Training Video Script Writing

Subject: Training Video Script Writing
From: Michael Uhl <uhl -at- VISLAB -dot- EPA -dot- GOV>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 1995 17:47:16 -0500

Mary (?) asked about video script writing and Laurel Y. Nelson wrote
and very good reply. Laurel is correct. Script writing requires one to think
visually in a way unlike the methods for visualizing online help or
documents. Video images move, almost always use sound, and often employ
narration. It takes a while to get the hang of it. Though some people,
and I've met some of them, never get the hang of it.

However, once you have enough experience with the entire production
process, the hardest part of the job is dealing with the subject matter
experts and other customer representatives. In other words, as Laurel
indicated, you need to see what the end product of your script looks like
and thoroughly understand how it got that way.

I've written 15-20 video scripts for business-to-business videos.
Fortunately, I had a thirty-year veteran of commercial film and video
production to hold my hand for the first bunch of projects.

The first thing I learned is cost containment. Just because you can
describe it and because it *can* be done, doesn't mean the production
company can *afford* to do it. Keep the entire thing as simple as
possible, unless of course, money is no object. ;-)

The second important thing I learned was to listen and obey the
experts. Just because your the script writer doesn't suddenly make you
an expert at directing, editing, lighting, animation, and so on. Stick
to the content: it's correctness, flow, and visual impact. Work *with*
the other team members.

Here's some other tips I learned:

Work closely with the director and producer as you develop the script.
They can give you crucial advice about transitions, possible
shots you hadn't considered, on-site problems and limitations, etc.

Avoid using "talent," i.e., actors/actresses. They add a lot to the cost.

*Do* use a professional speaker, such as a radio DJ, for narration.

Avoid talking head videos. As much as the CEO or some other senior manager
wants to get into the picture and blab on about his company or product, try
to keep them out. There are few Lee Iacocca types out there.

Keep the video short. We used to limit our marketing videos to 3-5 minutes,
informational videos to 5-7 minutes, and our training videos to 20 minutes.

Go out on the shoot if possible. Act as a consultant to the director.

Attend the editing sessions and be prepared to defend and explain your script.

I don't have time right now to go into any more detail, but feel free to
contact me if you have more questions.

Good luck.


Michael Andrew Uhl Internet: uhl -at- vislab -dot- epa -dot- gov
Lead Technical Writer (NESC) Phone: (919) 541-4283
Lockheed Martin Fax: (919) 541-0056
Primary Support Contractor for the US EPA ftp site:
Scientific Visualization Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
National Environmental Supercomputing Center (NESC), Bay City, MI
US EPA, Environmental Research Center, Research Triangle Park, NC

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