20 TIPS ON WRITING AND CUTTING OOV (OUT OF VISION) TV NEWS STORIES
This a comprehensive list of tips and advice on how to produce OOV (Out of Vision) news stories, aka underlays. The secret is capturing the essence of the news story in about 35-45 seconds of words and pictures, often including a soundbite quote. Working on three words per second, that means your script is probably a maximum of 90 words, so every single word is precious.
But before we start, here’s a short training video from the BBC about constructing OOVs.
1) If you are struggling with the top line of your script, here’s a tip. Think about what a headline would be for the story; then turn that into a short, simple, complete sentence for your top line
2) Complete the edit of your pictures before you write your script to the edited shots
3) Start your OOV with active pictures to grab the viewer. Decide on your best pictures (relevant to your news angle, of course), then try to start with them because they probably reflect your top line also
4) But start editing ONLY AFTER you’ve planned your story in detail, nailing your news angle. Write a clear plan for your OOV with an idea of your top line (words) and the active pictures with which you’ll start. So while you’re not writing your script until your pictures are in good shape, you are thinking about your script throughout the process, jotting down a structure, interesting thoughts and good phrases that will appear in your final script. You should be always thinking about your script as you edit your pictures, because you are writing to complement the pictures
5) Your plan will also include all the most important ‘newsy’ information and roughly where it will fit into your linear storyline
6) Read your script out loud to the pictures when you reach that stage. Do the words fit the pictures? Does it sound right? Is the story clear and conversational? Is it instantly understood?
7) Don’t write important information over dramatic images: an explosion, for example. Your must consider the effect powerful images will have on a viewer’s ability to listen to the words. Sometimes drop the voiceover for a couple of seconds and use good actuality sound instead, so that the pictures can breathe and the viewer can take in their importance properly
8) Every time you change the picture on screen, the viewer’s attention is distracted briefly from the words while they concentrate on the new image. Remember this when writing your script to fit edited pictures. Let the script move with the rhythm of your shots. The best edits have their own ‘beat’ with a variation of shots.
9) Make sure you write into the soundbite at the end of your OOV, teasing the main point of the quote to come. But don’t give interviewee’s name or title because that’s revealed in a lower third graphic
10) It’s often easier on the eye to cut to a talking head off a close-up shot, so you may want to consider cutting to your quote off a good close-up image
TIPS FOR WRITING OOVS
11) KISS – Keep it short and simple…
- Imagine you’re talking to one person
- Style – simple and conversational
- Be concise
12) Viewer has just one chance to hear it, so can’t be ambiguous or confusing
13) A linear flow of information going in one direction
- Spoon feed the viewer – one bit of information to be digested before the next piece
- Stick to the main point
- Don’t answer 5 Ws in first sentence. Keep it to 1 or 2 key points per sentence
14) No sentence longer than 20words
- Split long and involved sentences into shorter, punchier sentences
- Don’t overload the thoughts in one sentence
15) Active voice
16) Present tense, or as close to…
17) Attribution first
18) Never hit viewers with an unfamiliar word or name without warning
- Introduce the person/organisation first; not necessarily by name, but put the thought out there…
19) Keep punctuation as simple as possible
- In broadcast news, punctuation marks are not only there for grammatical reasons. They also give the newsreader clues on breathing.
- In general, the only punctuation marks you need are the full stop, comma, question mark and dash. Some writers like to use three dots to denote a pause.
20) Simplify numbers and times
- Better still, round off large figures, so that an example becomes ‘almost three million’. This simplifies matters for both the newsreader and the listeners.