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  • toby wray

Video Tips for Marketeers #20 Script Formatting and Camera Language

We’re getting a bit advanced now but it’s good to know this stuff as it can save a lot of time. Plus this is the last one in the series so go out with a bang I say! So this is aimed for when you start hiring in crews to help you with the bigger shoots.

The key with filming is it’s very expensive so the better prepared you are the cheaper it is and the better quality end product you get because you’ve thought it all through, you’re not rushing or cutting corners.

Script Format

The idea of a standard script format is so that everyone on the team understands which bits are aimed at them be it camera, direction, actors. It also very usefully helps timings, a page of standard format fiction script is a minute of screen time for example.

  • Font – 12 point Courier is almost always used. The font looks like this.

  • Spacing – Scripts are generally printed one-sided, with double spacing between lines and with fairly good-sized borders around the edges. This means your script will be easy to read with plenty of room to make notes.

  • Timing – If you lay your script out in this way, you will be able to estimate that one page will equal one minute of screen time, so you can easily keep track of the overall length.

  • ‘Slug Lines’ – These are lines which begin a scene, always marked by using capital letters, including ‘INT’ or EXT’ (Interior/Indoors – Exterior/Outdoors). They also include the location (e.g. CITY STREET) followed by either DAY or NIGHT.

  • Scene Direction – After the opening, briefly describe the scene, writing in the present tense. Tell what characters do in chronological order. Don’t say that (e.g.) “DAVID is suffering inner torment” but show it instead: “DAVID picks up a shot of bourbon, tastes it and winces. He throws the glass across the room, hitting a mirror which SHATTERS”.

  • Dialogue – Dialogue appears in a column down the centre of the page, indented from the scene direction.

  • Character Names – When the character first appears their name should be in CAPTIALS. After that their name is in lower case.

  • Sound – You can put important sounds in CAPITALS, so that lions ROAR, mirrors SHATTER and bombs EXPLODE, if you choose to do so.

  • Camera Direction – You can add directions for the camera to the script if you like. There are several abbreviations you can use, such as CU for Close-Up, LS for Long Shot. For a list of these along with camera movements,

  • Transitions – These are how you can change from one scene to the next and always at the right hand side of the page. Mostly used is ‘CUT TO:’ which is a straight change of picture from one picture to the next.

A documentary script (yes you can and should script documentary if you don’t want to end up with hours of footage that doesn’t fit your story) might look more like this.

(Example drawing from Diners: America’s Roadside Attractions, Dec 20, 2001 by Fred Lacey)

Camera Language

Lots of people throw around terms like ‘pan’ and ‘close up’ however it’s often wrong and it’s important to know what your saying if your going to be communicating with other professionals on set so I’ll list a few at the bottom. More importantly you need to understand how the camera position and angle adds to a narrative. I’m not going to write pages on this so you need to do further research (watching films critically counts as research btw but don’t try to claim it back from your tax). Needless to say establishing shots, dramatic close ups, well composed product shots all help the audience understand the message without the need for dialogue. Adverts are great at this, try watching with the sound off. Talk with your camera op beforehand, think about your shots and imagine how best they can tell the story. If you’ve watched films you already know a lot of this but applying it takes a bit of thought.

XCU – Extreme Close-Up - An eye or a finger

C/U – Close-up - A single part of the body like a hand or face MS – Medium Shot - A shot from the waist up MLS – Medium Long Shot - A shot from mid thigh up

LS – Long Shot - Often described as a WIDE, this is a full body shot from head to toe.

Two-Shot – Shot of two characters in the same picture

P.O.V. – Point of view

TRACK – camera moves completely to the left/right

PAN – camera pivots left or right TILT – camera pivots up or down CRANE – camera moves up or down

DOLLY – camera moves in/out from subject (not tilts)

ZOOM – camera zooms (magnifies) in/out from subject

That’s it for this series. I’m going to keep updating with lessons picked from shoots past and present but feel free to email for advice or requests even if it’s for a live project, I’m always happy to help. Thanks for reading!



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