One of the most essential tools in the film editing and post-production fields is your demo reel, so it makes sense that you should treat it as such!
A strongly crafted demo reel could make the difference between getting hired for your dream project, or being dismissed after a short glance. Follow the suggestions below to make your reel as unique and efficient as possible.
While it may seem tempting to include all of your work to date and have the biggest reel out there, that would be shooting yourself in the foot. The consensus for the ideal demo reel length is somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds, and it should only include your best and most recent work.
If you’re planning on using impressive footage that you didn’t have much to do with, consider reconsidering. Not only would taking credit for someone else’s work possibly result in blowing a good job opportunity, it could also lead to staining your reputation and even ending your career! It’s so important to try to avoid plagiarism all together and the key to doing so is through having a better understanding of it. Check out Sarah Jones’s awesome guide on plagiarism.
2) Label Everything
One aspect about demo reels that is often overlooked is the labeling. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your contact information clearly displayed at the beginning and ending of your reel since, without it, there’s no potential for an employer to contact you. Include the basics: your name, email and if possible, website.
Another good thing to consider is having several physical DVD copies of your demo reel, since some clients prefer that method. Again, make sure to label each copy with your info, and make the menu display easy to use (no one wants to struggle while checking a reel).
3) Cohesive Format, Check for Errors
If you’ve worked on several projects with different focuses and directors, chances are you’ll have different aspect ratios between some of your footage. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but pasting them together into a single demo reel shows a lack of professionalism! Simply put two sophisticated bars on the sides of 4×3 footage if it appears with a 16×9 frame, and use that same principle with other different formats.
Once your reel has a congruent form, it’s time to check for any mistakes you might have missed. This includes checking for digital errors, audio deficiencies and spelling mistakes, as well as making sure none of your footage is repeated throughout the video. Having glitches or grammar issues in your demo reel is a definite no-go for employers, so triple check your work and have someone else do it too!
4) Clarify Involvement and Highlight Important Clients
A great way to showcase your areas of expertise is by adding short descriptions with the roles you had for each clip somewhere in the corner of the frame. This is important for a potential employer to know what they can expect from you.
Another significant thing to highlight in your clips are any impressive projects you’ve worked on in the past. Again, just adding the name of the project in a corner of the frame will do, and it could cause a big impact on the employer’s decision.
5) Have Position-Specific Reels and Demonstrate Personality
Having more than one area of focus is great, but for clients looking to fill in a particular position, showing all of your talents could be conflicting. That’s why you should consider creating an individual demo reel for each skillset you have, so employers will only see examples of the position they’re looking for.
It is also a good idea to include some personality traits in your videos to give the client a feel of who you are. Some employers love to work with people that have a good sense of humor or who can easily adapt in different situations! But be careful with exaggerating any traits as it could clash with the client’s own.
6) Avoid Copyrighted Music
I know it’s tempting to use a famous piece of music that the viewer probably knows, but using it would break its copyright law. Not only is this illegal and could get you in some trouble, but most employers won’t even consider your reel!
Get around this situation by acquiring the license for a royalty free track that goes perfectly with your demo reel and get ahead of the competition! Amazing Music Tracks has a vast catalogue of handpicked royalty free tracks to choose from.
7) Edit Your Reel to the Music
Once you have the music part figured out, there’s one technique that will make a huge difference for clients noticing you: using the music to set the pace for your cuts.
Don’t just have music as background noise; instead, make the most of the specific variations in it and plan your clip cuts to compliment it (and vice versa).
8) Tempo: Fast Paced or Scenes
A very important decision to make in your demo reel is the pacing, which narrows down to two formats: the “multiple cuts” fast paced reel, and the slower “scene” heavy reel.
The first option consists of several short clips showcasing your best work that are cut together (preferably to music) and has a more dynamic feel. This technique is most popular with short-format projects and commercials. On the other hand, the “scene” demo reel is made up of fewer, longer clips (usually around 15-30 seconds), and is great for story-heavy projects, like journalistic work and documentaries.
Either technique you choose for your demo reel, you should always have a good balance between wide shots and close-ups. Too many close-ups and the viewer might feel claustrophobic; too many wide shots and it feels like there’s not enough detail.
9) Online, Accessible and Fresh
One of the best ways to ensure your reel is easily accessible is by putting it up on the Internet. This may seem like very obvious advice, but some applicants choose to send files (MOV, MP4, etc.), which (depending on the file size and type) could take a while for the recipient to download and result in software compatibility issues.
Avoid this by simply uploading your demo reel to a video-sharing website (YouTube, Vimeo), where you can conveniently send over to any client as a link. The other great thing about having it online: you can keep updating your reel as newer work comes in (you should always try to have your most recent work on display!).
10) Ask a Friend
You’ve probably heard the saying “two heads are better than one”; the same principle applies to demo reels. Having a fresh set of eyes look over your work is always a good idea after updating it, since small errors are easy to overlook, and an outsider’s perspective might change your opinion of your own work. So don’t hesitate to ask a friend, peer or colleague to let you know what they think!
Do you have more advice on creating a compelling demo reel? Let us know in the comments!
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