Generic Conventions of a Documentary

In documentaries they all use a variety of different shots and of different things. They all do this to keep the audience interested because if they stuck to the same shot for a length of time it will become very boring and the audience will lose interested. The transitions between shots are also very quick and no shot is shown for a long time. By doing this the audience is constantly entertained as there is so much to see. With quick transitions it also helps to show a lot of things in a short space of time. When I am creating my documentary I want to use lots of different shots and quick transitions so that the audience don’t get bored and also there will be a lot to see.

Voice Overs
Documentaries also use a lot of voice overs during the viewing time. This also helps to keep the viewer engaged as they are not watching the same shot for a long time but lots of little short ones instead. By doing this you can also keep the audience engaged as you can show many different things whilst the narrator is talking. I want to use voice overs in my documentary as I want the viewer to be engaged and not get bored watching my documentary. Also this will represent a documentary and helps to stick to the main generic conventions of a documentary.

Sound Effects
Another generic convention of a documentary is sound effects. In documentaries they use a variety of diegetic and non-diegetic sound depending on the shots and what they are talking about. For example some diegetic sound in my documentary could be the sound of horse’s hooves on the road or the horses neighing. I could also use non-diegetic sound like soundtracks and music over the top of some clips so that it is not the same thing for 5 minutes. When I am creating my documentary I want to use a mixture of both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to again keep the audience engaged and add different effects to my documentary.

Some documentaries use interviews to show peoples point of view and so that they can express what they think and feel. By doing this the audience feels involves as it is almost as if they are answering their questions and that the person who is being interviewed is speaking to them. In my documentary I want to use interviews so that I can get people’s opinions and point of views across. However I don’t want to use just interviews as this will become very boring for my viewer so I will use a mixture of interviews with voice over’s.

Narrative Structure
A few documentaries also follow a narrative structure which is the structure of events and involves a setup, a conflict and a resolution. This can help to keep the viewer interested as it has a problem that needs resolving. In my documentary I think that I should not use a narrative structure as I don’t think it will really fit in with a documentary about horses, however in some documentaries it works well depending on the theme and topic of it.


Researching Documentaries

The next thing I did was to watch some documentaries to see what different ones do. I chose to focus on Countryfile, which is a program on BBC1, they do a lot of documentaries based on farms and things to do with the country so there may be some documentaries on horses. I chose to look at a number of different documentaries; here are the links to the ones I looked at. I tried to use ones that had horses in so it can relate to my work.

The first thing I noticed about these documentaries was that they have a lot of different shots and lots of changes to different shots. This shows a variety of different things in a short space of time and so keeps the viewer interested as if they were watching the same thing for a long time they would lose interest. The next thing I noticed is that they both have voice over’s when on the different shots so you can still listen to someone talking. They do also have some shots of the person talking but they tend to alternate the different shots. Finally they also both have non-diegetic sounds like soundtracks and music when on some shot. These are things that I am going to take into consideration when planning my documentary.

Initial Ideas

After doing some research into what a documentary is I have some initial ideas on what I could do my short film on. I want to base my documentary on horses as I have a keen interest in horses and horse riding so I feel it would be a good idea to base it on this. Some things I could include in my blog could be things like –

· Why people like horses?

· What did horses used to do?

· Day in the life

· How to do things

· Riding

· Food and diet

· Equipment

· How to look after a horse

At the minute I have many ideas but I have not settled on a final idea yet. I think it is best to watch a few short documentaries to see what they do and the effects they use.

What is a documentary?

To start my new project off I decided to do some research into what actually is a documentary and to gain some more knowledge of documentaries. I started off by finding out what the definition of a documentary is.

Documentary – “Consisting of official pieces of written, printed, or other matter of a movie, a television or radio program, or photography) Using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report.”

(This definition was taken from Google definitions.)

I also found out that a documentary is not necessarily the real thing; it is a constructed representation of what happened. There are also many different types of documentaries for example things like Observational, Interview Led and Social documentaries.

By researching documentaries it has helped me to become more aware of what one actually is and what things I could include in my 5 minute short documentary.

Revised Ideas

I decided after talking to the rest of my group that it would benefit me more if I left the group and worked by myself. The reasons for this are that there wasn’t a lot of work or production being done in the group so I therefore decided to do a project by myself so that everything in my project is my own work. My idea is to do a documentary type of short film that will probably be based on or around horses. I understand that I have a lot of work to get done in a short space of time so need to manage my time efficiently.

Analysis of Results

I have left the link to my questionnaire posted on my Facebook for a week and now I need to analyse my results.

· Are you male or female?

From my first question I can see that I had more Female responses than Male. As we want to focus on targeting our film at Males this may mean that some information may be invalid. I had 17 Female responses and only 3 Male.

· What is your age?

In this question I had a variety of different ages answer my questionnaire. We are aiming our film at 18-23 year olds and we did have a few people answer that were in this group. In total out of the 20 that answered only 5 were in this target group which again could alter our results.

Target Audience Questionnaire

I created a questionnaire on Survey Monkey to find out what people thought of my idea for the short film. I asked questions which would help us to create the best film to fit the right audience. I used many different questions that covered a wide range of things we are thinking of including in our film. The questions that I asked in my questionnaire were:

· Are you male or female?

· What is your age?

· Do you like watching horror films?

· What was the last horror film you watched?

· Do you find the use of night vision scary in a horror film?

· Does the location of a horror film affect how scary the film is?

· Which of these locations would you say is the scariest?

· Do you find ghosts in a horror film scary?

· In your opinion what is the scariest horror film you have watched?

· Would you go to the cinema to watch a horror film?

I posted the link to my survey on my Facebook and asked people to complete it for me. Here is the link to my published questionnaire:

Test Film

Before starting to film our final 5 minute short film we created a test one which was just a simple phone call between two friends. My part in this was I helped with some of the sound, I acted and also I edited and put together the whole film. Everything else like filming and the script was done by the other people I worked with to create this film.

From this test film there was a number of things I could improve and that I learned from creating it. The first was that we need to practice with sound more as in some places it is very quiet and others it was fine. Second we need to choose where we film carefully as the second location was very dark and so we could have done with some more lighting. Finally we should also be careful with the microphone as in some clips you can see the top of the microphone. All though this film is not the best for our first try and my first time at editing it, it turned out ok.


For our short film we have decided to set it on Friday the 13th 2013 in the Tenterbanks building at college. We are setting it as though it is where the American soldiers who fought in World War Two lived. We are having four female main characters in our short film who are staying the night in the Tenterbanks building, which is supposedly haunted, to raise money for Help The Heroes. During the night the 4 characters do a Ouija board and get contacted by one of the soldiers, after this 13 things happen during the night and slowly the amount of characters decrease during the night. As a lot of the film relates to the number 13 and heroes we have decided to call our film ’13 Heroes’.

White Balance

Before filming you should always make sure you have checked your white balance. To do this you should –

1) Have someone stand with a plain white piece of paper and you should zoom in on this piece of paper so that all you see is the white of the paper.

2) Next you should press onto the menu and find the white balance.

3) Finally to complete setting the white balance you should press one push.

After this your camera will be set up correctly ready to film.

white balance