For the majority of professionally produced imagefilms or videos, you will write an off-voice comment to guide the viewer through the film. Doing so, you will have to consider several points.
Image and sound are already created in the essence of video. When writing a comment there is another level added. This can significantly shape an image film, but also rob it of its effectiveness.
This article shows what you have to consider so that video and commentary complement each other optimally.
- The off-voice must not say what the image already shows, but it must complement the image information.
- Avoid complicated sentence constructions. Avoid foreign words and numbers.
- Repetitions in the form of variants of the most important messages increase the memorability.
The challenges of writing off-voice
While the actually filmed camera image is “automatically” supplemented with audio – the sound runs parallel to the image and is derived from the image content – the written commentary is only added afterwards. Or the text was written in advance to be illustrated with filmed video material or recordings from an archive.
Therefore, it must be ensured that a narrative commentary adds value for the viewer. If an image film also works without one, something has usually already gone wrong with the video concept.
Narrative voice for moving images
The scriptwriter must always keep the video in mind when writing the commentary.
Because once the shooting is about to begin, 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 because they simply cannot be shot.
Conversely, when the shooting is finished, the text must match the picture when writing off-voice. This applies not only to the amount of text and sentence length, but also to the content.
Whereby there are also fundamental decisions to be made.
Types of off-voice
Should the off-voice on the video explain to the viewer what he sees? Or put the images, because they are self-explanatory, into a larger context?
If text is not used for subtitling for YouTube and / or to produce language versions, but should be spoken to the image as a narrrative or commenting voice:
- Who is speaking?
- A neutral person?
- A reporter who, in addition to the picture, describes his own subjective impressions?
Most image films opt for a written off-voice that accompanies the action from a neutral perspective. To the disappointment of many viewers (and clients) this type of commentary is often confused with a free pass to simply describe the video images. The result is uninspired, boring videos that nobody wants to watch.
Written commentary can and must do more!
As a red thread it can build up tension. Or ask questions, which the video answers on the image level. It can provide additional information and show connections.
How to write a text that can be spoken
Writing narrative voice usually means writing a text for a speaker who speaks it on a separate audio track that runs parallel to the video.
Because the voice of the speaker is in the foreground here, neither the author nor the filmmaker speaks. In practice, this means three things:
- First, the author of an off-voice is usually not a narrator. The author writes the text, and while reading it, he or she fine-tunes the rhythm, structure, readability and comprehensibility. The pace of the speech or the question of whether and when breath can be taken are in the background during this step.
- Secondly, the speaker or actor will only receive the commentary intended for him or her shortly before the speaker or actor speaks, as this is usually produced under time pressure.
Thirdly, the speaker, which is also common, will also only see the video image shortly before the written commentary is spoken.
From this follows: When writing off-voice for video, the text must sit. From the beginning. There is no room for experiments.
How to write, so that comment is easy to speak?
In order that written commentary is not perceived as such, a few, but all the more important points must be considered:
- The text must be spoken aloud by the author already when writing. Always. If the sentence structure must be changed so that the comment sounds natural when speaking, that is ok.
- Comprehensibility is in the foreground. Differently than on a sheet of paper off-voice needs to be understood in a second. What the listener does not understand is lost. That is why foreign words and terms that are difficult to understand should be avoided.
- Simple and short sentences sound more natural than long, nested sentence constructions. Passive sentence constructions should be avoided. Active language must dominate the written commentary.
- The more abstract a text is written when writing off-voice, the more difficult it is for the reader to remember it. This is especially true for numbers. Here it is mandatory to work with descriptive pictures.
In contrast to the written commentary, the spoken text tolerates more repetition. Repetitions should not be linguistically identical, but should be formulated as variants. Exceptions confirm the rule. Keywords and key phrases should be repeated up to three times without hesitation.
Learn more about off-voice
For more information on writing comments, see our articles about off-comment, off-voice and storytelling.