Writing a script for Video or Audio

Writing a script for Video or Audio

Anthony Adornato, Manager of Media Communications at Colgate University describes a process for writing a script for a podcast or a video expository.

hi everyone i'm anthony a Toronado from the university's communications office and what i'm going to do is outline broadcast news writing which is quite different than the writing you're maybe used to now running for a class paper or research paper print writing much different than print writing you have two forms of broadcast writing one is writing for radio the other is writing for television and these are really different than print writing because when you think about it they must appeal to the ears in the eye so if you're writing for TV you're going to be writing with pictures covering what you're saying so people are visually looking at the story so it needs to be visually appealing now if you're in the car listening to a radio story let's say on NPR it has to be descriptive I mean you're listening there's no images so how are you going to get that story across and hook the person who's listening to that so that's some things to keep in mind there it's different from print writing also which is characterized by longer more complex sentences and more difficult words if you look at a newspaper print story let's say pick up the New York Times you will notice that the sentences tend to be fairly long and there's a reason why broadcast writing let's say writing for radio is different and the sentences are much short and I'll get into that but in print writing again readers have more time to comprehend what they're reading as well so if you think about it if you have a newspaper in front of you and the sentences are long you don't quite understand what the report is about you can you know it's right there you can actually go back and take another look at that but when it comes to both writing for TV and writing for radio when you think about it most people are listening once it's flying by quick so they have less time to comprehend what you're saying so broadcast news ready here we go again keep it simple clear and concise right as if you're having a chat with a friend this is one of the steps I take in writing scripts is pretend like you're sitting around with your friends or family and just tell them what happened simply tell them what happened don't get worried don't use complex words now is not the time to pull out those you know big words that you're proud of knowing that you might use in research papers again pay attention to the sentence structure it's much different than print shorter sentences use descriptive language to take the viewers or listeners to the heart of the story so you really want to describe what is going on so if you're doing a story for an audio story for let's say radio or the web you really want to describe what is happening use the words to describe take the listener right to the heart of the story and if you listen to NPR you'll hear this quite frequently where they're they're very the report is very descriptive they're standing on the describing you know there's a line of hundreds of people forming out of the door wrapping around you know the building because visually when you're doing a radio story an audio story visually there's really nothing to see so you have to be the eyes for the listener right in active voice subject-verb-object so I mean you don't for example you know a typical sentence which is kind of reverse of this is something like the budget passed by legislators by a three to two margin you want to say you know the legislators passed the budget so you always want to put the subject first as often as you can and that's really that's real important and that's one of the think the biggest mistakes I see in broadcast writing so keep it active that keeps it real active and then focus on people focus on people to drive home the point of your story you know if you have a complex story let's say just for example about I'm pulling this out here but about taxes will get to the heart of it how are people going to be impacted so go down the road picking a homeowner who might be impacted by taxes find out what they think find out what their taxes are now talk to them so that's key as well when you have an issue whatever it may be figure out how to get to the heart of the story by using people in the story and you'll find when you're writing it's actually much easier to to write about a complex issue when you when you use people to tell the story so why short of sentences well it's pretty obvious shorter sentences are more easily understood and I think you know what I'm talking about because you know I've written research papers and I've read research papers of Colgate you know students and faculty members and it's wordy I mean the sentences are long a lot of commas a lot of words bigger words so shorter sentences more easy easily understood by whether people listener or the viewer also remember that broadcast copy must be read out loud so if you're writing a sentence that's too long that's not going to work when you're when you're voicing a story I mean pick up the New York Times reader sentences as if you're going to be reading it for a broadcast a broadcast story whether it be a radio TV story that's being put together and you're going to run out of breath and after a while it's not going to make sense so that goes back to the structure remembering shorter sentences and read out loud as you write you know if you're in a newsroom you'll constantly reporters or anchors reading out loud as they write their scripts it may seem awkward and unusual at first but it will give you a feel for what sounds right because I mean what you're writing on the paper is the real impact that's