scratch-trackThere’s a ridiculously simple thing you can do to make your project go faster, your video professionals love you, and your voice talents smile. It costs nothing and can be done in :15, :30, or :60 seconds flat.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the humble scratch track.

A scratch track is a quick read-through of the working script. It’s used frequently on projects like movies, but here in explainer-video land, I think it’s not used nearly enough.

This is a quick list of the kind of miracles a scratch track can perform:

  • Minimize pickups
  • Spark brilliant new wording
  • Snag that overlooked-twenty-times typo
  • Give an instant script length reality check
  • Provide the video team with rough timing
  • Identify places where the script is confusing or boring
  • Catch phrasing that looks fine on paper but is weird when heard (read this bullet out loud right now. Did I mean making up catchphrases?)

Pretty snazzy, huh? You’ll notice a lot of these things also shorten how long it takes to get to a finished video, minimizing pricey studio and rendering time.

Here are some tips so you can scratch with the best of them:

  1. Record on what’s handy. Sound quality doesn’t matter (yet), and you don’t want to spend time setting something up. Just grab the nearest smartphone.
  2.  Use a stranger. Grab someone out of the hallway who isn’t on the project to do the read. Weird parts of the script will jump out at their fresh eyes, and you’ll notice odd wording when you hear the newbie stumble over it. Plus, it will keep you from being distracted by the sound of your own voice. You can even ask your sister, though many voice actors will knock one out for you for free or cheap if they’ve already been hired to do the final product.
  3. One and Done. Do a single take, mine it for data, and move on. No directing and retakes! This is the sketch – not the painting.
  4. Do it anyway. Let’s say you’re the last human awake within a 20 mile radius, and you just want to get this draft emailed off so you can get to sleep. Skip tips #1 and #2 and read it out loud to yourself, but still read it out loud.

You’ll be amazed at what you catch.