Introduction to Documentary

I’m happy to read those material which about different types of documentary.

It’s a very good lesson for me to know more about making a documentary. Firstly I read Modes of Documentary _ Bill Nichols

In this short summary of six modes of documentary, actually, I’m interested every types of documentary. The first mode is Expository, it “emphasizes verbal commentary and argumentative logic” often use a narrator. The voice is primary element in this type of documentary. However, if shooting a documentary or any video, I prefer to use images and footage to appeal audiences attention. In my opinion, visual images is more powerful than verbal.

I really like to use the Participatory Mode form in my documentary. Because our project is doing an interview, so it need interact with people. I think this mode is better than the observational mode, because the observational mode is more rough and shaky. When filmmakers of observational mode of documentary, they need to ignored by the surrounding environment. It more suitable for shooting outside, but in our project, we need to set up  and prepare all the equipment to shot our project, person sitting in the chair and use mic to record their voice, setting up the light. the participatory mode welcomes direct engagement between filmmaker and subject(s) ,the filmmaker becomes part of the events being recorded and impact the subject.

In addition, because this is documentary is about home, we need to explore people’s real feeling about home, guide them to say more about the feeling of home.  In this topic the Poetic mode cannot satisfy me.

The initiative post

We did vox pop and interview last week. It’s so much fun to do all of that, especially when we did the vox pop, we asked questions to  people who were walking on the street or staying in the canteen, asking them do a short interview, it was really fun. Because all of those vox pop video will be put in our documentary project.

I read  Modes of Documentary by Bill Nichols.

There are six modes of documentary, I think this is very helpful before we editing our documentary project, because those modes are very basic modes which teach and guide us to edit the documentary project. They give a clearly way for us to make a one modes of documentary.

I also read a book call ‘Documentary Filmmakers Handbook’ by Eckhardt,Ned. in this book, there are something which intrigues me. They introduce 12 basic elements of a documentary. I know every documentary contain basic structure and content elements, through theses elements may appear in different manifestations. So I pick up two elements which can use in my documentary project, and totally intrigues me. The first one element is The Opening and Title. Because documentaries are a form of storytelling, the beginning is important. You need to crap view’s interested, when they watch the opening, they can be interested. We can use music or subtitle in the opening, and because our this project is asking some questions about home, so I think we can use warm music and subtitle to appeal people’s attention. I know getting started is one of biggest challenges in a documentary, it alway take risk when we  design to use which opening can be perfect.

The second one is transition. Fade to/from Black

When one segment/section of the documentary ends, there is a fade to black, then from black into the next segment, The reason behind this technique is that the slow fades to and from black give the viewers time to reflect and prepare for a content shift. Historical documentaries often use this technique (Eckhardt, Ned 2011 pp. 36). well this is very good point, and I think in my documentary, will use a lot of this technique, because our project is shooting a footage  about “one word answer about home” so I’m trying to cut all of them one answer footage to put those footage together, and transition is very helpful to give viewers time to reflect. and make the whole footage more smooth.


Eckhardt, Ned (2011) ‘Documentary Filmmakers Handbook’ publisher McFarland & Company