Video Scripts Help Scene Setting

Our first professional “gig” as a writer was creating video scripts for clients. These scripts were used by the producer, the videographer and the (video) editor to create the finished videotape which a client could use for training, marketing, public relations, etc.

Usually, the production company had sold the client on the video package and received a down payment in advance. They also had selected a start date for initial filming or videotaping. At that point they need a script. They contract a writer to meet with the client, interview the appropriate SMEs, collect any relevant materials and from all of that develop a finished script in seven-to ten days.

The script format we used as did most others in the industry was three columns. Column one was the scene number, column two the suggested visuals and column three the narration and/or dialogue.

video script table

Legend: LS = Long Shot; MS = Medium Shot; CS = Close Shot. Pan = the camera moves from right to left or vice versa.

This example only has six scenes. Most of the scripts we wrote ran four-to-five minutes and had less than 50 scenes, probably 30-to-40.

A couple of points. With such a script, the videographer could read through and shoot all the interior shots on one day, maybe not even in sequence. Whatever talent was hired for the narration could do it off site and the video and narration would be combined by the editor.

From a writing point of view there are also a couple of items of interest. First, you learned to ask lots of questions, to gather as much information as possible and to write very fast. (Although later we learned to write the questions ahead of time and record the answers!)

Second, although we probably didn’t realize it at the time, the process required us to use what are called copy points. In a scene, does what is being spoken relate to what is being shown? Sounds obvious, but it takes a while to think that way. Which brings us to writing, both fiction and creative non-fiction. When you write, whether it’s dialogue or exposition, whether it’s a blog or a book, are you conscious of the accompanying visual you want a reader to picture in his or her mind’s eye?

Just a thought.

Approximately 350 words.

Comments welcomed!

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About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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