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How to Write an A/V Script

The format of an A/V script is pretty simple: the column on the left is for the audio and the one on the right is for the corresponding visual. But how do you know what exactly to put in each column? Here are some ways to help you write an effective A/V script that will aid you in making your video:

Step 1

Write an essay summarizing your video

If you’re feeling a bit nervous or unsure about writing an A/V script, don’t worry! You don’t need to be Shakespeare. A really easy way to get started is to actually do something that we all used to do back in high school: write an essay.  Don’t groan, it won’t be that bad!

As you’ll recall from those halcyon high school days, a basic essay needs an introduction, a body of supporting evidence, and a conclusion. And in that introduction there should be a thesis statement — which, in a video, you can think of as the main takeaway you want your viewer to have after watching your video.

Now that we’ve all refreshed our memories about what needs to be in an essay, take some time and write one that makes the points you want your video to make. Don’t worry, no one will be grading this! In fact, if you’re not planning to use any narration in your video, your essay never needs to see the light of day. Just think of it as a brainstorming document and make sure that it includes everything that you want to cover in your video.

Step 2

Edit your essay

Now if you are planning to use narration in your video, then this essay will evolve into that narration. So you should think about tightening it up and revising it like you would any essay you’d be sharing. In general, you want to keep things succinct for video narration. Lots of words are much easier to digest from the page than through your ear, if that makes any sense!   

And since what you’re writing is going to be used in a video –probably on some social media platform –you should have your thesis statement, and any other takeaways, as early as possible. Just think to yourself, if the viewer stops watching after twenty seconds, did they get the message? 

Now when you’re editing your essay, if you’re having trouble deciding what needs to go and what should stay –share it with a friend or coworker!  Ask them: Does it make sense? Are there any confusing parts? Redundant parts? Have they fallen asleep? … You get the idea.

Step 3

Fill in the “A” side of the script

Ok, so now your co-worker’s feedback has forced you to rewrite your essay ten times, but it’s finally in tip-top shape and you’re feeling super solid about using it for your narration. But how do you know how many sentences to include in each of those little boxes on the A-for-audio side of your AV script?

Here are two simple things you can do to figure that out:

  • First, think visually. Those text boxes need a visual to accompany them –otherwise you’re just making a podcast! If you close your eyes as you hear those sentences, what visual pops in your head? When the visual changes, that’s how you know you’re done with the narration that belongs in that first box; write it down there and move on to the next box.
  • Helpful hint number two: No more than three sentences in a box. I think three sentences is the absolute longest that you can leave your visual on screen before the eyes of an online audience start wandering. And you probably didn’t see just one thing in your mind’s-eye when you read more than three sentences to yourself, right?

Step 4

Reread what you’ve written down

Ok, so now your A-side should be taking shape. But before you rest on your laurels, here’s one more important pointer for you:  Make sure you read each box of text aloud twice — or what the heck, go nuts and read it three times! 

Now, why is this so important? Because good narration should sound more like talking than reading text. Many things that look good on paper don’t sound so good when they’re spoken. It’s amazing how reading what you’ve written aloud will instantly help you to identify places where the material might seem a bit stiff, awkward, or wordy. Then you can adjust your text to make it feel more natural and conversational. 

Multiple readings will also give you a better sense of how long that narration will actually take, which will give you a good overall sense of the length of your finished video;reading what you’ve written aloud will also help you plan the visuals you’ll need to match your narration. 

You’ll find a sample A-V script below with a column for time in the middle that you can download. Writing down an estimate of how many seconds each box of narration takes will help you to plan out how long each corresponding shot should be — especially if you’re planning on doing fancy camera moves. And if you’re planning to use footage from a stock library, then having an idea of how long each of the shots needs to be will help you make decisions on what you want to purchase. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: As you time your narration, make sure to slow down your reading pace; reading for narration needs to be slower than regular conversation so viewers can take it and the visuals in at the same time.  And since you’ll be using these timings to help you create or select visuals to go with them, you don’t want to end up with shots that are too short for your narration. So a good rule of thumb is when in doubt, slow down!!! 

Step 5

Fill in the “V” side of the script

Now let’s move on to the visuals column on the right.  This is where you write down a word or short phrase that describes what viewers will see.  And that’s it.  For real!  Now you and others know what will be said and what will be seen in your video. 

Keep in mind that this is just one way to jump-start your creative process to avoid being stuck looking at a blank page wondering what to do. If you find you or your team riff on this and discover another process that works better for you, then by all means, go for it! Play around and let your creativity run wild!