going to have is when you're when you're voicing it whether it be for TV or radio so here are an example of a print sentence you might see in print and then what it should really look like or something what it should look like in broadcast so this is maybe a print a print sentence you know Pope Benedict joined US President Barack Obama and queen elizabeth ii on friday by launching his own youtube channel the latest vatican effort to reach out to the digital generation it's a longer sentence it's not awful i mean there are much longer sentences but if you take a look at this you can really see the difference it's nice and short and concise so here it is President Obama has a YouTube channel so that was Queen Elizabeth now Pope Benedict has one too the Pope wants to use the channel the new channel to reach out to young people so you can kind of see that the difference tears are trying to get across your message it's clear concise much more punchy ER here's another one a print version here Governor David Paterson appointed Democratic US Representative Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday to film New York's vacant Senate seat finally settling on a woman from a largely rural Eastern District can you tell I'm running out of I'm running out of breath here district of the states replace Hillary Rodham Clinton so a broadcast copy might look something more like this Governor David Paterson has appointed Democratic congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York's a vacant Senate seat Gillibrand is from a rural part of the state she will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton so you can see the differences there and when you read it out loud there are clear differences and when a listener or viewer is hearing you say those sentences they're going to pick this up much much easier than the sentence for print so I want to take you through the process because they think the majority of work actually a lot of the work takes place before you actually get down and start writing and if you haven't gone through the motions and then the process before that the right way then it's going to be a lot harder so let's run through the process a little bit the first step would be to research to the issue or the story and that is really you're on a fact-finding mission it's just like if you are assigned a paper topic or research topic and you were going out trying to find information so you want to get the background the background details on this issue or on the story you're going to be covering gather the relevant data in facts identify key elements to the story so it's always a good idea to identify the different components to a story in the different angles and this will help as you decide what questions you want to ask and who you want to interview and determine who would be the best to interview it's always best to find at least two people to talk to for a particular story and oftentimes it's great to get the kind of official sound so you know if you're doing story about something related to a local church sure that sound from the interview with the pastor that's great and all but then you want to bundle it down so you want to get sound interviews from the parishioners as well and that tends to humanize a story for people who are listening or watching the story so I determine who they'd be the best to interview conduct the interviews and then I'll show you on about transcribing interviews and electing portions that will best suit your story have an example of that coming up but essentially what you're doing is you're going through the interviews you're not transcribing the entire interview but you're going through you're listening you have a word document open and you're typing out the portions that you think would fit in to your story well so interviews you should start by drafting a general set of questions don't rely too heavily on these questions so you don't want to you know be so firm sticking to that laundry list of questions that you're not afraid to veer off that you really have to see where the conversation with the person you're interviewing where that goes because you may go in thinking you know you're going this angle but you need to listen they may say something you look a lot it's really interesting that holds it that you know that that adds a whole different dimension to my story so certainly draft the general set of questions but don't rely too heavily on those and let the chat flow naturally I don't like to think of it as if you're interviewing someone but you're just having a conversation you're talking to them you're trying to get information off of them and you'll get it out easier if you're just having a real natural conversation you know don't make them feel like you're asking a laundry list of questions and then you want to ask questions that will evoke emotions you know evoke how that person feels about a particular topic and you'll find that when you go sit down to write your actual script and you try to start integrating in portions of their interview it'll add depth in kind of context and Flair and flavor to the story so interviews you want to ask open-ended questions to avoid yes or no answers because someone responding yes or no that's not going to work too well to use those why in what questions they tend to generate meaningful responses and then ask them to describe you know ask them to describe how they feel or else such and such a situation is impacting them that usually does the trick and then this is he had them rephrase your question in their answer because if you think about it when you play their interview as part of your story they're not going to the the listener is not going to be hearing your question necessarily so if you're asking I don't know if you're asking a