What Are The 6 Techniques of A Good Documentary?


Documentaries have attracted more viewers than ever before in recent years. As a result of the increased viewership, filmmakers at Production Company must meet greater criteria for design and storytelling, demonstrating that documentaries can captivate audiences just as much as a Hollywood action film.

Understanding Documentary Film

A documentary film is a nonfictional motion picture that tries to capture reality, primarily for the sake of instruction, education, or the preservation of historical records. This is why early documentary films were dubbed “actuality films” because they were only one minute long. Over time, documentaries have grown in length and scope, and they now fall into a range of categories, including educational, observational, and docufiction.

Documentaries like those on Nat Geo Wild, Air Crash Investigation, and others are incredibly educational and are frequently used as a resource to teach various themes in schools, other learning institutions, and organizations. The expansion of the documentary film genre has been aided by social media platforms too (such as YouTube). These platforms have broadened the distribution area and made information more accessible, enhancing the potential to educate a bigger audience and extending the reach of those receiving it.

Some unskilled filmmakers assume that documentaries are simple to produce if they have a good concept, some real-life camera footage, and a small audience to watch the finished result. There’s a lot more to producing a compelling documentary, and having a strong filmmaking background can make or break your career. Brush up on your production skills with these six essential tips, whether you’re making short or feature-length documentaries.


In a documentary, the exposition happens at the start of the film and introduces the main ideas. It’s significant since it sets the tone for the viewer’s experience and introduces them to the material.  The documentary’s dramatic elements are chosen with care to capture the audience’s attention. These photos are strategically placed such that the montage leads us to accept a particular concept offered by the documentary, and therefore the documentary offers its point of view to the spectator much more persuasively.

Voice-Over and Subtunes

As opposed to fictitious films with actors, scripted narratives, and set design, this refers to unedited video footage of real-life events, places, and people. Documentaries aren’t only factual films; they also include an explanation, commentary, and, in some cases, dramatization. This is when a good documentary’s voice-over approach becomes extremely important.

In a documentary, the voice-over is a commentary by the filmmaker or a tape added to the soundtrack during production. This allows the director to address the audience directly, providing information, explanations, and opinions.

Documentary interviews suck up a lot of your screen time, so they’re not only vital but also a great way to exercise your creative muscles. In the editing room, choosing whether to cover the interview with a b-roll or keep the headshot and risk losing momentum is frequently a difficult decision. When interviewing your topic, use sliders to keep the story from falling flat. The movement of a slow, continuous slider shot draws viewers into the footage without distracting them.

Direct and Indirect Interviews

A typical documentary method is an interview. It permits persons being videotaped to speak candidly about events in response to the filmmaker’s questions. An interview could happen on-screen or off-screen, on a different set. Interviews in documentaries give the spectator the impression that the documentary maker’s viewpoints are shared by another person or source, making them more credible.

Clips of only a few minutes are displayed to achieve this level of detail from what could be a one-hour conversation. Interviews with people from opposite sides of an issue may be aired to provide viewers with a thorough understanding of a subject. Character introduction can also be accomplished through interviews.

The audience’s perception of the speaker is influenced by lighting, color scheme, framing, and camera angle. As with narratives, this might help the director portray a certain feeling about the person speaking. The audience will establish an opinion of the individual based on their first meeting, so the impact on the story is crucial.

Archival Footage, Camera Angles, and Sound

Material collected from a video library or archive and incorporated into a documentary to show historical events or add information without the need for further filming is known as archival or Stock Footage. This includes both still photos and archive film. The concept of archival footage can be expanded to encompass the photography of historical material from archives that are utilized to illustrate a documentary film and are also the fundamental reason why historical documentary filmmaking relies heavily on archive footage.

Observational documentaries, popularized by the cinema verité movement, try to uncover the ultimate truth of their topic by acting as a fly-on-the-wall—that is, by observing the subject’s real-life activities without interfering. Cinematographers are frequently required to be as unobtrusive as possible on observational documentaries in order to capture their subjects in their natural, unguarded state.

Film or video footage that can be reused in other films is known as stock footage, as well as archive footage, library photos, and file footage. Filmmakers benefit from stock footage since it eliminates the need to shoot new material.

Stock footage could have been used in past productions, but it could also be outtakes or material shot for previous productions that was never utilized. Moving photographs of towns and landmarks, wildlife in their natural habitats, Animated Explainer Video, and historical video are all examples of stock footage that could be used. Stock footage providers might be either rights-managed or royalty-free. Many websites allow you to download videos in a variety of formats directly.

By filming with various cameras, you can keep your editing options open. This will not only allow you to get varied angles for each shot, but it will also help if your subject isn’t as articulate on screen as you would like. Pauses and vocal tics are easier to manage when there are many camera perspectives. In addition, recording a profile view or putting a second camera at a 45° angle from head-on can enhance the appearance and feel of your film by adding intimacy and dimension to your subject.

When it comes to creating emotional responses to a film, audio has almost as much power as pictures. Take some time after the interview or action to record ambient sound. Use music as a guiding force in your movie, such as punctuating an emotional moment with a brief pause or picking a song that fits a specific personality.

Reenactment and Invite Famous Personalities

Documentaries frequently employ re-enactments. They are fictitious events that have been rebuilt and acted out on film using knowledge about the event. Reconstructions usually convey accurate information and a sense of reality to the viewer, as if the events are taking place right in front of their eyes. They frequently use techniques like blurring, distortion, lighting effects, changes in camera level, and color augmentation within the footage to show that it is not real.

You may be required to cover a specific topic or theme, but you may make your film stand out by include characters who bring complexity and depth. Characters whose life, decisions, and conflicts help the audience better understand the world around them are interesting. Choose a fascinating focal character and strive to showcase them in creative, memorable ways, such as challenging the preconceptions surrounding your character, rather than relying on the issue alone to attract viewers. If you’re pulled to the story of your subject, chances are your audience will be as well.

Montage and References 

A montage sequence graphically communicates ideas by placing them in a predetermined order in the film. The arranging of a shot sequence to show changes in time and place within a film is known as narrative montages. Often used in documentaries, ideational montages connect actions with words.

The viewer will get different ideas based on how the shots are positioned. A montage with a negative theme followed by a positive theme, for example, may lead the spectator to believe that the positive theme is the montage’s primary focus.

Montages in documentaries are frequently tied to lines said by characters. This graphic portrayal of the characters’ ideas helps the spectators place themselves in the story and understand what they are saying. On a screen, it visually depicts the development of ideas.

Examine and discuss your favorite videos, documentaries, and films. Look at how the directors employed light and sound in their films. Pay attention to the lighting and determine whether it originates from the front, side, or back. Keep your eyes peeled for contrast and shade. Count the number of cuts in a well-done interview clip or the length of the b-roll footage. Use the techniques of others to help you develop your own.

Wrapping Up

Finally, a lot goes into making a powerful documentary that is watched by a broad audience and has a positive impact. If you’re looking for a Video Production Company in Dubai, get in touch with our experts at Shoot At Sight. We have cutting-edge technology, a wealth of industry experience, and plenty of creative ideas for your next project.

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