Why does the Producer project provide tools specifically for documentary programmes? Why not, for example, quizzes, casting shows soap operas or car tests? Or, casting the net wider, why not build tools that support everything?
Documentaries are an interesting use case because they allow us to focus on a set of interesting challenges that span the full creation process.
• Documentaries require a large amount of real world research and preparation before the production starts. While a soap opera episode can often be written and produced without requiring more than basic knowledge of the environment the story is set in, documentaries, whether covering nature, politics or history, requires substantial research of the topic or area covered.
• Documentaries generally create a large amount of material. Scripted productions in general will, at best, create various different views or takes of the scenes filmed, but all material will correspond to specific parts of the script. In production, the editor’s choice is mostly about which version of a scene to select. A documentary can create large amount of footage. While certainly a bit on the extreme side, a recent BBC nature documentary that was broadcast as four 60 minute episodes (there was a fifth episode, but that was essentially a ‘making of’) had 8000 hours of original footage, giving it a 2000:1 ratio of footage recorded to footage used. Working with such large amounts of source material requires detailed and well organized metadata and as much automatic support as possible.
• The large amount of information gathered and material filmed also allows providing a wealth of background information to interested viewers. Tools that can make this additional content available, either directly on the TV screen or on a second screen will help adding more depth to the documentary.
• Immersive presentation formats like 360°, are ideally suited for documentary material. Viewers can be put ‘in the middle of things’, providing a feeling of being part of the scene that is hard to archive otherwise and will bind the viewer emotionally closer to the subject of the documentary. On the production side, a large part of documentary material is filmed outside, reducing the problem of visible sets or lighting rigs, which can spoil the illusion for 360° content filmed in a studio. And making it better suited for immersive viewing. In addition, there’s often no specific ‘main point of interest’ in a documentary shot, encouraging the viewer to become active and look around.
While many of these points are also valid for other genres (quiz shows require a lot of research, casting shows create large amount of additional material, and so on), documentaries have a wide enough set of features that are interesting to address by the Project, while at the same time, providing a field that allows Producer to keep focused.