What makes a good demo reel? How long should it be? In what format should it be cut? There is a sea full of opinions to these battling questions. So here’s one more. A demo reel, though it is not really even a ‘reel’ anymore, demonstrates an artist’s best chosen works in a short compiled video. It is commonly used to lure in potential clients or employers. The video is often also known as a show reel, pitch reel, sizzle reel, highlight reel, marketing reel, and too many more to name. No matter what kind of fishing you’re doing, let’s just call it a reel, so we’re all in the same boat.
The reel is used by many different types of artists and companies. I follow a channel on Vimeo called ‘Demo Reels‘ and on this channel I see a reel for nearly every discipline of time-based media. For each one of these disciplines, the reel is cut differently, is a different length, and showcases different aspects of the work. The motion graphics reel might be very fast-paced to keep interest, while animation might motion towards longer shots in order to tell a story. A cinematographer might be focused on slow-moving, beautifully composed shots, while a colorist is interested in showing the graded shots against the raw footage. The visual effects artist might present the process of how certain effects were created, while a sound designer is concerned about the audible composition and how he or she manufactured certain sound effects. It doesn’t matter what you’re creating a reel for, it never hurts to show your process. Employers like to see your creative process and how you produce your work, and clients enjoy watching the ways you come up with their product.
You may be thinking about what a good length for your reel might be. Different lengths can be appropriate for different types of reels, as long as it’s done well. Some say thirty seconds is the perfect time to display your best work without losing interest of your viewer. My first thought when I read this was “How am I possibly supposed to get all of my work to fit in a thirty second spot?” Well, the average commercial is thirty seconds long, so people are used to watching something for that length of time, being excited at the end, and not bored. In a way, you are selling a product. On the opposite side of the lake, I read that your reel can be four minutes long. This is the same place I read that your soundtrack doesn’t matter, and they will turn the sound off while watching it. You might be thinking, “Well that’s kind of rude”, and, “Who would possibly sit through a four minute reel?” The company who states this on their web site is Pixar. Now keep in mind, they are primarily an animation studio that wants to see the story behind your videos and leave each clip time to breathe. Every fish market is different. Create a reel with the appropriate bait to use for where you are applying to or who you wish to view your work.
When I am viewing different reels, unless it is under sixty seconds or absolutely mind blowing, which is as rare as catching a four-hundred pound alligator gnar, I usually find myself checking the hook at around one minute after I dropped my line, or pressed play. This leads me to believe that around one minute is a great amount of time for most any type of reel. Other attributes that I believe make for a good reel include, but are not limited to the following. If I could weigh in, I am personally a fan of linear reels. What I mean by this is when cutting your reel, keep the clips from the same project together and allow a few seconds for each project. When I see similar footage that is repeated, though it might be a different section of the original video, my unfamiliar eye sees it as the same clip, which makes the illusion of filling space, but not having a variety of work. If your fish tank isn’t full of work, create short five second, well thought out shots to include in your reel that showcase different abilities you have. Be selective with the work you put in your reel. Don’t just throw any ol’ thing you created in there that you’re not absolutely proud of, put only your best work in. And though you might want to save your best shots for last, put your best shots first. You want to immediately grab the viewers attention and keep their interest. Take a small tackle box for example, you’re not going to fill it with small worms or broken lures, you’re going to fill it with the juiciest of night crawlers and your shiniest, best crankbaits. Lastly, don’t forget to own your tackle box, put your name and information on it. Keep it short at the beginning and end as a slate, quickly get to the point and move on. It’s necessary but not why the viewer is watching your reel.
Alright alright, let’s reel it in. If you’re still afraid to create your own reel, I heard Sizzle It can do it for you. But keep in mind, getting someone else to make your reel for you doesn’t say much about your editing skills. Just make sure it’s original to who you are and to the work you create. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty who want to see your reel. Sometimes, you just need to cast your line out, get a few bites, and see what you can catch.
For more tips on creating a demo reel, checkout http://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/top-20-tips-for-creating-a-successful-demo-reel/