Even if you’re not a Netflix user, you’ve seen this style of documentary. It’s pretty common these days outside of Netflix, too and often used for late night crime documentaries. The crime in the case of this example is that of the stolen jam on toast! Or, “jelly” on toast, for the Americans.
This hilarious tutorial video is brought to you by Paul E.T. and it’s a simple breakdown of how you can light, shoot and edit this style of documentary. It’s a straightforward approach that lets you simulate the look and make it look good for just about any potential topic or subject you might want to cover.
All you need are a couple of cameras, a standard and a telephoto lens and a light source you can control to get that short-lit dramatic Rembrandt look, a decent microphone (ideally a boomed overhead shotgun) and you’re pretty much good to go. Now just hit record on both cameras simultaneously and let your subject do their thing.
Also shoot a bunch of b-roll to illustrate topics the subject is talking about, perhaps a little stock footage of the general area for establishing shots and as “concept” pieces for certain topics and then mix between them in the edit. And don’t forget those dramatic titles and sound effects. Perhaps one or two motion graphics shots showing a timeline of events.
While the subject matter in this example might be a little… odd, the principles and techniques are demonstrated very effectively. It shows just how simple it really is to create this style of documentary.
If you could shoot a weird documentary in this style about anything, what would it be?