What is Documentary Style Production?

A type of ‘Field Production’, choosing a documentary style means being in the field to capture what is happening, when it is happening. This style of production is much more agile and flexible as you need to film as events or situations are happening and make quick decisions about what footage needs to be captured.

Depending on the project, a documentary style production may mean having a smaller crew who can seamlessly capture situations as they occur without getting in the way or influencing the end result.

Benefits and Challenges of Documentary Style Production

Unlike a studio production where the equipment is more readily available and easily accessible, with a documentary style production pre-planning is crucial to make sure the right equipment is available and the crew can switch between what they need at any moment. There are many elements that are not able to be controlled, such as the weather and lighting, so sometimes equipment needs to be switched due to outside influences!

This unpredictability means having at least two camera operators can often be key so that they can capture different types of shots. It’s also important to have a director on location with a monitor, who is able to provide direction to the team and ensure that the best moments are captured. As sound can be an important factor, a dedicated sound recordist can be crucial to capture the audio utilising lapel and boom mics, depending on the needs of the shoot.

When to Use Documentary Style Production

Ultimately a documentary style production is required if you are looking to capture events as they are happening, where they are naturally occurring. It lends itself well to live events and reality style entertainment and is an art form as the crew needs to think on their feet to capture footage that will be able to be edited to a consistent story in post-production.

Examples of Documentary Style Production

For example when we worked with Farmers Weekly on their bi-annual Farmers Apprentice series our crew needed to be on-hand to film the apprentices at every step of the competition, capturing the highs and the lows in order to edit these into a watchable series. With over 90,000 views (and counting) since the series was released on YouTube our team definitely did something right!

Whereas when working with CANNA for their Grower Diaries series, we needed to film a number of their ambassadors as they prepared for Spring. Each grower was at their own location, each with differing spaces and challenges, plus we needed to film the footage so that the series would look consistent, whilst making sure at each location we were mindful of the plants and environment that are such a large part of what we were capturing.

For the Game Fair the sheer scale of the event required us to be everywhere at once! From tracking 4x4s on the off-road course and catching the Red Devils parachuting out of a helicopter into the main arena to keeping an eye on a world record skeet shooting attempt and capturing the sights and sounds of the thousands of visitors, it was all systems go for our team. Each individual filming opportunity presented its own challenge, requiring a different set up, rig and camera system to ensure we got the best possible shot.

Finally for the Swiss Alpine Battle our team had to be mindful that they were capturing footage at a competition, so we needed to stay in the background and not affect the performance of the competitors. We also didn’t know who would win each event, so capturing as much footage as possible was key to ensure we could create an exciting and engaging video in post-production.

Conclusion

We hope this blog has helped you understand documentary style production and when this style of production might work for you. Come back next week when we’ll be focusing on onsite production.

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