if you're interviewing a professor about their teaching philosophy you ask them what their teaching philosophy is you know don't just start having them list off their teaching philosophy you know have them rephrase the question my teaching philosophy is or my teaching style is but that's something to remind them before you actually start the interview and then this is really helpful so the interview is done you're set to pack up and go your final question should actually be you know is there anything else I didn't cover that you want to get out or is there anything else you want to add that you'd like to add it oftentimes this actually leads to some of the most meaningful responses because people sometimes you know they're answering your questions but they have all these other things churning inside and they might feel like they didn't get them out and the responses to your questions so that is a key point as well so getting down to writing it is okay to start drafting a script or an outline before you actually start conducting the interviews we want to be careful of though is that you're not drafting it and then just looking for things to to plug in necessarily I guess what I mean is that you want to make sure when you go out that if there's something that completely changes the story you have the flexibility to change it and you don't feel stuck in that script that you've already started writing so and I do I tend to start drafting how I might want the flow of the script to go and then building a script like I said on a central character that can be helpful so starting it out with you know Joe Schmo from whatever you know lives down the road in Hamilton he's been keeping an eye on you know what legislators are doing regarding taxes and then it drives on the point and then you get into the nuts and bolts of breaking down the hard facts because if you're starting up top with the hard facts people tend to get lost and you really want to catch them in the beginning of a story so try to build a script on a central character mix in natural sound natural sound is when you're out covering a story keep you know your eyes and ears open for natural sound the ambient noise around that may be able to bring this is especially important in in radio scripts and audio so if you're covering a story let's say about a church or about a firehouse get the natural sound on tape of the sirens going off or the firetruck pulling out or in a church the parishioners or the chorus you know singing and then integrate that into your script because if you listen to NPR you'll hear that a lot and that adds so much to a story you know when you have your voiceover which is the part that that you've written in your voicing over your mixing in interviews from a couple different people hopefully and then you're mixing in some of that Nats out on top of it it adds some nice layers to the store some mix in the natural sound and then mixing in interviews that add flavor to your script as well the open should grab attention I mention that with focusing on a central character such a grab attention fulfill your promise so if people are listening or watching your story you need to make sure you carry through on what you're giving them don't make them feel like you've left some unanswered questions or some loose ends because they'll walk away feeling unfulfilled so make sure you're really everything that you're writing about all the interviews that you're mixing and make sure at the end you feel like you've told the whole story and the key is really starting and ending strong so it people tend whether it be a print story or broadcast story people tend to remember the opening and they tend to remember the closing of the story so this is a story I worked on a video story on campus it was about green dining so it was on the sustainability efforts and our Dining Services so what I did was I went through the same process that I just told you guys about this is a sample of my kind of transcribing of my transcription so what I did was I came back I had interviews with John familiar sustainability coordinator Dan for evil from Dining Services and a couple of students so this is just a sample of how my how you should transcribe so I started with John familias interview John familiy a sustainability coordinator and these are just your notes no one's seeing this you know besides you and then you'll have an endpoint as to where he starts talking so you want to watch out for whatever he says that really catches your attention you think might fit into your script and then write that out so right here at ten seconds into my tape he said this I think we're doing a number of initiatives and not going to read the whole thing but it went to 22 seconds and this is important to put the end time in the out time B's this gives you an idea of okay that sound byte is what the technical term is it's 12 seconds long so if you're writing a script and inserting interviews and you have four minutes or whatever the time length is of your story you need to make sure that's important to know if you want to use that one or you may have to cut down your script more you may have to try to cut this down more the same thing here you know this he said something really interesting that caught my attention starting at 22 ended at 47 so I can tell you that the typical length to use for sound bytes is about I would say the maximum typically is 12 seconds typically you say anything longer than 12 seconds if someone's rambling on too long so this one was too long it seemed like I may have cut that down I may have not used it so I just start transcribing Dan Flavel from dining services here are some of the interesting things he said I may use them they may not use them when I start looking at my script I don't know but I