Practical Coursework

Your practical coursework project (the pre-production and production piece combined) is worth around 40% of your total mark (check with your teacher for your exam board's specs). As well as being a new way of working for most of you, it is an opportunity to find out first hand exactly what the problems are facing real-life media producers, and it will give you an invaluable insight into production processes across all media. The work you do on this project will hopefully give you knowledge about many different aspects of the media, and do not be afraid to use what you learn here when answering questions from other sections of the syllabus. You may choose to work as part of a group, or create an individual project.

With your practical project, be it audio, audio-visual, web or print-based, keep the following in mind at all times:

Media production is all about communicating ideas, and before you start, you have to be absolutely clear what those ideas are and who you are communicating them to. You can learn more about the different characteristics of media forms on this section of Mediaknowall, which gives more details about Advertising, Animation, Comics, Movies, Newspapers and TV shows.



This is a vital stage, and the more work you do here, the easier you will find your task later on. You should fill out a proposal form and research your potential audience.


The more information you can gather about comparable media texts and what your audience want/don't want the better! If you're making a music video, watch lots of music videos. Which ones won awards? Which ones attracted a lot of criticism? Which ones attracted attention to the artist? Which ones sold more recordings? If you're designing a magazine, look at other magazines aimed at your market. Who or what do they usually put on the front cover? What type of stories do they feature? What are their regular columns/pages?

A good understanding of genre and the conventions of that genre helps here. Think of conventions as a road map you can follow - but don't forget to be creative and original also.

Good media production is about efficient decision-making, and if you make your decisions now (based on good evidence and ideas) you will find the production process simply a matter of following them through.

Audience Research

Before you start doing anything you need to research your audience. You need to know exactly what it is they want from your media text so you can provide it! The most effective way to get the data that you need is to design and hand out a questionnaire.

Your questions and responses should guide you in the direction that you take - for instance, you may be surprised at the audience's level of background knowledge about your subject (or lack of it) and this will help you in deciding on what your establishing shots should be. it will also help you plan the questions for any interviews.


If you have done your planning well, you should find this relatively straightforward. Although every project will face different problems, here are a few top tips:


This can be the most time-consuming part of the process. Allow for this, but do be aware that you should not waste time. Limit the time you spend on each shot/page. Remember that 'real' media producers work within very tight deadlines, and cannot spend hours and hours trying to get everything absolutely perfect. If something doesn't look right, don't be afraid to cut it out altogether. Also don't be afraid to ask for help, but ensure you have a specific question, such as "how do I make it look like..." rather than presenting a general wail "It looks all wrong..."

Useful Tips


You need to specify an audience for your photo-essay, not just in terms of readership, but also suggesting a magazine or newspaper which might publish it. You then need to say how your work conforms to that magazine/newspaper's style and content. You also need to critically evaluate your images. Are there any you used because you liked the content but weren't altogether happy with the quality? How did you balance this out? Were there any you had to retake? Was this difficult to do?


Again, you need to specify audience, whether you're making a music video, the title sequence for a drama show, or a documentary. How will you let you audience know that your video is for them, within the very first few seconds?


Would your documentary make a suitable feature within a longer programme, or does it stand alone? You have to show an awareness that, because of the limited nature of our video facilities, you could not make a documentary with a professional finish — it is not expected to compete with National Geographic! However, how does your documentary work as community, or low budget TV? Do you think it is an effective way of getting your voice heard/presenting the facts? If you were able to iron out some of the technical problems what would they be? Sound? The degeneration of quality each time you copied the tape?


You have a good knowledge of the potential audience for animation, and have selected your source story with that in mind. Now you have to consider how well your animation works. Obviously it is your first attempt, so you cannot compare it to the work of skilled Disney animators with a lifetime's experience who, these days, seem to be aiming for absolute realism. However, you have looked at the work of other, experimental and early animators, and you can evaluate how well your project works by looking at the following:

You also need to think about what your project has taught you about the work of an animator. You have studied the films - now do you have a better appreciation of what goes into the creation of an animated feature?

How has using a computer helped you? Do you have any further insight on how computers may help top animation studios produce movies?

Finally, do you think an audience would enjoy watching your animation extract, and want to see more? If not, why not? Be honest - are you not a talented enough artist or did you not spend enough time developing your ideas.