Observational documentary
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Observational Documentary. What is Observational D ocumentary?. ‘Fly on the wall’ Documentary Follows every move of the subject Observational documentary tends to simply observe- allowing the viewers to reach whatever conclusions they like

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Observational Documentary

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Observational documentary

Observational Documentary

What is observational d ocumentary

What is Observational Documentary?

  • ‘Fly on the wall’ Documentary

  • Follows every move of the subject

  • Observational documentary tends to simply observe- allowing the viewers to reach whatever conclusions they like

  • The aim is for the subject act naturally- ‘social actor’

Observational documentary

‘Observational cinema affords the viewer an opportunity to look in on and over hear something of the lived experience of others, to gain some sense of the distinct rhythms of everyday life, to see the colours, shapes, and special relationships among people, and their possessions, to hear the intonation, inflection, and accents that give a spoken language its grain, and that distinguish one native speaker from another.’

- Nichols, Bill (p.42)

Direct cinema or cinema verite

Direct Cinema or Cinema Verite

  • Direct Cinema

    • Camera is just left to watch events unfold

    • Waits for something naturally to happen

    • Filmmaker is not involving the events

    • Filmmaker is in a passive role

    • Truth or reality is shown naturally

  • Cinema Verite

    • ‘Permitting and even encouraging interaction between the subject and director, is cinema veritelegitimised the camera’s presence and let the crew become catylyst for what took place on the screen’

    • Filmmaker is involving the events and provoke the subject

    • Filmmaker is in a more active role

    • Truth or reality is shown by the filmmaker’s effort

Don t look back 1967

Don’t Look Back (1967)

  • D.A Pennebaker

  • 1965 UK tour

  • Direct Cinema

  • Follows Dylan in public and personal life

  • Invented ‘rock documentary’

  • Shows a side to Dylan that otherwise wouldn’t have been seen

Don t look back 19671

Don’t Look Back (1967)


Techniques seen

Techniques Seen

  • Hand-held camera

  • Very long takes

  • No voiceover

  • Synchronous Sound

  • No organised interviews

  • Rely on editing to enhance the impression of lived or real time

Technique evidence

Technique Evidence

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be9rTOnYnx0

Pro s con s of observational mode of documentary

Pro’s & Con’s of Observational Mode of Documentary

  • Pro’s

    • The subject is seen completely naturally

    • Get to see everyday life of a subject

    • Compared to other documentary modes, this is more likely to be the most authentic

    • Viewers can interpret own opinions and idea’s on the subject

  • Con’s

    • How authentic is it?

    • Editor can cut out scenes

    • Can’t pick up on all the details through the camera

    • Long takes can drag

    • Inconsistent camera work



  • How authentic do you think observational style documentary is?

  • What is your opinion on Bob Dylan after watching the clip?

  • Do you think the documentary suits the mode its made in?

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