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Digital Documentaries (MA)

Our MA in Digital Documentaries will enable you to integrate the theory and practice of documentary film and to turn your ideas into innovative films for a variety of audiences.

Documentaries are a vital, successful and constantly evolving media, with growing places for their screening.  Our MA in Digital Documentaries will enable you to integrate the theory and practice of documentary film and to turn your ideas into innovative films for a variety of audiences.

Intensive practical workshops, group sessions and one-to-one guidance will help you locate subjects and stories that matter to you, find a method of making and a mode of encounter with your subject, develop distinct shooting and editing strategies, and evolve your own unique visual language.

You will be trained in the craft and technical aspects of filmmaking, producing films of integrity and importance.

Skills developed will include;

  • Producing, directing, camera, sound and editing.
  • Learning how to communicate imaginatively through the moving image.
  • Researching and writing original non-fiction film
  • Developing visual story-telling
  • Shooting and editing
  • Project management, scheduling, budgeting, distributing and fund-raising. 

We train you to be an all-rounder, with valuable expertise in directing, production managing, camera operating, recording sound, editing, and also pitching your projects to funders and promoting your films to festivals. We will support all types of filmmaking, including campaigning and issue-led films, long-form investigative documentaries, observational and character pieces, experimental films and documentaries about the environment. In the final Master’s project, you will be able to present either a long form documentary or a portfolio of shorter pieces of work for different platforms and digital media.

You will also have the unique chance to work with a mentor from the creative industry, to pitch your idea to them, receive feedback in the making of your film to engage with the documentary industry and improve your CV.

Our teaching is informed by practice and academic rigour.  Our internationally leading faculty consists of academics and programme makers who are at the forefront of knowledge within their field.  The tutors have worked in the BBC and internationally, combining a unique breadth of knowledge of both academia and the industry.

Distinctive features

  • The Master’s Project, enabling you to build a portfolio of documentary work which reflects the changing audiences in digital media. 
  • The support of a mentor from the media industry, to pitch to and receive feedback from on your documentary projects
  • A variety of options in the choice of subject matter and style for film making, allowing you to specialise in subject areas that have relevance and interest to you. 

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration1 year
Academic Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

Candidates will normally be graduates from a recognised university with a minimum of a 2:1: a sliding scale of specific conditions in terms of academic requirement, based around this 2:1 level is also in place as the admissions criteria for most international markets. 

For PGT Programmes:

This Programme is suitable for graduates or experienced practitioners in related disciplines, such as journalism, media or film studies.

Typical IELTS offer:

A score of band 7 on IELTS with a minimum of 6.5 in each category is required for non-native English speakers or those who have not had a substantial part of their education taught in the English language.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course. If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:
  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

This course runs from September to September.  Between September and May you will study 120 credits of taught modules: 110 credits will be Core and the remaining 10 credits will be chosen from a range of options.

Following successful completion of the taught stage, you will undertake a Master’s Project which will be supervised until the end of July, and submitted at the end of August.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

In the first semester you will study three modules worth 20 credits each. 

You will learn the practice of documentary film making, how to light, film, record sound and edit your film that is submitted at the end of the first term. The film will be a poetic piece of work that reflects your creativity and understanding of the technical skills required to make a documentary. You will go on to learn the production skills necessary to research, plan, script, budget, and schedule your film, as well as how to use stills to create a story board for a film.

You will also examine the theories of sound, image, ethics, and truth, as well as the issues and debates in the history and theory of documentaries. 

In the second semester you will build on your knowledge of documentary practice, developing your camera, sound and editing skills to make a short film about a real situation or event. You will also begin thinking about your Master’s project and will work with a mentor from the broadcast industry.

At the end of the second semester you will produce a short trailer for your Master’s project: you will pitch your proposal to a panel and then receive feedback from mentors and staff. 

There is also an optional module allowing you to choose subjects of special interest to you from a pool of those available related to journalism and media.

The taught phase concludes in May and subject to successful completion you will progress to your Master’s project where you can go on to make your film, or series of films for your portfolio. The portfolio will be accompanied by a business plan, the relevant production paperwork and a reflective commentary.  This will be submitted at the end of August. 

