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How can the effective use of documentary films be used to raise awareness of environmental issues? It’s the year of the environment at CDNIS! With growing global concern over the state of the world’s environment and the acknowledgement that human actions have a direct impact on our surroundings, CISPA and the school’s Environmental Club have implemented a coordinated effort to maximize CDNIS’s contribution to this movement in Hong Kong. This initiative has resulted in fundamental operational changes including a weekly Lights Out initiative to save energy and morning traffic regulations to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions. However, there is much

more that can be done to make the school more environmentally sustainable. This is where YOU come in! Over the course of the ecology unit, you’ve investigated how human behaviour can impact the natural world. You’ve gained an understanding of the fundamentals of ecosystems through presentations, simulations, games and activities. You’ve learned about global environmental issues through the symposium and role-play. You’ve explored how science can be applied to solve environmental issues both

theoretically through your ecosystems report and practically through lab experimentation.

The challenge: You represent a documentary filmmaking company commissioned by the scho ol to convince the grade 9 stu dents to make CDNIS a more environmentally friendly place. Finally you’ve seen how scientific knowledge can be communicated through watching documentaries such as Planet in Peril and Planet Earth.

Areas of Interaction: Community and Service Approaches to Learning

Project Timeline Introduction (October 4/5) INVESTIGATE

You will evaluate the importance of an environmental problem at CDNIS considering both our community and the environment. During your preparation, you will investigate both the environmental problem and the art and technology of documentary film making. You will generate guiding questions for your investigation into both. You will consider different possible documentary styles and production strategies producing relevant and useful notes on both. All of your research will be carefully organized in a design brief. You will clearly identify the design specifications that will guide the production of the documentary click

Sample Design Problem & Brief

Pre Production (October 25/26) DESIGN & PLAN Having completed a thorough investigation, your group will generate several feasible documentary ideas that meet the design specifications. You will evaluate the designs against the design specs and select the one that provides the best solution to the problem. As a group, you will create the following, • shot list • shooting schedule • equipment list • narration script • video acquisition Individually, you will create a, • personal learning schedule • schedule to shoot, edit, record...

Construct an organized plan (shot list, shooting schedule...) that will help you and your team create your documentary. You are expected to evaluate the plan and justify any modifications to the design.

Production & Post Production CREATE (Oct 29/Nov 1) Carefully following your plan, you will use your own equipment to acquire the necessary audio and video footage for your documentary. Your team is expected to use a variety of acquisition techniques. During the production phase your team will film, edit, and distribute

your documentary (upload it to YouTube).

You are expected to keep track of the process of making your film, follow your plan, to evaluate the plan and to justify any changes you make to the plan.

Finale| Fin | End... almost EVALUATE (Nov. 11/12) Your final product is has been uploaded and your team is read to carry out tests to evaluate the documentary against the design specs in an objective test and

explain how it could be improved. E v a l u a t e yo u r o w n e f f o r t a n d contribution to the documentary and the team. Suggest improvements. E v a l u a t e t h e i m p a c t o f yo u r d o c u m e n t a r y o n C D N I S ’s g r a d e 9 community. Offer reasonable suggestions on how the documentary cab be improved. Identify the ways in which you did not meet t h e expectation you set f o r yourself in the plan.


Problem CDNIS has commissioned your video production team to produce a 3 minute documentary aimed at raising awareness about environ-mental issues.


In particular, the school is looking for ways to make our grade 9 community more aware of local environmental issues, problems, & sustainability. Your team will come up with a great documentary film that will inspire the grade 9 community to think about our local environment.

They have determined that the best venue for the presentation of your documentary issues YouTube.

Documentary Filmmaking TECHNOLOGY TYPES of SHOTS


In documentary filmmaking it is often necessary to make decisions about the following on location. That said, you should plan to use a variety of the these shots. Too many of one kind will get boring.

Being aware of the following may improve your documentary. Actually using them will improve your documentary. A masterful editor knows when and how to use transitions effectively

I don't know what truth is. Truth is something unattainable. We can't think we're creating truth with a camera. But what we can do, is reveal something to viewers that allows them to discover their own truth. — Michel Brault

Angle Low Angle Eye Level High Angle Flat Angle Oblique Content Establishing Shot Reaction Shot Waister Up Method Tripod Handheld Distance Long Shot Medium Shot Close Up Extreme Close Up

Skilled editors know...

Late In Out Early

Cut on Action Hide cuts from your audience by cutting on action. This has to be planned ahead of shooting.

Form Cut Join two shots by ending one scene on a shape that is similar to the first shot of the next scene.

Don’t tell your audience what to think or feel. This is a film show them!

Wipe You can join two shots by wiping from one to the next. This can transition can be useful if you want your audience to be very aware of the transition. Cross Dissolving Two shots can be blended together with a soft cross dissolve. This slowly reveals the second shot through the first.

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES VIDEOGRAPHER: All things to do with the camera including management, technical understanding, and creativity. EDITOR: All things to do with editing - 3 min limit, transitions, technical knowledge of software, and export formats. TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: All things to do with light & sound! Backlight and fill light to sound f/x and original music. Design Brief Hint - List ALL of your duties and responsibilities, more than are identified here!




