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1) In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge

forms and conventions of real media product?

Like any moving image, the codes and conventions of the product indicate its
category of genre as the techniques used and the visual style seen, fulfil audience
expectations. But what happens when the conventions of a genre become too familiar
with the audience? Will the observer lose interest and struggle to maintain focus on
the subject explored? To prevent this from happening, innovations to the generic
structures of genre are practiced to keep the audience engaged. However, it can be
argued that this method of approach distracts the viewer from the debate intended to
be communicated. As our task was to create the opening sequence for a documentary
appropriate for the BBC, presentation of this widely discussed issue on production
was one of our main priorities. Our documentary, ‘Is University Worth It?’,
investigates the financial concerns of attending institutions of higher education in
today’s society. With the objective to deliver an introduction to a documented text
consisting of hard news, this extract features some fundamental components as well
as difference in presentation to engage the viewer.

Firstly, as the aims of BBC productions are to inform, educate and entertain, our
documentary features fundamental components that abide by the editorial guidelines
of this industry. Detailed requirements of these guidelines can be found at:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/ For example, the BBC enforces a policy of
accuracy which include the following regulations;

‘Our output must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested
and presented in clear, precise language...All the relevant facts and
information should be weighed to get at the truth.’

As the role of editor, it was my responsibility to ensure significant footage is seen and
the important information is provided in a clear and understandable way. Therefore
to meet this requirement, I decided to produce graphs based on statistics sourced
from educational websites such as the Office of National Statistics. To assure the
audience that the information obtained was correct, I first selected an image of the
websites logo shown in Figure 1. I felt this was essential in order for the audience to
trust the evidence given as the exclusion of this may have led them to believe the data
provided was not genuine. I then inserted the graphs that will effectively be
consumed as the audience receive the data visually and audibly. Figure’s 2 and 3
show the statistics featured in the documentary.

Figure 1

Figure 2 Figure 3
By doing this I have followed an established convention of accuracy in documented
texts by being honest with the audience in the facts we are certain of. Not only does
this technique present information in a clear and concise way, it also follows another
generic convention as it illustrates the flow in continuity with the voice-over
matching the visuals at this point. Another example of this is through the use of
newspaper headlines which I also gained from online newspaper feeds to show
evidence as well as showing the involvement our topic has in current affairs. Figure’s
4 and 5 show the headlines used that were collected from The Guardian online as
well as the Telegraph online. Reasons for collecting headlines from different websites
were to present a non-bias collection of evidence.

Figure 4 Figure 5
The voice-over which complements this
documentary is of a Godly narration which steadily conducts the viewers through the
course of the documentary. This also complies with the conventional duty to present
narratives with precise language. This was accomplished by the choice of a monotone
voice that uses Standard English with a tone of Received Pronunciation. The effect of
this articulate third person narration was the perspective of a balanced view point as
well as confidence expressed by us, the producers, in the presentation of the
documentary. However, as this method of production reflects Bill Nichols’ definition
of the expository mode of address, it occurred to me that the narrator of a text is the
most important character as they encourage the development of the documentary.
This caused me to think back to when I attended a visit from John Conroy, director
of ‘Ross Kemp in Afghanistan’. He mentioned that his choice of Ross Kemp as
narrator of the series was because of his balanced delivery on events. Whereas many
people initially interpreted this choice as a reason based on the aggressive imagery
this actor had formed that would stereotypically match the violent environment. This
therefore led me to examine the representations the narrator in our documentary
inflicted upon the audience. As our documentary focuses on the financial aspect of
higher education, it can be perceived that the male narrator connotes dominance in
authoritative subject areas such as economics. To investigate whether this was a
common insight, I researched what categories of documentaries were narrated by
females at Free Documentaries Online. The results of my research revealed that the
area females were most dominant in was under the subject of health. This shows a
common stereotype that female narrators are more appropriate for sentimental texts
as their input is often viewed as weak by the use of caring lexis and the passive tone
of voice. Whereas a male narrator, stereotypically emits the impression of
independence and logical thinking that effects the audience by making them feel
secure in the fact they trust a male to solve the problem and close the narrative
successfully. Male narration on this website claimed superiority in areas such as
Religion, Politics, Science, Business and History. These subject areas share a
common denominator of a certain extent of control whether it is events that
happened in the past or individual actions. On the contrary, health cannot always be
controlled and in the documentaries distributed, a lot of emphasis is put on the
domestic effects and the quality of the human life. After analysing the
representations of gender within documentaries, if I could improve my documentary,
I would have selected a female narrator to challenge the traditional conventions by
being the most respected character in the documentary.

Although these techniques use the forms and conventions of a real media product
independently, in correlation with each other, they show an element of difference as
they depart from the recognised routine of cut-aways shown in Figure’s 6 and 7.

Figure 6 Figure 7

The above cut-aways of an establishing shot and a sign of a location are a necessity
when filming any product. After the frequent sighting of them, the watcher may
begin to lose interest resulting in the loss of concentration.

As the editor, this was done intentionally as I wanted to avoid the path of repetition
in order to keep the audience engaged. According to Steve Neale;
‘Genres are instances of repetition and difference. And difference is absolutely
essential to the economy of genre.’
To compose footage to apply our product to this theory of engagement, other
variations are seen within our documentary that contrasts with forms of repetition.
For example, the aim of a documentary presented in the expository mode of address
it to supply a debate in an argumentative composition whilst showing impartiality
and equality among the speakers. This is achieved through the use of mise-en-scene,
cinematography and sound. Figure 8 shows an interview with Margaret Hodge which
shows the essential framing technique of having the speaker occupy at least two
thirds of the frame. This prevents judgmental interpretations of the speaker as well
as impartiality among the interviewee’s. Unlike this shot, Figure 9 connotes many
readings due to the mise-en-scene, cinematography and the character positioning.
For instance, the signifier of this shot is a student studying. But the method of a
medium long shot that views the student hunched over and dedicated to his studies,
gives the signified meaning that the rise in university tuition fees is putting a strain
on students even though their commitment to their education is consistent. This
representation of undergraduates creates an anxious atmosphere and affects the
onlooker by feeling sympathetic towards them. This difference in approach absorbs
the attention of the viewer as they have now become emotionally connected with the
subject. Under the purpose and function of documentaries, if no emotion is drawn,
no point has successfully been conveyed.

Figure 8 Figure 8

In comparison to the opening sequence of a thriller which I previously produced, I


feel as though this genre of text incorporates a lot of restrictions that limited us to
our truthful opinions as students in this economic situation ourselves. My reasons for
believing this is because our task permitted us to produce a text that leans toward the
conservative end of the spectrum with the main objective of informing. Therefore,
speakers higher up in authority had to be interviewed as another of the BBC’s
editorial guidelines obligated that;
‘Over time we must aim to give due prominence to all the main strands of
argument and to all the main parties.’
Following this rule would make our documentary suitable for broadcasting within
the BBC, however, as the role as editor, this was my most challenging task. Given that
I had to present the audience with a clear, accurate, consistent and balanced
argument in addition to making the observer feel secure enough to want to watch the
documentary, I found it difficult to compose a non-bias account on the topic. It was
at this point that I drew a brainstorm of the footage gathered which can be seen at
http://www.scribd.com//Editing-Brainstorm, from which it became easier to select
the relevant extracts that I felt would have the most effect and offer the most
information.