Four Week Intensive Documentary Workshop







A four week advanced professional workshop in the conceptual and technical foundations of contemporary documentary television production.  This course addresses the television documentary as well as related forms of nonfiction television production, including magazine format, educational, industrial, sports, training and others.  The course will combine lectures with workshops, practice labs, screenings, discussion and analysis to emphasize the making of a documentary as a complete process – from initial concept through postproduction.

Documentary Television Production Topics and Workshops

1) Introduction: Overview of the documentary television production process, including details of preproduction, production, and post production. 

2) Research and Story Concept: Visual Story Telling, Conceptual Approachs, Research Techniques and Strategies, Story Development,  Script Treatment, . .
         WORKSHOP: a) Research and story development.  Crews meet for          story conferences.

3) Pitching the Documentary Story: Conceptualizing and development
         WORKSHOP: Pitching sessions for all participants

4) Documentary Scriptwriting: Script Formats with examples
         SCREENING: Sample documentary segments

5) Preproduction: Scouting and Assessment of shooting locations, including availability of AC power, lighting equipment required, permission to shoot on private property, other issues.
         WORKSHOP: Crews scout and evaluate locations.

6) Basic Videography: Composition of Shots, Focus, Follow Focus, Framing, Camera Movements (pan, tilt, dolly, zoom, crane and trucking shots), Angles, Shooting Action Sequences, Overlapped Action, Coverage for Effective Editing, Visual Literacy.
         WORKSHOP: Camera Assignments.

7) Basic Lighting: Lighting principles, colour theory and colour temperature measurement, colour temperature correction with filters, white balancing and use of filter wheel, balancing colour temperatures for Exterior and Interior scenes.  Correcting lights and windows.
         WORKSHOP: Using the filter wheel, mixed color temperatures,          using gels on lights.

8) Techniques of Audio Recording on Location and in the Studio: Selection and Application of shotgun mics and lavalier mics, techniques of microphone placement, effective use of fishpole boom for location recording, effective use of head phones and VU meter for conducting sound tests and optimal recording.

9) Lighting Techniques: Basic three point lighting, lighting ratios and contrast, exposure and f-stops, lighting styles, diffusion and gels, exterior and interior lighting, reflectors, bounce lighting, light placement, controlling shadows, diffusion and gels, mixed color of light and color balancing, lighting for night scenes, sunsets.  Tricking the camera with white balance.  Lighting in villages without electricity, lighting with torches, car lights, lanterns.  Correcting for very dark and very pale skin tones.
         WORKSHOP: Lighting Assignments from Class.

10) Interviewing Techniques: Studio and Location Interviews, Camera Placement, Screen Direction, Reaction Shots, Inserts and Cutaways.  Interviews for news, documentaries, debates, arts programs.
         WORKSHOP: Crews Tape Interviews in Studio and on Location.

11) Interviewing Techniques Workshops: Participants conduct in-depth interviews on a variety of subjects (single and two camera set-ups)

12) Principles of Directing I: Directing the Documentary, live action, news, reality programming.  Field producing and directing on remote locations.  Visual Interpretation.
         WORKSHOP: Supervised field production of Crew projects.

13) Principles of Directing II:  Script Interpretation, Staging Scenes and Plotting Action, Blocking, Screen Direction, Axis Line, Crossing the Line, Coverage and Camera Angles.
         DIRECTING WORKSHOP: Crews Block and Rehearse Scene with          Correspondent in the Studio.

14) Field Production: Producing professional quality television with available resources at remote locations.  Problem solving. Techniques for moving camera shots from automobiles, bucket trucks and wheelchairs.  Aerial shots from helicopters and airplanes, underwater video production, filming on ships and boats. 
         WORKSHOP: Supervised field and studio production of Crew          projects.

15) Overview of the Postproduction Process: Organization, Viewing and Logging Tapes, Transcripts, Worktapes, Selecting Shots for First Assembly, Paper Edits.  Designing a structure for the program
         WORKSHOP: Crews Log and Transcribe their Tapes; Prepare to          Edit

16) Basic Editing Room Operations: Using video decks and video controllers.  Assemble editing and insert editing.  Video edits and audio edits.  Operation of equipment, techniques and procedures. 

17) The First Cut: Editing interview sequences; building sequences with and without voice/over.  Use of inserts, cutaways, reaction shots, jump cuts.

18) Basic Editing Principles and Techniques: Choosing edit points, overlapping action and matched action editing, static cutting and action cutting, parallel action editing, visual transitions.

19) Editing Workshops: Supervised workshop with each Crew to organize material and begin first cut of programme.

20) Advanced Editing Principles and Techniques: Establishing continuity, continuity editing, pacing to achieve a flow.  Advancing action.  Editing rhythms.  Creating visual transitions.  Audio as a transitional device.

21) Writing and Recording Narration and Voice/Over: When to use and not use narration; using narration to complement the picture.  Writing the narration script.  Directing and recording the narrator.  Use of scratch track and timing narration to match edited sequences.

