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Machine – Masters of Time

In this documentary analysis I will be looking at a BBC documentary in order to

see the codes and conventions that are used in creating awareness in the
audience based on the topic of ‘Time Machine – Masters of Time’. I will evaluate
the documentary using the four key technical aspects, mise-en-scene,
cinematography, sound and editing. These are the key aspects which are
considered in order to entirely engage the audience.

As the focal point of the documentary is time machines, it starts of with various
cut-aways which relate to the topic. This is done to engage the audience as soon
as it starts, as the cut-aways are directly linked to the focal point and are one of
the codes and conventions that are important in making the documentary

The first opening scene uses props that directly link to the topic that is going to
be focused on within the documentary (as shown in figure 1). The opening scene
also clearly shows the institution that the documentary is for so that the
audience are aware of which institution the program is being broadcasted from.
This is clearly shown by the logo (British Broadcasting Corporation – BBC) placed
at the bottom centre of the screen.

The following shots are all cut-aways that have been filmed to reinforceFigure
subject. These cut-aways consist of animals evolving over time, nature,1society
becoming built up as years go by etc. These cut-aways are all used to engage
the audiences’ attention and are essential element of a documentary in giving
the audience an insight and informing them on what they’d expect to see.
Throughout the five minute sequence that I looked at for this analysis, location,
props and the lighting have played a major role in the mise-en-scene of the

As the opening sequence progresses, we as the audience, are again made clear
of the topic through the typography used in the shot ‘time machine’, (as shown
in figure 2). The way in which the title is written stands out from the imagery in
Figure the middle and background. The white sans-serif font is clearly understandable.
2 This is accompanied by the clock which is shown to be moving around the wolrd
positioned in the background. This connotes the idea of how the world is
changing over time.

In addition to these elements, the voice over and sound track also play a crucial
part in the sequence in informing, entertaining and educating the audience.
From the starting point of the sequence, as the cut-aways are playing, the
audience is given an grasp of factual information on the subject area. Further
more, the way in which this docuemntary is narrated insights provacative
thinking within the audiences mind as the narrator seems to be directly asking
the audience questions based on real life events and changes. This helps the
audience feel as part of it and can relate the questions to real life as to how
things happen.

The non – diegetic score music used helps build up the atmosphere of the
documentary. The music used is fairly fast paced and fits in with the cut-away
shots that have been speeded up through editing. It is essential for the music to
fit in with the content as it brings the documentary together. This is shown to be
effectively done within this docuemntary as each key aspect, mise-en-scene,
cinematography, sound and editing are all shown to flow with one another.

The cinematography is another one of the key aspects that is important in

constructing a high-quality documentary. Without effective and understandable
shots relating to the topic, the documentary may not be as obvious and
accurately presented.

Figure 3 shows a wide shot of the

publics feet and in the distant the
public can be seen fully, getting
along with every day life. Within the
shot buldings and cars can also be
seen. In addition to this, a man is
shown to be running. Perhaps this
connotes the ‘race against time’. All
Figure these put together imply the
3 meaning of everyone in society being
so caught up in their own lives. The
shot is also accompanied with the
voice-over and the score music softly playing in the background whilst the voice-
over is playing.

Figure 4 shows a mid shot of a TV

screen which is seen to be showing the
human mind. This clearly links to the
voice over that is providing the
audience with the scientific knowledge
of how the mind works and why we, as
humans, react in certain ways that we
do. The TV in the mise-en-scene is used
to bring more emphasis on what is
being shown in the scene at that very
moment. It allows the audience to
focus on what the person (shown before this shot) was watching. The creativity
in the mise-en-scene and the cinematography work together in showing the
correct elements of the scene to make the documentary understandable.

Figure 5 is a close up shot that is

used to show a clock, reinforcing the
topic of ‘time’. In order to get the
information of the topic across
accurately, it is important to have the
relevant props as well and the
remaining elements of the mise-en-
scene. If these are not done correctly,
Figure the scenes would not flow with one
5 another and the documentary would
be all over the place, having no
meaning. This close up shot allows
the audience to immediately be aware of what is being shown and allow them to
think and relate themselves to the topic.

Lastly, the editing is what puts the mise-en-scene, cinematography and the
sound together. This is another one of the most important aspects as the editing
is what allows the information to be correctly put forward to the audience.
Editing has many different techniques and elements to it, for example some
editing techniques that u may use/see in editing a film may not be used when
editing a documentary. In the documentary, many different types of cut-aways
are edited into it that relate to the topic. These again are accompanied by a
voice over and a sound track that plays softly when the narrator is informing the
audience and louder when the narrator is not speaking.

Figure 6 shows the city in which the

cut-aways for the documentary have
Figure been filmed in. The scene goes from
6 sunrise to sunset, this has been
accomplished trough the editing of the
scene. Once again this links in with
‘time’, showing the different times in
the day. Throughout the sequence that
i analysed, the editor uses various
techniques in order to allow the
information to simply and accurately
get across to the audience. As the documentary focuses on society moving on
from time to time, and how time catches up on the society, some cut-aways are
made faster and some have been slowed down. Once they have been put
together by the editor, they all make sense.

In conclusion each and every aspect covered works with one another to make a
good documentary which informs and educated the audience. Documentaries
are set out to convey factual information on the topic. The mise-en-scene,
cinematography, sound and editing are used to engage the audience and keep
them engaged throughout. Relevant cut-aways, voice over, sound etc are all
used to keep the audience enlightened on the subject and prevents the
documentary from drifting away from what is actually being covered.