Tuesday, August 11, 2009

General Tips for Script Preparation

By Perry Anne Norton – PanRight Productions

The following is from PanRight Productions' Creating Impact Series, which you might consider as a guide for preparing cost-effective voiceover scripts.

No matter the type of script you’re preparing, you can reduce recording and talent costs by consistently sticking to a few basic rules in preparing your voiceover copy for the engineer and talent (see additional tips in the Creating Impact Series such as “Creating Effective PSAs” and “Voiceover / ESL Script Preparation” at www.panright.com/articles.htm.)

* Type your script, no matter how short, and use “san serif” fonts (Arial, Helvetica and MS San Serif are good examples). Font size should be at least 12 points. Double-space your document with at least 1.25 inches margin on each side of the page. This enables the talent to make notes if needed.
* Number all pages. Send an electronic copy in an editable text format (such as MS Word) as well as a hard copy to the talent in advance of recording for review and discussion when possible.
* Always phonetically type out any words that the reader might not be familiar with or that have a special pronunciation (i.e., an unfamiliar product, company name, city, or personal names). Indicate whether you want French names (for example) pronounced with an American or a French accent.
* Don’t use abbreviations. They can create confusion as to whether you prefer (for example) Apple Corp. to be read exactly as written, or as “Apple Corporation”. It’s easy to make assumptions that the voice actor will understand your intent, but this will cost you money in editing or re-recording later. Ditto with store hours, such as “8:30 a.m. to 5:00 pm”. Do you want to hear “5 pm” or “5 o’clock pm”?
* If there is a time limit for the piece, use a stopwatch to get an accurate sense of copy length before giving it to the voice actor or engineer. If you intend to use music at the open and/or close of your piece you’ll have to subtract that time as well. Read the piece out loud yourself at a leisurely pace. This will give you a better sense of actual length and save you time and money once you’re ready to record. Studio time is expensive and you don’t want to waste money re-writing on the fly.

Above all, make sure the copy you deliver is in fact final and signed off by whoever is in charge of approval for the project.

* Numbers should be spelled out (the number “150” can be read as “a hundred fifty”, “a hundred and fifty”, or “one hundred fifty” and so on.)
* Give written and verbal direction as to whether the actor should employ extra-careful enunciation (for ESL texts, for example) or if a more colloquial sound is desired. Indicate in writing any words that need to be verbally spelled out rather than read (“s-t-o-p” vs. “stop” for example.)
* Don’t break sentences or voice prompts between pages. This makes it harder for the actor to read with continuity and helps eliminate page-turning noise.
* Indicate pauses as needed by simply inserting “pause” or “wait 2 beats” directly into the script. Keep these directions SHORT. Don’t muddy up the copy.
* Inflection is very important in conveying your message. The actor can give an upward inflection at the beginning or end of a number or list of items, as well as a neutral inflection or a downward inflection at the end of a list. They may need guidance from you as to your needs (unless you trust your actor’s ear and intuition). If necessary, indicate these instructions in your script. Here’s a good way to indicate inflection for the voice talent:
o Use ellipses to indicate the type of inflection required:

For example, if you want an upward inflection when the number (or item in a list) appears at the beginning of a sentence type it in the script as
+ “One…”
with the ellipsis following the number.

For a neutral inflection when a number appears in mid-sentence, type it in the script as:
+ …one…
with the ellipsis on both sides of the number.

For a downward inflection when the number appears at the end of a sentence, type it in the script as
+ …one.
with the ellipsis in front of the number (most actors will do this intuitively).

Did you find this tip sheet useful? You might also refer to other tip sheets in the
Creating Impact Series at www.panright.com/articles.htm -- especially
“Tips for Creating Effective PSAs” and “Sample Voice Prompt Script Preparation”

For more tips from the Creating Impact Series contact:

PanRight Productions
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