Screen Language

 22.01.2018 ~ 02.02.2018

– Screen Language Overview

  • Documentary filmmaking dates back to pre-1900’s with the Lumiére Brothers creating literal documentaries, e.g., a train entering a station, factory workers leaving a plant. These earliest documentaries were short newsreels and strictly speaking, nonfictional, ‘slice of life’ factual works of art, without any creative story-telling, narrative, or staging. Over the years, as films became more narrative-based, documentaries branched out and took many forms since their early beginnings – some of which have been termed propagandistic or non-objective.
  • The widespread use of digital media and editing equipment has made this form of filmmaking practice an accessible way for visual artists and filmmakers to experiment with ideas that might otherwise be deemed too challenging or untenable. Start with a ‘burning question’ – thoroughly research and tell both sides of the story. It doesn’t mean you abandon a three act structure or character development, you need to create drama. Remember, these films can sometimes comes to life in the edit and the shots dictate the story rather than the script.


The second semester already started two weeks ago. However, first week of second semester we proceed to finalize our first semester projects. And next week, we have feedback for first semester projects. At that time, I know about my temporary score of first semester and I can talk any problem for course or suggest improvement point (but, I am not talk anything…).

After first semester feedback, we started a new project that called ‘Screen Language’ which was each person produce a short documentary less than 2 min 30 seconds. This project going on for two weeks and we need to use ‘Final Cut Pro’ or ‘Premiere Pro’ for video editing.

Prior to the project progress, I needed to know what documentary is and how to use Premiere Pro. Personally, I like to watch a documentary on TV or YouTube. But, exactly what documentary is a different matter. So, I try to find definition of documentary. Below of text is my research.






The history of documentary is longer than film. According to Charles Sumner, the documentary tradition of recording direct reality through images dates back to the use of images for Chinese missions in the mid-seventeenth century.

However, in earnest documentary comes from the magic lantern in the early 19th century. Anatomy, current affairs, travel information, and various slide images were projected through a magic lantern.


In 1895 Lumiere’s cinematography itself was a documentary. Fifty short films screened on the first night of the movie, such as “Arrival of Train” and “Workers Moving the Factory” were direct records of living moving reality. It was non-fiction, not fiction. The early film was not a fictional art but a newsreel documentary that captured the reality in a simple and straightforward way.

The person who established the documentary as a form of film art and his pioneering work is Robert Flaherty’s ‘The Arctic’ (1922). It is an ethnographic record of the Inuit family in northern countries, drawing on life with a hand-held camera and low-sensitivity film. This documentary is regarded as a documentary that interprets the daily life of an Inuit family as a point of hinting social causation and presents realistic value from the artist’s point of view.

The observational and realistic nature of this documentary is evident through the use of long shot and long take techniques. But on the other hand, this film raises the issue of drama tights of documentary. Open Igloo for shooting, the use of intentional old weapons, mobilization of people who are not real families, and so on.

Russian formalists, represented by the Kino Eye group in the 1920s, also led the great development of the documentary. Kino Eye means “the eye of the movie,” which also means the way of working of this group. They tried to capture the exact reality through the camera, which was the eye of the movie, and tried to engrave the value of reality right on the basis of socialist realism. On the contrary, he criticized the feature film that pursues an artificial fiction of life as a bourgeois film.


His most notable works are “Kino-pravda (1922-1925)”, which means “truth to see a movie” by Dziga Vertov. This work is a record of the camera’s ability to capture life and recognize its value, while at the same time it is a video essay that reflects the director’s insights. He is also the first author to appropriately utilize documentary films as a tool for the proletarian revolutionary movement. Vertov opposes the fictional character of a fiction film and opens the possibility of a documentary movement that depicts the reality as it is.

These works express the desire of the people to create a new socialist society and at the same time actively advocate the mechanical aesthetics of the camera. He combines the authenticity of the documentary with the experimental style. His documentary is persuasive, propagandistic, and experimental.


After the 1930s, European documentaries attracted attention. Grierson in the UK emphasizes the enlightening and educational function of the documentary. While Flaherty created a documentary based on the exploration and observation of exotic life, Grierson creates a documentary of social reality and everyday life. Various documentaries related to social issues such as ‘Coal Face’ (1935) about the mining village, ‘Night Mail’ (1936) about post office work, and ‘Housing problems’ (1935) These works are based on the liberal elite point of view and aim at improvement of social reality and public enlightenment. In addition, socialist documentary, which presented the slogan of peace, emerged.

In Spain, Surrealist Luis Bunuel Portoles was attracted by the short story called ‘Las Hurdes’. He presented here a poverty-stricken village with a cold camera. He criticized the social deterrent by neglecting the hungry poor with the crowded churches. In 1920, while Dziga Vertov made a revolutionary documentary, Germany, which had already acquired the infinite power of the film, produced a propaganda documentary in the 1930s that defended Hitler Nazism.


