Scripts and Voice-Over

Subject: Scripts and Voice-Over
From: Michael_Cooper -at- HPBBN -dot- BBN -dot- HP -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 23 May 1995 16:16:17 +0200

Dear All,

I was recently self-employed as a video producer (as well as doing
a fair bit of good old tech. writing).

I think the first thing to say, is that writing a script is very, very
different from any other kind of technical writing that I have come

The main thing, is that the picture is always more important than the
words. You have to show your audience what you want to "say" and
use the voice-over for filling-in a few details. This requires a radically
different mind-set from normal writing, where the words do the job, and
are supported by a few diagrams for the sake of clarity.

The problem with writing a script, is that to do it properly, you
have to have a very good idea of the whole business of shooting video. You
have to know what is possible within your financial resources, and what isn't.
You have to be able to visualise all your shots, and not to plan effects that
you can't get. You also have to know all about continuity, ie how one shot can
be cut into another to produce a logical flow of information.

Finally, you have to target your video to your viewers much more precisely
than you have to target paper documentation. The reason for this, is that with
a book you have a "random access medium", that is to say, you have a list
of contents and an index. Readers can pull out the info. they want. Even with
a course book, readers can skim the sections they find easy. With a video this
is not so. Viewers are pretty much forced to sit through from start to end.
They can't jump in and pull out the info they want. Furthermore, the rate
at which you unload info. is vital. You must include thinking time if the
video is complex (with a book, the reader can stop to think any time
he/she wants).

Making a video requires the following skills:

- Lighting - major skill in it's own right
- Camera work - easier, but you must understand video and have
a good overview of editing techniques
- Editing - just the simple cutting from one shot to another
(in a twenty minute video you will have over 100 cuts)
- Post-production skills - even though you won't have to
operate the equipment in the post-production studio, you must
know where you want a fade, WHY you it, how long it should be,
what other video effects are available, affordable etc etc
- Direction of the shoot - list of shots, sequence of shooting
(which will be quite different from the sequence of shots in the
final video)
- Production - organising everything - the camera, lighting, model
(model rather than actor, probably) making sure people are
wearing suitable clothes and turn up on time, making sure
the equipment is available, and that it works, the set...

Finally, you need a professional speaker for your voice-over. Failing that,
get someone who is involved with amateur dramatics. This has worked well
for me.

In short, all of this is a long way of agreeing with Vince Reh, who says
you should hire an external video company. The only thing I would say, though,
is that as the product expert, you can be very heavily involved with the



PS. If you are wondering how I got started in video (after all these
negative comments) it was (yes) when I was asked to write a video script.
Although the video was not a disaster, this was because I relied heavily
on other people's skills. The point to make, however, was that the initial
script was completely re-written 3 times! Even so, looking back on it now,
I see a lot of weaknesses. For me, this was useful learning experience.
You, however, might have better things to do with your time.

Mike Cooper / Internet: Michael_Cooper -at- hpbbn -dot- bbn -dot- hp -dot- com
Network & System Mgmt Div /_ __ HPDesk: Mike Cooper/HPGRMY/02
Hewlett-Packard GmbH / // / Telnet: 778-2009
Herrenberger Str. 130 / //_/ Phone: +49-7031-14-2009
D-71034 Boeblingen / Fax: +49-7031-14-1388

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