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Last time we talked about the questions you need to ask yourself when you want to make a video. Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s go about this in a thoughtful way. We’re going to talk about creating a content outline and a script for your video project.

Create an outline

With your internal team, you’ll make an outline that looks a lot like the outline you may have made for an essay in school, and with good reason.  Define the goal for your video – for example, “Demonstrate my mind-reading app’s awesomeness.”  and create a thesis statement to anchor your video. “The ability of my app to read your mind will make your life incredible.” is a good one for our example.  Then, set up your supporting arguments.  If you’re playing along at home, your Outline would look like this.

Demonstrate my app’s awesomeness.

    1. Thesis – The ability of my app to read your mind will make your life incredible.
      1. Support #1- It knows when you’re about to say something stupid and interrupts you with a custom notification, improving your communication.


      1. Support #2 – It knows if you’re wearing an unflattering outfit just because you want to look trendy, and reminds you to be yourself via SMS, improving your appearance.


      1. Support #3 – It knows when you’re sad, and updates your wallpaper with cute animal photos until you smile, improving your mood.


I know I’m into this app already, but your audience may need a little more convincing before the buy it.  Bring it all together with a summary, and then provide your audience with a clear call to action.

    1. Conclusion – You know what this part is – ‘Tell ’em what you told ’em’ – but with different words. Maybe “Better Thoughts, Better Looks, Better Feelings – yes, there is an app for that.”


    1. Call To Action – By now they’re salivating to get your app. Give them something to sink their teeth into, ideally with a link nearby. “Download from the App Store Now!” is ideal in our test case.


That was pretty painless, right? Now you can show your outline around for approval – this is key, because you don’t want to have to re-tool your whole script because your supporting arguments were flawed.  And now you can begin writing a script without having to face the tyranny of the blank page, a personal horror of mine.

Generate a Script

No, not ‘write’ a script – you’ve pretty much done that already, and ‘writing’ doesn’t sufficiently describe the scripting process. A script isn’t just words on paper, but an instruction set for the various collaborators you’ll meet along the way to your awesome video going live.

The first step of scripting is establishing a format.  Consult a guidebook, download a template, or make one up to suit your own needs -the only requirement for your script’s format is that it be clear and consistent.  At Media Beyond we make a lot of videos with voice over recording and excerpts from interviews.  So our format shows “VO:” before a line that is spoken by the voice over artist.

When we are using an interview excerpt, we identify the source material directly in the script. So if Mary from Tucson was interviewed for project ‘Alpha’ on July first of 2013, our script says “Alpha_Tucson_070113_Mary”.  before the excerpt from Mary’s interview we want to use in our video appears verbatim on the page.  We settled on this convention long ago, and it is used throughout our workflow.  The camera operator who recorded Mary’s interview labeled her footage as such, the transcript files are titled the same way, and so, when scripting, we can just cut-and-paste the document title and content into our script.  There’s no ambiguity, and everyone knows the source of the material, especially the editor you may never meet or speak with!

Think through your own workflow before you settle on a format – and gather input from all of your stakeholders.  It will make buy-in easier, and a standard is no good if it is never applied.

You’ll probably have some combination of music, graphics, footage, and voice over in your script – the more detailed you are in your early drafts, the easier it will be down the line, so put it all on the page!

Next, you plug your outline into your format, and your script will start to take shape. Our app promo script above might start to look something like this:

Full-Screen Graphic – App logo flies on-screen

Sound effect – Brand theme music plays as App logo comes to rest

Transition to:

Visual – B-roll of cell-phone use on the street.

VO – Imagine an app for your device that could read your mind.  It would probably make your life incredible, wouldn’t it?  Well, it’s here, and it will.

Transition to:

Alpha_Tucson_070113_Mary – 03:05:12:00 – I was about to lay in to my boss after a misunderstanding at work, but my app buzzed me, and I shut up – just in time for my boss to give me a raise for remaining in calm in the face of a challenge!

You get the idea – once it’s all on paper – you’ll need to review and revise.  Two important points to keep in mind here:

1. Establish a naming/numbering system for script iterations. And keep it simple.  Script01 should be first. Then Script02.  Don’t call anything ‘Final’. That’s the sure way to guarantee you need to change something.

2. Track changes to your script. Iterating the name as above helps – getting written feedback from stakeholders is key, and using the ‘track changes’ function of word processing software is pretty helpful.  But if you’re using different flavors of software from your collaborators, you could be asking for headaches.  (See my tips on dealing with this here.) The point is to establish a procedure for review, and stick to it.

Life is better when you explain your review process to everyone up-front.  It helps you stay on schedule and on budget. A detailed script acts like a contract for what the client is going to see (and not see) and will help avoid misunderstandings.

Most important after refining and reviewing your script is to ‘lock’ it.  This is the point at which no more changes will be made.  There may be different ‘lock’ points for graphics, footage, music, or voice over, but they should each be clearly defined.  There’s no worse feeling than wrapping an expensive shoot and getting back to the office to find that the client’s boss suddenly wants you to shoot something that wasn’t in the original script.  It costs money, too, and who wants that?

I hope you put these recommendations of creating an outline and generating a script into practice – especially the part about formatting your scripts.  In part 3 we’ll look at pre-visualization and graphics planning.  Hit me up with your questions in the comments, or connect with me.