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Factual programme production techniques

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Suzanne Bliss

on 9 October 2015

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Transcript of Factual programme production techniques

Issues of factual television
Codes and conventions
Factual programme production techniques
Suzanne Bliss

Contract with viewer
Studio news readers
Links to studio
Report structure
Field reporters
Mode of address to viewer
Experts and witnesses
Actuality footage
Participatory/ Interactive
• Digs beneath the surface and exposes
• There will be a voiceover that directs the audience directly
• The voiceover can be the voice of God/ authority and generally not seen
• Images are used – sometimes still frames, moving with the voiceover
• Editing is used for continuity and is linear
• The editing will support the voiceover
• Uses a variety of footage to support voiceover, carefully chosen
• It is persuasive, appealing to logic and common sense
• Sometimes use mainly archive footage.

• Location shoot, hand-held camera
• Long-takes, shows you as it is
• Direct sound recording, what you hear is what you see
• Less use of music – synchronous sound
• No voiceover
• No interviews
• Documentary maker is hidden
• Subjects do not know/ pretend they are not being filmed, ignore the camera.

• Documentary maker and crew are in the film and interact with the subject, usually visible to audience – intervenes, change reality
• Interviews dominate, informal
• Use archive footage, letters, pictures and newspaper clippings
• Location footage, hand-held
• Long takes
• Synchronous sound
• Voiceover, documentary maker or person in the film.

• Borrow techniques from film and drama, to make the film emotional and subjective
• Self-aware, anti-realist, deliberately expressive and arty
• Opposite of what you expect from a documentary
• Voiceover is uncertain and lacks authority
• Does not rely on facts but on suggestion
• Not true or real.

• Documentary maker and crew interact with subjects and are in the film
• Documentary maker often comments about the making of the film
• Shaped into a narrative with no conclusion, often an investigation or a search
• Audience is addressed directly in an emotional way
• Subject matter often concerns identity, often about sexuality or gender.

The Battle of Haditha
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Naqoyqatsi Life as War
The modes of address that are expected in news shows are:
Direct address – the presenter is looking at the camera
Use of personal pronouns
Smooth, fluent and articulate diction
Accents are not usually used when presenting so that it is easier for everyone to understand
Straight angle, medium close-up shot
Soundtrack is usually quite fast paced
Establishing shot varies but is often from high up and pans down
Other journalists and interviewees are expected to look at the interviewer.
This is an important issue as viewers expect to be told information that is accurate in a documentary or during the news. The viewer can then begin to trust the reporter but if false information is provided then the viewer will watch a different news channel instead. This is also important if you are using eyewitnesses from an event. They may not always be accurate, so cannot be solely relied on.
This can be an issue for a producer as if they gain false information then this will not look good according to the viewers and the producer risks viewer ratings
decreasing and their show being seen as not
reliable and inaccurate.

This involves making sure that both sides of any story are told in equal light, so that a discussion can take place. This allows the viewer to be able to form their own opinions on the story instead of hearing a biased view.
News readers should try to remain neutral so that all the information provided is accurate.
This is important to a producer as they have to make sure that their show conveys all information and every side behind a story, otherwise they risk losing their audience as the audience will think that they are not hearing all the information.
Documentaries do not necessarily have to have balance in their story as they can just present their own side and opinion, without showing the view of someone from the opposite side.
News reporters should remain impartial so that they report all news equally and do not present their own judgement. This doesn't necessarily mean that all the news will be fair but that it is all presented equally.
If news reporters are not impartial then the viewers will think the information is biased and so will watch another news channel.
The news reporter must not present their own opinion or take sides with anyone. Their opinion may not be a fact, whereas viewers are expecting to hear the facts and statistics.
The producer must ensure that their show is impartial so that it is fair and does not offend any viewers by being biased.
Some documentaries have been impartial, whereas others have been biased. This is not as big an issue in documentaries as it is in news. For news people expect to hear all sides of a story but in documentaries it is very common to hear just the documentary maker's side.
This involves making sure that the news presenter is fair in presenting both sides of a story. They have to appear that they explore all ideas and opinions. Their own judgement is not presented and the whole truth is shown. All facts need to be accepted and any personal opinion must not change the facts.
This is an important issue for a producer as for their show to be seen as reliable and unbiased by the viewer, they need to have an objective show and this will ensure that viewer ratings remain.
Again, documentaries may be objective or not depending on the view of the documentary maker and how much they interact in the film.
This is the opposite of objectivity, so the presenter will present their own opinions and judgements during a discussion or story. It is very biased and usually avoided in news. It does not present the facts equally or allow the viewer to create their own opinions on the topic as they are swayed to think in a certain way. If a opinion is stated it is important to emphasise that it is your own opinion and not the view of anyone else.
This is an issue for the producer of the show as if the viewer sees the show as biased then they will stop watching the news channel.
Several documentaries have been subjective, often when presenting political views, such as Bowling for Columbine.
This is used in news when they are showing the view of the public about a certain subject or topic. However a wide variety of opinions must be shown to make sure that the show is not biased towards a certain type of people or group. The actual presenters should avoid using their opinion on the topic as they need to remain objective. The use of opinions can be useful for a producer as it shows the audience that their news is relevant to the public and not just the view of the presenter.
Documentaries usually involve the opinion of the documentary maker or the subjects presented in the film. This is so that the viewer can see from the point of
view of them and understand their view.