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Most modules involve a mixture of lectures, workshops and practical demonstrations. In a lecture you will be given an overview of a particular aspect of the module content and will have opportunities to ask questions and be reflective.

Classes and workshops enable you to learn the practice of film-making using up to date camera, sound and editing technology. 

How will I be supported?

The University offers a wealth of support for postgraduate students. These include:

Learning Central

Learning Central is the University’s virtual learning environment.  All programme and module materials are posted here for students to access before, during and after lectures.


A variety of hard and electronic copies of books, journals and databases are available for participants on the programme. Many journals and books are also available electronically.

Personal Tutor System

You will be allocated a Personal Tutor. This member of academic staff will maintain an overview of your learning and educational experiences. If you are experiencing difficulties, your Personal Tutor will be there to listen and where possible provide professional guidance or else direct you to the appropriate source of support.

The Student Advisory Service

A free, impartial, non-judgemental and confidential service on a wide range of personal, financial and academic matters is available to you.

Disability & Dyslexia Service

Confidential advice and support is provided for you if you are disabled or have a specific learning difficulty (dyslexia) or long term medical condition.

Counselling Service

The Cardiff University Counselling Service provides members of the university community with an opportunity to examine issues that prevent them from maximising their full potential and to explore options for change. The Counselling Service is confidential and free of charge. It has had international recognition as a Centre for Excellence for individual and group counselling.

The Graduate Centre

The Centre is on the 3rd floor of the Students’ Union Building in Park Place, and serves all enrolled postgraduate taught and research students at Cardiff University, offering facilities and activities specifically designed for the postgraduate community


At key production points you will receive individual feedback on your films and projects.  Workshops and group work also provide support from peers and input from tutors.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment methods vary from module to module but, across your degree scheme as a whole, you can expect a mixture of coursework, essays, practical work, presentations, and individual and group projects. The dissertation project will allow you to develop a film and portfolio on a subject of your choosing.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • a professional sense of what a documentary is and the ability to evaluate and interpret the assumptions underlying it;
  • an understanding of how to develop an idea from paper to screen and understand the requirements of different audiences and markets;
  • an understanding of the need to achieve clarity and precision in the use of language and images, and the techniques by which this can be achieved;
  •  an ability to use standard software packages and hardware in your chosen medium, and be confident about your ability to learn how to use variants
  • a critical awareness of contemporary practices and theories of documentary film making

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the critical ability to justify and rigorously apply appropriate methodologies, techniques and practical strategies; as well being sensitive in the context of this application.
  •  competence in synthesising the complexities and unpredictability of researching and producing a factual programme.
  • the capability to experiment with and critically evaluate documentary form with confidence and initiate this to a professional level
  • a pro-actively ethical awareness in film-making through managing ethical dilemmas and finding solutions
  • self-reflective learning in order to improve professional practice and develop autonomy. 

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the ability to identify and construct the building blocks for a narrative
  • competence to write clear, precise, attractive proposals, treatments, and commentary that is appropriate for research, pictures and for all production requirements.
  • capability to budget and to evaluate and apply the resources needed for making a documentary
  • capability in scheduling a shoot taking into account risk and hazard assessment
  • a professional approach in the conduct of interviews with and the ability to evaluate sources for research and on camera;
  • competence to participate effectively in various roles within the production process;
  • the necessary skills to edit video and to work to a broadcast standard;
  • the ability to use a camera to shoot professional TV footage
  • listening and viewing skills to judge and critique documentary output and relate it to your own practice.
  • the ability to record, develop and understand the need for good quality audio in a production;

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • competence to communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively by oral, written and practical means
  • an ability to evaluate quickly a large amount of information and opinion and to adapt this into an audio/visual piece of work
  • an ability to work effectively in a team and as an individual
  • capacity to work under pressure and to a range of timescales to fit the requirements of programme tasks and outputs.
  • awareness of relevant health, safety and ethical guidelines for all media practice.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

EU students entering in 2020/21 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Additional costs

You will need to cover travel and subsistence costs for the research and production of your films yourself.

The documentary is one of the forms of media which is expanding across all platforms. Most businesses and NGO’s use videos to inform their internal and external audience about what they do. An MA in Digital Documentaries will offer a wide range of opportunities for those who not only wish to become film makers, but those who want to use this exciting medium for a wide range of different purposes.