A level Media Studies support site

A level Media Studies support site
click on the image to go to the new site

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Feedback, Manchester event Nov 6th

We made some changes for the Manchester event and ran the exam sessions in the morning; we still ran out of time for the A2 production unit, but at least we felt we had done complete justice to three out of four! the feedback was the best yet, so thank you to the Northern delegates!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Feedback on the London events

At each training event, delegates are asked to complete a feedback form. in the interests of transparency, the summary of forms from the first two events are displayed here. The top two pages are from the 9 October and the others from 15 October. At each event there were nearly 40 delegates, of whom around 60% filled out a form.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


At each event, participants are asked to put any questions they have on post-its and we will attempt to respond to them. The questions and answers are then posted on here to provide a useful resource for everyone! Each time, we will add to the relevant unit. Where possible other links and resources will also be added. If you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me petefraser@me.com and I will add the answers on here.

General issues

How do students get an A* grade

They need 320 marks, of which at least 180 must be obtained in the A2 units.

When are moderator's reports due?

You should have received it when you got your results in August. Please contact the Qualification manager, Rob Carlton and he will find out what has happened. the same is true if your coursework has not arrived back yet!

Is it fair for a moderator to put down a whole centre's marks? It seems unfair on some students.

This is the nature of moderation in all subjects. It relies on your rank order being consistent so that any mark changes to adjust a centre to national standards can be applied to the whole of your cohort. If a moderator thinks marks are wrong in a particular mark range, he/she can change that range only, provided it does not affect the overall rank order. This policy applies for all boards in all subjects- not just media or OCR.

What if any dialogue is possible when there are glaring errors in the coursework moderator's analysis?

Where centres believe a genuine mistake has been made e.g. a preliminary task penalty applied
when the preliminary task was carried out, please contact Rob Carlton, the Qualifications Manager in the first instance. This does not apply to disagreements with moderation decisions. All other concerns about moderation should go through the results enquiries service as published on the OCR website.

I welcome the openness of the A2 spec but am nervous about the 'quality' of marking given some past experience

We are working hard to ensure that markers only work on one paper, that team leaders emphasise quality control in their role and that checking escalates up the chain more to ensure consistency of standards. There is also additional training for moderation team leaders coming up soon. Hopefully, all this illustrates our committment to improving the level of confidence in the marking process.

Are there standardisation meetings for teachers of this course?

These days are it! If you would like a visit from a senior moderator to help further, please e-mail the Qualifications Manager, Rob Carlton to discuss.

How important is it to use the endorsed textbook? The centre cannot afford to buy a set for all students.

At the risk of upsetting my colleague, who wrote it, at least if the teacher has a copy, any useful pointers can be used in the classroom. However, you should not photocopy chunks for all students!

What is the tolerance between a centre's marks and the moderator's marks?

3. so if you give 79 and the moderator thinks it is 82, the marks would not be changed.

Is there any way around school firewalls blocking the use of blogs?

Put pressure on management and report it to the Media Education association who are lobbying about this issue. The only alternative is to set them up from home and get students to do their blogging from there.

Has OCR thought of providing a central blog hub or site that centres can upload coursework to, construct blogs etc

yes, there is an area called the repository for coursework which a number of subjects used last year but we felt that for media this would not be a feasible option given the file size of video work. For blogs, it would again create many complications; you are definitely better off using a free site like blogger.

When I tried to expand comment boxes for the marksheets, they fail to print out. What can i do?

Put extra comments on a word document and print that additionally.

What do I do about a student who does not contribute to group work but the product is high quality?

Make clear in your comments why your mark is so much lower for that individual!

Friday, 9 October 2009

G321 Foundation Portfolio

What universal formats should be used?

PDF for print, JPEG for pictures, MP3 for audio, Video should be on a DVD readable on domestic players. If online, in a blog, it needs to play without problems; only having it online risks the quality being reduced for playback, so bear that in mind!

Are we allowed to use Publisher for print coursework? Our moderator suggested it wasn't good enough.

In general, it seems that Publisher is quite limiting in terms of what students can do with it, which might make creating an effective layout too problematic. However, some teachers at the session suggested that with clever use you can get more out of the program than you might expect.

Is there a problem with teachers putting comments on students' blogs in a formative way?

No that's fine

As the LEA will not allow access to blogs in the classroom, we may use powerpoints. Do these have to be filmed?

Not necessarily, but it has worked well for those centres who have filmed them.

