By Fran Johnson
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What do you need to consider when writing an animation script?

Perhaps the two most important points to consider when writing a script for animation are 1) is it going to be read out loud? and 2) will you have accompanying visuals that will do 50% (or more) of the communication for you.

Often the task of writing a script lands on the desks of people who know the product / service well, but aren’t writers! Of course, if you have the budget, our advice is to work alongside writers who will craft your message well. But this blog post is for those of us who don’t consider ourselves masters of the written form!

We are looking at solving two things; that awful feeling of a blank sheet of paper at the start of the project. Then how to go about editing the text down so that you have something punchy and relatable.

Step by step guide to writing a script:

  1. Write down everything you want to communicate
  2. View it through the lens of your customer / client. Will they care?
  3. Decide upon your ‘call to action’
  4. Simplify your core message
  5. Structure your script – you will need the narrative to build over time

What do you want to say?

Firstly, it is useful to identify the purpose of the animation. Over the years we have developed animations that are intended to be quite sales-focused, while others are aiming to communicate a complex research goal. This purpose drastically changes how you could go about tackling a script. An animation could be informative, instructional, educational, or promotional.

In order to get the best out of your script – and later – storyboard, you will need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who do you want to speak to? Who is your audience?
  • What is the goal of the animation? Why was the animation commissioned in the first place?
  • What do you want your viewer to do after they have watched your animation?
  • What is the solution your service or product could solve?

Start by writing down (perhaps in a bulleted form) all the salient points you wish to communicate. The list will be far too long, but often the over-communication of ideas is a useful part of the creative process. Your first draft can be all you want to communicate – often it is much easier to edit down and sharpen a script once all the key messages are on paper.

Most of the successful scripts we encounter involve two columns. One for written communication and one for visual thoughts / ideas. This ensures a more balanced approach to script writing, ensuring it isn’t written in a vacuum, and allowing the visuals to take a lot of the communication load. The ideal length of your animation will often be much shorter than the list of everything you wish to say! You might have in mind a preferred length of time for your animation, for example:

  • A ‘how to’ guide might be 10 minutes in length
  • An animation for social media should be shorter – perhaps 30 seconds
  • An in depth explainer of a product / service could be 1 – 2 minutes

So, whilst you are in the ‘ideas stage’ of the script writing, read through your script out loud as if you were the narrator, and make a note of the time it takes. Timing the length of the script comes in very useful for the next few steps.

Making it snappier!

Next comes the editing. The safest thing to assume is that your viewer cares less about what you are going to say than you do. At this point, it might be useful to take your notes to someone more impartial (perhaps to the person who is doing the animating). They will be able to clearly identify the points of interest, and also which points can be edited down.

You’ve decided what you want your audience to do after they’ve engaged with your animation. Let’s call this the ‘end point’. You also know who you want your audience to be, and what they will be thinking before watching your video. Let’s call this the ‘start point’. Now, identify which sections of what you have written down so far will take your audience through from beginning to end.

Are you going to demonstrate that your service is the solution to their problems? Do they need more information about just how simple your product is to use?

Look at the language

Remember, this script is going to be read out loud and think about how the language you use will affect the tone. Practice reading it, and make sure it sounds natural and unforced.

A serious and formal use of words can come across as knowledgeable, but also a little unfriendly if you aren’t careful. A more casual vocabulary, or using humour, can inspire viewers enthusiasm but might also feel less professional.

Also consider what type of voice your viewers will relate to. For example if the video is aimed at informing older people about healthcare options, someone with a youthful and excitable voice probably isn’t the best option. Someone with a calmer, reassuring tone might be a better fit.

What do you need to do to prepare for a voice over?

Choose a location that will be quiet and undisturbed, and isn’t too echoey. If you are unsure, smaller rooms tend to be better, and textiles like carpets and curtains help to get rid of echoes and muffle background noise.

Generally, there are two main goals for a voice over; energy and pace. If you, or a member of your team, will be the one behind the mic, making sure you sound enthusiastic about what you are talking about is a good place to start.

Voiceover animation script

A few voiceover tips:

Read the script line by line.

And read each line 3 times. That way, if you make a mistake or there is some background noise, the animator can select the most appropriate clip. It also gives you the chance to try out some options by emphasising different words or saying the line a little differently each time.

Pause between each line before moving on to the next one.

This means the animator can cut the audio clip and ensure it fits in time to the visuals. It also helps to stop you rushing through the reading or slurring words.

Warm up your voice.

Make sure you have some water to hand so that you don’t sound croaky or rough.

Pre-read the script.

Look out for any sections that might trip you up, or words you need to check the pronunciation of. The goal is to sound like you are having a conversation with your viewer, rather than reading from the paper. Looking over the words in advance will help your speech flow and sound confident.

If possible, stand up.

If not, make sure your posture is straight. And smile whilst you are speaking. You might feel silly, but smiling tricks your brain into making you relax, which in turn makes your reading more relaxed. It also changes the way your words sound – viewers will be able to ‘hear’ your smile!

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