A variety of script formats are used to create television and film programs. Most follow certain guidelines but vary depending upon the organization. Below are some of the major script styles.
News scripts generally use 2 columns, the left for video directions, the right for audio.
News package script - used after tape is shot in the field but before editing. A detailed organization of visual and aural material to be included in a "stand alone" package. That is, it should be able to be played from beginning to end as a complete story.
Goal: organize visual/aural material before editing the piece together. Will be inserted into a newscast on a VTR. Since virtually all of the material in a package is being dubbed from tape that was shot earlier, "VTRs" are not usually indicated in the video portion of the script, just the shot description. It is assumed that all transitions, unless otherwise indicated, are cuts.
In practice, news story scripts are rarely fully typed-out. Most are written on note pads and created in the editing suite. Most times, the audio is laid down first along with anchor stand-ups, with the video being laid over the audio to make sure the times match-up.
News program script - oriented toward organizing the live news production. Detailed technical elements including anchor scripts, indications of where completed packages run, in and out cues for packages, "live" video from other locations (i.e., on location, or in the newsroom), which VTRs have which packages, keys/titles and graphics. Goal: make sure the live program runs smoothly. Usually does not contain the specific script elements from each package, only the in/out cues and length of each package. (this will be addressed in Studio Production I).
Documentary script - portions can be developed far in advance depending upon the production style. If a narrator is to be used, much of the narration script, which introduces the topics and segments may be written well before production begins. However, this is usually an interactive process with the following steps: 1) topic is researched, 2) outline is developed for the program, 3) draft script is written, 4) as visual and sound elements are captured and reviewed, the script is likely to be adjusted accordingly.
Documentary scripts depend a great deal upon the production/direction style of the director. Some directors prefer to let the screen action, interviews and the nat. sound tell the story as is (verite'). Others prefer to explain what is happening in great detail with a voice-over narrator (e.g., Ken Burns). It is important to choose the style which best matches the content. As is the case with most Ken Burns productions, their historical perspective almost demand extensive voice-over narration to explain the context and nuances of the historical situation.
Documentary production often requires extensive research to learn about the subject prior and during shooting (Some documentaries are shot in a day, some over years.). Once interviews and b-roll video (cutaways) have been recorded, the director must review and log all footage including each shot and the details of each interview. The transcript of the interviews will be used to construct the final script.
VIDEO INSTRUCTIONS ALWAYS GO HERE. BE AS DETAILED AS POSSIBLE. VIDEO INSTRUCTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS.
The audio portion of the script goes on the right hand side and is double spaced.
2-COLUMN FORMAT TIP: CREATE A 2-COLUMN SCRIPT BY USING THE TABLE FUNCTION IN YOUR WORD PROCESS. CHOOSE A 2-COLUMN TABLE WITH 15-20 ROWS. ADD ROWS AS NEEDED.
Any additional directions should be listed in parentheses before the copy (see the next box).
EACH BOX IN THE LEFT COLUMN SHOULD CONTAIN NO MORE THAN A SINGLE SHOT, NO MORE.
ALSO IN THE LEFT COLUMN: SPECIFIC VISUAL DIRECTIONS (CUTS, DISSOLVES), GRAPHICS, TITLES, SPECIAL EFFECTS.
Dramatic and comedic stories use a variety of script styles depending upon the phase of the production.
Concept/story idea/premise/synopsis: thumbnail sketch of the story, used to provide a producer with a quick way of evaluating the story idea. A "good" concept can often be expressed in one or two lines.
Scene outline: list of scenes in numerical order with brief descriptions of each scene. Little, if any, dialogue -- a brief expansion of the original concept. Used to explain and clarify the progress of the film/show.
Treatment: a prose description of the story, reads like a short story. Includes detailed visual imagery, characters, settings, actions and motivations. Range from 5-12 pages.