want to have as much of the good stuff down there as I can so these are some of the things he said you know the more local you can buy the fresher product can be because there isn't yet that amount of travel distance we're doing very well compared to other schools around the cutting edge of it as far as being as local as we are so some interesting comments that add some flavor to the story from someone involved in this process and then this was the actual script so voiceover is you actually talking to RIT you know that's what you've written and what you're actually going to be voicing over and then so I have here and this was all this was all also done of course keeping in mind what video we had so I started out organic beans and grains hormone-free beef locally grown fruits so those were three quick shots organic beans and grains hormone-free beef locally grown fruit although they may not seem like the typical menu items that would satisfy college students hunger pains those are just a sampling of sustainable foods being served up at Colgate University's dining facilities I think it's very important to students I like the organic far I really like the fruit it's really good stuff to add to your salad it's important to them and it's important to us in 2008 Colgate began replacing foods that were grown on faraway soil and trucked in from distant locations with locally grown and produced ones a shot of organic beans agreeance a shot of the beef a shot of the fruit that I knew we had so it's punchy its boom boom boom although they might not seem like your typical menu items that would satisfy college students hunger pangs those are just a sampling of the foods being served up that Colgate's dining facilities then I inserted the first interview was with a student actually because I wanted to drive home the point of how students like this they're really taking to it so this was Liz Farrell than John a student and then Jonathan mealy oh I mixed in and that's just part of this script typically if you were in a newsroom or if you looked at a broadcast script in a professional newsroom the voiceover so the part you're voicing would be in all caps so this would be in caps which I didn't do here but this would be in caps and then the interviews which the SOT is sound on tape it's a sound bite this is kind of the technical scripting format but it's sound on tape so the reason why the voice-over part is usually in caps is because when you're going into the studio the recording booth to actually voice something over to actually read the script it's much easier to read in caps for some reason to the eye for most people anyway another thing on that is it's a good idea after you print out your script if you need to mark it up to mark it up so if there's areas that you want to give emphasis to you know note that in the script so as you get to that as you're reading the script as you're voicing it that kind of gives you a reminder or if there's areas that you know you may stumble on or flub on you know you can denote that just so you're extra cautious extra pauses those always adds emphasis so here you know organic beans and grains hormone-free beef locally grown fruit um so you kind of use your voice and play with the script a little bit and that's really key before you actually go in and you start voicing a script you need to become familiar with it like really really really familiar with it it's definitely noticeable when a reporter or an anchor whoever it may be is reading a script they it's they are able to sell it so much more when they're invested in it so when they've had a part in the planning but also when they're familiar with this script so if it's not coming off your tongue the way you want it to rewrite it I mean just rewrite the sentence if it's not coming off the way you want it to and I were to recommend after you get the script on paper and of course you're reading it out loud at the same time as you're writing I would recommend I mean reading it over at least three or four times out loud and just to see how it feels before you actually get into the recording booth over at Frank you'll find non-disposable silverware mugs and plates recycled and compostable napkins are used in all dining locations and there are signs like this one reminding students not to waste food sustainability coordinator John Pamelia believes that education has to be part of the process especially when it comes to the importance of buying locally my dream would be five or ten years from now that the students who go into our Dining Services would have a clear picture of where food comes from meaning that and our display tables our buffet lines that the food is identified this was grown by such-and-such a farm located only a few miles from campus and I thought this ended on a good note because it kind of tied everything together so I started out with what we've been doing and now I'm ending with John's kind of dreams of where we'll be five years from now so it kind of ties it up nicely so my dream five years from now is that students going into dining facilities will have a clearer picture of where the food comes from meaning that on our display tables food will be identified this was grown such-and-such a farms a few miles from campus and then the end shot was I think when he was saying that a shot of common thread farm where we get some of our food from so that's kind of that but the key I think is just actually before you actually get into writing the process before leading up to it when you actually get down to writing it can be a experiences everything I mean you're going to run into roadblocks and things as you get into it but it's just getting starting to get stuff on paper plugging in the interviews it's kind of like a puzzle like you're gonna have interviews