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StudentCam 2017 Competition Rules

What should my video include? Who can I interview?
How many students may enter together as a team? How do I access a video camera or editing equipment?
How long will it take to make my documentary? How will the videos be judged?
How can I find supporting C-SPAN video? When is the deadline?
What should I do if I cannot download C-SPAN video? How do I submit my video?
How much C-SPAN video do I have to use? Do I need to provide prior notice of my intent to enter?
Is C-SPAN’s video copyright protected? How can I obtain answers to questions I still have about the contest?
How do I present more than one point of view? When will the winners be announced?


WHAT SHOULD MY VIDEO INCLUDE?


Your documentary may focus on any issue that you most want the new president and Congress to address in 2017.

Your documentary MUST include the following five elements:
  • A complete exploration of your documentary's issue
  • Inclusion of C-SPAN programming relating to your documentary's issue
  • Various opinions about your issue
  • Adherence to the time limit of 5 to 7 minutes. (End credits may run longer but your actual documentary must end by the 7 minute mark)
  • Credits at the end of your documentary or a works cited list
Your documentary MAY include, but is not required to include:
  • Interviews
  • Video pertaining to your topic (B-roll footage)
  • Music (preferably copyright free music)
  • Graphics
  • Diagrams
  • Still images
  • Narration (Note: If you narrate your documentary, you must write your own script to avoid plagiarism. You can use online or print sources, but you have to put any information you use in your own words.)

HOW MANY STUDENTS MAY ENTER TOGETHER AS A TEAM?


Students may enter the competition individually, or work in teams of either 2 or 3 students. If an entry is awarded a prize in the competition, the money will be split evenly among team members.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO MAKE MY DOCUMENTARY?


You should give yourself at least one month to create your documentary. See our How to Get Started page for tips on creating your documentary, but below is a suggested time frame:

  • Researching and choosing a topic: 1 week
  • Planning elements (including C-SPAN programming) in your documentary and setting up interviews: 1-2 weeks
  • Recording interviews and additional video footage: 2-3 weeks
  • Editing final documentary: 1-2 weeks

HOW CAN I FIND SUPPORTING C-SPAN VIDEO?


Clips from C-SPAN's extensive archives are now available as downloads in MP4, AVI, and MOV formats - all FREE - for participating StudentCam teachers and students. In order to download clips you will need to register a free MyC-SPAN account. Follow the step-by-step tutorial on our C-SPAN Downloads page. We recommend that you look for clips of C-SPAN programming that both support and oppose your own viewpoints. At the bottom of the downloads page you'll see that we have continued to make available a smaller variety of ready-made C-SPAN clips that may be used in your documentary. We highly recommend however that you first explore the full C-SPAN archives using your My-C-SPAN account. By doing so you'll discover your own unique clips that are related specifically to your chosen topic. In addition to finding clips that no one else is likely using in their documentaries, you'll also learn how to navigate and use this free archive for research outside of the competition, in both your personal and academic life.

Please note that not all C-SPAN programs are downloadable due to copyright restrictions for programs that we may not own the full rights to. However, many programs are downloadable, including clips from campaign related events, White House events, House and Senate floor and committee coverage, our morning Washington Journal programs, and many more. You will know if a program can be downloaded as it will offer the MP4 video format for download when you click on "Purchase a DVD or DOwnload". If you only see DVD and MP3 audio offered, that means that clips from that specific program are not downloadable.

Another possible alternative for the technically savvy, if your movie making software accepts MP4 files, you can find additional C-SPAN programs on our YouTube channel. Use a free download site like http://keepvid.com or http://savemedia.com to save an .MP4 video file of these programs. After downloading, you can then edit that file in your video editing software.

Need to convert a video file to another format like AVI or MOV? Try using http://www.online-convert.com which allows for online conversion of a wide variety of file formats.

Another option worth exploring is using screen capture software. Many Mac computers have screen capture software included in their pre-packaged software bundles. Other screen capture programs, like Camtasia, offer free trial periods lasting up to 30 days. Use your screen capture software in conjunction with C-SPAN's streaming Video Library to capture your chosen C-SPAN video.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I CANNOT DOWNLOAD C-SPAN VIDEO?


If you are unable to download C-SPAN video and if using screen capture software is not an option, try streaming the video online at C-SPAN's Video Library, point your video camera at your computer screen, and record the program. This may not result in the highest quality video, but it is always an option if you are having difficulty downloading C-SPAN video that is relevant to your chosen topic.

Remember to keep your camera steady (consider using a tripod if available), adjust the lighting, and check your volume levels if you choose to record video this way. This will ensure that you get the best quality video possible using this method.

You may also record audio from a C-SPAN program to use in your documentary. If you choose to do this, please make sure to identify the audio source and the person(s) speaking.

HOW MUCH C-SPAN VIDEO DO I HAVE TO USE?


There is no time requirement for your C-SPAN programming. However, do not allow the C-SPAN programming to dominate your documentary. Rather, the inclusion of C-SPAN programming should be used to support your documentary and complement your presentation. Preview some of our past winning videos to get an idea of how you too can use short C-SPAN clips to provide additional perspective and enhance your documentary. We recommend that each individual C-SPAN clip used should be 30 seconds or less. If using multiple C-SPAN clips you may choose to stagger them intermittently throughout your documentary, or have several short clips play consecutively in a row.

IS C-SPAN’S VIDEO COPYRIGHT PROTECTED?


C-SPAN produced programming is copyright cleared for use in educational applications like StudentCam.