News can become biased if a presenter uses their own opinion and does not present all the news equally and fairly. Sometimes it is hard to avoid bias as an argument may be naturally one-sided if there are not many points to argue against it. If a presenter appears biased, then this may offend some viewers and they may end up watching a different news channel instead.
Some shows may be biased due to who owns the news channel.
However bias is more acceptable in documentaries as the documentary maker is presenting
their view on reality.
Representation is the way in which reality is portrayed to the viewer and how a subject or topic is presented or portrayed in a show. The producer has to be careful to make sure their factual show does not stereotype people as this can be considered offensive and not accurate. The viewer enjoys watching other people's lives represented as it gives them pleasure - voyerism.
It is important for the producer to gain permission when filming in many locations, otherwise shows can risk lawsuits for filming illegally on a site. The show also needs to have access to all the resources needed to be able to create the show or to complete any research in advance. Without permission or access it can be very hard to produce the show on location or find out information about a certain area.
This is a right of all members of the public as they have the right to not have their identity revealed to the public if they do not want it. Most factual shows should try not to invade a person's privacy too much, especially if it will cause distress to the individual. This is an issue for the producer as they may not be able to film certain areas as it is an invasion of privacy so they cannot always create the show that they want. However, some people can agree to have their life exposed, such as in reality television shows or in some documentaries.
This is an unwritten rule, in which if the show is factual, the viewer will believe that all the information presented is accurate and true. Therefore factual shows should either not present biased or subjective views or clearly state it is their view as the audience may believe that it is fact not opinion.
This is the person who presents the news during the programme. They read out the news stories and structure the programme. The common conventions that are expected of news readers are:
Smart clothing (e.g. suits and dresses)
Sitting behind a desk (although this has now shifted to standing up on some news channels)
The background behind the presenters is usually other people working on computers
The camera is usually a medium close-up if the presenters are sitting down (if the presenters are standing then it is usually a full body shot)
Good posture
The presenters talk directly to the camera not to each other.
This is a correspondent or reporter that gives information from a remote and usually distant location. The codes and conventions for field reporters are:
Smart clothing (suits and dresses)
They present live on air
They are looking directly at the camera usually
The reporters are talking to the news reader, not the audience when linking back to the studio
It is usually only one person presenting
They are on location, either standing there or with the location behind them.
This is where one reporter links to another, either from the studio to the field reporter or back. The conventions of links to studio are:
The field reporter/ other presenter will talk to the studio news presenter when linking back to the studio, not to the camera
The reporter always links back to the studio presenter by using their name
The links are fast and short.
This can also refer to when one TV studio links to another studio for further information.
The codes and conventions of interviewing are:
The interviewee is expected to look at the presenter
It is usually a medium close-up shot after an establishing shot
They are expected to dress formally
There is usually footage cut in the middle to emphasise the point being said by the interviewee.
Interviews are useful for gaining the insight
and opinion of another person besides
the reporter.
In some reports actual footage from the scene of the event will be used. It is showed live on the news channel.
The use of having actual footage from the event means that the situation feels more realistic for the viewer.

