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

July 1999

Judging Videos & Photos: Part 1--Technical Criteria

Occasionally, I'm asked to judge videos. I'm not talking for the MTV Awards, but for 4-H or other Extension competitions. What do other judges and I look for when we evaluate videos produced by non-professionals?

Well, we look for a lot of the same things we'd look for if we were judging photos, because good videos and good photos share some of the same basic elements.

The criteria for judging both media can be divided into two primary areas: technical and creative. Most judges will scrutinize these technical aspects: Composition, Exposure, and Sound. (Okay. You caught me. Only the first two criteria apply to photos.)

Composition: This is the way you compose your shot, that is, how you place your primary subject within the frame of your image. If you're capturing the image of a person with your camera, you want to make sure you have a flattering angle and that your subject is clearly identifiable. Try to avoid having the image cluttered with lots of distracting elements. Getting close-ups of people, in most cases, is better than allowing your subjects to be dwarfed by their surroundings.

A video-specific factor influencing composition is the steadiness of the image. All too many times, a good video will get marked down by a judge because the footage is shaky. Use a tripod for steadier shots, or lean against a solid object to steady your shots if you must hand-hold the camera. Exposure (lighting): This is how much light you have captured in your image. Having a photo that is over exposed (too much light) or under exposed (not enough light) is one of the most common mistakes made by beginning photographers. Take several photos of the same image, changing the exposure each time to ensure that you get the best exposure. When videotaping, you may want to use lights and avoid situations where your subject is placed against a bright background.

Sound: In evaluating the sound quality of a videotape, judges will examine audio for clarity. Is the narrator clear and understandable? Can the person on camera be easily understood? Is the background sound too distracting? Using a clip-on microphone or placing a handheld or boom microphone as close to your subject as possible can help alleviate audio problems.

Next month, I'll cover the creativity angle.

Courseware 101

"Courseware." You've probably heard the term. You may even have a general idea what it is. This month we offer specifics.

The concept for courseware is appealing: it is software that lets teachers collect and manage educational materials for use online--most typically on the World Wide Web or on CD. Courseware packages provide templates for such items as the class syllabus, lecture notes, and quizzes. If you've already assembled a home page for a class, you might argue you've built your own, "home-grown" courseware. And you'd be right.

The advantages to off-the-shelf courseware, however, are significant. For one, these packages provide features that ordinary Web pages do not, namely, real-time chat and whiteboard capabilities, audio and video streaming, FTP access for students, as well as grade management and test creation. Also, because universities across the country (including Purdue) are adopting it, instructors using courseware can get training and technical support when putting courses online. Ultimately we'll see automated Web systems linking many university functions--from school applications down to students' grade reports. For a glimpse of this future, visit the University of Colorado Web site , where you'll see a well-integrated Web presence--from admissions to the online classes. As you might guess, courseware also makes it possible to provide classes entirely over the Internet. A fine example is Purdue's Executive MBA (EMBA) from the Ag Economics Department. The two-year program begins in August and will be conducted completely online. At its technical foundation is a courseware program called "WebCT." For specifics on the EMBA, check

But it's not just the high-profile EMBA making use of courseware. Many instructors at Purdue are also using WebCT, and those interested in learning more about the software are welcome to try it. The School of Engineering, which started Purdue's explorations into courseware, currently supports Purdue's WebCT server.

If you'd like to investigate other courseware products on the market, here are three more contenders:

If you'd like to learn more about courseware, visit Purdue's Multimedia Instructional Development Center (MIDC) Web site: Among other things, MIDC offers workshops on WebCT.

"Knowledge to Go" Marketing Menu

Since its introduction last August, the "Knowledge to Go" marketing concept has been a hit. So far, counties and campus departments have requested 12,500 "Knowledge to Go" 3-fold flyers and 7,200 "Knowledge to Go" folders. In addition, several educators and specialists are using the concept in informational and promotional pieces. (For style guidelines on using "Knowledge to Go," see the June 1999 "On Target"). This July, the "Knowledge to Go" concept won a gold-medal award in marketing at the Agricultural Communicators in Education national conference--another indication that Purdue Extension is on the right track.

Here's a menu listing what "Knowledge to Go" materials are available and how to get them.

FROM Media Distribution Center (MDC)


3-Fold Brochure
This brochure proudly announces that Purdue Extension has "Knowledge to Go." It explains that Purdue Extension provides information and education in the issue areas of: Environment, People, and Economics. The brochure is excellent to hand out at meetings where people might not know the full story behind Extension or to give to someone who asks, "What is Extension?"
Cost: Free
Order 3-129

This colorful 2-pocket folder also has slots for your business card. Great way to package handouts for meetings or material for decision makers.
Cost: $12 for 25
Order 3-123.

FROM Steve Cain, Ag Comm
765-494-8410 or


"Knowledge to Go" PowerPoint Template
If you have MAC or Windows PowerPoint software, this template will allow you to customize the marketing concept for your county or department program.
Cost: Free (Specify MAC or Windows disk)

FROM Purdue Extension Business office
contact Linda Bushman, 765-494-6906


"Knowledge to Go" Overheads
You can order overheads customized for your county or department to dress up your overhead presentations.
Cost: $2 for each overhead plus $3 shipping per order.

"Knowledge to Go" Pre-Printed Black & White Sheets
These are great to use for flyers to promote projects or meetings.
Cost: Free

One final note. In April every department and county received 100 free "Knowledge to Go" stickers. We surveyed to find out who would be interested in ordering more at a cost of $40 per 1,000. Twenty counties expressed interest.

But nothing simple is ever simple, right? Our survey showed that you wanted some adaptations. Unfortunately those adaptations make the stickers cost more, so we are trying to find a way to do accommodate the changes and still keep costs down. If you have questions about the stickers, please let me know.


Grammar Trap: That vs. Who

You've torn between the pronouns "that" and "who." How do you decide which pronoun to use? Start by looking at your noun.

If your noun means something that is inanimate, use "that."

Example: The building that burned down was insured.

But if your noun is animate, a person or persons, use "who."

Example: The farmers who attended the meeting learned a lot.

A building is an inanimate, impersonal object. Farmers are people. These examples are "no brainers."

But sometimes you have to look more closely at your noun and think a little. Take animals. The decision here depends on whether the animal has a name.

Examples: The owner of the dog that bit the child was fined. My friend has a cat named Penelope who makes me laugh.

Tip: When the decision is even fuzzier, consult how you feel about the noun or how you want your readers to feel--cool and removed (that) or warm and close (who).

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 On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

It is the policy of the Department of Agricultural Communication Service of Purdue University
that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities
without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability.
Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer.
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