Key Elements of a Documentary Presentation
Narration
  • Can be either on-screen or voice over
  • The narrator sets up interpretive points, carries the story
   
Talking Heads
  • Expert commentators or oral interviews
  • Don’t overuse talking heads
  • It is the narrator’s job to make all of the elements of the presentation fit together
   
Location Shots
  • Historic sites related to the topic
  • Places without direct historic significance can be used for interpretive effect
   
Still Shots
  • Pictures of pictures
  • Panning and zooming can be used to motion to these segments
   
Video or Film Clips
  • Clips are segments selected from previously produced works of video or film
  • Students must be very careful when using these sources
  • Excerpts must be presented as part of a student narrative and not lifted "as is" from the original work
  • Archival footage can be taken from other productions and given new narration
  • The Video Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century is an excellent source which contains public domain footage of many historic events
   
Music
  • Music can add important dramatic overtones
  • Don’t overuse
  • Music cannot replace narration
  • Be careful of sound levels, it is very difficult to understand narration over music with vocals
  • Use a variety of musical selections – repeating the same segment too many times distracts the audience
  • Try to find music related to the topic and/or time period
  • It is not necessary to have background music for the entire presentation – music should be added only to areas where it will enhance the narration
   
Graphics
  • Use for opening titles and closing credits
  • Identify talking heads
  • Highlight elements of a photograph
  • Point out places on a map
  • Transcribe text for the viewer to read
  • Create custom text or statistical charts
   
Dramatization
  • The technique of re-creation of historical events should be used sparingly
  • A performance on tape is not an effective use of the documentary category