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Thread: 5 Minute Documentary

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Newcastle, England.

    Default 5 Minute Documentary

    Right so for the last 2 years I did a Media Production class. This is my final piece. The brief was to produce a 5 minute film on any chosen subject. I Picked the battle of Crete from WW2. I went over to Crete to film it and conducted an interview with a Greek who fought in WW2 aswell as his wife who lived in the island during the invasion.

    This video took alot of work - from researching the historical facts of the battle to translating the interviews from Greek to English. For this piece I got the best grade possible (distinction).

    I'd say the hardest part was condensing a massive story into 5 minutes. I didn't want to overload the viewer with too much information - I wanted something snappy, informative, straight to the point, and above all a enjoyable & educational watch.

    I made this on a G5 mac using Avid Xpress Pro. For all the image effects however, I used windows movie maker. Because we had a very tight deadline, I produced all the effects you see on the images at home using windows movie maker. This allowed me to simply splice them straight in when I had acces to my Colleges Macs. Despite WMM being quite a primitave tool, the effects are perfect as all you want are simple ease in/out effects.

    It's far from perfect however, and I'm the first to admit that. But what I will say is that this production was made for a class that comes before University. This was the first piece I produced by myself, everything from script writing to camera work. Everything you see was arranged, and done, by myself.

    As an 18 year old going into University I'd really like to get some feedback on this work. I know it's not perfect, but put in my position what would you have changed? I got loads of positive feedback from my peers in my class, but I'm more interested in what seasoned media producers think. I would really appreciate any feedback.

    Here's the documentary....hope you like it

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
    Blog Entries


    Congratulations on your distinction. This was a very good film for an 18 year old. You'd clearly researched it and the fact that you'd gone to the trouble of seeking out people who were involved shows your dedication to the topic. Or maybe they were family friends and you were visiting them anyway - who cares?

    The only downside from a tutors/markers point of view is that this didn't really show your ability with a camera. The film was fundamentally (and partially due to necessity) a bunch of aging stills which you panned and zoomed across. This was intesrperesed with one or two scenic shots (I wasn't a great fan of the zooms out without allowing us time to take in the whole vista - especially the shot of the graves which I thought should be left to linger).

    The other shots, of course were the shos of the elderly couple talking about their experiences. Fantastic documetary stuff this. And this makes the film. Get PEOPLE in the shot. We relate to PEOPLE. If other documentarists lift stuff from your film in the future, it won't be the old photos (they can get the originals or others), it won't be the sceneray (they can shoot that - probably better in their eyes -themselves or buy stock stuff) it WILL be the interviews with PEOPLE. Nothing can replace that. It can never be repeated. It's unique and it's yours!

    They were both lit adequately rather than well and positioned well right to left (in opposing positions which added a nice balance) though SHE was rather low in the shot (too much headroom).

    All in all a very good film. You handled getting the story across in 5 mins pretty well. You'd clearly worked very hard on the script and the graphics helped.

    The fact you'd used WMM for some of it simply proves what is often said on this forum when asked "What's the best editing software?". The software is simply a tool. It's what YOU conceive that matters. The best editing software is the grey matter between your ears.

    My only other criticism is the use of the Nazi symbol to finish the film. I can (just about) remeber being a teenager myself and how much I loved powerful symbols. But you need to understand your audience. That symbol at the end of the film may be distatesful or even very offensive to many people - especially those about whom the film was made. At best it was inappropriate. But don't get hung up on it - it's a lesson learned and you can always remove it - maybe replace it with a lingering shot of the graves?

    An excellent start to what I hope will be an engaing career, and if not career the hobby for you.

    Look forward to seeing some of your work at university.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England


    A very good documentary ! Well put together with a good variety of material to keep me interested. As you say, it is very difficult to get such a big story down to 5 minutes!

    Not sure about the intro... seemed a bit disjointed ... maybe a slower approach and titles first, to set the story up?.. then followed by the map to show where Crete is in the world.
    Reference to the darkest days to sync to the first shots of the war cemetery? or shots of war?
    Loved the titles, font you used.
    lovely clear subtitles were used and well timed to the shots

    still not sure about the is appropriate to the area, but somehow I feel that it did not quite connect?.. it is a serious subject and sad at the tragic loss of lives ..... something like "A hymn to the fallen" with the grave scenes then to the lighter local music at the landscape and modern photography?
    at 1:20 I'm not sure if that shot of the sea helped the film... maybe shots of British naval activity? .. your use of movement with the "still" photography is excellent
    use of witnesses was a real find and well handled.. excellent!

