Video Best Practices: Writing for Informational Video

Writing for short news and informational video is an art form — and it’s not easy.

Here are some video best practices to help ‘sweeten’ your voiceover scripts and storyboards.


Here are some common terms used in video package creation and production:

  • M&E:  Music and effects – if there is music and natural sound (effects), this will be on Channel Two, unless otherwise noted – such as a MIX.
  • Narration:  The voice-over on the video.  The script will note whether the narration is in English or another language and will note the original language of any soundbites.
  • Nat Sound:  Natural sound – the microphone picks up the sound in the room, or the background noise.  Example: If you have a picture of a train, you include the sound of the train – the natural sound.
  • Package:  A pre-recorded piece that includes a narration or voice over, interviews, and natural sound.  A package is also referred to as a story.  A “package” will replace the VNR (video news release), which is more common in the corporate world than the newsroom.
  • SOT:  Sound on Tape – the sound that is on the tape – whether it’s an interview, a VO or nat sound.
  • Soundbite:  A soundbite is an interview or sound from a source other than the narration or voice over.
  • Supers:  Text messages that flash across the screen to support key voice-over points.
  • T:   Track, also means channel
  • TRT:  Total Running Time means the length of the edited package
  • Titles:  The identification of all people featured in a packaged story will be included in the slate at the head of the video piece
  • VO:  Voice Over – the reporter’s voice narrating the story



Although video packages vary widely, here are a few basics that most have in common:

  • Length: 45:-1:45 long. Most in-depth option.
  • No. of Clips: Usually at least 2 video clips.
  • Official Interviewees: Always a real person — usually, an official of some sort.; even if the story is about something mundane i.e. sewage rates going up.
  • Other Interviewees: Creators should try and access video that shows a person that is affected and make the story about them.  We do this so that the viewer can relate to the person, even if the story topic doesn’t affect them directly.



Ideally, a soundbite should contain emotional or expressive content.  You can cover facts with graphics and voiceovers; use soundbites to show impact, emotion and power.

If an official is the video asset available use something emotional or expressive. No numbers, stats, boring stuff.

An official at a crime scene might say, “In my 30 years of law enforcement, I’ve never seen such a horrendous murder. It’s given me nightmares. ” That’s the kind of sound bite you want to use. It makes them sound human—and therefore able to relate to.



Packages should be written like a circle:


  • Soundbite
  • Intro VO
  • Soundbite
  • VO
  • Soundbite


  • NAT Intro
  • VO
  • Soundbite
  • VO
  • Soundbite


  • Intro VO
  • Soundbite
  • NAT
  • VO
  • Soundbite


  • NAT
  • Soundbite
  • NAT BRoll ( no VO).

Always try to end on a sound bite (when possible).



VO intro: 250 passengers are dead when GermanAir flight 8585 crashed into the Swiss Alps.   (Notice the active voice? “Are dead” Never “have died’…)

VO: Barcelona native Sofia Ortiz was waiting at the airport to hear about the fate of GermanAir flight 8585 (always write to video: say airport, see airport) when the news came that all passengers were dead.

SOUNDBITE: ”I screamed.”

VO:  So did fellow travelers… (if possible show reaction video at the airport – again, writing to video)

SOUNDBITE: “It was so devastating.” (All sound bites should be less than: 15 seconds long, usually 7-15 seconds.)

VO: “The flight collided into a mountain and all the passengers have been killed.”

After the official sound—throw in a statistic.

VO: “And officials say, the pilot was fit to fly…”

SOUNDBITE: “He passed all physical and technical tests’  (Then if you can….it’s best to come back to your real person.)

VO: … Sofia Ortiz is angry that methods haven’t been put in place to track mentally ill pilots.

SOUNDBITE: “my brother went on the plane with crazy murderer dressed in a pilot’s uniform.”


VO scripts should be written the way you really talk. Don’t use words you don’t really use. They should be conversational.



By employing these video best practices, your videos will be well-organized, impactful and compelling.

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