Will the moderator accept a password to look at student blogs on our VLE or prefer them on disc?

Yes, a password is acceptable, but if you find putting them on disk keeps them in a format which shows their intentions, that is fine too.

we were told by the moderator that electronic R&P is compulsory at AS

This is not the case at AS.

I am new to Head of Dept, we have DTP and Fireworks available to create school/music magazine. Does this sound sufficient?

Answer from the floor on this one was that Fireworks is fine for image manipulation

How does OCR check the coursework moderators' comments? Our June 09 was full of inaccuracies – candidate nos incorrect, one number not related to any students in our centre, one referred to print prelim – candidate did film

We are currently working on quality control with team leaders doing increased checking in future. It sounds as if there may have been a clerical error in this instance with the report going to the wrong centre

How much research should be done? Or to put it another way what type of research?

there should be some research into similar products and target audience and to institution so that they can answer the evaluation question.

Can students use copyright music or not?
They need to identify sources of copyright free music/sounds at AS.

How can we avoid using popular copyrighted music in rom-com where it's part of he conventions of the genre?

Someone suggested getting the students to record the track, which would be acceptable.

What comments and what level of detail is best when marking?

There needs to be a balance between ref to spec and giving examples from work to back up decisions. Comments are not about selling the product to the moderator and should mention weaknesses as well as strengths. The commentaries on practical work from exemplar pieces may be helpful for this.

If a podcast is submitted for the evaluation, is it possible to include interview and prompting by the teacher?

Yes and this is a good idea to ensure they give more detailed answers and don't just read an essay

What evidence of process in research and planning would you suggest for video?

storyboards/animatics, photos of costumes, locations, props, actors....see the Chestnut Grove blogs for some good examples (link at top of blog)

If a powerpoint shouldn't look wordy, how can they tell us what they have done in enough detail?

Images annotated can work very well and say a lot more than hundreds of words; bullet points, links, bits of audio are all possible to link in.

we were told we should have filmed the presentation

That is not a compulsory element- a moderator could offer that as a suggestion, and it certainly can help if presentations are filmed or audiotaped as it means you have more evidence to show

It would have been helpful to know for definite that electronic research and planning at AS was best

This was always suggested as an OPTION, but we have seen lots of good paper evidence; from the point of view of reducing postage and huge volumes of stuff for moderators to wade through and from the point of view of preparing for R&P at A2, it is recommended, but there is certainly no penalty for using paper at AS

Why is it a requirement to use dialogue for opening sequences?

It isn't. There should be appropriate sound for whatever is created. if it really looks like we should be hearing dialogue and there is only music, that is an issue, but an abstract title sequence might well be wholly music-based. Also for consideration: atmospheric sound

What if no social group is represented in the title sequence? How will they evaluate it?

They might well not- they would just make it clear why they have gone for a different approach; although all seven questions should be addressed, it is quite possible some will have more detail than others.

What is judged as minimal, basic, proficient, excellent will always be subjective

Absolutely right and the examples used at the INSET days are designed to give a steer as to where the national standard ought to be for each of those for construction. Marking coursework is not an easy task and moderating it is just as hard, but we need to have a set of expectations in order for the process nationally to be fair and for results to be comparable.

Our moderator commented "mise en scene for productions tended to be based in school which didn't really enable candidates to show excellence". Does that mean we should not use schools as a location for productions?

It means that candidates need to pay close attention to how they construct their mise-en-scene. it is always possible to disguise your set with careful use of props and camerawork. If they do have to film in school, they need to invest time in the planning to make it look effective

Will the structure of blogs be marked? If they forget something and add it later will they be penalised?

No. They can change the dates on posts anyway by going into settings on most blog options, like blogspot.

Will students lose marks if music or films can't be uploaded to blogs?

No they just need to explain why they can't get it to link or put them in a different format, such as on a disk

Our moderator thought some of the images were not original, but they were!

Make sure that all images for print work are clearly identified as their own by candidates, so that they show the process they have gone through

Where can we get copyright free music?

there were suggestions from the day but for one I couldn't read what the teacher had written and everything i tried won't link! Looks like igt music? the other www.freeplaymusic.com

How do I create an animatic?

