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Script to Story?
Or story to script?
Converting print stories to audio and video packages
Micaeli Rourke • Innovation Media Consulting • July 2016
What comes first.....?
The print story or the video script?
-According to the digital-first model, the scripted
content should be distributed before long-form feature
-Videos and audio scripts will then lend themselves as a
suitable model to adapt into longform print
-In the event that the print story is already written, I’ll
illustrate how to adapt accordingly.
Some keywords to understand...
-”Bury the lede”- To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential
facts or soundbites. (sometimes spelled as ‘lead’)
-B roll- Video that is shot for a news story and used to visualize the script the reporter/anchor has written.
-Package- A completed video or audio news story that is finalised and ready to broadcast.
-Natural (nat) sound- Ambient Sound , and other environmental sounds that are recorded on-scene and used to create a
soundscape for audio content. Primarily used for setting a mood or providing atmosphere for a story.
-Rough Cut- The first version of a video or audio piece after preliminary editing. The rough cut is the first stage in which
the product begins to resemble its final product. Rough cuts do not flow well and still undergo many changes before the
release of the film.
-Stand Up- Part of video story with reporter on screen reading/presenting information.
-Story Tag- Closing to a story package, live shot, or on-set piece usually read by the story report but can also be read by
-Time Signature- The length of a particular component of an audio and/or visual story. (Ie: the duration, in seconds, of a
soundbite or voice over)
1.LET THE QUOTES TELL THE STORY
-The less voice over narration and explanation, the better
-Be ruthless, use only the essentials
How to begin....
1. Select key soundbites (even during interview process)
2. Use straightforward, stand alone quotes (declarative statements).
3. Don’t be afraid to splice sentences to cut out superfluous info from
4. Once interview is completed, pull essential quotes
5. Transcribe and time quotes (if you’re using software that doesn’t
6. Start script with these transcriptions
2. BUILD STORY AROUND SOUNDBITES
After selecting entry point/ lede quote, determine the course of the story
and the most effective order of soundbites.
Start by telling the audience/listener/viewer where they are. (Where is this
story taking place?)
Keep voice over copy as short and succinct as possible. It should only act as
a bridge from one soundbite to the next.
Build voice over script around soundbites and time accordingly. (IE: 5
soundbites total 1:40, you have 2:30 for total package=50 seconds of voice
over, divided between 5 soundbites= 10 seconds average for each voice over)
3. NAT SOUND, B ROLL, ALL THAT JAZZ
-Alternating back and forth between sound bite and voice over gets monotonous and
-Fine for print content, but in video or radio only utilising those two components to
tell a story can be limiting.
-In doing so, the reporter is not using the medium to its fullest potential.
-Audio excellence requires SOUND to illustrate what we cannot see.
-Video excellence requires VIDEO FOOTAGE to accentuate the subject matter being
discussed and to fill gaps between subject’s soundbites/interview excerpts.
-Once script is written, review B roll or nat sound. Identify where in script each could
fit, where they would best enhance the story being told.
4. REVISE REVISE REVISE.
Once rough draft is finished, observe ratio of soundbites to narration. More
narration than soundbites? Cut some of the narration. Narration more than
5-6 lines? Cut some of the narration.
-REMOVE ALL INFO THAT ISN’T ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.
-Soundbites must be as condensed as possible. Cut out all ums, buts,
pauses, dead space. COMPACT, COMPACT, COMPACT
-Re-time all segments of script. Double check length of soundbites, record
yourself reading each piece of narration and record time
-Calculate how long script will run once revision is complete.
5. REHEARSE, RECORD, REVIEW
-Practice reading narration as fast as possible. Check with editor and/or
peer journalist to see how fast you can read without it sounding too rushed
or frantic. (or record yourself and playback to evaluate)
-Organise all pieces of audio and video into timeline (rough cut) and play
back, while reading script and ensuring that time signatures are accurate
-Add final (audio) story tag or (video) stand up at the discretion of your
-Replay. Edit again if necessary for time or content.
6. BEFORE SUBMISSION, YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF...
“Does this story make sense to someone who is completely unfamiliar
with the subject matter?”
“Is this story as straightforward as possible?”
“Have I buried the lede line?”
“Is audio and/or video utilised to drive the story forward? Or is it just
there to enhance?”
“Is the nat sound and B roll appropriate, or does it detract?”
May I Help You Find Your Seat? NPR Sits Down With Broadway's Longtime
(Note: use of Nat sound, immediate establishment of location, use of musical elements to
illustrate location and environment, seamless transition between interviews)
Misty Snow Aims To Be The Nation's First Transgender Senator
(Note: Establishment of location, lack of natural sound as to not detract from subject matter,
conscious decision to include reporter’s question to establish a conversational dialogue
rather than a straight feature of this person)
BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLES (AUDIO)
-Audio not necessary, captions relay the
most important information (“bare bones”
-Soundbites of subject are as succinct as
-Smart use of B roll (Ext. of Parliament,
establishing shots of London)
-Use of still photos with “Ken Burns effect”
zoom when video footage not available
(Thatcher portrait example)
-Length is short and to the point. None of
NowThis’ videos are ever longer than 90
BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLES (VIDEO)
-No voiceover necessary, captioning
serves that purpose
-Audio used only when necessary to
further the story
-Exterior establishing shots illustrate
location (captions could also work in this
-Story is actually about free art
workshops in Toronto, but the 4 siblings
used as effective entry point for story
-Soundbites from interview subjects
used sparingly, only to advance the story
BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLES (VIDEO)