Video Scripts — Formatting and Creative Tips
by Write Label
Unless you just time traveled from 1926, you’ve seen a television commercial. In fact, you’ve probably seen so many commercials that you feel confident you know all there is to know about writing them, but video advertising may not be as intuitive as one might think.
Our Video Scripts submission tool is meant to create a more uniform experience for both our writers and our clients.
This design allows you to include both video and audio elements in a style that is easier for clients and ultimately for production. There are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure script submissions are uniform and increase the chances that your script receives the Customer Favorite.
- All Video elements are written on the left side. All Audio elements are written on the right.
- For the video (left), please describe every shot. For each new shot, click the “+ ADD ROW” button.
- For the audio (right), make sure to establish the speaker with every new line. Ideally, your character will have names with different first letters. So, instead of Man 1 and Man 2, you could name them Chad and Greg. This helps your reader avoid confusion. Character names should appear in all caps.
- If you decide you no longer want an element you created, hover over the box and click the “-” symbol that appears:
When writing your submission, remember that your script should read easily from left to right. When writing your video descriptions, imagine that the least creative person you know is the person who will produce your spot. Descriptions like “Beauty shot of store” or “b-roll of fruit” aren’t as helpful as “panning shot of produce section” and “zoom in on close up of apples.”
Video descriptions are just as important as the audio. Be specific when writing these descriptions. We understand that sometimes the brief may be vague about the resources available, but we ask that you err on the side of creativity within the parameters of the brief.
As you write your script, the action you describe in the video and your audio should align. Meaning that what is happening on the left side should correspond with what is happening on the right.
If an action has no corresponding dialogue, you can leave the audio field blank or include music or sound effects.
Many commercials have a screen at the end with information. For these, write “INFO SCREEN.”
If words or images are superimposed over a video image, write “SUPER.”
If you change locations, start your video description with “CUT TO:” and please describe the type of shot for each new shot. For a list of TV terminology, please click here.
If you feel a character description is required, put it in parenthesis ( ) to the right of the character name in the video descriptions.
Example: “CHAD (20s, male with ponytail) sits on the couch.”
If the video element sets up a conversation without action, write the entire conversation in one box until a new action is introduced. Separate their dialogue with one space in between:
Voiceovers — If the speaker isn’t on the screen, write (VO) after the speaker’s name:
Example: SPOKESPERSON (VO): I’m the one speaking, but I’m not on the screen
If you want to include a sound effect in the video ad, write “SFX:” in the audio box.
Never include a copyrighted song. Instead, choose a theme. If you want music playing, mention it at the start with “MUSIC:”
This tool will not have a timer like our radio builder, so we depend on you to make sure the length is as accurate as possible. At the bottom of your submission, you will see “Word Count.”
“Total” represents the number of words included in both the audio and visual sections of your script. There is no limit to how many words are included in the “total” word count. This can be however many words it takes for you to describe each scene/cut.
“Audio” represents the number of words in just the audio portion of your script. When writing your audio, try to aim for the following word counts:
For a 15-second script, the total “audio” word count should be around 45 words.
For a 30-second ad, the total “audio” word count should be around 90 words.
For a 60-second ad, the total “audio” word count should be around 180 words.
To ensure an accurate word count, please write out all numbers, abbreviations, and symbols.
Example: 20% = twenty percent
Keep in mind that any text addressing voice direction or sound effects will go towards the “audio” word count, so these word limits are just light suggestions to help ensure that your ad is as close to the requested length as possible.
If your ad is action-heavy and does not include a lot of dialogue, use your best judgment. Imagine how the scene would play out and about how long it would take.
Putting it all together:
Of course, many more things will come up in the course of writing a video ad. Always use your best judgment, remember to adhere to the basic rules, read the brief, and listen to feedback provided by the editors. We are available to answer any questions you have.