How to Make Your Demo Reel! Part 1: Planning
This is the first installment of a three-part advice column to help you make your demo reel. Don’t miss parts two (editing) and three (promotion).
If you are an animator, editor, actor, visual effects or motion graphics artist—anyone who’s creative work is based in narrative—you will need to cut your best work into a demo reel. It’s your portfolio, a Quicktime video you’ll post on YouTube or Vimeo. “Send me your resume and your reel,” that’s what they say. It’s a way to get a sense of your artistic range.
This is not an easy task. Clear our at least a day of work for this.
Try not to be that guy who starts editing at 9pm on a Sunday for the job interview the next morning. Trust me, it won’t look good.
Before you get into it, you will need to take a moment—scratch that—a few hours, to plan. Walk around the block if you need to, and identify some things clearly in your mind.
Three things to consider before you make your demo reel.
1. Imagine who you want to see this demo reel and why.
Is this going to be submitted to the HR department of some mega-corporation? If so, how many reels do you think HR will be inundated with? Keep it as short and “whiz-bang” as possible.
Is this for a potential client who has mentioned he needs a cartoon to sell his dog food? Maybe you shouldn’t show that corporate logo with the flashy metal robot. Go with the goofier stuff. Visualize your target.
Ok, now let’s head back to your desk.
2. Prepare your material.
Crack open your work folder. As you scrub through your MOVs, identify what you’ll need to clearly represent yourself. Maybe spend some time on the internet to find people who work in your field, and take notes on how they cut their reels.
I find that watching old work is really tough, because you can clearly find all of your past mistakes. Try to find those things that still hold up to your current standards, as well as specific material that caters to who you are selling to. Be sure to meticulously write down the start and end code of each piece you select.
I use a pad and paper, but if you have a lot of material, you may want to use a spreadsheet.
Also, you might find that your work varies in compression and format size. Take some time to size, reformat, and standardize the frame rate. Make it all look consistent, neat and tidy.
3. Set your target length.
Think about your reel’s target length, down to the second. This helps you define the scope of the project and makes it manageable. To save time, make this decision early.
When I was cutting reels in 2004, I was told that no one had the patience to sit through anything longer than a minute and a half. That was pre-YouTube.
I will bet the average person, even if they really care about the work, won’t actually watch anything for more than 20–30 seconds. People are taking time away from their Facebook and Candy Crush habits to watch your work, so keep it short.
OK, now crack those knuckles and launch your editing software. Next week we will get into making the reel itself!
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