Written from Experience

Video Supers - An Introduction

Video supers or text-on-screen can be a very effective way of making sure your key messages are retained by the viewer.

For those unaware of video terminology, a video super is any text or graphic that appears on screen during a video presentation. Super is abbreviated from superimposed, which in this situation, could mean the text superimposed on the top of the visual display. You might also use graphs, charts or any other element that isn’t filmed as part of the video action and placed during the editing process onto the screen.

As a corporate video script writer, I use supers to add emphasis to key points. If the presenter is listing for example key conditions or requirements, the supers provide a good method of complementing the dialogue. They are also useful for definitions, jargon or technical terms.

I believe that supers should be used sparingly and used only if necessary. If you don’t need them, don’t use them. Research has shown that as viewers we're generally incapable of reading and listening at the same time. Therefore in writing the supers, I keep them extremely brief, to complement the dialogue, not replace the dialogue. Supers should never be a word-for-word transcription of the dialogue. They must always remain a summary snap shot of the key points.

Take this fictional example. The voice-over says:

If you believe you’re the victim of bullying, there are defined steps we recommend you take to prevent the alleged perpetrator from continuing with his actions.

The first step is always to calmly discuss the situation with the individual. Often people don’t realise what they perceive as harmless comments, can offend. If you’re unsatisfied with the outcome of such a discussion, the next step is to talk with you manager. Hopefully, they can resolve the issue before it goes any further.

If the individual continues to say or perform actions that make you feel threatened the next step is to call our confidential employee hotline and lodge a formal complaint. In doing so, our counsellors will review the situation and determine appropriate action. If you remain unsatisfied, you're entitled to contact external bodies for assistance.

The voice-over is clearly describing steps to take if you feel victimised or bullied. Accompanying the dialogue could be visual representations of each of the steps performed by actors. In this case, I wouldn’t use supers during the initial action and explanation because I think the drama re-enactment and dialogue imparts the information sufficiently.

However as an overall summary, the presenter might do a piece to camera with the following dialogue and supers.



Talk with Individual

Talk with Manager

Call Hotline

Contact External Body

In summary, the first step is talk calmly with the alleged offender.

Then explain the situation to your manager.

Next call our confidential employee hotline.

And finally if unresolved, seek assistance from an external organisation.

You can see how the supers are a very quick snapshot of the key point being made.

I always write the supers into the video script for sign-off by the client when the visual elements and dialogue are also being reviewed. In my mind, supers are another element to the overall video. However, because they’re generally the final element of the editing process to be added, they can easily be changed when you’re reviewing a rough cut of the video.

Read my article on top tips for writing video supers or read more articles on video script writing.