Secrets to reading a script on camera without teleprompter

Secrets to reading a script on camera without teleprompter
Written by: Dexxter Clark, 09-07-2020
Once you wrote a script or outline for a YouTube video, how do you deliver the content without memorizing the whole thing?
If you are anything like me, I`m really bad at memorizing.

You can try a teleprompter.
But, man those things are expensive for a piece of plastic.
I finally figured it out after 3 years and 300 videos and I`ll share the method with you in this video.
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Downsides of teleprompters

Although teleprompters are pretty popular, they are not always the best solution.
It takes skill to read from a teleprompter naturally.
They make a camera bulky and heavy for a cameraman, and taking a teleprompter with you on the road isn’t convenient.

Also, you need to take reading speed into account, if the text is too quick or too slow you need to start over.
To control the speed, you need either a dedicated operator or a remote that you can forget or a battery that can die.
Do you use a tablet as text delivering device? Also that battery dies on the moment you need it the most …, or you need it or needs to install an update … , or can’t connect to WiFi network, ...
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Try to wing the video

If you are like me, you have a creative but scattered brain, you can have hundred ideas at once and I can hop from one topic to the other in the wink of an eye.
Ideas make sense to me, but often other people can`t follow me in a conversation.

When I`m tense or nervous when talking into the camera this trait gets worse.
When you do a second take, halfway through I often don`t know anymore if I talked about a talking-point in this take, or the previous one.
Also my brain works in Dutch and I often have to translate Dutch words into English, but can`t think fast enough of the English translation.

I`ve hours of footage of me rambling about a topic, that I later try to edit into a chronological story.
This is a nightmare.
The video takes forever to edit, the value and structure are not optimal for the viewer and often the point of the video often gets lost in the rambling.
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Script or outline a video

Making a script or outline the video helps to structure a video:
  • This way you`ll know that you don`t forget anything, like a CTA to like the video
  • This way you mention target keywords in your video, so your video can be found in Google and YouTube search.
  • You stay on point and prevent fluff in the video,
  • Build a story arc in the right tempo in the video
  • You can think of English words and practice pronunciation
  • It makes editing a lot simpler, because you know where you are in the video when you look at the script
I`d like to script my videos down into detail with complete sentences to get a story that makes sense.
Bullet point would do the trick also.
I chose scripting because:
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  • This way I can think of the English translation before I have to speak the words into the camera.
  • I can convert the video content into blog content for this website within minutes. This way the content can be found via Google too on my website.

Software and hardware tutorials

For tutorials about software (or hardware) I`ll use sometimes bullet points or wing it completely.
The buttons in software (or device) gives me enough talking points and prevents me from forgetting anything or straying off topic.
Making tutorial videos about a program or device you already know a lot is extremely quick this way.

But it took a while before I could make software tutorials like that.
I taught myself the skill by doing a dry run with everything I want to tell before hitting record.
I rehearse my speech.

This way I can think about what I want to tell, and think about the English words I want to use.
Making a lot of tutorials over the years made me a lot better.
It is true what they say: practice makes perfect.
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Regular YouTube video

When I record a regular video (non tutorial video), I follow these steps:
  • I write the script with all the content of the video. (I have a free script template and example script that you can download here).
  • Now I add scene numbers. Every 2, 3 or 4 sentences is a scene.
  • Every scene is a jump cut in the edit. So for every scene a change the camera placement or I zoom in or out. Since a lot of my videos are talking-head videos this gives a change in the image, so it is less boring to look at for the viewer.
  • Before I start recording the actual video, I`ll do some test-talking into the camera to get a bit more comfortable. I talk about yesterday, my breakfast or what I`m doing to prepare the recording.
  • I use my laptop to display the script. This way I can also make little changes on-the-fly between scenes if necessary.
  • I don`t have to stick to the sentences of the scripts literally, but it gives me an insight on my thought process behind a talking point. It also gives me a direction to phrase a talking point. I allow myself complete freedom to wing the talking point.
  • Over the years I’m making less fuss about the English mistakes. If I’m communicating the talking point clearly, it is OK for me. perfection will kill your time.
  • The intro and the outro have to be perfect! I can`t make any mistakes, especially in the hook (in the beginning of the video) where I have to convince viewers to spend the next 10 minutes of their lives with me.
  • Do I make a mistake or mess up? I do another take. I do one take per video file.
  • A trick that I picked up in my actor days is to keep an administration of all the takes: bad takes and good takes. This saves me a tremendous amount of time in the edit because I don`t have to scout all the footage.
  • In the beginning of every take I mention the scene and take number, so I can separate them in post.
  • I convert the script into a written article (just like this article was a YouTube video by origin). The video you can find on my YouTube channel.
If you think you mess up a lot, you haven`t seen my raw footage.
I sometimes need to do 15-30 takes to get it right.
Just to let you know, that you are not the only one that messes up … A LOT!
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Recording lists

“What about those pesky bullet point lists with 5 or 10 points?”
“Do you have to remember all of them in one scene?”

You can do one scene per bullet point.
But that most bullet points are just one sentence long.

I noticed that it is quicker to do one long scene with al the talking points.
In between the bullet points, I look at my notes, talk about the next point, look at my notes, talk about the next point etc.
Later I edit the silent sections out.
I clap in my hands when I make a mistake.
By looking at the waveform in the edit I can see I messed up, because there is a sudden spike in the audio.
When I see a spike I know that I can disregard the previous section.

Conclusion

I started to notice that I got more comfortable on camera over the years,
I start to mess up less and less and I get it right in the first take on a regular basis.
Sometimes I can wing whole scenes and sometimes 2 or 3 scenes a time in one take.
Again, practice makes perfect.

And some days still it won`t work, I can`t wing it, I keep tripping over words.
When that happens I try to accept it. It is just the way how it works that day.

By not using a teleprompter and do it this way it is easier to deliver your content far more natural.

My advice for you would be to try this process out, see if it works for you.
Then find your own way of working.
Happy YouTubing.

I would recommend you to read my article about the perfect YouTube workflow: from research to publishing a video on YouTube.


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Dexxter Clark
Content creator / YouTuber
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