When you’re in the planning stages of a video project, one of the first decisions you’ll make is the format of the video itself. The decision you make at this point will steer the final video into one of two broad categories: script-based or interview-based. You’ll either want to write the content before-hand or use non-scripted answers to interview questions and build your story from there.
Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses, so deciding which way to go will depend on the situation and what constraints you’ll be operating under.
Let’s look at some questions we can ask to zero in on what format is best for a given scenario:
1) Will there be opportunities to gather b-roll?
Interview-based videos require edits. Lots of them. People naturally meander and take longer than necessary to answer questions, so you’ll want to tighten all those responses up. This introduces a new problem. You now need to hide all those edits or else the video will look jarring and amateurish. Covering those edits with broll footage is the easiest way to hide them. So, if there’s plenty of footage that can be gathered to cover edits, then an interview-based video could work. If not, it might be better to go with a script.
2) Are there time constraints on the video?
Do you want to produce a 15 or 30 second commercial to be aired on television? If so, you’ll most certainly need a script (as well as a storyboard) With a time constraint that small, it’s too risky to rely on an interview to deliver the message without going over the time limit. However, if the video is meant for the web, you have more freedom to increase the length if you need to.
3) Hard Sell/Soft Sell
Interview-based videos tend to come off as a low pressure “soft-sell”, even if their purpose is for marketing. Interview-based videos won’t create a sense of urgency for the viewer to act. This may be what you want. But if you’re looking for your video to call the view to action in a more immediate way, scripting the video will allow you to craft that call-to-action in a more concise way.
4) Does the video need to explain something?
Explainer and informational videos will almost always need a script. This is especially true if the subject matter is complex. You’ll need the opportunity to collect your thoughts about the subject matter and organize them in a script. You will almost always need a script for this genre.
5) Does it have to be one or the other?
Absolutely not! Mixing scripted content with interviews often works great. For instance, if your video needs to convey information that you’re unable to glean from your interview subjects then inserting a scripted voice-over will often be appropriate and necessary. This is a common practice in documentary and corporate video genres.
Things to Keep in Mind for Script-Based Videos:
- Strongly consider hiring a professional performer.
A funny thing happens when someone who isn’t a professional actor reads a script. It comes out sounding.. well.. SCRIPTED! And by that I mean stiff, uninspiring, and fake. I’ve seen this happen many times and it has the potential to ruin a video. So unless you’re very confident in your acting abilities, have someone else speak for you.
- Write conversationally.
Writing for the screen is different that writing for print. So if you’re preparing your own script, be sure to write conversationally. Remember that the material will be performed by someone else, so it should sound natural.
Things to Keep in Mind for Interview-Based Videos:
- Don’t ask for a list of questions beforehand.
The whole point of an interview-based video is to get genuine responses. If you’re being interviewed and you insist on seeing the questions before-hand, you’re actually robbing yourself of delivering honest-sounding answers. Resist this temptation to know everything in advance and allow yourself to relax into the interview. I promise you’ll be more pleased with the results.
- Make sure the interviewee is comfortable being filmed.
Interview subjects tend to sound nervous if they’re feeling nervous. If you choose people from your company or organization to be interviewed that are uncomfortable being being filmed then you probably won’t be pleased with the results. Being filmed, especially for the first time, can be a very anxiety-inducing experience. Make sure the person chosen for the interview is comfortable with the idea of being on camera and can articulate your message well.
Neither format is perfect, but answering these few questions should go a long way to help you decide how to plan your next video.
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Photo Credit: Derek Gavey