How to make a good showreel


I have been gathering all my footage to make a showreel and thought before I put it all together I may aswell read up on what and what not to do. The below info sang home.

Best Material First
The person watching your showreel has waiting for an excuse to press STOP or FAST-FORWARD so your first set of images has to get them to sit-back and watch.

Forget building to a climax. Your first 30 seconds needs to be the best 10 seconds you have as it may be the only 10 seconds they watch.

Montages work well at the start of reels – immediate and quick visuals to signal a range of work and a reason to keep watching.

Tracking submissions
Log every showreel you send out and keep a database of Who What and When.

If you hand out a business card with your website on it make a note of Who and When.

When you update your showreel you’ll know who needs an updated version.

Be proactive about your career.  Time between gigs is not ‘down-time’, its time to work on your showreel, send out DVD’s and make some phone calls.

One size doesn’t fit all
Your showreel needs to not only show your skills but also how your skills match the particular jobs you’re after. No single showreel serves every need. It’s smart to have a bank of showreel items that you can flexibly swap in and out of a template.

Research the recipient of your showreel – producer, agency, production company, funding organization etc.. What are they looking for? Drama, doco, visuals, narrative, conservative or edgy? When you know the answer to some of these you’ll be able to select the best showreel assets you have that best match them and put them upfront.

This customizing of your showreel might be as simple as re-arranging the order of films or clips or it might be an entirely different showreel altogether. In either case  a showreel that knows who its audience is and plays to them will be far more effective.

Contact info
The single most important part of your showreel is your name and phone number!

Don’t hide it away or make people look for it. It should be clearly displayed on the DVD cover and on the main panel of the DVD menu.

Don’t put your phone number in the showreel video itself. If someone likes what they see in they will look on the cover or the DVD menu or the webpage for your number.

Short and sweet
Number 1 biggest mistake is a Showreel that’s too long. Have them want more rather than turn off early.

If your reel has a montage of clips to show cinematography or editing skills then 3-4mins is a good maximum length.

If the showreel is focused on Directing then you may want to also include whole short films to demonstrate narrative construction. But this should be in addition to a central showreel showing a range and you should stick to films that are short and sweet with perhaps trailers of longer works.

For Directors a montage of key scenes may also work well to convey your best work in the most efficient amount of time.

Resist the temptation to use your favourite song on your showreel. Using a well known popular song looks amateur.

If the viewer doesn’t share your taste in music then you may put them off before you get a chance to impress.

Very often viewers of your showreel will mute the soundtrack so its good to aim for a showreel that works without, and doesn’t rely too heavily on, music.

Online Video Quality
Encode your showreel for the best possible visual quality whilst maintaining as much playback and download efficiency as possible.

Because YouTube is so massively popular it sets the ‘lowest common denominator’ benchmark for what people expect from web-video. So you HAVE to look better than YouTube to be seen as more than ‘Amateur’.

Learn how to get the best out of compression technologies such as H.264. And balance visual quality with playback performance and download speed.

Personal photo
People often forget names but less often faces.

Put your face on the DVD cover and on your website.

A Showreel is a collection of parts from a variety of projects;  include a breakdown that details the productions that make up the showreel.

The breakdown can be printed on the cover or included as a sub-menu on the DVD.

A separate page with your CV and Showreel breakdown should be included on your website.

Your showreel is You.
People will read your Showreel as an extension of you.

Regardless of content a professionally presented showreel will make you look like a professional.

Sending a client to your Showreel on YouTube suggests you aren’t serious.

Sending a client to your own Website says you’re a professional with a vision.

More than just a video montage
Think of your Showreel video as one part of a bigger picture

Your Showreel ‘package’ is a collection of materials, not just a video clip reel.

CV’s, Storyboards,  Vision statement, Cover letter, Drawings and Artworks, Scripts,
Writing Samples, Essays – your Showreel video is just one part of the bigger picture.

The Video may get their attention but it might be the extra stuff that gets you over the line.

There’s still a place for DVD
Online is King, you MUST have a website, but the humble DVD is still important.

The DVD is physical, sits on a desk and feel substantial.

DVD has a ‘shelf-life’; it has the opportunity to passively hang-around as opposed to online showreels which need the viewer to be proactive and immediate.

Always have a showreel with you. You should be ready to drive people to your showreel and sell yourself anywhere anytime.

Get a business card. A simple, uncluttered way to put your Name, Contacts and Website into the hands of an important contact.

Encode your showreel for keeping and displaying on your mobile phone. It will always be with you and ready to show to anyone.


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