Archive | September, 2011

Control Room – Questions

26 Sep

Control Room – Questions.



Why might Control Room be described as an observational documentary?


Control room is a documentary that primarily focuses on footage which shows exactly what is going on, this footage may be from a civilians phone or a professional news company. The footage is left without the direction of a narrative backing it up, therefore leaving it open for interpretation by the viewers.



How do the lack of explicit narration – or exposition – and the ‘invisibility’ of the film crew affect your response to the documentary?


By creating the documentary in this way it makes it seem as though we are in a front row seat of the action, the use of handheld filming is also used to give this desired effect. It also makes the viewer somewhat personally involved with the documentary.



What techniques are used in the documentary to construct a narrative? How does it communicate information without a narrator or an explicit, interactive approach to interviews?


A narrative is created in the documentary by putting the clips collected in a certain order which creates a video timeline of the events happening. The director alternates between  amateur and professional footage to show a wider perspective of the situation.



Do the film-makers act as bystanders – witnesses – to events or as provocateurs whose actions precipitate events?


The film-makers try to not be a part of the situation that is already going on, in effect they are acting as bystanders who are just part of the crowd. By not being involved in anyway it shows that they have no impact on the subject they are trying observe, by doing this it maintains the ecological validity of the documentary.



To what extent does the documentary present a specific agenda?


The documentaries main agenda is to show viewers who have little knowledge of the conflict and to show them just how the situation is without censorship or alternations to the truth. Many news stations to some extent do this to prevent upset over the images being shown but also to manipulate the viewers opinions.



To what extent does the documentary perpetuate or challenge the idea of transparency and unmediated access to real events?


The documentary itself presents itself from the start as a film that challenges the general views on media coverage in the middle east. The way in which we see the middle east conflicts on the news is generally filtered and has the explicit content removed. News companies like the BBC do this in order to keep their program safe for their viewers to watch. This documentary lifts the lid of the censorship and shows not only explicit content but also the views that the people of the middle east have on the west. The documentary definitely challenges the filtered down content that we are use to on a daily basis.


Observational Documentary – Homework Questions

21 Sep

Observational Documentary – Homework Questions


From reading the section about observational documentary on ‘shaping the real’ I have found key elements which are typically found in most documentaries of this kind. Unlike the older kinds of documentary such as expository where the voice of god narration tells us exactly what is going on, in observational there is no voice over allowing the viewer to interpret the documentary in their own way. When observational documentaries began to gain popularity in the 1950’s people wanted to see more than what they had seen before on older documentaries, the viewer wanted to get up close and personal with the topic being documented and displayed on film. One way of getting closer was the emphasised use of the close up which allowed viewers to gain an insight into what really goes on. Documentarists wanted to make these new observational documentaries more in your face and straight to the point to the extent where a voice over was not needed to understand exactly what was going on.

In terms of the technical side of observational documentary it became a challenge for filmmakers to get the ‘up close and personal’ shots that were needed. This meant that a new handheld camera which would be lightweight and easily mobile had to be created. When filming the observational documentaries a large quantity of filming was needed so that the editors could have plenty of raw material to work with. This in effect gave the editors a harder job and put them to the test in many ways such as endurance and also guaranteeing a good final product.


Direct cinema is a term used to describe the type of documentary which shows footage of certain things in its most honest form. In other word direct cinema shows the real world that we live in an unbiased way so that we the viewers can make our own assumptions about the topic. Direct cinema originated in theUnited Statesbetween 1958 and 1962, the filmmakers goal during this time was to create a final product which would show the real world in its true form. Direct cinema became popular because of the demand for a new kind of documentary which would seem more open to interpretation. It wasn’t long ago when both world wars influenced documentary, countless pieces of propaganda put other peoples views onto the screen. The new direct cinema intrigued the public as they could now see things in a new light.

The documentary named ‘Primary’ is a very good example of these new direct cinema documentaries, the documentary was created by Robert Drew who played a fairly important role during the early days of these documentaries.


Features of the Direct Cinema mode of documentary:

-Up close and personal shots.

-High use of mobile camera work.

-High amounts of raw footage filmed.

-An insight into everyday life. (fly on the wall).

-Truth is often shown.

-Direct and punchier than other kinds of documentary.


