Video Scripting: Documents and Principles


The first thing that must happen at the beginning of every production is the pitch, or the communication of the idea to whoever will be funding the project.  The accepted method of  convincing the executives to commit funding is by delivering a treatment.  A treatment is a document created to give executives a vision of what the final product is going to be.  Details might change, but the message and feeling is what they are looking for at this point. Execs want to see how the film will be a memorable experience and how the viewer will feel something.  When execs are already onboard, and if it’s a short project (they don’t need a vision of the product), sometimes a treatment isn’t required.

Design Document

The Video Production Design Document is decided upon by the Producer.  Producers are often the production writer also.  The writer is often the instructional designer.  The role of the Instructional designer is to guide the writer to meet project objectives, not just the product (video) objectives.

  • Who is the Target Audience — Who will be viewing your piece?
  • Objective — What is your purpose? What do you want them to feel?
  • Approach: See below

5 Steps of Writing a Script

  1. Solidify Your Approach
    1. Demonstration
      1. Step-by-step — Maintains the same sequence.
      2. Modeling — metaphor of bullet points vs. numbered order.  E.g. Positive/Negative models.
    2. Persuasive — Introduce a problem and show how your concept or product solves the problem.  Enumerate consumer benefits rather than product features.
      1. “Vanilla Ice” Approach — If you have a problem, yo, I’ll solve it!
    3. Documentary
      1. Historical
      2. News magazine
    4. Dramatization (faking)
      1. Re-enactments
      2. Cheesy slice of life
    5. Spokesperson (scripted)
      1. On-camera narrator
      2. Celebrity — A celeb lends a “voice of authority” to your program/product.  But be sure there is some logical connection between the celebrity and the product or concept.
    6. Interview (personal experience)
      1. Straight
      2. Testimonial (Important that the viewer knows that the experiences are real)
      3. Pseudo-interview — reading cards off camera as if they were speaking to someone.
    7. Humor
      1. Go fo a viewer smile rather than hysterics. Parodies or “take-offs” are commonly accepted.
    8. Music/Affective — Combines music and images with no spoken dialogue.
  2. Gather Content — The “what” of your script in outline document form
    1. Internet or library research
    2. Written client info
    3. In-person interview
  3. Write a Narrative (Create a sequenced outline)
    1. Complete sentences are better than sentence fragments because they will translate more easily into your script narrative.
    2. Compare to a speech
    3. If you have more than one narrator, assign the character parts.
    4. Don’t script interviews verbatim.  Instead, just write “INTERVIEW” and explain what you hope they’ll talk about.
    5. Rough vs. Polished narrative
    6. Uses a conversational tone. (Second person)
    7. Keep sentences relatively short.
    8. Use active voice. e.g. Passive = The wheel is removed from the car.
  4. Complete your Visualization
    1. Divide narrative into short blocks. (2-3 lines long)
    2. Just add a brief description of what we will see before each narrative block.
    3. Order: In a script, we always “see” first, then we “hear.”
  5. Format Your Script
    1. Two-column — Spoken vs. What we see
      1. Easier to narrate from
      2. Shows you your balance between  visuals and narrative
      3. Sometimes the people reading will cheat and only read the dialogue
    2. Shot-by-shot
      1. Allows you to guide your client visually and verbally through the program.
      2. This is the format for professional television and motion picture scripting.
      3. More accurate representation of the final experience.
    3. Formatting Software
      1. Script Writer
      2. Movie Magic
  6. When the “Talking Head” is appropriate
    1. Credibility
    2. Low budget/no time to spend on production
    3. Easy to cover mistakes. e.g. missing b-roll
    4. If you just gotta have it
      1. Be sure there is interesting stuff in the bkg
      2. Ask them to move about
      3. Vary the camera angles
  7. Humor
    1. Is it appropriate for the content?
    2. Be sure the humor reinforces the message, rather than distracting from it.
    3. Know the audience.  If you don’t, you won’t know what is funny.
    4. If you are incorporating humor into a serious piece, maintain a firm boundary between the two.  (Never use a comical character in a serious role. E.g. modeling good/bad.)
    5. When using humor, be sure it is recognizable.
    6. Go for the smile or chuckle, not the huge laugh.

Principles of  User Impact (based on user experience)

  1. People go to movies to experience emotion.  E.g. The best movies are the ones that make you feel something. How do filmmakers bring emotion in to a video?
    1. Storytelling
    2. Humor
    3. Horror
    4. Pacing
  2. What keeps people engaged in a movie?
    1. “This is a story about a _____, who wants to _______.” Hero/Achieve a goal
    2. As long as we can keep track of the hero’s progress toward the goal.
    3. Touch the viewer’s emotions
    4. Show the viewer his/her progress toward the instructional goal.

About bryantanner

I'm obsessed with learning via the appropriate technology. My professional mission is to effectively deliver instruction to learners in a way that yields the greatest results for all stakeholders involved.
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