1. draw storyboard frames- nice and bold, black pen if possible
2. take individual photos of each frame
3. upload the photos to the computer
4. import the photos into the edit programme
5. drop each image onto the timeline and cut to the required length
6. put music or other sound on the audio timeline
7. add titles or effects/transitions as required
8. export to quicktime and upload to youtube or vimeo
9. embed the video onto the blog or save it to a Cd

How do I set up a blog?

there should be a simple pdf for blogger here available to download, along with some other useful documents

Do students each have to have their own blogger account?

Could do or you could set them all up and share a password/gmail address

To what extent is creativity marked? Its not on the markscheme for G321. If a sequence is technically almost flawless, should it get a top grade?

Yes it should given the criteria, but the intention is always to encourage a creative approach.

Should blogs contain individual or group entries?

Can be either, but for a group blog, tagging their posts would be advisable.

Is there an example of a director’s commentary anywhere?

Here is one- their channel on youtube features some more:

Thursday, 8 October 2009

G322/3 Key concepts

Any ideas how to approach the area of ethnicity within a multi-cultural classroom? Any ideas for teaching ability/disability, regional identity?

Loads of TV drama has a good range of representation- a good resource is the English and Media Centre TV Drama pack. It is hard to find a TV drama that doesn't provide you with something! From 'Skins' to the soaps, from 'the Street' to the hospital dramas, it's worth keeping a stock or buying a few box sets.

Is it a good idea to set up a thesis before starting the question?

No point- just get on with it!

Can we get marks for individual questions for examined papers from OCR? To know which questions are eliciting stronger responses.

yes if you request the papers back, but you will have to pay a fee for each paper.

Terminology – is it based primarily around technical codes?

no, it's around codes AND representation. Think of terminology as language you wouldn't use if you were talking about the subject with your parents

As a case study would it be viable to compare independent cinema house(s) vs multiplexes?

yes but not on their own, as you need to consider all aspects of the process for a media product, not just the final stages .

Can we have the actual marks for the exemplar essays?

We prefer them to be distributed as examples of particular levels.

Although OCR can’t produce a TV drama compilation on DVD, can anyone suggest some good episodes of programmes available on DVD which they have used.

Suggestions welcomed- e-mail me and I’ll put them on the blog!

Can we have an example of how editing specifically informs representational issues?

We will try tfind something which provides a good illustration and post it here

Can we use soaps or not?

Yes- may not turn up in the exam, but in theory they could. Doesn’t hurt to use them anyway in your teaching.

Does examples refer to examples from the exam text or from examples from programmes studied in class?

Just from the exam text

Is the mark scheme totally separated e.g. could they get full marks for terminology yet only 2/20 for examples


Why is there no markscheme for the exam in the specification?

It is on the OCR website and has been for a long time; a copy was also given out in the INSET pack

How can a student achieve 10 out of 10 for terminology without going OTT?

Using technical terms appropriately and with relevance enables them to access the top band.

Our students are always asking ‘how many terms do I need to get the 10 marks? we explain that they need to use terms across the four technical elements. they then ask how many of each? Is it better to use five terms correctly than use 20 and get a few wrong?

There really is no fixed number, but if they use a couple of terms for each they will be well on their way! Better to use them all correctly, but if they have a go they would not be penalised- marking is positive.
How would you link match on action, eyeline match, shot/reverse shot to issues of representation?

Issues of power in a sequence would make these relevant- how we are positioned as viewers in relation to the characters? how are they positioned in relation to each other are all relevant. A good book on all this is Bordwell and Thompson's 'Film Art'.

we want to use 'Skins' in our teaching- is this ok?

Yes fine

How much representation or narrative theory should a student be expected to apply for the analysis?

Depends what we mean by 'theory'. It is unlikely to be useful to include abstract theory. An understanding of issues around representation would be essential for the exam, but it is not really about application of abstract theory.

Section B

Can we have some resources for section B?

there is now so much material on the web it is hard to know where it stops! James Baker has provided the following links and comments:

changes in the nature of audience behaviour over the past 25 years

UK audience behaviour - research by the UK Flm Council

Patterns of film consumption in the UK

excellent online guide to all aspects of film production, distribution and exhibition

guide for aspiring filmmakers into aspects of distribution and exhibition

use of IMAX in Hollywood feature production

guide to film distribution from the FDA

BFI guide to film distribution and exhibition

Film Council distribution statistics

great, analytical account of Hollywood marketing campaign for the Dark Knight

What does significance of proliferation of hardware mean in relation to film?

