Tips and Tricks for Writing Commentaries for Image Film and Video

Write a comment for image films and video
Write a comment for image films and video | © Image montage: Filmpuls / Pixabay Free-Photos

In the majority of professionally produced image films or videos, you will write a commentary that guides the viewer through the film. There are several points to keep in mind. In this article you will find valuable tips and tricks.

Image and sound are already inherent in the nature of video. When writing comments, there’s another layer to it. This can significantly shape an image film, but also rob it of its effectiveness.

This article shows what you need to keep in mind so that video and commentary complement each other perfectly.

You need to know

  • The commentary must not say what the picture already shows, but it must add to the picture information.
  • Refrain from complicated sentence constructions. Avoid foreign words and numbers.
  • Repetitions in the form of variants of the most important messages increase the recall value.

The challenges of writing comments

While the real shot camera image is “automatically” supplemented with audio – the sound runs parallel to the image and results from the image content – the written commentary is only added afterwards. Or the text was written in advance to be illustrated with shot video footage or footage from an archive.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that a written commentary adds value for the viewer. If an image film works without it, something has usually already gone badly wrong with the video concept.

Write comment for moving image

The scriptwriter must always keep the video in mind when writing the commentary.

After all, if filming is only just beginning, it makes little sense to write a text for which there are almost certainly no pictures. Be it because the video budget is not enough for it, or they simply can’t be shot.

Conversely, once the shoot is complete, when writing the commentary, the text must match the image. This concerns not only the amount of text and sentence length, but also the content.

Whereby there are also fundamental decisions to be made at the same time.

Text types

Is the commentary on the video supposed to explain to the viewer what they are seeing? Or put the images, because they are self-explanatory, into a larger context?

If the text is not used for subtitling for YouTube and / or for the production of language versions, but is to be spoken on the image:

  • Who is speaking?
  • A neutral person?
  • A reporter who complements the picture with his own subjective impressions?

Most image films opt for a written commentary that accompanies the action from a neutral perspective. To the chagrin of many viewers (and clients), this commentary style is often mistaken for a free pass to simply describe the video images. This creates uninspiring, boring videos that no one wants to watch.

Written commentary can and must do more!

As a common thread, it can build tension. Or ask questions that the video answers on the picture level. It can provide supplementary, additional information and show connections.

Post a comment that speaks

Commentary writing usually means writing a text for a narrator who speaks it on a separate audio track that runs parallel to the video.

Because the voice of the narrator is in the foreground here, neither the author nor the filmmaker speaks. In practice, this means three things:

  • First, the writer of a commentary is usually not a spokesperson. The author writes the text, fine-tunes the rhythm, structure, readability and comprehensibility while reading. Speech tempo or the question of whether and when to take a breath are in the background during this step.
  • Secondly, the speaker or actor will not receive the text intended for him, as this is usually done under time pressure, until shortly before the recording.
  • Thirdly, the speaker, and this is also common, also gets to see the video image just before the written comment is spoken.

It follows: When writing commentary for video, the text must sit. From the beginning. There is no room for experimentation.

How to write so that the text is well speakable?

In order for written comments not to be perceived as such, a few, but all the more important points must be observed:

The text must be spoken aloud by the author while writing. Always. If the sentence structure needs to be rearranged to make the comment sound natural when spoken, that’s ok.

Comprehensibility is in the foreground. Unlike on a piece of paper, the spoken comment cannot be read again. What the listener does not understand is lost. Therefore, avoid foreign words and terms that are difficult to understand.

Simple and short sentences sound more natural than long, convoluted sentence constructions. Passive sentence constructions are to be avoided. Active language must dominate written commentary.

The more abstract a text is written when writing a commentary, the harder it is for the reader to memorize it. This is especially true for numbers. Here it is imperative to work with descriptive images.

Unlike written commentary, spoken text bears more repetition. Repetitions should not be linguistically identical, but should be formulated as variants. Exceptions prove the rule. Keywords and key phrases should be repeated up to three times without hesitation.

Write more about the comment

For more information on writing comments, see the articles on off-comment and off-voice.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

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