Given the impromptu nature of some YouTube content, it may seem like creators could forego the script-writing phase. Doing so, however, will inevitably lead to avoidable production woes. While it can be a different process, developing a video script for your online content is essential.
While crafting content on YouTube is different from traditional narrative media, elements of the process remain the same. Chief among those, though often the first left behind, is the script. This initial step is crucial for a handful of reasons.
Setting a goal
If you’re just getting started, this can be especially helpful as you figure out the overall content goals of your channel. Writing a script lets you decide which topics you’d be best at covering and research trending topics in that area.
Goal-setting is important even for established channels. Imagine you run a gaming channel and want to do a series of walkthrough/tutorial videos. You’ll need to make sure each video has a specific goal in mind—like tackling an entire level, tips for boss battles, or achievement hunting—and scripts keep you focused.
Keeping production smooth
Once you have a goal in mind, penning a script helps significantly in the recording phase. Nothing helps the production process go smoothly quite like a shot sheet.
A shot sheet is a handy breakdown of the coverage you need and all the elements required to make your shoot run efficiently. These include special props, outfits, and a basic breakdown of the recording equipment you’ll need on hand. If you’re doing a review, and the product requires additional material in order to properly test it out—like a video game console, computer hardware/software you need to download. You don’t want to get to shooting day and realize you’re missing something you need.
During the shoot itself, a shot list is a reminder to capture different kinds of coverage. Inserts/cutaways for products, close-ups for unboxings, or extra angles to give yourself editing options; these are easy to forget in the heat of production. Getting the coverage you need at a later point costs time and might not be something you can replicate.
Even reactionary content—unboxing’s, gaming streams, etc.—still needs some form of video script to keep you on track. Certain elements will be the same no matter what like your intros and outros.
If you’re unboxing or reviewing a product, there will be certain information about the manufacturer that’s important to include as well. These could be facts about the product itself or just details on how viewers can get their hands on it. If you have a sponsor for some of your gear, you definitely can’t forget to mention them in your video.
These elements anchor the reactionary parts of your videos, giving them the necessary focus while retaining the spontaneous feeling. As such, even a bare-bones script is worth writing out ahead of time.
Things to keep in mind
Scripts for YouTube videos can/will be a tad different from traditional narrative content. They don’t necessarily have to adhere to strict formatting and can include elements you wouldn’t normally find in other scripts:
- Make it personal and natural – Don’t be clinical. Even if you’re developing instructional videos, it’s important to make a direct connection with your audience. Craft your script in a way that feels like you’re talking to people one-on-one. Write dialog similar to how you personally speak. This ensures you come off natural without feeling forced and uncomfortable.
- Include audio/video cues – Perhaps you have a motion graphic you want to directly reference—like pointing to a link, spotlighting an image, etc—in the video. If you have to “react” to a motion graphic, or auditory element, notating it in the script keeps you from forgetting about it.
- Focus on one person – If you’re doing videos involving a group of people, try and develop a script that keeps the focus on one of them as much as possible. Not only does this help when it comes to recording, but gives viewers a “main character” to relate to for a video.
- Double check it – Read your script out loud. This is different from simply rehearsing before rolling the cameras, as it lets you iron out any major issues ahead of time. You can make sure the dialog sounds natural while ensuring you didn’t leave out anything important.
Even if your video script is only a little more than an outline, something is always better than nothing. Planning ahead ensures a smooth shoot/post-production and helps your brand stay on track. It’s also good preparation for when you’re ready to expand your content by bringing in more personalities, or working with other brands. Don’t leave this important step of the process by the wayside.