here that doesn't work maybe it works better here and now I can't use that and a lot of it is the time as well because if you have a only two minutes and you're over you know if you have a two and a half minute piece then things need to be cut down here are some additional resources pointer org and actually this one's these two a really good news you org they have online tutorials on writing for the ear telling stories about sound and with sound and then YouTube has YouTube slat comm / reporter Center and actually they have compiled interviews with print journalists broadcast journalists like Katie Couric and things like that and they touch on different things how to conduct interviews how to tell stories so that probably helpful to check it as well and then of course if you have any more questions you can always email me thanks you Organic beans and grains hormone-free beef for locally grown fruit although they may not seem like the typical menu items that would satisfy college students hunger pains those are just a sampling of sustainable foods being served up at Colgate University's dining facilities I think it's very important to students I like the organic far I really like the fruit it's really good stuff to add to your salad it's important to them and it's important to us in 2008 Colgate began replacing foods that were grown on faraway soil and trucked in from distant locations with locally grown and produced ones Purdy and Sons food in nearby Sherburn New York a meat processing company and food distributor is now Colgate source of local meats produce dairy and beans in Fall 2009 Colgate also started purchasing produce from common thread Community Farm located just three miles from campus when possible the products are organic when your food is grown locally then you can have a connection with the people who are growing in you know how they do it and whether or not it's environmentally sound practice the more local you can buy obviously the fresher your products gonna be just because there isn't that long travel distance along with freshness and forging partnerships with local growers and suppliers there are other major benefits of buying locally it cuts down on the amount of fuel needed for the item to travel from a farm to campus and local products tend to contain less packaging from Frank dining hall and the case Geyer cafe to the coop and the edge you'll find some very visible signs of these sustainability efforts for example this organic barn prank was introduced last year on this particular day students dined on soba noodle salad couscous marinated tofu grilled veggies honeydew melon and spinach head over to the Cooper case Geyer cafe that's where you'll find local offerings such as Chobani yogurt from nearby New Berlin organic granola from upstate harvest in Chenango County and dairy products from Binghamton's Crowley foods and editions coffee is fair trade or organic with more and more college students becoming eco savvy the new menu items are a welcome change just ask Audrey Williams yeah I totally appreciate any efforts when I noticed that the organic bar had been implemented I was very excited and eager to see what they offer and so I've seen definite changes from last year Audrey's connection with the environment runs deep since she was a child Audrey a California native has eaten only vegan foods mostly from farms in her hometown she hopes the sustainability efforts will raise awareness among students I just think that people are so removed from where their food is coming from that they don't really understand as long as it just tastes good Dining Services for Rey and to green dining goes beyond food the first big push came four years ago when all styrofoam was banned on campus instead potato based materials are used explains Dining Services dan Freya wherever takeout sold we offer offer biodegradable containers so all the containers at the coop are made out of a potato polymer so all the clear packaging that you think is plastic is actually a potato polymer product so if by all the grades very quickly most of it about 60 days in the landfill situation and even quicker in the compost situation over at Frank you'll find non-disposable silverware mugs and plates recycled and compostable napkins are used in all dining locations and there are signs like this one reminding students not to waste food sustainability coordinator John camellia believes that education has to be part of the process especially when it comes to the importance of buying locally my dream would be five or ten years from now that the students who go into our Dining Services would have a clear picture of where food comes from meaning that and our display tables our buffet lines that the food is is identified this was grown by such-and-such a farm located only a few miles from camp this you

  1. Thank you for your excellent Video.  I have been struggling in making scripts sound natural.  In my current Videos it is noticeable that I am reading a script. After watching your Video, I believe I can make the corrections that will make my script sound natural.  Please continue to making these types of VIDEOS in "making scripts sound natural".
    I am sure that I am not the only one with problem.

  2. Excellent! The video pinpoints points steps I never considered. Shows how to take notes when re-listening to the interviews you conduct, how to highlight script components, and where to get more information.

  3. This is an excellent, high quality, instructive video training piece. The actual broadcast video that was the project discussed was amazing! It made me become passionate about what the food services are doing at Colgate and what this can mean for our schools across the nation. Thanks!!!

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