This is used to get an opinion on an event or subject from someone who has a lot of knowledge in that subject area or was there at the time. It is usually in the form of an interview. This can be useful to support a news story. If an expert provides facts or the witness recounts the event then it makes the story seem more credible to the audience.
A documentary is classed as realism if it is based on a real life situation or the viewer feels they are seeing reality as it is. Actuality footage is often used from the situation. However some documentaries that are classed as realism are in fact scripted and staged and made to look like real life.
A documentary is a dramatisation if it includes moments that have been recreated to give the audience a sense of what it was like at the event. They are often called docu-dramas.
This is where a documentary is narrated e.g. with a voiceover and there is a clear storyline. The narrative is the structure and the techniques used to tell it.
March of the Penguins
Suits and dresses - this is important as the viewer is more likely to believe the story if the presenter is dressed in smart clothes compared to casual clothes - it is more serious
BBC News presenters
Sat behind desk - this makes the show feel more formal and serious, which the audience expect as the news is a serious subject
Background is people working - this shows the audience that the studio is keeping up to date with current events and so is reliable
Medium close-up shot - this is used so that the audience can clearly see the presenter's faces without being too close
Looking at the camera - this is a form of direct address and makes the audience feel included in the news and more welcomed
Suit - again so that it is formal so that the audience can take the information being said seriously
BBC News field reporter
Live on air - so that the viewer feels the information is up to date and current
Looking at the camera - for direct address to make the audience feel included and part of the news
On location - this shows the audience that the reporter is part of the action and knows exactly what is happening because they are there
BBC News interview
Facing each other - so that it looks like a discussion not just a report
Medium close-up shot - so that we are not too close but do not feel distant
In this documentary there is a voice over explaining what we are seeing but we do not see the person giving the voiceover. This allows the audience to understand what they are seeing in the documentary, without focusing on the person giving the voiceover too much.
The images shown reflect what is being said in the voiceover. The documentary is exposing the life of penguins.
In this documentary the camera is hand held and there are some long takes.
Diagetic sound is used as well from the location. The use of the camera being hand-held and diagetic sound means that the audience can feel like they are actually there and a part of the action.
The documentary maker is not visible and the subjects ignore the camera and act like they are not being filmed.
The presenter is clearly in the documentary and is interacting with the subjects. Location footage is used.
There are interviews throughout the documentary and the voiceover is played over the top of the images. The use of interviews means that the audience can gain an insight into the views of the subjects in the documentary and hear their opinions.
The footage used is filmed on location but is anti-realist as the images have been turned negative. It looks very arty.
The footage includes long shots and is the opposite of what is expected from a documentary. There are no facts used and there is no voiceover. Since no voiceover is used it allows the audience to form their own opinions on what they are seeing, they are not told what they are looking at.
This documentary involves a search/ investigation into the identity of people on the internet. Through having a investigation this creates a sense of mystery for the audience.
The presenter is in the documentary and interacts with the subjects and addresses the audience in an emotional way.
American studio news reporters - CBS
Suit and tie
People working in the background
Medium close-up shot
Sat behind a desk
Looking at the camera
Both British and American news appear the same at first, however American news is more lighthearted. The presenter here is smiling more, whereas British news is much more serious. The background music is also more upbeat in American news but is more dramatic in British news.
Sat behind a desk - so that the interview is formal
Pictures that relate to the topic - to support the information that is being said
David Attenborough: Origin of Life
In this documentary the story is narrated with a voiceover from David Attenborough. This shows that it is a narrativisation. This means that the audience can easily follow what is happening.
Killing Kennedy
This is an example of a dramatisation as there are parts of the show that are recreated to show what happened. These are placed alongside the documentary. The impact of including recreated scenes means that the audience gets an image of what it was like during the time but also gets the facts about the event.
Made in Chelsea
This show is staged to look like a documentary in which we follow the lives of some people. However it has all been staged and scripted to look like real life. The impact on the audience is that they feel they can relate to the characters and it can make them feel better about their own lives.
Formal clothes - for seriousness
Example of a biased documentary:
Bowling for Columbine
Example of voyerism:

