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May22

Creating a Whiteboard Animation Video Script in 9.5 Steps

A whiteboard animation video takes more than a cool message: it needs a script.  In my experience, this is the number-one stumbling block for people interested in whiteboard animation videos.  (The idea is easy… but translating that idea into an actual script can often be hard.)
 
Sometimes people have material (think blog posts or speeches already made) that can be turned into video content.  For other folks, however, scripts seem to be easier imagined than written.  If you’re in that second group, here are nine-and-a-half steps to help get great idea out of your head and onto the screen:
 
First, the prep-work.
 
1. Start with the End in Mind: What do you want folks to do after watching your video?  Get folks to buy your product? Subscribe to your service? Change a behavior?  Knowing where you want to end up will help you determine what you want to share in your video.
 
2. Be Honest About Your Purpose:  Have you ever clicked on an interesting-sounding post in a discussion forum, only to find that you’ve walked into a sales pitch?  How long did it take you to back out of that window?  When the content a person expects doesn’t align with the stated purpose, people know it and they don’t stick around.  So if you’re creating a sales video… be honest about it and own it.
 
3. Tell A Good Story: Statistics abound about how long folks will watch a video online… with 2-3 minutes seeming to be the magic number.  Whiteboard animations of TED talks, however, bust that presumption wide open.
 

Viewers watch TED videos of up to 18 minutes long… and then share that video link with all their friends.

 
One of the reasons people watch these whiteboard animation videos is because they allow us to see a story literally unfold before our eyes.  Rather than me tell you how to craft a good story, I defer to veteran radio broadcaster and consummate storyteller, Mr. Ira Glass.  Watch his videos on how to tell a great story on your vBlog, then let’s get back to the task at hand.  (Go ahead… I’ll wait.)
 
Now, the practice.
 
Let’s face it, all this doesn’t get you away from having to actually face the page and start writing.  And for some, that blank page can be like a huge wall of writer’s block.  So here’s one way I help people sidestep that problem altogether:
 
4. Give Dictation:  Let someone else face the page for you… all you need to do is talk through your ideas.  I’m a visual coach, and normally work through people’s ideas with pictures on paper.  For scripts, however, you want to capture the actual words.  Fortunately, I also have the ability to type at the speed of most people’s speech… so when we get to the scripting part, I simply whip out the computer and have you start talking.

What you say may be all over the place, but it’s CAPTURED for you!

(Don’t know a great typist or someone who can keep up with the speed of your ideas?  Try using a recorder app on your cell phone and then transcribe the recording.)
 
5. Edit:  Once you’ve got something on the page, you can start editing it down into an actual script.  Which brings me to an important point:
 
6. Focus on Content, Not Length: People commonly ask how long their whiteboard video should be.  Don’t worry about that right now: focus on the content and key points you want to communicate.  Once you’ve got the content down, you may realize that the video could actually be longer or shorter than you originally thought.  But don’t limit yourself before knowing what you need to say, or you could find yourself like those poor academy award winners who still have lists of people to thank when the orchestra starts cutting them off.
 

When you’ve nailed your core content, the video’s length will work itself out.

 
7. Read, Record, and Review:  The written word plays differently than the spoken word.  Be sure to read your script out loud and record yourself doing so.  Then have someone else listen to it with you… because you know what you meant to say, and hopefully they won’t.  You’ll need those fresh ears for real feedback.
 
8. Tweak Into a “Good Enough” Final Draft: At this point, you should have a good enough feel for what you want to say and how you need to say it.  Firm it up into a “good enough” final script, and you’re ready to move to the storyboarding stage!  (Hooray!) However…
 
9. Be Ready For Post-Storyboard Script Changes: I find that once I storyboard a script, changes to the script always occur.  (I think this is because the storyboard images show how the message is going to unfold, which helps the script writer clarify or enrich what they need to communicate.)
 

Don’t be surprised if find that you want to make a few tweaks after the script is storyboarded… it just means that the process is working.

 
9.5. It’s Not Final Until It’s On Vinyl.  Okay, maybe not on vinyl nowadays… but the final audio recording IS your final script.  That audio track you create is what syncs up to the animation.  If the audio track includes a new sentence or introduces a new concept that wasn’t in the written script, it will need to be built into the animation flow.  So once it’s recorded, your script is official – and officially done.  (Phew!)  Transcribe that puppy and you’re ready to animate!
 

Recorded Trainings: How to become a Whiteboard Animation Ninja!


Whiteboard Animation Ninja

In this 4-part recorded training series, whiteboard animation veteran Jeannel King teaches you how whiteboard animation videos are made…from script to storyboard to setup to shoot!
Click Here to Learn More >>
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COMMENTS
The presentation zen page you link to in this article no longer has the Ira Glass videos available. They seem to have been taken off Youtube.
    Ooh, thanks, Graham! I'll see if I can't locate those videos elsewhere and re-link. . . they certainly were worth watching! :^)
      It's fixed! The link now takes you straight to the video.

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