Following from Chapter 1’s discussion of different types of video, here we will define the two basic types of project: fictional and documentary.
A fictional project is one in which all, or the majority, of the story has been invented by the author. Whilst it may be based on true events, the creative process takes priority. Types of fiction (genre) include: Action-adventure, Art, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Musical, Thriller and many more. See appendix for a ‘genre’ list and descriptions.
The setting in a fictional piece can be carefully planned with everything, ideally, working to create a certain mood or atmosphere and to comment on the film’s characters or events. Other design aspects include costuming, props and make-up. These elements are carefully controlled in a fiction, working together to create characters that are believable to the audience. This character can be either realistic, such as a trendy 16-year-old or a middle-aged lawyer, or fantastical/imaginary such as the alien Mr. Spock in Star Trek. Fiction films have actors playing roles of these characters in order to tell the story. They portray characters other than themselves. Someone else directs how they should act. The quality of the resulting performance often determines how much the audience appreciates the film.
Most frames in fiction contain some type of camera movement to hold the audience’s interest, usually occurring in relation to characters’ actions - eating, walking, driving, or fighting, just to name a few. Their actions create a sense of direction in a frame and also set a pace for a scene - fight scenes, especially in martial arts films, set a faster pace than dinner scenes. Rather than presenting natural seeming light, lighting in fiction can be manipulated to set a tone, atmosphere or mood. It also directs the audience’s attention to the point of focus in the frame - consider the shadows in a film noir or a horror film.
Fiction films often make extensive use of sound, including dialogue, music, or sound effects that appear to originate within the world of the film. In addition to this, fiction often uses sounds external to the world of the film, for example music on the soundtrack. Much of a fiction film’s sound effects, music and even some dialogue is added after filming has taken place, in post-production.
Documentaries tell a story set in reality, using the events to express a point of view. Documentaries may include fictional elements to underscore real events that were not filmed (re-enactments, staged events) but the overall relation to actual events must be a primary one. (For more types of documentary see 2.3).
Documentaries, for the most part, rely on places in the real world for their settings. For example, a video maker might take us to their school or where they live. Like the setting, the costumes and make-up we see in documentary belong to the real world, to the person who owns and wears them. In documentary, there aren’t usually typical ‘actors’; rather people being themselves or acting like themselves as if in everyday life, to serve the documentary’s greater purpose - its argument. The question of how the presence of the camera affects behaviour can come into play here, but the point is these ‘characters’ follow no script, take no direction, and generally get paid no money.
In terms of camera movement, documentaries traditionally tend not to move the camera as much as in fiction. Most documentaries use what is called "available lighting", which literally means whatever lighting is available in the location becomes the lighting for that scene.
Documentaries also make extensive use of natural sound, especially the spoken word. Many documentaries use talking heads, or recorded interviews of people speaking on a given topic. Unless part of the initial filming, most documentaries incorporate few sound effects or in-frame music. In addition to making extensive use of talking heads, many documentaries also employ voiceover narration. The voiceover serves many purposes: to explain the images on the screen, to provide linkage across disparate images, to offer specific commentary on the subject, and to persuade us to believe a certain viewpoint.
The function of editing in documentary, however, differs from fiction. Instead of working to preserve the narrative, it serves to further the documentary’s argument. It presents interviews, alongside other images that serve to illustrate a point or act as evidence rather than cutting on movement and for effect.