We realized that the important thing was not the film itself but that which the film provoked. Fernando Solanas


NATURAL LIGHT “Taking advantage of natural light is very simple, lots simpler than lugging around a heavy light kit. Using artificial lights can give you a great look, but it also adds a lot of work to the process.” BASIC LIGHTING

Battle Backlighting Go to YouTube Channel - New York Video School and find the video called “Lighting Basics” WHILE YOU ARE AT NYVS - LOOK AT THE OTHER VIDEOS ON BASIC VIDEO PRODUCTION.





• • • • • • • • • • •

Animated documentary Concert film Docudrama Docufiction Ethnofiction Ethnographic film Mockumentary Mondo film Nature documentary Political Cinema Reality film

What is B-Roll and why do you want it?

ORIGINAL MUSIC Use the sound tools in GarageBand to create 20 sec lead-in music. Do the same for the end credits. VOICEOVERS Watch the iMovie tutorial in the Apple website to learn how to add voiceovers. RECORDING INTERVIEWS When recording interviews, try to isolate your interviewee from other noise (air con). You might need to put the camera quite close to the interviewee - even if it feels weird the final product will be worth it. FINAL AUDIO If necessary, you can import your video into GarageBand to add additional special f/x and voiceovers.








Design Brief


Design Specifications


Investigate Docu Styles


Docu Style Choice


Investigate Videography



Great Resources DOCUMENTARY FILMS SITES - WATCH Top Documentary Films

Sprword - Spread the Word

Media That Matters environment/

Investigate Editing

Doc Challenge


Investigate Lights/Sound

HotDocs: Outspoken. Outstanding


Shot List


Roles Defined


Equipment List


Prop List


Shooting Schedule


Video Acquisition






HOW TO Documentary Script Writing

Desktop Documentaries making-documentaries.html

Tools & Utilities (and templates)

How to Write a Script for a Documentary

8 Ways to Shoot Video Like a Pro

Posted to YouTube

Guidelines for Shooting Quality Video


Evaluated by Specs

Basic Video Editing Tutorial


Self Evaluated

iMovie Tutorials


Peer Reviewed

Optimizing Video for YouTube


In documentary we deal with the actual, and in one sense with the real. But the really real, if I may use that phrase, is something deeper than that. The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation which is profound





--John Grierson



Documentary Planning 1. Identify who is doing what. Include a description of the roles, responsibilities, and the duties assigned to each. (Write the description for your job and share it with group members) 2. What do you believe about the subject, issue, or problem you are filming about? (Each group member’s will be different) 3. What is your main statement that you want to communicate? (All groups members will share the same main statement) 4. Ultimately, I want the audience to learn and understand that...? (Each groups member’s will be different) 5. What is the main conflict and who is it between? (Same for all) 6. Write a working hypothesis and interpretation of your documentary. (Same for all) 7. Write a concise paragraph about: a. Your film’s subject (person, group, environment, social issue etc.) (Same for all) b. The necessary background information the audience must have to understand and to be interested in the enclosed world you intend to present. (Same for all) 8. Write a brief paragraph for each major sequence that shows an activity. E.g. Activity - buses leaving front of school.... In your paragraph respond to the following questions, discussion points (Same for all) a. What the activity is and what conflict it evidences

CREATE a SCHEDULE and a RECORD of / for YOUR LEARNING When you read about and watch video tutorials about videography, editing, natural lighting, sound acquisition you are expected to create a schedule. Write down when and what you learned as well as the source and value. Make a chart (sample below) TOPIC




natural light

ehow. com

Film away from the brightest light source to...

Oct 20,


free- 1. Cut in late and out early. videoThis mean editing. only use... com 2. Watch all footage before editing...

Oct 20,

video taping

videop 1. Use a variety of angles roducti without... ontips. com 2. Avoid too much head space & too little...

Oct 20,

b. A metaphor to explain its sub textual meaning c. The expected structure of events d. What the sequence should contribute to the whole film and to the hypothesis e. What facts the audience must gather from watching it f. What key, emblematic imagery you hope to capture 9. Will there be interviews, voice-over narration. For each interview, list: (Same for all) a. Main elements will your interview seek to establish? b. How will your voice-over enhance your story?

On the previous page, under Great Resources, you will find a list of useful sites to get you started.

Each Visuals Box MUST Include the following 6 items: 1. Sequence & Shot Number 2. Description of what is in the shot 3. Purpose of shot (e.g. reaction shot, establishing shot) (see shot 9) 4. Type of cut (see shot 2) 5. Camera movement (see shot 7) 6. Length of shot (see shot 2)

Each Audio Box MUST Includes: 1. Description of audio content (e.g. music, voice over, question/answer, special f/x) 2. Voice-over narration 3. Interviewers questions

Make a clear distinction between interviewer’s on screen questions and voice overs.

VOX POP means Voice of the People


Juxtaposing images tells a story. In fact, our brains cannot help themselves. Like it or not, our brain will try to figure out what’s happening. Our brain will make up their own story!

Is it the story you want to tell?