14 Sep

Blog Review – Rebecca Old

Out of the three A2 level blogs posted on the Hanham high school website, I personally found the blog written by Rebecca Old to be the most deserving of the higher grade. A great amount of thought has been put in to the blog, not only does is contain high level work but also the appearance of the blog has been taken into account. The colour scheme is easy on the eye and the layout of the page is organised neatly so that pictures are in the correct place alongside the text which is also presented neatly. Hyperlinks are also used throughout the blog for easy access to external media and webpages, this is good for accessing links which are related to the topic being discussed or evaluated.

The research which has been carried out in the early stages of the blog is documented regularly and contains many references to the media that has been studied. The documentaries analysed have been broken down in detail to explain such things as bias what makes them the type of documentary they are. It’s fair to say that the documentaries analysed by the group have influenced them in some way or another later on in the production stage and planning.

In terms of production every step seems to be well documented and recorded, screen shots of editing and certain camera shots are shown in their blog. The description of the production accompanied closely with the visual element really does make this a solid blog. Problems faced were also mentioned in the blog and how they overcome them, an example would be when one of the group members became ill and had to manage.

I think the blog is very strong all together, the evaluation is of a very good standard and goes very deep in terms of detail. One suggestion would be perhaps to match the quality of the evaluation to the rest of the blog. Some early posts could use some additional content to make them to the same standard as the more recent posts.

The Blue Planet – Questions.

12 Sep

The Blue Planet (2006)



As the Blue Planet documentary was produced by the Discovery Channel and the BBC it gives the impression that this documentary has some quality creators. The BBC especially are renowned for their ground braking wildlife documentaries which have in the past become a very significant and important to the channel. Its wildlife documentaries are one of the few flagship programmes of the BBC which always become popular critically and commercially worldwide. With this great history the audience expect a great documentary which they can rely on to be entertaining, educational and of excellent quality.


David Attenborough is a very well known nature expert who has had years of experience studying nature and narrating wildlife documentaries. David Attenborough has not only had years of experience but he has a reputation of only working with the best of documentary companies, the documentaries he narrates have been well recognised over the years. New viewers may also look upon Attenborough as fitting the bill as being the ‘white, middle aged man’ which has been for a while a good formula for a good narrator. Attenborough is also a well spoken man who uses standard English, this is a fundamental must for a narrator on this genre of documentary.


The music at the beginning of ‘The Blue Planet’ is very dramatic and consists of  various amounts of powerful stringed instruments which in effect create a surreal soundtrack to accompany the stunning visuals. The atmosphere the music is creating is epic and to also build hype for the main documentary.


The opening narrative is tightly synchronised with the footage being shown, the use of adjectives to describe the amazing facts are used frequently on things such as scale and quantity’s. One example would be when David Attenborough describes the tale of the blue whale as being the same width as an aeroplane wing. The fact that the opening scene is of the blue whale also gains interest as it is a fascinating animal well known by many as being huge and mysterious.


The non-diegetic soundtrack creates drama by closely incorporating the music with the visuals on screen. For example if in one scene where there is a manic rush of fish, a more up tempo and manic soundtrack would be appropriate. The soundtrack may also create a sense of excitement to keep the viewer interested and continue to watch.


The use of camera in this documentary is definitely out of the ordinary and puts the viewer in places where they would normally never be. By using these impressive camera shots it also gives a new perspective to marine life, by also getting very close to the marine life a mass amount of detail can be seen. The programme makers have definitely achieved the goal of showing the viewers an unseen world which still has a lot to be learned about.


In the documentary many different marine animals are followed and their way of lives are shown to the audience, the documentary may also make the viewers think differently about the animals they see. By also creating narratives it makes the viewer want to follow the lives of these animals and become somewhat attached and intrigued into knowing what they will do next. The documentary gives the viewer a front row seat into the lives of these rare animals.

Questions on ‘Shaping the Real’

12 Sep

Shaping the Real

Modes of Documentary



How are ‘modes’ different to ‘genres’?


Unlike genres, modes can describe the actual historical world in a variety of ways. By using a variety of different modes, the same thing that is being documented can be shown in from different perspectives and ways that you wouldn’t normally see otherwise.



What is a ‘hybrid’ form of documentary?


A hybrid form of documentary is when film makers use more than one mode in the same film. This is often done on purpose to give a specific effect and can easily be achieved now because of all the modes being available for use.



What is the earliest example of expository documentary?


The earliest example of expository documentary is ‘Nanook of the North’ which was released in 1922.



What is the ‘Voice of God’? What is its role in documentary?


