I only know about 大型设备 or 大型机械, but I saw a phrase 八集大型纪录片《强军》, but don't understand what 大型 means in this context.

If it means the long hour, it has only 8 episodes, and if it means the big size of screen, it must be played in a movie theater but it is a TV program not a movie production, which is usually played on TV set at home.

5 Answers 5


Very interesting topic. To my memory, 大型纪录片 is a relatively new word. Before 大型纪录片, Chinese natives are familiar with numerous programmes begin with 大型. Some are shown above, and more examples can be obtained by searching with the keyword 大型综艺.

  • 大型户外综艺相亲类节目
  • 北京卫视大型文化类慢综艺节目
  • 庆祝改革开放40周年大型综艺晚会
  • 辽宁卫视大型综艺娱乐脱口秀节目
  • 大型节目预告片
  • 大型综艺类民族音乐脱口秀节目

They are not always so '大型'. But why do they dare call themselves 大型? Well, I would say that's 中国特色.

When 大型纪录片 is used ... what does 大型 refer to?

  1. Many money are spent.
  2. Very long, many hours.
  3. Large-scale, as earlier answers suggested.
  4. Just an advertisement and absolutely no warranty!

Sometimes 大型 refers to #3, but most of the time it is for #4.

However, the term 小型纪录片 is usually only used by 纪录片专家 (specialists), and means 小型的纪录片 literally. If a 纪录片 calls itself a 小型纪录片, it is usually REALLY 小 - but still can be longer than some so-called 大型纪录片. For this reason, a 大型纪录片 needn't be longer than a 小型纪录片. Haha!

  • Can "heavy duty" or "heavy weight" be used in this context apart from "blockbuster"? "Blockbuster" sounds a little vulgar when put before the title of a film like this, what do you say? Jul 22, 2021 at 3:11
  • @NanningYouth I think 'heavy weight' is the closest for a general translation of 大型 in 大型纪录片. Blockbuster implies successful, however not the case of some unpopular 大型纪录片, so does 'heavy duty' - yet, a lot of 大型纪录片 about 强军, 美丽中国, 改革开放 etc. are eligible for 'heavy duty'.
    – Sherry869
    Jul 22, 2021 at 4:59

My understanding is that it means full-length documentary, or featured documentary.

A feature film in English is a movie with the duration of a typical TV program slot, or movie theater slot, i.e. 90 or 120 minutes.

Documentaries (纪录片) are usually short, I guess because of the disproportion between budget and amount of footage required for a 120 mins final cut.

So 大型纪录片 is a "large-scale" documentary with a long duration.

Disclaimer: I'm not confident about this explanation.

  • Quote:- "So 大型纪录片 is a "large-scale" documentary with a long duration" Perhaps 大型 does not refer to the "scale" of production, but rather it is multi-episodes. Just my guess as those called 小型纪录片 could be "large-scale" but mostly single episode of a few or 30 minutes in length. Again we are all speculating here. Jul 20, 2021 at 14:28

Think of it as a documentary version of a blockbuster film or an AAA video game. It does not have a precise definition and is big-scale in more than one aspect.

To name a few:

  • a lot of money is spent,
  • has long hours,
  • the cinematic effects are spectacular,
  • a lot of people are involved,
  • the production quality is very high,
  • the theme is rather grand,
  • etc. (However, screen size is not one of them.)

The previous answers mention the first two factors, but not the rest of them, which are usually entailed in the expression.


If it means the long hour, it has only 8 episodes

《强军》is the title of the documentary series and the eight episodes are its chapters. In other words, 《强军》is an eight hours documentary.

Typically, a documentary refers to one single show. It could be a 30 mins T.V. show or a feature-length movie

《强军》 covered all aspects of China strengthening its military force. With so many contents, that it has to be broken down into eight sections. calling it a 大型 (large scale) 纪录片 is appropriate.

  • Quote:- "Typically, a documentary refers to one single show. It could be a 30 mins" I found that these types are called "小型纪录片" Jul 20, 2021 at 14:22
  • @WayneCheah To be called a large documentary, it must have continuity between its segments/episodes that having a single start and a single ending/conclusion. Unlike 單元劇集 that each episode has its own start and ending, you will likely to miss out on something important in order to understand the ending/conclusion.
    – r13
    Jul 21, 2021 at 19:15

A documentary with 8 episodes is atypically large unless the length of each episode is around 10 - 15 minutes. Thus, the content alone can be huge (內容詳盡且涵盖甚廣), not to mention the filming can be 耗资鉅大, 編, 導, 演, 人員眾多, 場景雄壯 and 聲勢浩大.

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