16. Writing the voice-over

The opener and the ending matter a lot when it comes to making the package clear and for and have an impact on the viewers.  The package goes from sequence to sequence thanks to the voice-over supported by illustrations or key images underlined by key voice-over. The voice-over might also introduce an interview or explain a situation. 

Write the anchor intro first and send it to the anchor.

Two advantages to this :

  • The anchor knows about the package early enough to rewrite his intro and give the package its right place in the newscast.
  • By giving the anchor all elements of context, the journalist can start the package with a punchy opener.

Choosing the information for the voice-over :

The script written by the journalist before editing is not voice-over. It’s a mass of information – like word rushes. The journalist uses it to :

  • Segment the caption, subtitles and intro components.
  • Erase everything that’s already told by the images, the audio and the interviews.
  • Reorganize what’s left to respect the structure and rhythm of the editing, rewrite the sentences so that they are TV-friendly.

Write voice-over for each sequence

The journalist writes as many comments (COM1+COM2+COM3) as there are audiovisual sequences in the package. These comments don’t all have the same texture.

  • Explicative voice-over : it’s heavy and autonomous from the images
  • Studding voice-over : it underlines key sequences and ambiance by bringing it additional information that can’t be shown through images. It grabs the attention of the viewers who can then be interested in more abstract explanations.
  • Other types of voice-over introduce or rewrite interview segments so as to make them more understandable or to underline the context in which the interview was shot.

Keys to good reporting : an efficient opener and a memorable ending.

After writing the voice-over, the journalist reworks the beginning (opener) and the ending : these are two sentences, easy to understand but meaningful, which, when put together, can sum up the story and its intent.

Refining your writing

The voice-over is oftentimes too long and the journalist is tempted to speak faster. Without simplifying the content, it’s always possible to lighten a voice-over.

  • Highlight the keywords by suppressing the useless ones.
  • Avoid words that say the same or act as parasites for the images shot.
  • Avoid words that already are in the anchor intro or in interview segments.
  • Choose a constellation of meaningful words, selected to sum up the package, as some kind of unique and original referencing : a signature.
  • Watch out for the halo effect : a single complicated, unexplained word can parasite the rest of the voice-over, however easy to understand it is.