How To Make A Great Reel That Grabs Your Viewer's Attention.
Top Tips To Make a Demo Reel That Stands Out
No matter if you're a director, cinematographer, video editor, or motion graphics artist - you need a showreel or demo reel.
- Answered Question 1: What is a showreel or demo reel?
- Answered Question 2: How long should your showreel be?
- Answered Question 3: What should you include in your showreel?
- Answered Question 4: How should you strategically structure and craft your showreel?
What is a showreel or demo reel?
As a paramount piece to any creative's portfolio, a showreel or demo reel is a highlight reel that showcases all of the best work you've done over the years. A great showreel is one that showcases your talent and skillset in a short and entertaining fashion.
There are a couple of ways to think about a showreel. One is to approach it as an advertisement for your talent. The other is to present it like a movie trailer for the full catalog of your work.
These concepts can overlap, but however you approach it, keep in mind that your showreel is a representation of you — your skills, talents, worldview, and craft. So when you’re sharing your showreel, you’re selling yourself. Yes, it should follow some key structural guidelines. But, more importantly, a showreel should fully reflect its creator.
Keep It Short
So how long should a reel / demo reel be? 1 - 2 mins...at most.
This is perhaps both the most important tip and the hardest one to follow. Have you ever seen a great ad or trailer that runs for more than two minutes? It’s pretty rare. These kinds of pieces should offer a fast-moving narrative that targets the message. Your goal is to make an instant impression upon your viewer. So, less is more.
To do that, follow these steps:
- Organize every project you’ve ever worked on.
- Identify and pull your best work in each project.
- Be ruthless. Less is more.
Make Your Message Clear
Whether you’re showcasing your cinematography, video editing, motion graphics, visual effects, or any other specific craft, let viewers know the purpose of your showreel upfront. Giving your reel a title or adding in some narration are great ways to get that done. Lower thirds — or graphics toward the bottom of the screen — are great explainers, as well.
Inserting behind the scenes (BTS) shots are great too.
- Once you have your reel laid out in your timeline, add in FPO (For Placement Only) titles for messaging.
- Look for areas to group shots together where you can showcase the full range of your involvement in the project.
Pick Your Best Work
Two minutes isn’t a ton of time, so be sure to curate only the very best examples of your work. Be critical of yourself. Don’t just think about the work that you’ve done – think about the work that you want to do. And don’t be afraid to create new, supplementary pieces to elevate your demo reel. Once you’ve selected your clips, edit them together in a cohesive, impactful way.
The showreel needs to be memorable in its own right. Whether it’s funny, thrilling, or moving in some other way, you’re really making a mini-movie about your talent. So consider all the aspects that work together to help a film tell a compelling story. That includes using sound to your advantage. A well-chosen song is a powerful tool for unifying the different parts of your project.
Be sure to include the most recognizable client logos. This will quickly associate your work with companies your next employer or project lead will recognize. You don’t want to over do it either, just like picking the best clips to feature in the reel, picking a few noticeable client logos validates your work and ultimately yourself as someone trustworthy and reputable.
Make It Memorable
Don’t treat your demo reel like a cookie-cutter infomercial. Start it off with a bang and keep it high energy. Craft a narrative out of your clips, and grab viewers' attention immediately with an impactful scene or shot. Structure the piece as you would any other film project: strong introduction and dynamic visuals that builds to a climax.
That first and last clip should be equally powerful, with everything in between tying them together. You really are telling the story of your talent. Knowing how to produce a great reel will make all the difference in leveling up your game and the better clients and projects you're aiming to get.
What if you don’t have any great clips?
No matter where you are at in your career, no one starts with a great reel. It’s a portfolio piece that takes time to build. Don’t be afraid to grab your camera and shoot something new or experiment with an editing / motion graphic style you've been wanting to try for a while. As you take on challenging new projects, always have your reel in the back of your mind. It may push you to take on that next project because of the creative opportunity and not just a paycheck.
Need help getting started with your reel?
Don't worry, we're masters in the art of post-production. We offer a full range of video editing, 2D / 3D motion graphics, animation, and sound design services along with a premium Creative Market with a ton of boutique graphic textures, video editing overlays, film mattes, motion elements, templates, and sound effects to take your demo reel to the next level.
We hope you’ve found this article on How To Make An Amazing Showreel (Top Tips To Make A Demo Reel) to be useful and practical. For more valuable info, tools, and resources for film directors, videographers, photographers, motion designers, video editors, and creatives - check out the Ultimate List of Filmmaker Resources, Glossary of Essential Film Terms, or all blog posts.
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- The Ultimate Guide To Building A Great Showreel by Toolfarm
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- 5 Things That All Great Demo Reels Have by No Film School
- 20 Tips For An Amazing Showreel by Ben Marriott