Media Magazine - September 2014
'Deconstructing the documentary form'
Ian Wall
Issue 49
Example of an expert and witnesses:
The use of this is that it allows the audience to see how the subjects really act in real life, the documentary appears less staged.
Through the presenter interacting with the subjects the audience feels that they are more involved in the documentary, rather than just being an onlooker.
Through making the documentary anti-realist this allows the viewer to see a new perspective on reality.
Since the subjects are being interacted with in an emotional way this creates empathy or sympathy from the audience.
From 9/11, when footage of the Twin Towers was shown on the news.
This is an example of a biased documentary as Michael Moore is presenting his left-wing political view throughout the documentary. We do not see the point of view from any right-wing people. This allows the viewer to see America from Michael Moore's point of view and understand his view on America.
This is an example of voyerism as the viewer watches celebrities get pranked and gains pleasure from this show. This is a form of representation as the viewer sees reality but in a way that they wouldn't expect. The viewer enjoys watching documentaries because they are interested in other people's life. In this show the viewer can see the life of celebrities and can feel better about themselves because they see them being made fun of.
This refers to how the story is told on the news channel. The usual structure is often:
The studio news presenter often gives the overview of the story
This may then cut to a field reporter, who gives further detail from the actual location
This could then cut to either a witness or an expert on the subject to support what has already been said
Finally this cuts back to the studio news presenter to finish the story.
Example of inaccuracy:
CNM news report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has died in a shooting in Arizona
This is an example of a news report being inaccurate as CNM news reported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords died, when actually she didn't. Since one news channel reported she had died other news channels decided to report it too. The news channels did not properly investigate what had happened and just based their report on the eyewitness reports that stated she had been shot in the head. This is an issue for the producer as their show has inaccurately reported the death of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and so will have to have a report stating that they inaccurately reported. This reduces the credibility of their news channel and so the viewer may not trust their news channel anymore and the viewer rating will drop.
Junior Paramedics
Example of stereotyping:
Safety expert on BBC news
Japan 2011 Earthquake 7 - Witness Accounts
Public opinion on the Scottish referendum
In this example the field reporter asks the public for their view on the Scottish referendum. The audience sees the viewpoint of various members of the public, not just one. This allows the viewer to see how the public are reacting to current affairs. Opinions are relevant in news as they can be useful to show how the public are reacting to an issue such as with this clip. However often this can be an issue for the producer as the opinions are sometimes biased and not appropriate.
The top example is an expert being interviewed by a studio news presenter. The use of having an expert on the show means that the audience are more likely to believe what is being said. This means that the viewer will trust this news channel as it appears that they are more accurate. This is useful to the producer as it increases the number of people watching their channel. However it can be hard to find experts that are willing to come on the show and they need to complete checks to ensure that this person is an actual expert in the field.

