Making a Documentary

I am currently in the process of creating an audio documentary about how the internet has affected tv viewing in the last 50 years. While I have previously made a video Meta Documentary, I haven’t made an audio documentary before. To start off the process of making my documentary, there were several things I needed to consider.

Initial ideas

The brief I was given was to create an audio documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth of the internet. Because this was a very wide brief, I started by creating a mind map of my initial ideas, and from this I decided to create my documentary about online streaming.

Because I had to link this idea to the birth of the internet and how the world has changed because of it in the last 50 years, I decided to make my idea less specifically about online streaming, but to make it about how television viewing has changed because of the internet, and to incorporate online streaming into this idea.

I wanted to investigate several ideas throughout my documentary:

Online streaming, subscription culture, binge watching vs live viewing, ‘Cutting the Cord’ with traditional TV, ‘The Death of TV’, and the expansion of audience choice in contrast with TV 50 years ago. 

While I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to ever all of these subjects in my documentary, I wanted to cover as much of these as I could because I felt that these were the most important points about my subject of tv viewing.

What do I need to include?

From the brief we were given, I felt that there were three main

  1. How has the world changed since the birth of the internet in 1969?
  2. Can you show how it has changed?
  3. Is it a better place or is it a worse place?

While I felt that I would cover the first and second of these points quite easily throughout my documentary with my subject of tv viewing, I felt that the third point of is the world and better or worse place because of the effects of the internet on tv viewing, would be a good conclusion at the end of my documentary.

To cover this point, I recorded additional interviews and voxpops about whether people thought tv viewing was a social or antisocial act, as I felt that the biggest impact that tv has on society is with the interactions people have with each other, whether during the actual watching, or afterwards.

Telling a Story

I knew that it would be important to create a consistent story to tell throughout my documentary, to avoid creating an audio piece that sounded like a lecture towards the audience, or like I was listing facts throughout.

To create a story through my documentary, I decided to start with a reflection of what tv viewing was like 50 years ago, and to work my way through time from this. While I wasn’t able to include as much detail into the time constraints about the middle time between the 60s and today, I did include some briefly.

One way I decided to break up the audio and to create a better narration was the use of a second a third narrator. I also decided to break up longer speaking segments with sound clips, creating a ‘found footage/audio’ narrative for the audience. I also decided to add in nostalgia as part of my documentary, so by mentioning classic tv shows that people will remember from their childhood, alongside a section of each of the theme tunes,  would be able to do this while creating my soundscape.

“The sounds in the background, the change in atmosphere, and witnessing events unfolding are the crucial elements of many documentaries.” (Rai, unknown date, Online)

Creating a soundscape is a crucial part of making an audio documentary. As I mention below, for part of my narration, I had to record over the phone, but I felt thatches adds another feature to the soundscape, as well as having my Voxpops recorded through a zoom mic, adding different sounding sections of audio.

Second Narrators

My previous video documentary didn’t have a traditional narrator, but I decided I wanted a narration to carry the story of my audio documentary. I felt that having one narrator throughout my documentary would be, quite frankly, boring, so one of the techniques I decided to include was the use of a second and third narrator, my Dad and my Grandad. This was useful as a part of creating the story because it added different generational views on how the internet has changed tv viewing and how people’s interactions surrounding tv have also changed.

I couldn’t get my other narrators into a radio studio or to record on a higher quality microphone so I recorded their segments over the phone in a radio studio. I feel that I didn’t lose any story telling quality through this because it added dimension to the audio, making it more prominent when the sections of the piece are reflecting on their past experiences of tv. The lower quality audio for these sections also made the different generations sound separate, and as though the recording fit more with the technology of the times they are talking about.

Interviews

For my audio piece, I conducted several interviews, in radio studios, on portable microphones, as well as over the phone. I felt it was good to have such a variety of sound because it added to the soundscape I was creating, and added dimension to the sound people would be listening to.

I have previously done both audio and video interviews, so I had practice with talking to people and how to get their answers to fit in well with the story I am creating, so I did not struggle with this. However, I did have to do the narration recordings with my dad on more than one occasion because I had changed the script throughout my editing process. Luckily, this didn’t create much of an issue because he was willing to record more, and I avoided having this issue with my other narrator by recording their segments slightly later in my editing process.

Release Forms 

To create my own release forms, I conducted some research online. I found a very useful website about documentary making (Documentors, 2018), and from this I used what I felt were the most important aspects of their release forms.

I included the following as text at the top of the form, having the people I spoke to sign and print their name below this:

I give my permission for my voice to be recorded, edited and otherwise altered by Emily Cole for the purpose of creating an audio documentary, however she sees fit.

I also give permission for this to be used in any and all other media created, whether known or hereinafter devised, for any broadcasting, non-broadcasting, audio, and/or exhibition purposes in any manner or media.

References

Documentors, 2018. Available from: http://www.howtomake-a-documentary.com/documentary-tips/37-documentary-tips-1

Rai, Unknown publish date. Making a Radio Documentary: The Trick is Telling the Story. Available from: http://www.rai.it/dl/siti/html/Making-a-radio-documentary-The-trick-is-telling-the-story-e54be308-50ff-474c-b8b0-6f6c92445ca3.html

Image from: https://www.citr.ca/2017/09/21/produce-a-radio-documentary-with-citr-3-81090/

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