What's the Secret to Writing Better Video Scripts?

  • Harry Hayes

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Writing Better Video Scripts Starts with Visual Storytelling. Don't Just Say It—Show It.

The first and most important step to producing better videos or TV commercials is writing better video scripts.

Every project requires a script. Even “unscripted” projects like documentaries and interviews need a treatment or visual approach thought out before shooting begins.

Writing Better Video Scripts

While some people might argue that script writing is something best left to professionals, the truth is that some marketers are quite good at writing their own scripts.

This makes sense. After all, they already know their product features and benefits inside and out—much better than the average freelancer.

Also, marketers understand their customers and consumers and have an encyclopedic knowledge of their company history and brand.

So what can these marketers / aspiring writers do to make their video scripts better? Think more visually.

The secret to writing better video scripts is visual storytelling.

Thinking Visually

You have to understand, video is a visual medium. Having someone stand in front of a camera and talk (known in the industry as a Talking Head) isn’t all that interesting, no matter what they have to say.

On top of that, people remember visual information. That's because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it processes text.

That’s why good script writing requires visual storytelling. In other words, using visuals to tell a story instead of words.

Consider adding graphics, animating typography, or demonstrating the product itself. Interviewing customers can also be effective—for example, ask three customers about their favorite product features, then edit snippets of their answers together.

That doesn’t mean all visual ideas are good.

How many “explainer videos” have you seen with cartoon visuals being drawn at high speed? Do you remember any of the actual visual ideas or just that the artist’s hand was sped up?

Visual techniques like this can actually detract from the message.

The purest form of visual storytelling is animation.

Think Like an Editor

Another common mistake is relying too much on photos and stock images. While supporting words with visuals is a good idea, that doesn’t mean you can just cut from one unrelated image to the next. Fast cuts make a video jerky and hard to follow.

For better results, try writing sections of the script with Key Visuals in mind. Organize your thoughts (and the script) in whatever order makes visual sense. 

Here’s an example—an animated video for Mueller Water Products. It’s about the Internet of Things and how this new technology is making the water industry more efficient.

I wrote the script, and my friends at Jump Productions did the animation.

Visual storytelling is essential to animated concepts like this video for Mueller Systems.

Make Images Flow

Before writing the first word, I started with a visual idea—the Internet of Things is made up of billions of tiny sensors, just like the ocean is billions of individual water drops. This simple analogy ended up being the opening to the video.

Think about how the visual story will be told. Then write the words to fit the pictures—you’ll be surprised how well it works.

The Mueller video, for example, focuses on an individual house while explaining how smart water meters work. Then it shifts the focus to an entire street, then a neighborhood, then a whole city.

I could have written about these things in any order, or jumped around from fact to fact in no visual order at all. But it made visual sense to focus in on a small detail, and then progressively tell the bigger story.

Thanks to Rob Jameson, Robert Dolan and everyone at Jump Productions for turning my script into a nice video. Also, a big thanks to John Pensec, the client at Mueller Systems.


About the Author: 

Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions, a corporate video production agency based in Charlotte. Before starting Content Puppy, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.

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