22) Audio Mixing and Sweetening: Preparation and Cue Sheets.  Setting audio levels and equalization.  Solving problems.  Effective use of music and sound effects.  Music and Sound Effects Editing.  Building audio tracks to picture.

23) Conclusion of Course: Screening and Evaluation of Documentary Projects.


Documentary Course Schedule (Dr. Robert Hooper)

1         Introduction: Overview of Documentary TV Production
         Concepts and Approaches to the Television Documentary 

2         Preproduction: Research, Story Development, Scripts
         LAB: Story Development, Research Methods

3         Story Conferences: The Pitch, Refinement of Project

4         Videography and Camera: Composition, Framing, Camera
         Placement and Movement
         LAB: Camera Assignments

5         Lighting Theory and Practice: Color Temperature and
         Correction, Contrast Control, Gels, Filters
         LAB: Color Temperature Correction, Filter Wheel, Gels

6         Interview Techniques: Documentary, Newsmagazine Programs
         LAB: Participants Conduct Interviews

7         Directing the Documentary: Visual Interpretation, Coverage
         of Events, Working With People on Location, Staging Action.

8         Directing the Documentary: Advanced Topics
         LAB: Participant Workshops

9         Lighting on Location: EXT and INT
         LAB: Assignments for Paricipants – INT/EXT

10         Location Production Problems: Domestic and International

11         Aspects of Producing: Production Planning, Budgets, Liability          Issues, Legal and Ethical Issues, Releases

12         Documentary Television Production in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

13         Post Production: Logging and Transcripts, Overview of Post

14         Editing Principles and Techniques: Beginning and Advanced

15         Writing the Voice/Over Narration Script, Directing and Recording          the Narrator, Use of Audio FX, Music Editing

16         Screening of Final Projects

Documentary Television Production Course

Dr. Robert Hooper

Lecture and Discussion Topics 


Introduction to nonfiction film and television.  Brief history of the documentary, with selected screenings and discussion. 

Production Workshops 


Preproduction: ideas, conceptualization, research, story development, treatments, scriptwriting and structure, visualization.  Subtexts and conflicting perspectives.

Styles, philosophies and approaches in the nonfiction genre. Authorship.  Direct Cinema and Cinema Verite.  Contemporary trends in nonfiction film and television.  Script conferences and development.  The pitch, rewrites, refinement of story, development, investigative issues.
Presenting controversy and opposing viewpoints: advocacy vs. debate.  The question of balance. Directing the documentary: Visual interpretation, working with the crew, directing participants, on camera interview techniques, coverage and camera angles, screen direction and crossing the line.
Principles of the on-camera interview.  Ethical issues: “Just between you and me…” with Connie Chung.  Rights and Releases. Interviewing Techniques: Studio and Location Interviews, Camera Placement, Screen Direction, Reaction Shots, Reverses, Inserts and Cutaways.  Interviews for news, documentaries, political debates.  Crews research and write interview questions, practice interviews.
Ethical Issues: Libel and defamation (Westmoreland v. CBS), staging events (General Motors v. NBC), and other ethical and legal issues of broadcast documentary production Aspects of Producing: Production planning and budgets, funding and underwriting, liability issues, field producing on location, international productions, aerial and underwater production, extreme conditions.
Ethical Issues (cont.): Dramatization and the fading line between fiction and nonfiction in contemporary “reality” television, interview ethics, editing ethics. Lighting and photographic approaches to location lighting for the documentary.  Principles of cinematography and videography, color temperature and contrast, correction with gels and filters, filter wheel, visual literacy, visual perspective and point of view.
Going to Extremes: Problems of Location Documentary Production:  Shooting in hot tropical locations and extreme cold locations.  International travel and production.  Health and safety issues, securing a Carnet, equipment issues. Problem solving on location.  Techniques for moving camera shots from automobiles, bucket trucks and wheelchairs.  Aerial shots from helicopters and airplanes, underwater video production, filming on ships and boats.
Documentary production in other cultures: issues, ethics, portrayal of other cultures in documentaries, how cultures portray themselves, impacts of television.  Screening. Editing and postproduction: Picture and dialogue editing.  Paper edit and first assembly. Transcripts and logging.  Pacing and structure.  Continuity and matching action. Creating visual transitions
Cultural perspectives and the emerging documentary in Asia and the Pacific.  Issues of development and the media.  Screening. Editing and postproduction: Whether or not to use narration.  Narration recording, music and sound effects editing, building tracks and cue sheets, mixing. 
The documentary and propaganda, issues of censorship and free speech. Seminar and screenings.  Discussion with guest documentarian.
The future of the documentary.  Impact of new technologies on production and distribution.  Innovations in approach and style. Individual tutorials and production crew conferences.  Evaluations of edited sequences and cuts.  Future directions, avenues of distribution.
Final Project Screenings. Discussion and evaluation of final projects.

 Other programs:


Building Media Capacity

1. Assessment
2. Team Building
3. Videography I
4. Story Development
5. Videography II

Conflict Assessment & Resolution

1. Conflict: The Role of Media
2. Bridging Cultural Divides
3. Use of Interviews
4. Use of Multiple Sources
5. Working in volatile environments