How To Make A Showreel [8 Easy Tips]

How to make a showreel
How to make a showreel

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A showreel or demo reel is like a video resume you send to employers, showcasing your skills and creativity.

It’s a way of promoting yourself and demonstrating your experience in a very short space of time so it needs to make an impact.

But what’s the best way to go about it?

Here are our top 8 tips for making a showreel that will blow their socks off!

1. Keep It Short

A common mistake is trying to include all of your work and accidentally pushing the duration over 5 mins. Employers will have seen a fair amount of showreels by the time they get to yours so ideally, you would want to keep it under 3 mins.

This will ensure you keep them engaged and hungry for more rather than turning them off too early.

2. Best Foot Forward

As mentioned the person watching your showreel has a limited amount of time so the first 30 secs needs to contain your best brands and shots as they might not make it to the end.

If you’ve got an impressive client list, use it to your advantage. Major corporations, popular films, or network television programs are impressive and can be notated in your reel.

It’s all about showing off so don’t get attached to material that ultimately doesn’t showcase your best work (even if you have an emotional attachment to it!).

3. Tailor Made

Find out what the recipient (production company, creative agency) is looking for in terms of content.

When you know this you can select the best footage and customize your showreel to fit the job (e.g promo, documentary, commercial, sport, feature film). It may benefit you to have a few different showreels ready to hand, allowing you to apply to a variety of jobs.

Also, think about the kind of projects you’d like to work on and build your demo reel with clips that will help you secure that kind of work in the future.

4. Not Another Montage

Your showreel is a collection of different projects, not just a video clip reel. Assaulting the employer with a barrage of short clips makes it hard for them to get a real feel for your individual talents.

You want to give them a greater sense of what it is you can do and impress them with a structured narrative and a sense of drama. Mashing everything together in an unorganized mess shows a lack of creativity.

5. State Your Role

Film is a collaborative medium so obviously showreels are composed of work that has usually been a group effort. As such you need to make people aware of what exactly it is you did within each clip and how key your role was in the production (do not try to pass off someone else’s work as your own).

The best way to do this is to use short text descriptions over each clip to denote your role and explain what work was done.

6. Show Off

You may want to use your demo reel to show off your technical ability.

This is an effective technique for animators and VFX compositors who can show a “before” and “after” shot of their work (or a split screen of different stages).

This can really help demonstrate the amount of work that’s gone into each shot that might have otherwise been overlooked.

7. Put Your Name On It

This may sound like a no-brainer, but include your name and contact information on a quick slate at the start and end of your reel.  With all the other details and creative decisions being put into a reel this can easily be overlooked. 

Stick to your basic contact info:  name, email, and website.  Your reel’s worthless if the viewer doesn’t have a way to contact you!

8. Be Critical Of Your Showreel

Watch it back a few times and look for areas that can be improved, enhanced, or trimmed.

Film is subjective so show it to your friends and colleagues to see if it impresses them or if there is anything that doesn’t look right. Use their feedback to really polish your showreel, no one will take it seriously if there are errors or dodgy transitions.

Finally, make sure you keep your reel updated and ensure your latest work displaces your older stuff!

Bob is our content editor at the Video Collective. He's a videographer and a real tech geek with over 13 years of experience in video production. Loves coffee but hates Marmite.
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