    I agree with previous comments.... it didn't sit right ending with the swastika.

    keep it up!
    Intel Q9550

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Newcastle, England.


    Firstly, thanks for such comprehensive responces, they're exactly what I was looking for. I'm also pleased that Tim picked up on some of the things I did - the placement of the interviewees on different sides of the screen for instance

    As far as the music goes Stephen, I used this song because it has strong reference to the subject. Firstly, the singer is one of the most famous to come from Crete - a revolutionary. The song I used is called ‘The enemy came into the village’ (roughly translated from the Greek name ΜΠΗΚΑΝ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΟΛΗ ΟΙ ΟΧΤΡΟΙ). Every Greek person who's seen it got it instantly. The enemy came into the village can be seen as the germans (enemy) invading Crete (the village). I personally think it fits well, it's a traditional Cretan piece and very atmospheric.

    The song at the end is actually an instrumental of the Greek national anthem. It's called 'The hymn to liberty' again a very fitting name. Although it does seem a bit upbeat and out of place, I still think it caps the film off well.

    It does start quickly, but I'd attribute that to the fact I was limited to a 5 minute film. My main aim was to get straight to the point. I do agree with you though. But with such a small amount of time available and so much to include, I had to be straight off the mark. And yeah that shot of the sea looks pretty poor looking back, I made that point in my evaluation

    And I'll take the Nazi symbolism thing on board. That never occured to me but the point stands. I mainly used it as it was part of my photoshop portfolio I had built up for the film. It was actually the movie logo. However I would argue Inglorious Basterds recently used Nazi symbolism so I'm not too sure!

    I wish I could have got some real archive footage, but the pictures do a good job and keep the pace going. If it wasn't for the pics I'd have been at a loss at what to include. Yeah there's little camera work, and I know it's poor to blame your equipment, but when you're using a massive, heavy, full sized camera with a flimsy, plastic £30 tripod from Currys then there's not too much you can do without it looking awful. So taking that excuse into consideration I felt the camerawork was to a decent standard, although I'll happily say camera work is not my strong point.

    Again, cheers for all the feedback

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Huntington, West Virginia USA


    Quote Originally Posted by Ethos View Post
    And I'll take the Nazi symbolism thing on board. That never occured to me but the point stands. I mainly used it as it was part of my photoshop portfolio I had built up for the film. It was actually the movie logo. However I would argue Inglorious Basterds recently used Nazi symbolism so I'm not too sure!
    I'll second the comments on the Nazi symbol. It could have been better used as a drop-in picture next to one of German soldiers invading. Placing it at the end during the anthem was certainly out of place. Now, having said that, and realizing that this documentary is already in the can, and a part of history itself, allow me to provide some encouragement.

    As one with a life-long interest in WWII history, it was not until I lived in Greece (near Kavala and Xanti) back in 1996-97 that I began to realize the extent of the German occupation south of what most of us consider the main part of Europe. And I certainly had not heard anything about the battle of Crete. Your documentary was very informative, given only 5 minutes to condense this sliver of war history. The IMPORTANT thing is that you documented two, real life Cretans who lived during that time. Your documentary showed the perception of the war from the perspective of the common people of the island of Crete, and people and their home was the real victim of that invasion. Even more importantly, you preserved these two aging faces and voices. They will shortly pass away, but their story will live after them in the interview your did. Hold on to that footage, it is history.

    Great work.

  6. #6


    I didn't like the drawn out zoom outs on the first few pictures.
    I think the first quote by the guy was good. You also did well by
    cutting into pictures as your second subject spoke.

    I did not like the spray and pray tactic of video clips. The truth is,
    If you don't have realevent footage, don't try and show a clip of the ocean
    when you say the word ocean over narration.

    I agree with the top poster, the last symobol you used did not make sense,
    as far as timing. Music also felt cheesy, the build up to victory was
    not strong enough.

    You clearly worked very hard on this and it shows.

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