It can refer to the changing ways of distribution and exhibition (e.g. digital projectors in cinema, people having mobile devices on which they can watch films, growth of 3D and IMAX) or even changes in production (high quality digital cameras)

I cover 4 case studies, can students refer to as many as this in the exam?


Last summer's section B question frightened off my unsophisticated students. Language like 'technological convergence' is too hard for an exam paper- ok for the spec (for teachers)but not for the students. Please use simpler vocab.

It is legitimate in any subject for any term from the spec content to turn up in the exam. We are careful with difficult non-Media language in the exam, but terms from the spec will come up.

Could a case study for magazines be two large rival firms?

It could, but ensure you cover the seven aspects in relation to them

is it ok to compare Working Title with a genuine UK independent production company e.g. Vertigo films?


Can we see an A grade on newspapers?

We'll try to find one from january and post it here

Can we introduce a choice of questions for section B?

Usually changes to the spec have to go through QCA and this can take a long time. After a full run of the whole spec we will consider whether changes to any papers should be requested.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

G324 Advanced Portfolio

At A2 for the music video package we have DTP, Fireworks and Windows Moviemaker. Is this sufficient?

To make a music promo in Moviemaker would be a challenge as it has its limitations.

If students are producing print for coursework, are they still allowed to print a hard copy for assessment at AS and at A2.

Yes, but there should be a digital copy at A2 as well.

Is a teaser trailer for a thriller/horror too close to the opening of a thriller in AS? Will it affect marks?
No, the task is fine

What should research include for the soap trailer task?

Whatever you and they feel is needed for the three elements of the task to enable them to produce effective work

As part of their research, students wrote essays on genre and narrative. Is it ok to hyperlink these through powerpoint?

Yes that's fine

For the digipak – is there a template for students to produce all 4 panes or can they just do 4 CD sized examples?

No template provided by OCR. All you would need to do would be to identify which bit belongs where, e.g. front cover, front inside etc.

Is there room for flexibility in A2 briefs, e.g. swapping 'digipak' for CD cover as music video ancillary task?

No there's no flexibility to the briefs.

What ideas do you have for producing an animatic?

It is amazingly easy. They draw the storyboard, take a photo of each frame, upload the photos to the computer, drop into the edit program and cut to length, add sound, upload to youtube or blogger and paste/embed code onto blog.

Can we submit storyboard on paper for A2?

No everything must be digital. If you are not using blogs, either photos of the storyboard on a disk or an animatic on a disk would be the answer

Can students do a teaser trailer for a documentary drama? They want to a disaster theme so can they use found images?

Yes no limits on type of film and they can make limited use of found material- especially where it would be impossible to film.

What are good ways to organise electronic files in A2?

If on a disk, just have a folder for each candidate with everything labelled

How long should trailers and music videos be?

there was a good post on teaser trailers on the e-list which we will copy below. Music videos- the length of the track is the usual convention, but if it is a particularly long track, they could fade early. three minutes is the classic pop song....

Nils posted this:

However, I would argue that 'teaser' is not as prescriptive as has been
suggested. Three trailers stated as teaser recently:

-'Cemetery Junction' (no footage from the film just Ricky Gervais and
Steve Merchant joking about Ralph Fiennes)
-'G-Force 3D' (only clips from the film)
-'Cloverfield' (a mix of 'gimmick' and 'clips')

to me have highlighted the fact that there is no set definition of a
teaser trailer in Hollywood and that the only criteria is that it is
released a longer time before the film than the theatrical trailer and
that it is shorter- I have told my students it could be 30 seconds but
no more than 90 seconds, as anything longer would be a theatrical

A suggestion for A2 group marking from one teacher:

set students one area to be in charge of and mark them on that- e.g. one person as editor, one person as cinematographer, one as art director

If that helps you, it's not a problem. just be absolutely clear in your marking!

Are marks for construction distributed across all three products at A2?

40 for main, 10 each for the two subsids

For the digipack, what exactly is expected?

Needs to be at least four panes- could be CD size or DVD size, but needs to show clearly what the consumer can expect to get. Example here of the range of digipacks available, but you only see the front covers!

How do we deal with copyright issues in relation to using music for advanced production?

For the purposes of the spec, we request that for music video, they show evidence they have sought permission to use the track- no more than that. Other material may only be used in a limited way. Non-copyright audio may be used for any task.We actively encourage students to create their own soundtracks. A site for unsigned bands here may be useful

Should they work as a group across all three tasks or can they work individually on the ancillary tasks?

