Skip to main content

Creating How-to Videos for Stream: Part 1 – Writing Scripts

Author Image , Principal PM Manager, Thursday, July 28, 2016

Microsoft Stream is built for sharing ideas and information across your company with the power of video. For most of us that create video content, that usually means training others about new products, projects, or IT solutions. I’m a visual learner, so the fastest way for me to learn about new product features is to watch someone else explain it in a clear and simple manner. Done correctly, screencast videos can easily replace pages of product documentation or how-to guides. 

For Microsoft Stream it made perfect sense to incorporate how-to videos directly into our own documentation and portal. For preview, the product management team generated a series of “Getting Started” videos written and recorded by the knowledge experts on each key area of the service. Using some common best practices, you too can generate how-to videos quickly and host them on your own Microsoft Stream channels for your whole company to learn from.

In this blog series I’ll walk through the creation process for professional looking How-To videos.  While it is very easy, and sometimes “good-enough”, to be able to fire up a webcam and screen recording software and just “wing it” – this series focuses in on how to improve the quality of your videos and make them a bit easier to consume by your audience.   Once you have read through this series, there may seem like a lot of steps and tips, but go into it knowing that most all of the PM’s on our team managed to go through the entire process in less than a day, and generated some great looking How-To videos in the process.  

There are three primary stages that I will be covering this series; script writing, recording, and editing.  In today’s post, I’ll be covering the script writing process.

PreviewImage

Writing and approving the scripts

To get started, we followed the typical workflow for any video production project, by first dividing out the topics that we wanted to highlight in the service.

For Microsoft Stream, this was fairly simple since our team was already partitioned into feature PM’s that owned specific areas of the service. We settled on the following primary topics which you see today when you first log into your account:

  1. Getting Started – an overview of the first page and basic features of Stream
  2. Uploading Videos – how to get content into Stream and what you can do during the uploading process
  3. Finding Videos – how to search for videos and channels
  4. Sharing Videos – how to share content with other users in your organization

By starting with a small number of core topics, we wanted to quickly enable folks to upload, find, and collaborate with video without having to dive into any product documentation. Each video was scripted to be between 1.5- 2 minutes in duration maximum.

Prior to beginning the actual drafting of the script, we spent time discussing what our goals were for each of the videos. Some good questions to begin your draft with include the following:

  • What is the purpose of your video?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action for the user after they watch the video?
  • What is the problem, pain point, or opportunity that you want to solve for your audience with this video?

Keeping videos under two minutes is a common best practice in video production to keep your viewers engaged, and it also forces you to be more crisp in your writing. If needed, you can stretch out to about 5 minutes, but definitely don’t go up past 10 minutes or you will lose your audience. Most people do not have the time anymore to consume training content at that duration. Sadly, we are a short attention span world now, tuned to social media snack-size videos. If your content is longer than this duration, seriously consider breaking it up into multiple videos that are easier to consume and share.

Each product manager on our team started out with a Word template that allowed them to time out their scripts in block phrases, include any desired imagery or description of user actions, and estimate how long each script would end up being. As you write your script, it is useful to read back each “block” in a natural conversational voice multiple times to establish an average recorded duration.

Always start out with a script template. It’s fairly easy to create your own.  All you really need is a simple “table” in a Word document. I typically start with a two-column format and add more columns for various notes, durations, run-time, etc. as needed.

In the example below,  I started with two columns. The first column I used to write bullet points that I would follow during recording of the video, and the second column to draft what I would say.

DEMO STEPS/CLICKS VOICEOVER
  • Start on home screen

Introducing Microsoft Stream. The easiest way to upload and organize videos for use across your company.

Use the power of video to share ideas and information. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s visual.

Let’s get started.

  • Show upload experience quickly
  • Show setting privacy

Upload your videos with the click of a button.

Control who can find, view or share your content with simple privacy settings.

After writing a few rows I ended up adding  more columns to track the duration and screenshots that I needed. My final script template looked more like the following table with duration and total run time (TRT) tracked.

SCREENSHOTS/ACTION SHOWN DEMO STEPS/CLICKS VOICEOVER DURATION

TRT

Home page

  • Start on home screen

Introducing Microsoft Stream. The easiest way to upload and organize videos for use across your company.

Use the power of video to share ideas and information. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s visual.

Let’s get started.

~:15 seconds

:15

Uploading a video

  • Show upload experience quickly
  • Show setting privacy

Upload your videos with the click of a button.

Control who can find, view or share your content with simple privacy settings.

:5 seconds

:20

Trending Videos

  • Scroll through Trending videos

Use your Stream home page to see the videos your coworkers have uploaded, what’s new and what’s trending.

Play back popular content instantly.

:8 seconds

:28

After drafting the scripts, our team reviewed the text internally amongst the product PM’s to refine and clean up the phrasing, cut-down the timing, and make them clear and concise prior to locking on the content that would be finally recorded.

Next, we move into the recording booth. In part 2 of this series,  I’ll be covering what you do now that you have a decent script ready to record. We’ll look into the recording process, software tools, and a few tips and tricks for getting the best results.

Join the Stream Community!

Join our community and send us ideas on new features or scenarios that you would be interested in having enabled in future updates to the Microsoft Stream service.  We have two locations for collaboration on the Stream Community site, one for asking questions and one for posting new ideas. Or follow us and send us a message on Twitter at @microsoftstream.