Friday, April 16, 2010

Screening a Documentary at the State Contest? Read This!

This came over the transom from our friends at New York State History Day, and it so perfectly mirrored our experience that we had to share it. So, doc producers, read up and make sure you're ready!

During the regional contests this year, many students brought their documentary entries as computer files. This seemed to be new development for 2010, and there were many issues with hardware and software compatibility. I want to take this time to clarify the procedures for the Documentary Category for the state and national contests.

The intent of this category is to produce a final TV-ready documentary in DVD/VHS format. To that end, both the state and national contests will provide only a television, DVD player and VCR on which students can show their projects.

However, students can show their projects on a computer if they bring the equipment with them (i.e. computer, speakers, projector.) This is in accordance with Rule 8 on page 19 of the National History Day Contest Rule Book, which states: "Students must provide and be able to run their own computers and software."

During the state and national competitions, each documentary entry is given a twenty minute judging period. The first five minutes enables students to set up and test any equipment. They then have ten minutes to present the project and five minutes for tear-down and questions.

Questions? Email us.


  1. IF students do choose to use their computer, they should also have sufficient speakers so that the judges can hear the presentation. I found this to be a concern at a regional competition this year. Students have worked so hard on their project and judges want to be able to hear the script!

  2. I noticed some issues with judging the senior group documentaries, it seemed ad if thejudges were biased toward a local topic.

  3. Judges receive comprehensive training and follow established guidelines for evaluation. Here are the documentary topics that advanced to the national contest this year: modern art, blood plasma, Star Trek, the interstate highway system, the transcontinental railroad, the Washington State ferry system, the 747, and Apollo 11. Although several of those have local ties, only one is a purely local topic.