Ever heard of Bushnell’s Theorem? No? Well, it could be the key to unlocking your explainer video scriptwriting genius.
Nolan Bushnell was a games designer working at Atari in 1971, where he articulated the principle that video games should be easy to learn and difficult to master.
And so it is with scriptwriting - it’s easy once you know the basics, but it takes years to produce expert-level content.
Luckily for you (and everyone who isn’t paid to write scripts for a living), mastery isn’t just optional - it’s unnecessary.
You can either learn the basics and create a solid foundation for your next animation personally, or you can enlist the help of a professional to do it for you. There is no middle ground.
If you’re having trouble creating an explainer video script, or don’t know where to start, pack away your keyboard until you’ve read (and digested) the key scriptwriting rules-of-thumb below.
Or, you can skip straight to our free scriptwriting template, get started, and dip back into this blog as needed.
Keep it short and sharp
According to Jumbla Executive Producer Charlotte Parsons, you should stick with a maximum of two key messages for a 30-second explainer video script, and four key messages for a 60-second piece.
“Even if you manage to squeeze in more messages than that, there’s little to no chance of your audience retaining all that information,” Charlotte said.
“Don’t forget that supporting messages can always be added as text during animation.”
Charlotte also suggested keeping sentences brief.
“Clear and short points are best. Let the visuals do the talking - you don’t need to say much.”
This is true of our recent animation for Xero. It uses short and succinct sentences to drive home the key message - don’t let stereotypes get in the way of your ambitions.
Watch your word count
You may be surprised at how few words you actually need to produce a finished script.
It’s not an exact science (people speak at different speeds, for one), but as a general rule of thumb you should be aiming for:
- 70 words - 30-second video
- 150 words - 60-second video
- 300 words - 2-minute video
Lay off the hardcore statistics
Try to avoid including lots of facts, figures and complex language in your explainer video script.
Make notes of these and provide them to your producer. They’ll make sure the animation team communicates it in an easy-to-understand way.
- Bad script example: “Customers have witnessed sales growth of 6.67 per cent, with per head spend down by $8 on average.”
- Good script example: “Sales go up, while spend goes down.”
“You’ve got two aspects to work with,” Jumbla Producer Natalie Studdert said.
“You have your base messages in the script, and you have the visuals of the animation. The visuals provide context and support what’s being said in the script.”
This is what we did with our animation for QANTAS Dreamliner. While the script sticks to benefits like ‘new capabilities’ and ‘greater flexibility’, the visuals explain how they are realised using specific stats and in-depth details.
Identify your explainer video script messages and goal
In addition to defining a few key messages, you’ve also got to think about the main reason you’re producing an animation in the first place.
“That’s your call-to-action (CTA),” Natalie said. “Everything needs to come back to that point. What do you actually want people to do when they finish watching?”
Jumbla UK Executive Producer Laura Breaden suggests writing your messages as bullet points to assist with fleshing out your explainer video script.
“When you’ve finished your script, go back and check you’ve covered all of your points. If you have, chances are you’re on the right track,” Laura said.
Have a rigid structure
As with the largest Hollywood production, even the shortest animation needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Use the guide below to help develop your story arc and provide your audience with a seamless viewing experience.
- Introduce the problem that your customer/audience faces
- Introduce the solution (your business or its product/service)
- Mention some of your product or service’s benefits
- Conclude with a call-to-action (e.g. ‘Visit our website for a free trial’) or restate your key message.
Our animation for HotDoc does just that. It identifies the viewer’s problem, introduces the product as a solution, explores some of its benefits, and finally encourages action.
Define your tone of voice
Every brand has its own distinctive personality, which should be evident in your explainer video script’s tone. Use the kind of language that resonates with your audience and aligns with your business.
“How do you normally speak to your customers?” Natalie asks. “Is it relaxed or is corporate? Is it friendly or is it factual?
“It’s our responsibility to transform your script into an animation - into something that tells a story while communicating your messages.”
Include important information
In order for viewers to take action, they need to know who you are, what you’re offering, and what you’d like them to do.
“You’ve got to realise that a lot of the people viewing your animation won’t know much about your business,” Natalie said.
“So don’t forget to include your brand’s name in your script, introduce what you do, what you want them to do, and how your product or service can help solve their problem.”
If you’d like people to phone you, visit your website or send an email … you need to tell them.
Again, this can be supported by visuals, so you don’t need to go overboard. But if you explicitly tell your audience the action you’d like them to take, they won’t be left wondering what to do once the video ends.
Make it timeless
Even though animation can be used to promote new products or upcoming events, you should try to avoid including information that might change in the near future.
There’s nothing worse than investing the time and money to produce an animation that quickly becomes outdated (for example, ‘Summer 2017 Sale’).
Think twice about including references to dates, seasons, years of operation or any other information that is prone to change in the short term.
You’ll typically want to use your animation for as long as possible, so make sure you give it the best chance of living a full life by following this advice.
Enlist the help of an explainer video script professional
If you find yourself getting bogged down, or just don’t have the time to craft your next explainer video script, it’s worth considering outside help.
- You’ll save time. Time is money. And freedom to do other things. Like work. Or sleep.
- Script writers … well, they write explainer video scripts for a living. They’re trained to create stories that capture - and hold - attention.
- At Jumbla, script writers work closely with producers, creative directors and animators to deliver a product that not only communicates your message, but does so with the entire animation process in mind.
- A third-party perspective can often provide clarity and insight around your messaging that you just can’t gain internally.
- “The reason we always suggest using an in-house scriptwriter is that clients are often too close to their projects,” Charlotte said.
- “It can be difficult to write a script when you’ve got so much to say about your product or service. It’s about keeping the audience engaged and ready to take whatever action you’re seeking.”
Ready to get your next explainer video script up and running?