What is a documentary?
A documentary focuses on questions actual people and events often in a social context, this places the audience in a position where they are able to form their own opinion of what we are seeing.
They present factual information about the world. During documentaries on screen labels such as a person’s name or job title are shown in order to make it more believable that the events actually happened to the audience and that the people are real.
Documentary makers use a number of devices when presenting information. Such as:
· Recording events as they happen
· Some events may be staged for the camera, e.g. historical events
· Information may be presented using visual aids, e.g. maps
Complication film- wherew the film is made up of an assembly archive images such as newereel and footage.
· Interview or ‘talking heads’ - where testimonies are recorded about people, events or social movements.
· Direct cinema – where an event is recorded ‘as it happens’ with minimal interference from the film-maker.
Documentaries often use a narrative form, meaning that they tell us a story. For this to happen there needs to be good characters, tension and point of view. Modern documentaries are less scripted than their predecessors and appear more observational such as Big Brother which results in the audience being placed in the position of a voyeur.
Documentaries also use parallelism, meaning asking the audience to draw parallels between characters, settings and situations.
Frequently features a narrator and a device which enables the audience to receive plot information. The most common is the non-character narrator also known as the voice-of-god who remains anonymous, claiming to tell the audience the story.
Lighting and camera work
The source of lighting in a documentary usually originates naturally from the environment being filmed.
The most commonly used camera work is hand-held camera work meaning there is no need for a tripod or dolly. This is because the operator may not want smooth camera work as it may seem unrealistic to the audience whereas the shaky shots make the documentary seem more authentic and real.
Editing is a very important part to any film as it is what brings everything together meaning that any film or documentary relies upon the editing. Below are several types of edit available:
· Fade out – when an image gradually darkens into blackness.
· Fade in – the opposite of fade out meaning the image lightens from blackness.
· Dissolve – when the end of the shot is briefly superimposed with the beginning of the next.
· Wipe – when a shot is replaced by another using a line which moves across the screen.
Diegetic sound is used aswell as non-diegetic sound. Documentaries rely heavy on non-diegetic sound in order to prompt the audience to respond in a certain way.
Documentaries are a necessary social vehicle used to inform the public opinion. The documentary genres allow for the expression of a point of view.