Documentary Video:Documetary Modes

Documentary Video-Week 5jo540-multimedia-journalism-words

Documentary Modes

1) expository

2) reflexive

3) interactive (participartory)

4) observational


6) performance


Expository & Observational Documentary

-rely on the notion of documentary as representation of the truth

-believe in the possibility of an objective representation and in the notion of transparency

-deviate attention from the formal structure by adopting mimetic realistic filmic convention



-Production restrictions determined the style of the documentaries produced before the 1950′s:

-big heavy cameras (no synchronous sound) and post-edited both a voice-over commentary and post-synchronized music

-However, the expository mode is still popular today

-Expose a person or a topic

-Voice-over narration: ‘voice of God’ commentator- heard but not seen or ‘voice of authority’ seen and heard

-It appeals on the possibility of constructing an argument about reality in a truthful and honest way

-Images linked together to illustrate voice-over comment

-Use of re-enactments (rarely acknowledged)

-Based on rhetorical questions

-Use of archive material

-Shooting style similar to that of feature films

-Editing style similar to that of feature films (continuity and elliptical time)

-Illusion of mimetic realism

-Techniques of persuasion

-Attempts to persuade the audience of a particular point of view, appealing to logic and common sense

Produced by the GPO Film Unit, a subdivision of the UK General Post Office.



-The unit was established in 1933. Headed by John Grierson, it was set up to produce sponsored documentary films mainly related to the activities of the GPO.

-Propaganda films aimed at celebrating the state.



Triggered by the advent of new technologies in the 1950′s and 1960′s:

-Lightweight battery-powered 16mm cameras

-Development of synchronised sound recording

-Development of film stocks which allowed filmmakers to shoot in most environments

-Development of zoom lens

-Television as the broadcast medium:intimacy

-Use of one camera, without tripod, for hand-held camera movements

-Synchronized-sound recording system

-Refusal of re-enactments

-Editing that follows the chronology of the events

-Predominance of long takes and inclusion of dead time (time less elliptical)

No voice-over commentary

-Illusion of mimetic realism

-Filmmaker presence is hidden

-Subjects pretend that they are not being filmed

-No interviews

-Use mainly of locations and natural day-light-basic-artificial lighting only when unavoidable



-The filmmakers aim to capture moments of truth abstaining from intervening and limiting his/her presence to observe the events from the outside

-It was claimed that such documentaries were more objective than traditional (expository) documentaries

-General belief that if the ‘actor’ is busy in doing something (general activities of his/her everyday life) he/she will ignore the presence of the camera and will act spontaneously and genuinely


However, the filmmaker intervenes by selecting:

1) The subject matter

2)The events and the moments represented

3)The camera positions

4)What to keep in the frame

5) What sound to record

6) How to arrange the shots and the overall material through editing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.