Should You Script Your Video

Should You Script Your Video Or Shoot From The Hip?

should you script your videoShould you script your video or just shoot from the hip? Great question. From my own experience the answer is yes and no – depending on a number of factors. I recently shot a video for a client, which ended up having to be scripted but most of my own videos aren’t. Here’s my tuppence.

When I worked in the AV industry I was often called on to do the voiceovers for corporate videos. Usually the script had been worked out in advance between the client and the project manager during a number of run thrus with the video. I often did the voiceover without watching the video and the video editor would marry up the video and audio files to fit.

In cases like this should you script your video – or have someone else do it? For starters there may be legalities involved in what can and cant be said. Your client is best placed to address those issues. There may also be technical specifics involved, again working on a script with the client is essential if that’s the case. Then get it signed off.

When A Script Makes Life Easier

As I discovered myself, a script can also make life easier. Unless you are using a professional voiceover person and an autocue, having a script to follow is a no-brainer. Even someone with in depth knowledge about the video content – the client say – can’t always cut the mustard when the microphones come out. This can be even more pronounced if they are actually appearing in the video.

Lets assume here that your video is not a big budget production with hired in talent to present on camera. Should you script your video anyway? My recent experience producing an instructional video about a freight securing solution for hauliers is a good example.


The initial plan was to shoot live demos of the product in action. Working on the edit remotely I edited the filmed parts, added captions and transitions and sent it off for the client to add voiceovers. There was a lot of lee-way in timing where the voiceover files could be placed so in theory this should have been simple.

In reality though the client had problems getting this done. To cut a long story short we got together again to record the voiceovers some weeks later. When we sat down and started he kept fluffing his lines – he had rehearsed what needed to be said but hadn’t actually written a script.

After a few false starts and cups of tea we decided he should take half an hour out and write the short script. It was more or less plain sailing with that done.

This type of video could also be done with a script as the starting point with the filming done later. As an editor it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me although I do prefer video first. Either way it just requires a bit of forward planning. If you are producing videos for a client be aware that you will probably have to take the lead here.

Shooting From The Hip

should you script your video

Here's One I Did Earlier

On the other side of the coin I tend to work unscripted for my own marketing videos. I do a lot of thinking about what I want to say and how I want to structure the video then I go for it. But that’s just me. Usually when I feel ready to turn the camera on I just need one or two takes.

My approach, backed by the results I get in using video to promote my affiliate offers, works for me. As my example above proves however it doesn’t for everyone. Scripting your video might be much more comfortable for you and/or might suit the purpose of your video better.

I’ve learned a lot from my experiences in the AV industry and from a number of expert video marketers. Those include SFM co-founder Stuart Ross. Stuart never scripts his videos. He feels that he gets more energy across by shooting straight from the hip. It has to be said though that not only is he a natural on camera, he has shot a lot of videos.

His business partner Jay Kubassek on the other hand prefers a scripted approach – at least in sales videos. I know a lot of successful Internet marketers from both camps. What they have in common, script or not, is a lot of planning ahead before the camera rolls.

To Script Or Not To Script?

Although whether to script or not to script is kind of a “how long is a piece of string?” thing, my advice around should you script your videos is this: Make decisions first on what you want the video to achieve. Then decide on the style needed and plan out the video shoot.

If it’s a talking head video it could be scripted or unscripted. Decide on that based on what’s more comfortable for the talking head/s. If it’s a script – how are they going to read it? Would they be able to memorise it?

For off camera, narrative style work they can just read from a typed page, a laptop screen or an autocue app on an ipad. For pieces to camera you’ll need to position the script behind the camera either on a whiteboard or again an autocue. Just be aware of eye levels: Bullets points rather than a full script looks a lot more natural.

If it’s a tutorial or documentary style video decide where any voiceover or narrative will go: Does it need to be very tightly timed with the video footage? Will there be any talking head sections? Thinking this through will help you decide on using a script or not. Maybe it needs to be a mix of both. Plan it out first – even if that means story boarding – you’ll save a ton of time later.

I mentioned Stuart Ross earlier. Click on the image below to see him in action. The video you’ll see is an unscripted video he shot from a pedalo on the Indian ocean. It has generated millions in sales for his company SFM. Bear it in mind next time you’re wondering should you script your video.


should you script your video


By Dave Menzies @ DM Online Ltd