I recently finished editing a series of short informational videos where the subject insisted on using a script as opposed to letting the video producer ask questions to elicit the answers. The result is a video that sounds, well, scripted. The saving grace is that the subject matter is such that the video will ultimately do its job and convey the information. But, I can’t help but wonder how much more powerful the video could have been if instead of a canned script, the subject just spoke from her heart and memory about the product.
99.999% of all the promo videos we produce will be done without a script. I prefer the authentic and organic nature of a documentary style interview vs a script. I think it does a better job connecting with an audience.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you should use a script. But if you do, you should do it under the right conditions.
Narrative style videos and commercials aside (which will typically always have a script), here’s when I think it makes sense to use a script vs. an interview for a promotional video.
- Short videos. I think scripted promo videos work best when the final video will be very short (a minute or less). You have a small amount of time to get all the key information you want, so you can’t afford to have someone babble on. You need to have a clear and concise script.
- Use professional actor or equivalent. Depending on the material, if possible, use a professional to deliver the lines. A trained voice-over artist or on-screen actor can 1) effectively memorize the material as needed and 2) recite the scripted material in such a way to make it sound less “scripted,” even authentic. If you can’t use a pro, consider using a teleprompter if the subject will be seen. (Note: even using a teleprompter effectively can be difficult for the untrained.)
- You have a good writer. Don’t take for granted what goes into an effective promotional script. A talented and experienced commercial writer will know how to present the required info in way that will engaging and effective.
Getting What You Want from Interviews
Many clients want to go with a script because they want to ensure they don’t miss any important information. That is understandable. But there is still a way you can get the information you need without resorting to a script. The simplest way is simply to decide ahead of time what information you want presented, then ask a series of questions designed to elicit that info. Be sure to have follow-up questions that help to round out the information.
For more tips on getting what you need from an interview subject, check out this post on making an interview subject more comfortable.
Get That B-roll
Doing this style of promotional video works best when you have lots and lots of b-roll to use. This is important for two reasons. First, it’s just visually more interesting than a talking head. Second, and more importantly, no matter how eloquent your subject is, you are bound to have a lot of “ums” and pauses. You’re also going to have a lot of extraneous info. I like to edit all that stuff out to make the video as tight as possible. I use the b-roll to cover the visual jump-cuts that are formed when cutting out those extra bits.
Below are a couple of videos we recently produced for goPerformance Fitness gym. The first is a short splash page video. There isn’t much voice-over audio, but what little there is is scripted.
The second is their full-blown promo, edited down from a series of interviews. Imagine trying to have this whole thing scripted with this many untrained people. It wouldn’t be nearly as engaging and we’d miss those unplanned special moments and audio gems when people are just themselves.
What tips or advice can you give on using scripts vs. interviews for promotional videos?