In this clip the news is showing live footage of 9/11 and reporting about it as it is happening. This allows the viewer to understand what exactly is happening as they can see it and the situation can feel more real for them. This can be an issue for a producer as they have to organise the show so that the live footage can be shown. It also means that the presenters may have to improvise what is being said.
Man with a Movie Camera
Climate change debate - BBC Newsnight
Police Interceptors: Special Edition Series 1 Episode 1 Part 4
This is an example of balance as it includes two different points of view. These views are each given an equal chance to be presented so that a discussion can take place. This allows the viewer to see both sides of the climate change debate so that they can form their own opinion on the situation. This can be an issue as the debate can often turn into an argument in which there may be many complaints about from the viewer.
Often young people are portrayed negatively in factual programmes. However this programme contrasts that image and ignores the stereotypes that are usually associated with young people. This programme presents young people as more responsible people who are capable of working hard. This gives the viewer a different perspective of young people and allows them to see a different side of them. Therefore this show is an example of representation as it is presenting young people in a way that others may not see and so is showing the viewer a different form of reality that may not coincide with some people's view of young people.
This is an example of privacy as the faces of the criminals have to be blurred because they do not agree to have their identity revealed on television. The woman is blocking her face because she doesn't want to be recognised and for other people to see what has happened to her. This can be an issue for the producer as it can make it hard for them to create their show. In this show the camera crew are trying to follow the police and film their job but they have to film other people as well who may not agree to be part of the show. This can also be an issue for the viewer as if they are following a story and part cannot be shown due to privacy then this may mean they lose the story and cannot follow it fully. This can be irritating to the audience and interrupt the flow of the narrative.
This is a well-known example of a reflexive documentary as we see a lot of the making of the documentary, such as the editing. This documentary is not what viewer's normally expect of documentaries. We see several still images put to music, without any voiceover explaining what we are seeing. There are also images that are edited such as the image of the man standing on top of a camera.
The bottom example is a field reporter interviewing witnesses to the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Using eyewitnesses can make the situation feel more realistic for the viewer and give a different point of view on the situation. However these can be an issue for a producer as the witness may not be reliable or may say something inappropriate that cannot be shown on the news. It can be hard to find eyewitnesses that will actually provide useful information.
Dispatches - Meeting the Taliban
Supersize Me
Life and death row
This is an example of access as the documentary makers had to get permission in order to film in a prison. This can be an issue for the maker of the show as it can be hard and time-consuming to get permission in places such as prisons. Often certain areas are not allowed to be filmed in so it can limit the documentary and means that they can only present part of the story. This can also be an issue for the viewer as it means they may not be able to see the full story or may have to miss out on information due to a lack of access.
Meerkats United
Children Underground
Living with Michael Jackson
Tongues Untied
Adam Boulton and Alastair Campbell Sky News bias against Labour in UK General Election
This is an example of a lack of impartiality as the presenter Adam Boulton is presenting his own opinions and viewpoints on the Labour government. This is an issue for the producer as they receive complaints from the viewer about the presenter. This means that the producer has to deal with many viewers complaining and the risk that they will stop watching their news channel. A lack of impartiality is a problem for the viewer as they are not getting a fair view of the news but instead a biased view.
This is an example of subjectivity as the documentary maker is presenting McDonalds in a very bad light. He only mentions the unhealthy food on their menu and does not talk about the fact that McDonalds do actually provide some healthy food. The documentary is very one-sided and presents the documentary maker's opinion. This can be an issue for the audience as they do not get to hear both sides of the story and so cannot form their own opinions on the situation. The viewer is forced to think in a certain way.
This is another example of an expository documentary as it teaches the audience information about meerkats that they may not have previously known. There is also a voiceover from David Attenborough but he is not seen in the documentary. The footage supports the voiceover and is presented logically. This type of documentary gives the viewer an insight into a location that they otherwise may know little about.
In this documentary the footage is taken directly from location and direct sound recording is used. This allows the viewer to submerse themselves in the action and experience the situation as it is.
We do not see the documentary maker and the subjects ignore the camera for most of the documentary. This again allows the viewer to feel as if they are actually there and part of the situation - a fly on the wall effect.
In this documentary the documentary maker is clearly involved and interacting with the subject.
Location footage is used as the documentary is filmed on sight and there are quite a few takes that are long. This allows the viewer to see the location as it is, without much editing and to feel as if they are a third party watching what is happening.
Good posture
This documentary is a performative one as the subject matter concerns sexuality and addressed many other important issues.
This documentary also has no conclusion but is just an open-ended narrative and has autobiographical elements from the documentary maker. This shows that the documentary is personal and so makes it more emotional for the viewer.
This is an example of objectivity as the interviews that are included do not include any leading questions or bias towards the interviewees. They also interview both UK and US troops as well as the Taliban so that all sides and points of view are presented fairly. Objectivity can be an issue for a producer as it can be hard to make sure that the presenters do not include their own opinion and it can be hard to make sure that all sides are presented equally. Often the shows end up slightly biased without the presenters realising as they almost present their view and so bias the show subconsciously. This can be an issue for the audience as they do not want to have a bias view of a situation but to hear all sides equally in a fair light.
David Attenborough Frozen Planet - Polar bear birth clip
This is an example of where the contract with the viewer has been broken as this documentary included some footage that had been filmed in a zoo not live on location. The documentary did not specify to the viewer that part of the show was actually filmed in a zoo and when many people found out they complained. Since the documentary did not film all the footage on location they broke the contract with the viewer by deceiving them and getting them to believe that the footage from the zoo was filmed on location. This is an issue for the producer as they received many complaints from the audience about the footage and many people may stop watching the show. This can be an issue for the audience as they were expecting to see footage that was all filmed in the Arctic, when actually they were deceived.
He interviews Michael Jackson as well. This allows the viewer to see from Michael's point of view and hear his opinions.
BBC World News story
1. Starts with the studio presenter for an overview
2. Field reporter on sight
3. Back to the studio again
BBC News
All the modes of address are visible here in this clip from BBC News to ensure that the news is serious but also connects to the viewer through the use of direct address.
BBC News weather report - end of the clip
Towards the end of the clip at just before 2 minutes the reporter links back to the presenters in the studio. This shows a short link back to the studio from a field reporter on location.
Full transcript