In the late 1950s, the ‘pre-cinema’ movement was developed in British. This movement criticized John Grierson’s enlightened documentary and emphasized the aesthetic value of the documentary. The pre-cinema movement is concerned with the emergence of a new youth culture called ‘angry young people’, seeking ‘freedom’ from existing commercial production environments. It deals with the class and social problems of the classroom from the viewpoint of realistic humanism.

The pre-cinema documentary describes the living daily life of the working class through personal, psychological, and poetic forms. Notice the induction of human emotions rather than the list of dry facts. It is closer to the poetic aesthetics of Humphrey Jennings than Grierson’s educational form. They use subjective point-of-view photography, jazz-style music, and rhythmic editing.


In the 1960s, they moved to action film. And in the 1960s there was a big change in the documentary. The development of technology has led to the creation of two new imaging philosophies: miniaturization and weight reduction of photographic equipment – ‘direct cinema’ and ‘vinema verite’ in the United States.

American direct cinema emphasizes the observer objectivity of documentaries. These documentaries thoroughly block the subjective intervention of the speaker, such as interviews and narration. I prefer simultaneous recording with nature, and I use long take technique. Direct Cinema advocates objective realistic aesthetics.

In addition, it emphasizes the supervisor’s observer approach and pursues a thoroughly informal work attitude. Here, the director takes maximum care without disturbing the object in front of the camera in order to capture the immediacy of the vivid event.

On the other hand, the Cinema Verite movement in France focuses on capturing the reality as it is, unlike the subjective and emotional form of British pre-cinema. It also formalized the existence of the camera by permitting the directing of the director and acting of the characters. Thus, a bishop is the instigator who has the authority to anticipate and stimulate a particular moment and is responsible for all events that occur in front of the camera.

Both styles were able to create a free and intuitive image, free from the tyranny of low-level scripting. However, both forms only refer to the methodology of documentary production using cameras with enhanced maneuverability and did not itself define the format of the work.


Grierson in the UK emphasizes the enlightening and educational function of the documentary. While Flaherty created a documentary based on the exploration and observation of exotic life, Grierson creates a documentary of social reality and everyday life.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, documentaries were used as weapons of the Third World Freedom Movement struggle. Third World folk documentaries experimentally overthrow the Western documentary style. They engage in reality more positively than Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema. They aim for an alternative form to the film industry. Developing the participatory and behavioral characteristics of documentary through the combination of various genres and techniques such as the dynamics of hand-held cameras, montage of various data screens, realistic newsreel, poems, essays, pamphlets, reports.


In the 1970s, the documentary moved to TV. Relatively low-cost TV documentaries have many advantages in terms of production and distribution. However, TV presupposed broad network broadcasting, which also depressed the documentary’s own identity. The social criticism of the documentary has become more susceptible to pressures from various organizations, and censorship has also occurred because the broadcasting company is likely to be troubled.


After the 1980s, there was a self-reflection movement that rejected the obviousness of the documentary. Reflective documentary is a film about subjective consciousness itself, and it deals with the doubt as to whether the perception of the individual has an inappropriate influence on the interpretation of the reality. Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil” is a typical example of creative dialogue that leaves a profound repercussion.

On the other hand, there was the appearance of a fake documentary, also called a mocumentary, which steals the realism spirit of documentary. And the documentary which was transferred to TV fused with the drama, and also produced the hybrid type documentary.


The arrival of the digital age in recent years brings to the renaissance of documentary. The proliferation of simple and economical digital imaging equipment and editing software results in the democratization of production personalization. YouTube already shows this trend. Public access and video activist movement are activated. In addition, it is possible to secure various distribution channels such as cable, DVD, and the Internet using digital format. Documentary is a tool that expresses the daily life and culture of the public through the Internet mobile network beyond the theater and television.

The digital age recalls the old debate about the paradox of realism in documentaries. As the photographic ontology of film disappears, it poses the problem of digital synthesis and manipulation. It raises questions about the historical record and truth of the documentary. It also raises questions about the historical record and authenticity of fiction, nonfiction, and documentary. It also raises questions about the boundaries between non-fiction, documentary and drama. The digital age demands more aesthetics of creative intervention and composition beyond the aesthetics of photographic record and observation.


And I found when I make a documentary where should I focus on?

When a documentary artist decides on a theme, how do you unravel the subject creatively? The creative approach will be different depending on the topic. And creativity has a limiting factor that it is versatile only within the expression of the subject.

A documentary film is a format for presenting a record of reality in any form, even if it is a broad expression, but it is not a documentary to include reality in a camera. However, the way of documentary expression is so diverse that it cannot be said that documentary is unique.

It would not be possible to include any reality that exists in the documentary because it deals with reality. The documentary maker, “Documentary,” decides what reality to document. However, in order to select a certain reality as a material for a documentary, the subject consciousness must be clear. ‘What is the purpose of making this reality a documentary?’ There will be a change that will be gained by showing the reality even if it is simply aimed at ‘showing reality’. This is the value of a documentary.