If they are submitting one digipack and one magazine advert, for example, they may have each taken responsibility for the mechanics of producing one or the other, but they should each have been involved with both- in other words avoid 'producing it in its entirety' on their own or they can't get any credit. They may if they wish each individually produce alternative ancillary packages, so you would have the main task and three or four each of the ancillary tasks.

Is the ancillary task of website home page just that or do the links all have to work?

Home page is enough

Do tasks have to be on disk/blog only or can they be printed out?

Feel free to print out if you want to provide a final version

there do not seem to be any opportunities to look at institutional issues in the markscheme

Re-reading the criteria, I can see how this might appear to be the case. Crucial elements are:
Planning: research into similar products and target audience
Construction: producing material appropriate to the task set (showing institutional understanding)
Evaluation: understanding of the combination of main and ancillary tasks

What does an advert for a digipack look like?

Good question- get the students to look at adverts for the release of albums in any format to see the conventions

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

G325 Critical approaches

How can you only give 40 min per question at A2?

The exam is 2x30 min and one one hour question

Can you explain the link between coursework and exam at A2?

q.1a is about their progression across their production work and a braod idea like 'pre-production' or 'technology' or 'creativity' is used to stimulate the response

q.1b requires close textual analysis in relation to one or two concepts like 'narrative' or 'genre' of one of their productions

Can we have some bullet point elaboration on areas to explore under the headings?

We'll see what we can provide- it will appear on here when it comes!

can you suggest some talking points for writing about creativity?

This presentation by Mark readman from last year's OCR conference is a really good starting point

what theoretical perspectives should be covered for success with q.1a and b?

They need to understand the concepts that are in the list and be able to apply them. For broader perspectives like say postmodernism, it might be more a case of applying what they learn for q.2 to examples of their work as relevant.

How do students talk about progress over two projects?

They need to have a framework covering the concepts to apply to their work. It would be essential to spend class time going back over their work towards the end of the course and applying new ideas to the analysis of it.

Should examples include dates, director etc


Can they refer exclusively to personal projects?

I think they would find it difficult to answer without reference to their A level work but they would not be penalised for a good answer that looked solely at relevant work outside the course

what is meant by media language?

The way that meaning is made using the conventions of the particular medium and type of media product. A broader category allowing cands to write about elements of semiotics, genre, narrative, design, structure, codes and conventions, time and space, aesthetics, spoken, written and v isual language to name just a few examples. To give one specific example, the use of continuity editing in a film sequence.

How many case studies should students revise?

Can do one theme if you like, must have at least two media and therefore at least two texts

Should they compare web 1.0 and web 2.0 websites as examples?

would probably be hard to find 1.0, but talk about the key differences would be sensible

A2 exam what needs memorising? film, director, dates? how accurate do they need to be?
theorists? date of publication?

Accurate referencing will be rewarded. It is an important skill for HE.

Could we have a medium term scheme of work for G325 for 1/2 units so we can see how to hit all the requirements?

We will try! I think there are already some available from hodder and this one on the OCR site

Q.2 can we focus on censorship? do we have to explore piracy and control of conglomerates? for media regulation

Knowledge of what the regulation practices of different media are is the requirement for this unit, coupled with debates about those regulation practices, so piracy may be relevant but is not at the core of it.

Can we have some examples of A2 sample essays

Not till after the january exams, otherwise you just get essays written by examiners, which are not really 'realistic'

is it correct to assume gender and ethnicity are specific groups for A2?

Not really, but men, women, transgender people, asian british, sub-sahara africans, etc would be...aim to be more specific in the case studies.

One delegate recommended 'headliners' for young people representing themselves as a case study

is it ok to do two British case studies? e.g. youth in British film and tv?

Yes fine

How many texts should we study?

Not too many or they get confused, but it is up to you

Is it ok to refer to texts from other cultures?


If students sit the exam in january, are they at a disadvantage due to having not started A2 production?

Yes insofar as they would have less to write about and less choice

Should we cover more than one topic?

Up to you but I would as there is so much potential for productive crossover between them

Collective Identity topic: do students need to look at institutions within this?

Yes, where relevant. They might for example be looking at collective identity on MySpace, where it would be relevant to consider who owns it and what they want the site to do for their business and how this relates to the collective audience and its identity.

Are there any theories you would recommend for representation of youth in Collective Identity topic?

Writers/critics to consider might include: Stanley Cohen, Angela McRobbie, David Buckingham and Christine Griffin