The voice of god in a documentary is a voice over which usually put on top of images of footage being play. The purpose of ‘voice of god’ is to tell the viewer exactly what is going on. The voice often has a strong authority over the viewer and is made to sound very believable, hence the use of the word ‘god’.   In older documentaries such as Nanook of the North titles are used because of the technical limitations at the time.



What is the relationship between the script and images in a expository documentary?


The script will link to the images shown in an expository documentary to make it flow. The script will also make the viewer sure of the situation that is going on in the scene. The script and images will be synchronised so that events happening can be understood. Some footage without a voice will without a doubt make little sense and would be of no interest.



Is the commentary presented as subjective or objective?


The commentary is presented as objective which means that the documentary is showing information in a completely non biased way. The documentary will be showing both sides of the argument and will not persuade the viewer to take sides.



Explain the choice of narrator in most expository documentaries?


An old view of the ideal narrator would be someone who is a white, middle aged and middle classed man. How ever nowadays there is no restrictions as to who narrates a documentary, however it is almost essential that they speak in standard English and have an easy listening tone to their voice.



Why should commentary have such a telling impact?


Commentary should have a story telling impact because it helps the viewer understand the images in more depth than they would normally. More points and facts are pointed out when commentary is along side images.



Give and example of how commentary can powerfully re-interpret footage.


One famous example would be the beating of a black motor cyclist named Rodney King, four police men took part in the beating. The lawyers defending the police officers used commentary which pointed out very subtle things which wouldn’t have been noticed normally.



What does ‘anchoring’ mean?


Anchoring means that the voiceover is being carried out in a way that allows it to present information in a rhetorical style, this will usually impress the viewer.



Why do film makers sometimes restage or reconstruct events?


Film makers may sometimes restage or reconstruct events in documentaries to give of an impression that the film makers want to give. An example of this is in Nanook of the North when the film makers asked the eskimos to reconstruct an iglo just so that the filming equipment could fit inside. Obviously this wouldn’t be told to the viewer as it may cause a sense a deception, the film maker wouldn’t want to be accused of lying. The changes usually tend to be very subtle and not noticeable enough to cause suspicion.



What technical reason did early film makers have for reconstructing events?


In modern times it is almost certain that footage of an event will be present due to increasing advances in technology which enable almost anyone to film from mobile devices. Back in the days of even the 1990’s amateur footage of certain events wasn’t really available because of the lack of technology, instead reconstructions were used and are still used. Reconstructions made it possible for documentary makers to show past events in the way that they want to. An example of this would be from ‘Road Racers’ in 1984, in the reconstruction the main character was shown riding an old bike to give the impression of him living in a previous time period. In reality how ever he rode a very modern high speed motorcycle. Examples like this show that film makers can exaggerate certain events and emphasise key points.



Is re-enactment usually acknowledged in the expository mode?


Re-enactments are often used in documentaries to help the viewer understand the event more clearly, the viewer may also interpret a different opinion from watching reconstructions based on facts than real amateur footage of an event.



Why did the film maker ask the motorcycle racer to change bikes?


The film maker asked the racer to change bikes because he wanted to put a different message out the audience, he wanted the audience to believe that the racer came from a more traditional, simple background. Top of the range bikes were available in his area and his hometown was not as stuck in time as the film maker wanted it to be portrayed as.



What are the advantages and disadvantages of using stereotypes in documentaries?


An advantage of using stereotypes could be that it makes it easier for the audience to understand a situation more.

A disadvantage would be the fact that stereotypes are becoming overused and are starting to portray people as being something they are not. The viewer believing these stereotypes is like having false knowledge of reality.



How can re-enactments create generalisations?


Re-enactments create generalisations by simply portraying characters as being not what they truly are in reality and instead being what the filmmaker wants the viewer to believe them to be.



How does filming something several times help expository film makers with editing?


By filming something several times it enables the editors to have a widened selection of raw footage to use. They also do this so that they make is easier to switch to different camera shots with a smooth transition and generally make the documentary flow.



What is the difference in continuity between expository documentaries and fiction films – ie. What dominates the order of images?


The difference between expository documentaries and fiction is that the order of images depends on different things entirely. The expository documentaries will rely on being accompanied by a narration or a voice over on top of images. The narration of the documentary will have main priority on top of the actual footage gathered.



In expository documentary the narration always seems to have a constant dominance over the actual images seen on screen, even though the visual factor may have a very strong effect on the audience the narration is the essential backbone to the expository documentary. With out it there would simply be no sense of direction or structure to the documentary, the amazing visuals and special effects will mean nothing without the narration.