But if you think what you want to show is a collection of ‘information’, it is a documentary material and has a sense of distance. If the purpose of grouping information is simple information transmission, this is far from the reality of documentary. Information is information, not the reality we live in.


The completeness of the documentary

  1. Value of documentary

The value of a documentary is a perception of reality that documentary artists want to convey to audiences. Reality awareness is not just about criticism about reality. Whether it is history, society, culture, or human beings, it refers to a viewpoint that is not distorted. And the awareness of the theme of this society with the recognition of reality is documentary value. That is why simple information transmission cannot be a documentary.


  1. Creativity, imagination

When the documentary is packed with creativity and imagination that have a high value, the perfection is maximized. The lack of creativity is merely a collection of obsolete images. How to package the value depends on the creative intent of the documentary with the planning intention. It is refreshing and fun to see the documentary which is excellent in creativity. Even if the subject is heavy.


  1. Connectivity and consistency between visual beauty and storytelling

Another reason for the high-quality documentary is ‘visual beauty’. To be more precise, the fun of visual beauty gives tension. Although it is a documentary, I look at it with pleasure. Because the visual beauty is excellent.

A documentary with a high degree of completeness is linked to the story rather than having its own outstanding visual beauty. This is because the image plays a big role as a main element of storytelling. Without storytelling, the audience cannot relax and relax. Keep in mind that without storytelling, it is difficult for the story to be consistent.


  1. Easy

It is easy to make a high-quality documentary. It’s never difficult to get a sense of tension because of the imaginative power of images and stories. The highly-satisfying documentary gives a clean impression with careful attention to detail.

The problem is that it takes money and time to make a high-quality documentary. Of course, money and time are not all. Creativity and imagination cannot be converted into money. If creativity is excellent, you can make a work with a high degree of perfection even with a low production cost and time.

I got a concept about what a documentary is, but I did not know what kind of work I was going to do based on it. I have developed many ideas that I have envisioned in the sketchbook, but I have come up with ideas that are not satisfactory in many aspects, such as the parts, the stories, and the composition that I suspect might be able to take these ideas.

So, during the mid-checkup next Monday, I decided to go with what I thought and ask if I could do anything, if I could make a supplement or a fix, or if I had a better idea.


2nd week


During the first week of the project, I had a chance to come up with ideas and explore the features of Premiere Pro.

First, there was an interim review on Monday. In this presentation, I was planning to shoot a video entitled “How to draw” I had conceived during last week. The theme of this video was intended to introduce the various materials people use to draw pictures. In addition, in this documentary idea I wanted to show VR painting. Because, that is new kind of way of painting and quite interesting material for everybody. However, after my presentation everyone told me that my current idea and rough cuts is more like a promotional video than a documentary.

Tuesday was a private tutorial day. I thought it would be quicker to start a new idea than yesterday ‘s idea that I presented. I showed the new idea to the tutor, and she said that is much better than previous idea. What is new idea was about the early morning of the city. It was about ‘what happens in the city early morning before we wake up and sunrise?’. This documentary theme is normal, while for me this is first time to take a documentary, so I hope through out this process I can be find new perspective for world.



Before filming documentary, I planned for footage and range of area where I will film in the Glasgow city centre. Because, Glasgow is not small, I cannot be going to be a far. Finishing planning I started filming from next day 5:00 AM.


At 5 o’clock in the morning, there was nothing just a few of dust car or taxi around the city. However, when I moved to high street around 5:10, I was able to find out that so many people cleaned floor and warehousing of goods to store. At that time, in the bus stop and train station is still busy and I can see a lot of trucks on the road. The appearance of a city where many people live seems to be same, East and West.


I finished filming as I planned and I returned home around  8 o’clock. I checked the footage and edited, today slept earlier, because, tomorrow I need to wake up earlier.


On Thursday, I tried to compose the place I liked to have photographed yesterday, or something that was lacking in visual sense, and moved it to a different line from yesterday. I finished the shooting and came back and edited the video I shot today, and joined the yesterday’s video, but it was not an easy task. I was about to reduce the 8-hour video to two minutes, so I was worried about what to put in and what to lose. Eventually, the image was one minute longer than the given condition, but this will be fixed later.


On Thursday, I edited the video and supplemented the parts that I want to take filming more and the parts that were lacking in visual sense. Today I tried to move to another footage from yesterday. After finishing the filming, I went back to my room and edited the video I film today and yesterday’s, which was not easy. Because, about 8 hours of video had to be reduced two minutes. In this process, I was worried about which scene to put in and which to subtract. Eventually, the video was one minute longer than guide line, but it will be editing again.

Friday was a day of documentary filming presentation. Originally, we separate two of presentation group in the morning and afternoon, but everyone decided to do presentation together is much more better. So, we are not divided two group for presentation. Finally, everybody presentation is not bad. this project ended successfully.


This is my final work URL:


Thank you for reading my blog 🙂


The Glasgow school of Art

Interaction Design Year 2

YongWon Choi


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