Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

March 2000

Video for Multi-Media Use

Over the past year or so, we've noticed an onslaught of folks who have voyaged into the consumer electronics market, purchased a camcorder, and are doing amazing things with video. Many of you are capturing your video and editing right on your desktop computers.

We, too, have voyaged into the brave new world of compressed video. We've had to learn, or rather, unlearn a lot of what we do to produce professional videotapes.

Whether you're using your video for Web applications or Power Point presentations, here are a few tricks of this new trade I'd like to pass along.

1. Freeze. Okay, not literally. What I mean is, remove as much motion as you can from your shot. Now don't get me wrong. The reason to use video is because there is movement. I want you to take away any extraneous movement that you as camera operator might be adding. Put your camera on a tripod, and forget about zooming (moving in or out), panning (left to right), or tilting (up or down). If that's not possible, minimize as much of it as you can.

2. Smaller is better. It's been tough on the "experts" to watch video on the Web. We have very high standards, and compressed video makes us make compromises. To avoid bogging people down on the Web, make your screen size fairly small, and use a good compressor. The Sorensen codec (compressor/decompressor) seems to be the standard right now.

3. The devil is in the details. Wide shots that have lots of trees fluttering gently in the breeze may be picturesque at a movie theatre, but in a QuickTime movie they are more "picture-puke." Complex visual details are hard on your compressor. It's best to have a fairly plain background. The simpler, the better.

We here in Ag Comm aren't the only ones who have learned from experience. Check out "Shooting Video for the Web" <>, an online article from "DV.Com." You'll find a lot more detail and suggestions.

Want even more on Web video? Look for Randy Spears' "Coming to a Desktop Near You: Streaming Media" in next month's issue of "On Target."

More Method Behind Our Madness

Last month I promised a few more revelations about "On Target" that might help you with your own newsletters, whether online or on paper. Here they are.


We try to be as consistent as possible. Every issue has three longer features and a "Grammar Trap." The latter is always the last piece in the issue. That way, our readers get a sense of what to expect, even if unconsciously.

Every "Grammar Trap" is as similar as possible to its predecessors. It's always cast in a "this vs. that" format. It always includes a sentence or two illustrating the particular trap in question, and these sentences are always set apart and identified as "Examples."


We try to alternate long articles with shorter ones. This relieves textual tedium.


We always acknowledge those readers who have given us ideas for our articles. (See "Grammar Trap: Honing vs. Homing (in on)" in this month's issue.) This serves a dual purpose. It's always good policy to give credit where it's due, and it might encourage other readers to offer other good ideas. (We need all the help we can get.)

Self Reference

When possible, we refer to upcoming or previous articles. (See "Video for Multi-Media Use" in this month's issue and this article's first paragraph.) This reminds readers that "On Target" is a recurring publication and might start them anticipating the next issue or motivate them to visit our Website, where all the issues are archived.

Occasionally, we even refer to other articles in the same issue. (See the two preceding paragraphs.) This might prompt readers to read more of each issue.

I hope you've read this article, and I hope it's helped you with planning or rethinking your own newsletters or reassured you that they are "on target."

Promote Extension Publications in PSAs

I get occasional calls from Purdue Extension Educators who are under the gun to tape a series of short public service announcements (PSAs) for their radio stations but who are stuck for ideas.

One overlooked source of copy is your very own library of Extension publications. Pick publications in your expertise range. That way you will be self-selecting the types of questions you get from callers who want more information. Somewhere in the publication--usually in the introduction or the conclusion--you'll find the nugget for a PSA.

For example, take "Hedges" (HO-27), by Rosie Lerner and Mike Dana in Horticulture. Two or three sentences from the pub's introduction are all that's needed for a PSA.

Remember that a PSA is too short for detailed education. Consider it a quick call to action for the listener. You want to get their attention at the appropriate time of day or season and get them to remember Purdue

Extension or to call you for more information.

Here's the PSA I pulled from HO-27.

"Hedges can provide both privacy and beauty around your home. Many ornamental plants, such as trees and shrubs, are well suited for hedges. But take care in selecting a specific plant by considering the particular purpose and growing conditions of the site. To learn more, call 888-EXT-INFO and ask for 'Hedges,' HO-27. This 'Knowledge to Go' moment is brought to you by Purdue Extension."

I only changed a few words from the introduction of this publication to make this PSA, and I added the call to action lines at the end.

Also keep in mind that, once written, PSAs can serve as good copy for newsletters. You can run them as a list of topics or feature one big and bold to make a specific point in your publication. That's really getting our word out and enhancing the transfer of the knowledge we have to offer.

And that's my 30 seconds of advice on another good way to promote Purdue Extension--and get yourself out of a jam if you're stuck for a radio topic.

Grammar Trap: Hone vs. Home (in on)

Ears can deceive, and they have deceived some folks when it comes to the phrase "hone/home in on." It's "home in on," folks.

"Hone" is a verb meaning to sharpen, smooth, or make more effective.

Examples: She wants to hone the knife to a razor's edge. He honed his words until they said just enough and no more.

"Home" is a verb meaning to go home or to proceed directly towards an objective. Think "homing pigeon."

Example: We should all try to home in on what our audience wants or needs when we plan educational programs. He homed in on the doughnuts as if he hadn't eaten in a week.

There's no tip to help you decide which word to use. It's something you've just gotta know.

Thanks to Karl Brandt, Academic Programs, for suggesting this topic (and hounding me 'til I used it).

If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss, or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you.
Do you have a communication question?
Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"?
If so, please e-mail any of our writers or the "On Target" Team.

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