identifying codes and conventions of two different documentaries

Authors Avatar

In this essay, I will be identifying and comparing the codes and conventions of two different documentaries and explaining what effect they have on the presentation of the subject matter of the programmes.

The definition of documentary is somewhat hard to define as the meaning has changed over time. Documentaries question real events and people, placing the audience in a position to form an opinion to decide what they believe or whose side they take. All documentaries are united by intent or stated intent to remain factual or non-fictional. In recent years documentaries have become increasingly popular, and have a major influence in educating us, and persuading and provoking people to change how they see the world.

The purposes of documentaries are to present factual information about the world, through visual aids, factual information and evidence, interviews, recorded or staged events. Documentaries are often biased- twisted into what the documentary maker wants us to see and believe. This leads us to believe the information presented to us is accurate. The audience is asked to trust the documentary maker's intentions, although the truth is often manipulated to change our opinions.

There are many different categories of documentaries such as institutional, reportage, docusoaps, reality, nature/wildlife and docudramas. However, there are three main types of documentaries:

Compilation film- where the film is made up of an assembly of images, such as newsreel footage.

Interview- where people are recorded to give their testimonies on the event/s they were involved in.

Direct Cinema- where an event is recorded as it happens, with little or no interference from the documentary maker.

Sometimes a single documentary will have elements of all these forms.

Typical codes and conventions of a documentary are a documentary crew often consists of one camera operator and sound person, and they usually have a narrator, that you can either see or hear. Other codes and conventions would be things such as editing, bias, camera angles, lighting, characters, interviews and reconstructions, thus telling us a story through all these aspects.

In the past documentaries were seen as dry and stuffy, dealing with topics that were too heavy. But until only recently they have been seen in a new light, educating and entertaining people everywhere.

The first documentary that we looked at was Boys Alone. It is a reality and docudrama about a social experiment, to see how ten boys aged 11-12 would react when left alone in a house for a week, with no rules or adults. They were however, allowed to ask for medical assistance if needed and given lessons on how to cook and clean. There was a camera crew filming throughout. The target audience would be people that are interested in that sort of social experiment, or maybe people that have children of that age.

The opening scene shows the boys entering the house. They are all very excited, but there is calm music in the background, which contrasts the boys' mood. The music could be interpreted as the calm before the storm, as the audience gets the impression something is going to happen. We are introduced the voice of the narrator, who tells us about the contextual information of the documentary. Some camera angles that are used are the long shot and a shot where the boys are framed by the door, which creates a spotlight effect. There is a handheld camera at the boys' level, tracking their every move, which make the audience feel involved. This helps to attract the audience's attention because they feel like they are actually there.
Join now!

In the documentary, the characters are portrayed in specific ways, causing the audience to develop certain feelings or emotions and towards them. For example, Sim is portrayed as the loner and innocent outcaste, bullied by the others. We, as the audience, feel sorry for him.

George is portrayed as the leader of the group and the audience immediately takes a liking to him. Character portrayal helps the audience to show the boys popularity, what they think of themselves, their self-esteem and hierarchy in the house. For example the louder boys are at the top of the ...

This is a preview of the whole essay