Video Production Projects - Script vs. Outline vs. Nothing?

The initial draft of a digital video project can come in all shapes and sizes. Some projects start out with an extremely detailed script, others begin with a rough outlin, and some come with just a general idea. As a Video Editor, I've been asked which method I prefer. The real answer is that it can go either way. I know that isn't much of an answer, but let me explain.

How Rough Video Scripts Impact a Video Project

A rough outline can be incredibly daunting. There are so many paths a project could take that you can suffer a sort of writer's block. Sometimes with a rough outline, the basic path is easy to see, but any flourishes that can make a video stand out are put on hold until the structure is laid out. It can be difficult to figure out which flourishes will or won't work in a rough outline, and an editor may not have a fixed view of the goals ahead.

Basically, it comes down to the destination. If the end goal and style of a project is well understood by everyone involved in the project, it's much easier to find the extra bits that will improve the video. This includes increasingly intriguing ways to cut it together, more interesting music, or motion graphics. It's all about having that strong vision.

Don't quite understand? Here's an example that doesn't involve video. Let's say you ask me to build you a house. If you just say “build me a house,” I don't have much information at my disposal. I don't know if you want a one-story or a two-story house; an attached or detached garage; shingles or slate; picture windows or bay windows; wood floors or carpet... you get the point. Every room, paint color, floor, and item in the house needs to be decided without knowing your preferences or even how many people will live in this house. I just have to guess and hope it works out. Obviously, this is not a good option for building a new house, as the odds you'll get something your ecstatic about are quite low. If I'm a good house builder, you'll get something nice—it might even be something very trendy—but it likely won't be perfect for you.

With even a bit more information about the house and the goals of building it, you increase the odds that you'll be ecstatic with the end results. Let's say you tell me there will be two adults and three children living in the house, you plan on living in it for decades, you really like the color blue, and you like space, but not too much space. You also point out a house you found online that you like. Suddenly, I know you need a couple bathrooms, two or three children's rooms, a master bedroom, a decent-size living room, and other key features. I could use the online house to determine that wood floors would be best and that you'd love a formal dining room. With some basic information, I have a good sense of your style and can take pieces and parts and give them that extra wow factor or flourish to make you fall in love.

How Detailed Scripts Impact a Video Project

The other option, of course, is that you provide blueprints and swatches for everything; this is more in line with a tight script and storyboard. It may seem limiting, but in a lot of ways it's freeing for professionals. I know exactly what you want and I know I can accomplish that. If I find areas where I think I can make something better, flashier, fit in to the piece better, or make a goal clearer, then I will let you know and we can work to make the piece even better. I can spend my time working on making it the best rather than just making sure it gets finished.

A great example of a rough outline is the video we did for Duck Brand Pack & Track App. Duck Brand had a goal in mind: educate the user on how to use the app in a fun and engaging way. They had a voice-over planned out, some key things they wanted to show, and some graphics from previous ads. From there, I was able to create new graphics to help tell the story, and build some unique animations and creative ways to demonstrate the use of the application. I was very happy with the finished video, but more importantly, so was the client.

No matter which path you choose, we will strive to make you happy with the finished video. We will have conversations with you and work with you to make sure you're getting what you need and what you want. One of the best ways to do this is when clients are able to come into the edit suite and work with us in person. No matter how we choose to communicate, successful communication will ensure that we are going to make something really cool together.

This blog post was written by Ian Zainea a Video Editor at TRG. Learn more about him here:

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