HOW DO I PRESENT MORE THAN ONE POINT OF VIEW?


C-SPAN's philosophy is to always show the multiple sides of any issue that we feature. Students should treat their documentary in a similar fashion, providing comprehensive treatment of their topic with thorough exploration of the differing points of view, including those that you may personally disagree with. You personal opinions are also welcomed so consider sharing your personal views about your chosen issue (if you are comfortable sharing them), and relay if your views have changed or solidified during the process of researching your documentary.

In order to present varying opinions about your documentary's issue, you may want to interview several people who have different points of view on your chosen issue. You may also choose to explore how your issue affects groups of people differently.

You may also consider using several short clips from C-SPAN of offcials and experts with juxtaposing viewpoints on your chosen topic.

WHO CAN I INTERVIEW?


There are no requirements for who should be interviewed in your documentary. We strongly encourage students to consider interviewing experts on their chosen topic, as well as local and national political leaders. Try contacting them at their office via phone or email. You may also consider using social media sites like Twitter to request an interview. It never hurts to ask and you may be surprised by who is willing to sit down with you for an interview!

Click here for C-SPAN's Congressional Chronicle website, a site which archives the proceedings of the United States Congress and its members, including the biography and website of each elected official.

When contacting potential interview subjects, consider sharing this document with them which provides an overview of the competition, as well as some examples of people who have been interviewed in past StudentCam documentaries:
StudentCam Competition Overview for Interview Subjects (PDF)

HOW DO I ACCESS A VIDEO CAMERA OR EDITING EQUIPMENT?


Ask your teacher if there are video cameras or editing equipment available. If you are unable to use school equipment, try contacting libraries in your area to see if they may have equipment to lend to students. You may also try your local cable affiliate, local television stations or local public access channel. Finally, many cell phones and digital cameras are able to record video of increasingly high quality.

For editing you will find that most new computers will already be loaded with movie making software like Movie Maker or iMovie. Many smartphones and tablets will also have free editing software availble for download. If you don't have movie making software on your computer or devices, try a free online editor like WeVideo.com, or search for free video editing software downloads on sites like Download.com.

HOW WILL THE VIDEOS BE JUDGED?


Judging will take place in C-SPAN's offices in Washington, DC from Januray 21, 2017 through March 7, 2017. Each video will be viewed by multiple judges with the judges’ strongest critiques centering most on the content, research, and presentation of each documentary. We are most interested in your original work and the presentation of information within your documentary. Secondary consideration is given to the technical aspects like editing and video quality. While the technical quality of your video is important, we also realize that this may be the first time many of you have created a video, and that your access to technology may be limited. We encourage all students to apply regardless of past filmmaking experience and you may note that the Grand Prize winning videos from both 2014 and 2015 were made by students with no prior video editing experience. Watch interviews with those students and learn about their experience in putting together their documentaries on our Past Winners page.

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
  • Complete exploration of the chosen topic, and its relation to the contest's theme
  • Quality of expression and creativity
  • Inclusion of topically relevant C-SPAN programming
  • Thorough exploration of the varying points related to your chosen topic (inlcuding opposing viewpoints, where applicable)

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE?


Entries must be uploaded by midnight at the end of the day on January 20, 2017.

HOW DO I SUBMIT MY VIDEO?


The Entry Form and Upload page is available froom November 2016 through the deadline on January 20, 2017.

Accepted Video Formats and Codecs

MP4, M4V (Video codecs:H.264 - Audio Codec:AAC) ***RECOMMENDED FORMAT FOR THE BEST QUALITY WITH THE MOST REASONABLE FILE SIZE***
AVI (Video codecs:Xvid, DivX - Audio Codec:MP3)
FLV (Video codecs:H.264,VP6 - Audio Codec:AAC,ADPCM)
MOV* (Video codecs:H.264 - Audio Codec:AAC, MP3)
WMV, WMV9 (Video codecs:VC-1, WMV9 - Audio Codec:WMA**)
MPG, MPEG, M2V (Video codecs:MPEG-1, MPEG-2 - Audio Codec:MP2, MP3)
MKV (Video codecs: H.264 - Audio Codec:WAV-PCM, MP3, AAC)

*We do not support most extensions to the QuickTime MOV format, such as multiple video streams, image streams, or other interactive content.
**We currently do not support the WMA Professional or Lossless formats.

Videos must be less than 1.5GB in size - for reference, an average 7 minute video in MP4 format of around 300mb will typically look very clean and crisp once it is uploaded and has encoded on our video host site. Files larger than 2GB may not upload. Please note that the larger the file size, the longer your upload will take to complete. Depending on your internet connection speed, a 100mb video may take anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes to upload. If you are having difficulty uploading your video, contact us at educate@c-span.org

DO I NEED TO PROVIDE PRIOR NOTICE OF MY INTENT TO ENTER?


You DO NOT need to provide any prior notice of your intention to enter. The only requirement is that your Entry Form and documentary video file are submitted online by the deadline, which is midnight Pacific Standard Time at the end of the day on Friday, January 20, 2017.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I STILL HAVE ABOUT THE CONTEST?


Review the Competition Rules and How to Get Started pages. If you have further questions, please contact C-SPAN Classroom at educate@c-span.org or call 1-800-523-7586 between 9:00am-5:00pm ET.

WHEN WILL THE WINNERS BE ANNOUNCED?


The 150 winning videos will be announced on the StudentCam website in March 2017. Winning students will be notified via phone or email.