciting and enjoyable.
Just like the documentary when it came to making our double-page spread we chose to research and analyse some actual articles before planning and constructing our own. The purpose of the double page spread was to raise awareness of our documentary for the readers and target audience let them know when and where they could watch it. The three examples we analysed were from Radio Times and the images were found on Google. We decided that we liked the layout of the Radio Times articles and so we chose to use these for inspiration for our own. We also took note of the conventions regularly used and included these in our own to ensure the professionalism of our double page spread.
The first convention we chose to use was the main header and to have it stand out. We wanted it to draw the readers attention to the article and hopefully gain their interest and persuade the to watch the final documentary. We chose to have the main header as the title of our documentary which straight away makes the reader aware of what the article is about and also making it memorable by being the largest bit of text on the page. The main image dominates the article as it takes up most of the double page spread. The image relates to the documentary as well as the additional images because these were taken from the actual film through a screenshot of a freeze frame. To caption the pictures we used quotes from the documentary followed by the name of the person who said the statement and are in the picture. We used the quotes as it explained who is in the picture whilst giving an insight to what the viewer can expect to watch if they decide to watch the final product. In the main body text it start with a drop caps which again is a normal convention that is seen in the majority of magazine article regardless of the actual genre or topic it is talking about. The text was also separated into columns in order to make the article not seem overwhelming but instead easier to read and comprehend.
Another generic convention that we included in our magazine article was the page number as well as the name of the magazine in the bottom corner of the page. To challenge the standard conventions we made the choice to not feature a stand first in our article. This was because we felt that we didn’t necessarily need one and even though it may be controversial I feel that the double page spread still looks presentable with out one. Subheadings are also not in our magazine article as they weren’t relevant to the article as it didn’t really need to be separated in this way. Taking everything into consideration I believe the magazine article used the majority of the typical conventions and only challenged a few.
The main purpose of our radio trail was to promote the documentary as well as letting the audience know information of where and when they can watch the documentary. We again researched and analyse other radio trails that were expertly done and played on the actual radio. We used some of the conventions we noticed in our own radio trail. One thing we noticed was the length of the radio trails. The ones we looked at ranged from either 30 seconds to 1 minute long and so we knew we wanted to aim for a similar length. We also used extracts from the actual documentary as a way to illustrate what the audience could expect to hear if they were persuaded to watch the final piece. The background music was upbeat and linked again to the documentary. However upon reviewing the final product it was clear the music was fair too loud in comparison to the documentary extracts as they were harder to hear over the music.
Another typical convention we used was having an additional voiceover as this was a feature we found on all radio trails. We knew it was important to include one as this was our chance to address the listener directly. We used this to our advantage by making sure our voiceover sounded friendly, positive and inviting which would hopefully make people want to watch our documentary. The actual information needed to be provided during our radio trail as if people wanted to watch the documentary they would need to know the details of when it was showing and on what channel. We used our voiceover again to help provide the information at the end of the radio trail as it would be the last thing the listener would hear and hopefully remember. All in all, I think the radio trail used the conventions of a radio trail and didn’t actually challenge any of them.
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