By Alan Graner
I’ve been writing corporate and education videos for over 30 years and trust me, it ain’t easy.
Probably the most difficult aspect to master is thinking simultaneously in terms of visuals and narration. Both have to work together. If viewers see one thing on screen and hear something else, they usually ignore the narration (we are, after all, visual creatures).
The following includes some basics to give you an idea of what’s involved in writing a video. It’s by no means comprehensive—there are books that step you through the process. But it may give you a place to start.
You should be familiar with basic script terms:
CU (close up)
ECU (extreme close up)
MS (medium shot)
LS (long shot)
V.O. (voice over)
FX: (effects—can be audio, visual or both)
CUT TO: Indicates you’re changing scenes
PAN: Camera moves across the scene horizontally or vertically
SUPER: Superimposing another image or, usually, words over the scene
I recommend the two-column format. It’s much easier to work with than the classic movie script and doesn’t require any special writing software to format it.
The two-column format is easy to set up. In Microsoft Word, go to tables. Set it for two cells wide and as many deep as you wish.
I prefer to label the left column VISUALS and the right AUDIO or NARRATION. I also like to make the Audio column a bit wider than Visuals.
I then use each vertical cell to indicate a change in visuals, whether it’s a change of scene, a zoom in or out, superimposing words over the visual.
If narration gets too long, I’ll divide it into vertical cells. When I do this the accompanying visual cells remain blank so the director knows the same visual is being used.
Most business or corporate videos are 12 minutes or less. Studies indicate after 12 minutes viewers begin to develop “squirrely butt.”
Remember, this is a video, not a movie. There are no car chases or grisly murders or romantic lip-locks to keep people engrossed.
Instead you’ll probably be discussing economic forecasts or distribution models or manufacturing techniques or the benefits/features of your new product.
As a rule of thumb, one minute of video equals one column of narration double-spaced on one page (12 minutes equals approximately 12 pages) . Yep, that’s not a lot of copy. Fortunately you have visuals to dramatize or explain the narration.
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA based marketing communications firm. If you want to incorporate video into your PR campaign, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.