Scriptwriting is a crucial (infact the most crucial) step involved in creating a great explanatory animation.
Some of our clients will suggest that they write the script in order to save some dough… but it can be difficult to know where to start!
Well, here are some helpful tips on writing effective scripts for animated explainers:
1 )Keep it Short
This is often difficult to do, but in the end short & snappy videos hold the viewers’ attention for longer then, well, the longer ones! Here are some guide numbers:
- A one-minute script should be about 150 words
- A two-minute script should be about 300 words
- A three-minute script should be about 450 words
Guess what? That’s not a lot of words! There will be some variance in these numbers depending on the pace of narration, potential time gaps (pauses for humor or animation), and length of individual words (in other words if your animation is going to be about the Australopithecus or Gerrymandering you should probably write less)!
But just how do you keep it short?
Prioritize your information. Before starting your script, write two lists; List A: ‘Points You Want to Make’ and List B: ‘Points You Don’t Necessarily Need to Make’ and then rank each point on each list in order of importance. If you are finding that your script is too long, you are going to have to move some of your lower ranked points from List A to B. We’ll get into which points are best for keeping in a bit…
2 ) Keep it Simple
A first-cousin to Keep it Short, Keeping it Simple is also really important. How to do this?
a) Put it On the Website – Clients often want to tell EVERYTHING about their product or startup in an animated video. When we start to go down this road it is useful to ask what information would be better if they just “put it on the website”? There’s lots of space on your website to fill in different facts or stories that may not be the most relevant for a one or two-minute video. Those viewers that are truly interested in the nitty gritty can look for it there. If you only have a minute or two, the viewer probably doesn’t need to hear your backstory, or what language you coded your database in, or every single category available on your App.
b) No Rocket Science – Focus on HOW and WHY your potential customer can benefit from what you are offering. Technical mumbo jumbo or buzzwords that everyone may not know can potentially alienate a viewer. This all goes out the window of course if your video is indeed about Rocket Science! All joking aside, the point is that you need to talk to your audience and not above it. It might even help if you…
c) Feign Ignorance – Pretend you don’t know your product. This is tough we know, but try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just heard about what you are offering for the very first time. What do they need to know? What would be useful to help understand this? We are quite good at feigning ignorance because the truth is we probably don’t already know everything about your product. Clients have remarked in the past how nice it was to “get out of their head” and have someone else like us looking at what they do with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
3 ) Think Visually
This is why we do what we do! You may be a good writer, but can you “visualize” what is happening as you are writing it? This is important because as the old adage goes a picture is worth a thousand words. It is very helpful to be able to visualize a script – even before it is storyboarded – in order take advantage of the power of imagery to maximize explanations and the impact of your message. Great visuals can explain a tonne just on their own. When we write a script there are often several spots where we can eliminate words because we know the visuals will do a much better job of explaining. There isn’t necessarily a need to narrate something that you can already see! If you can eliminate unneeded words, the video can be shorter, crisper, and get your viewer to the point quicker.
Additionally, if you can start to picture what is happening in your script early, you can start to figure out what symbols and transitions might work during and in between scenes. It is important to think of what visual elements – whether that be from a compositional or conceptual point of view – can be introduced and then potentially reused in order to create visual consistency and cohesiveness.
Try drawing thumbnail sketches beside your script – even at an early stage – in order to help sort this out.
Scriptwriting is a challenging but important step in the trajectory of an animated video. A solid script will form the basis for a storyboard and the all-important voiceover that will pace and guide the final animation. 300 words may not seem like a lot of work, but getting the right 300 words can be a bit tricky. Have patience, don’t be afraid to do a few rewrites, and be sure to show others – especially those less familiar with your product – along the way for their feedback. And if you need a hand, we’re here to help!