Why Every Video Needs a Script
Which came first, the egg or the egg?
If you answered chicken, well… in the highly esoteric part of the universe that question occupies, you’re wrong! Or at least, you should be wrong.
Sorry about that. But there is a reason, and it has to do with creating videos. Videos that are:
- Really good
- Consistent in their individual goodness, and (maybe most importantly)
- Easier and more efficient to produce
These days, there are a ton of options for creating video content, from hiring a videographer, to using the innumerable DIY video creation programs that exist on the web and elsewhere. With so many options, you would that think high quality videos would be par excellence. But that is not necessarily the case, and I would argue the biggest reason is a relatively all-around lack of good pre-production, or script writing, on the part of the creators.
Making the Video Before Making the Video
Having a good script is like having a solid foundation. If we (bear with me) think of videos as chickens, then eggs are scripts. What I mean by that is not to make a case that the egg came first, but rather that it should. Why? Well, it is smaller, packed with condensed yet precise information, and looks nothing like a chicken (yet), but it ultimately IS the chicken. When it comes to production, this equals unparalleled benefits in terms of efficiency. What’s more, if we hatch it well, our real chicken will be leaner, meaner, bigger and better than everyone elses’! (Truth)
Writing a scripts allow you to:
- Organize Your Thoughts
- Determine How the Video Will Flow
- Form Concrete Visual Ideas for Abstract Concepts
- Get a Production Team on the Same Page, and
- Create Consistency
A good script will give you space to think through all of your ideas, and discover which ones actually contribute to the topic, and which ones are unnecessary. A script will also help you avoid becoming discouraged when things don’t seem to be turning out well during production. It provides an ever present guide you can come back to for direction and fresh inspiration.
Many videos suffer from a lack of good flow. A script allows you to determine how the ideas presented in the video will progress and transition. It also gives you a clear idea of which visuals will demonstrate those ideas, and establish the timing, which are very important elements.
One very difficult part of video production, especially for explainer videos and animations, is coming up with visuals for abstract concepts. This is where a script can be especially helpful. It provides an avenue for pairing creative ideas with real information in a constructive and organized way that will save you time, which usually comes with saving money. This is great if you are running with a tight budget.
Everyone Is Lost But Me
If you’re working with a team, a script is absolutely essential for getting everyone on the same page. You might be the best director, and the clearest communicator that ever decided to create a video, but nothing facilitates team production like an official, written reference. With it, you can break up your team into separate parties and not have to worry about constantly having to make sure each person knows what to do and where to progress. It’s like a lighthouse. Even if things get stormy and chaotic, it is something everyone can look to and be sure they are at least headed in the right direction.
A script can be formed into a template that makes it easy to create multiple videos that have a consistent tone and feel. This is great if you plan on making a web series or are trying to brand your videos for your company.
Examples of this can be seen by nearly every major brand that has a multimedia marketing presence. It’s important to realize that even on a purely visual level, Home Depot ads and how-to videos don’t leave you with the same impression that a promo for Adidas will, and that is all by design. On top of this, most companies will work hard to make sure that their video looks like their video, across the board for all their videos. Consistency builds brand recognition.
Sold? Here’s a few script writing tips to help get you started.
Establish and Maintain a Clear Voice
Treat your video’s message like a character in a movie. That character should have:
- A clear motive, otherwise people’s reaction will tend towards indifference and boredom.
- It’s personality (meaning) should be distinct, but doesn’t necessarily have to be unique.
- Whatever personality your message may have, its tone should be consistent throughout the video, otherwise the character (message) can come across as insincere and even disingenuous.
Whether your video has a voiceover, talking-head, or floating text plastered across the screen, the wording and phrasing of the narration needs to be natural to the audience.
We’ve all been taught to obey rules. I’m sure we all know some grammar police. To be sure, a good script has a healthy regard for proper speech. At the same time, know your audience. Unless your video is an animated research paper, don’t talk like a 19th century literary scholar. In fact, a well placed grammatical “mistake” can create an emotional allure that enhances the message and draws your viewer in. Think Ford-F150 commercials compared to say, a commercial for Lexus.
Vicarious Visuals – The Sequel
It’s important to remember videos are primarily visual. You should try to avoid over-narrating the message. People appreciate working some parts out on their own. Be clear, but make sure you leave room in your script for the audience to engage with your message. This means getting creative! If you can think of a way to say something through visuals only, go for it. Creative scripting can make even highly abstract and technical subjects relatable and easily understood.
In order to achieve this, a good rule of thumb is to make visuals complementary to the message being shared, not rigidly descriptive. This is obviously not true all of the time, for instance if you need to show technical information or a how-to graphic. But it’s worth remembering, especially when it comes to visualizing an abstract concept. For example, if you are sharing a positive idea in one portion of the video, but it is esoteric or contains highly specific information, or even if it will just take a long time to create a visual that accurately displays the idea, a simple thumbs up or a smiling face could suffice, saving production time and providing an avenue for audience interpretation. We see this sort of thing all the time in commercials for medication (Think Zoloft).
Using complementary visuals can be mentally freeing or daunting, depending on your personality. Just remember all learning happens through association, i.e. people understand and connect with new things by comparing them to things they already know. If you can use an image of something common and easily relatable to demonstrate a complex idea, you win.
A Script for Every Video?
If you are aiming to produce consistent, quality video content in an efficient and timely manner, then no video is too small or insignificant to escape the necessity of a script. The more often you can put good script writing into practice, the better your videos will be, guaranteed.