How to create a great web video: The script

by Matt Byrom on 30 January 2012
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Creating a web video scriptTo get a really good result with a web video, you’ll need to plan ahead. If you start speaking into a mic without some kind of script in front of you, you’ll probably wind up with lots of ‘umms’ and ‘errs’, or a muddled result that backtracks and doesn’t flow.

Even if you’re putting words on-screen rather than speaking into a microphone, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and make sure your captions are effective. You have limited screen space in which to position your text, so every word matters.

All good videos have scripts that are meticulously planned to ensure they are concise, interesting and effective. A good script can help you get your entire project off to a great start.

Here are some things to consider when writing your first script.

How will your script be delivered?

First, you need to decide if your script will be spoken or written on screen. This can affect the overall project budget quite substantially, and can determine the kinds of language you use and the length of the finished video. It can also determine the pace of your video content, so it’s a good idea to decide on the delivery of the script before you begin to put the visuals together.

There are various reasons why you might choose to go with a written script. For one thing, it saves money on the project as a whole. Professional voiceover artists are expensive. Some businesses simply don’t have the cash to spare, and they’d rather put their budget into a professionally written script instead. Having said that, some videos just need to be spoken to work. Sales videos are particularly effective when combined with a human voice.

Second, consider whether your video is ever likely to be translated. If it is, then using a written script on screen will be substantially cheaper and easier for you to maintain, as you won’t need to hire a voiceover artist each time your video needs to be re-translated. With a written script, you’ll just need to get the script translated and have the video editor change it before re-encoding the video.

Written scripts used to be included across the bottom of a video, a bit like subtitles, but there are more elegant ways of incorporating the text. Consider placing your narrative actually in the image as part of the design, or use callouts and arrows to document little chunks of the screen. Try to avoid using Powerpoint, or anything that looks like Powerpoint. Lots of people spend their working day sitting through Powerpoint presentations: if you use slides in a video, you will often put people off within just a few seconds.

Voiceovers

Don’t be tempted to cut corners on a voiceover and do it yourself if you’re not trained. A badly-recorded narrative can ruin an otherwise professional, slick video. Likewise, using a cheap mic or recording next to your computer can introduce unwanted background noise.

If you decide to go with a narrator, it’s definitely worth paying for a voice artist who knows what they’re doing. Sites like Voices.com can give you an idea of the kind of voiceover artists you could work with and their rates. Often sites like this charge a minimum of $100 regardless of the length.

Take into account any music that you’ve chosen. If you’ve got a narrator to record the script, you definitely don’t want to use any background music with vocals. Keeping them separate will allow you to increase or decrease the volumes independently so that they sound right in the mix.

Compose your script

Once you’ve decided how the script will be delivered, you should get a feel for the length of the video and the key points you want to cover. A good way of pacing your voiceover is to storyboard it. That doesn’t actually have to be as complicated as it sounds.

A good basic way to storyboard your script is to create a simple spreadsheet and use it to record your ideas. Detail your scenes and transitions in one column and your script in the next. Use rows to space things out and see how the visuals and words fit together. This can help you to visualise the flow of your video and make sure the text you’re writing matches the speed of the transitions and animation. You can come back to this script later in the production process and refine it to fit your video as it takes shape.

If you’re more into visualising content, draw out each screen and write your caption next to it. You’ll soon get an idea for how the words will work with your images.

In total, you rarely want a script to be more than two minutes long. If you stray too far beyond this, you are at far greater risk of losing your audience. If your script is very long when it’s written down, see if you can tighten up the pace or cut the content back a little.

Check and re-check

Once you have the script more or less finalised, show it to someone ‘blind’ - someone who doesn’t know anything about the project or the product. Ask them to read it through and then check that you’re conveying the right information.

The aim of your script is to engage people quickly without them getting bored and clicking away. You’re looking to convince the viewer to watch to the end and then do something as a result: buy a product, try a new feature, visit a site. It’s surprisingly easy to miss a vital instruction or detail that can render your beautiful animations completely ineffective.

If you’re not great with words, there’s no harm in asking a copywriter to help write or perfect your script. Copywriters are used to coming up with text for different formats and can help you to condense the information into bite-size chunks. You can hire specialised marketing writers for sales videos, or technical writers for instructional content.

At the very least, make sure you check your script meticulously for spelling and grammatical errors, and try out different techniques and phrasing to make a spoken script punchier. Stay away from long sentences and unnecessary words, and don’t include jokes that may not translate to an international audience.

Hopefully this article will have given you a solid grounding for your next video script. Let us know in the comments if you have any other techniques you’d like to share.

Video Marketing

Matt Byrom

Written by Matt Byrom

My name is Matt, I'm Managing Director of Wyzowl. That means I chat with customers and make sure everything is running smoothly in the office. I love our business and hope you enjoy our blog! :)