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Handheld vs Tripod (or monopod) Use a tripod always. The only time the camera should be handheld is if there is a specific style choice. Try carts and other things on wheels to support the camera. Rule of Thirds (composition) Deciding how to “frame” your subject is both a science and an art. Position your subject off centre for a more interesting shot. Head Space (composition) A good rule to follow is reducing excessive space above the subject’s head. Get as close as you can! We all like faces and we watch eyes when people talk not mouths and not the background. 1. Why leave 20 seconds of extra footage at the beginning and ending of each shot? 2. In what formats does your camera record? 3. What formats does iMovie import? 4. What formats is best for this project? Why? 5. Is your shooting aspect ration 16:9 or 4:3?


Backlight Too much backlight can be a problem. Position your subject so that his or her face is properly lit. Interviews Rule #1 is to be prepared. That means having all interview questions ready, all recording equipment ready, and to be set up when the subject arrives. Make sure project/images/interview_04.jpg you are getting good audio. If you can, plug your earphones into the camera to listen during recording. Voice-over Can be an effective way to show content rather than an interviewer. They are done in iMovie during editing after recording is complete. Novice filmmakers sometimes undervalue or even ignore the importance of light and sound! How CRAZY is that? 1. Does the camera have a white balance control? If yes work with the videography to correct light balance! 2. What can you do to improve audio? 3. What foley effects are you using to improve your shots and sequences? 4.


Editing Style You’ve already decided on the documentary style and type during the DESIGN phase. It will now set the tone for your editing.

Transitions Do not distract the audience from the importance of your story with excessively fancy transitions. That said, appropriately used transitions enhance your story. Titling Use title cards and subtitles to communicate details. Be sure to include references and credits at the end of your movie. Exporting Knowing that you must post your video to YouTube, confirm the format type and size rules published by YouTube. 1. Have you figured out “Late In Early Out”? 2. Do you know how iMovie records voice overs? 3. What format and aspect ration does YoutTube support? 4. What formats does iMovie export? 5. What formats does iMovie import? 6. Which format must the videographer use? 7. Is your export aspect ration 16:9 or 4:3? 8. 5. 6.







You attempt to explain and discuss the problem. You investigate the problem identifying appropriate sources of information and attempt to acknowledge these using MLA formatting. You attempt to design, with guidance, tests to evaluate the product/solution against the design specification. You describes the problem, mentioning why it is important. You investigate the problem, identify sources of information and acknowledges these using MLA formatting. You design, with guidance, tests to evaluate the product/solution against the design specification.


1-2 3-4 5-6

Criterion F - Attitudes 1. Personal engagement (motivation, independence, general positive attitude 2. Attitudes towards safety, cooperation and respect for others. You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below. You occasionally display a satisfactory standard in either one of the aspects listed above. You frequently display a satisfactory standard in at least both of the aspects listed above. You consistently displays a satisfactory standard in at least both of the aspects listed above.

Criterion D - Create You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below. With guidance, you consider the plan and create at least part of a product/solution. You use appropriate video production techniques and equipment. With guidance, you follow the plan and mention any modifications made, resulting in a documentary of appropriate quality (balanced audio levels, good lighting & shot composition, titles and credits, matching soundtrack) using the resources available. You competently use appropriate video production techniques and equipment. With minimal guidance, you follow the plan and justify any modifications made, resulting in a documentary of appropriate quality (balanced audio levels, good lighting & shot composition, titles and credits, matching soundtrack) using the resources available. Criterion E - Evaluates You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below. You consider the documentary your own work and make some attempt to test the effectiveness of the videos intended message. You consider the documentary your own work, reflecting on your own performance suggesting improvements. You test the documentary by evaluating it against the design specification. You consider the success of the documentary in an objective manner based on testing, and the views of the intended audience. You reflect on your own performance at each stage of the design cycle, identifying what parts your found difficult, and suggest improvements. You considers the impact of the documentary on life, society and/or the environment.

1-2 3-4 5-6


1-2 3-4 5-6



1-2 3-4


You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below. 0 You produce a plan (shooting schedule, shot list, film crew, roles & responsibilities, project milestones) that contains some details of the steps and/or the resources required. 1-2 You produce a plan that contains a number of logical steps that include resources and time. You make some attempt to reflect on the plan. 3-4 You produce a plan that contains a number of detailed, logical steps that describe the use of both resources and time. You critically evaluates the plan and justify any modifications 5-6 to the documentary.

Criterion B - Design You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below. You have explored one documentary approach, and made some attempt to justify the approach against the design specifications (size, length, distribution medium, audio, imagery, key You messaging) explore more than one documentary approach, justify the selection of one, and fully evaluate it against the design specification. You have explored at least three approaches, each evaluated against the design specification. You justify the chosen approach and evaluate it critically against the design specification. Criterion C - Plan

You explain the problem, discussing why it is important. You investigate the problem, identifying appropriate sources of information and acknowledges these using correct MLA 5-6 formatting. You design, with minimal guidance, tests to evaluate the product/solution against the design specification.



You do not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors given below.

Criterion A - Investigate

GRADE 9 - Design Assessment Criterion Rubric

Ecodocs - MYP Science & Design Technology  

Curriculum reseource for students and teachers