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Creating Showreels And Why Producing Your Own Is So Tricky

Creating Video Showreel

VideoFirst have a decade of experience creating SHOWREELS for ourselves, our core video production services, clients, advertising agencies, creative agencies, pr agencies and even other video production companies. It never fails to amaze us how tricky it can be to get it right. We suspect it’s a bit like asking the question “why are painter and decorator’s houses never painted and decorated well?” Of course, that is a generalisation but you get the drift… sometimes doing the thing you are best can be the hardest thing to do well for yourself. Hopefully we can help by sharing some creating showreels tips, tricks and hacks. Enjoy!

Don’t Stress! There’s No Such Thing As A Perfect Showreel!

The purpose of any showreel is to impress and engage your client or audience to such an extent that they hire you or tell people about your skills. Like anything in the creative world there is no such thing as a perfect showreel. Once you realise this it takes the pressure away from the editors. Every showreel is subjective. One viewer may scream out “that’s the best showreel I’ve ever seen” (we hear that a lot!) and another person may sit there passive and looking unimpressed. You can’t win them all! Fear not, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go about creating showreels that are perfect for you, your business, your brand or your reputation. Just crack on!

Where Should I Begin When Creating Showreels?

A great place to start is to pull all your footage together in one central place. We tend to do this offline and onto a dedicated Mac Pro or Firewire hard drive. Take your time and get your hands on it all even if this means going back in time to your old DV tapes. Check all your storage, cross reference your on-line storage (we always use VideoCloud for this) and never forget about the current projects you are working on. Don’t be afraid to select older shots or clips you have used before. If they make the grade then take them with you. By now you should have a huge ‘master folder’ with lots of video content and the fun can begin. Next, do a rough timeline calculation. Work out how many hours / minutes / seconds of video you actually have. Ask yourself a question… how long do you want your showreel to be. If your not sure these are the rules that work for us when we are creating showreels;

›  Less is more
›  45 seconds is never enough
›  60 seconds is perfect if you are using music with high beats per minute
›  75 seconds is perfect if you are using music with medium beats per minute
›  90 seconds is perfect if you are using music with slow beats per minute
›  120 seconds only if you have to
›  180 seconds is generally too much
› 240 seconds = zzzzzzzzzzz

Now do a rough calculation. If you have approximately X number of clips and you want your showreel to be approximately Y seconds long you can probably start to gauge that you will ultimately be using approximately Z number of shots. Keep the maths as loose as this for now.

Shot Selection

Don’t delete any clips from your master folder yet. Begin sorting into order of importance and quality. We do this by numbering the clips 0001_ , 0002_ , 0003 etc. You can also label or colour code them into sections or chapters depending on the purpose of your finished showreel.


Trim All Excess

Starting at the top work your way down the list trimming the clips tight but not ‘to the bone’. Leave handles (a second or two either side of the clip) so you have plenty of scope when you get to the final cut. Now re-asses the maths, check the number of clips again (you may have deleted a few during the trimming process), the overall runtime and ask yourself are you still good with the run-time you had estimated? The jigsaw is starting to come together!

Queue The Music

Experience helps here and often we will already know the track or the kind of track we are going to use. Whilst creating showreels without music is possible silent showreels never seems to make the grade in our world. If we are still unsure about the actual track we will commit to the ‘pace’ of the showreel at this point in the process. So, if we are going for a 100 beats per minute track we will lay down a generic 100bpm beat as guide audio which is used to cut to. Once the final decision is made on the track you will be using you can easily substitute the actual piece for the guide.

Time For The Timeline

All video editing software is built around the timeline. Drop the music track in first and lock it down. Move to the right of this and import all your chosen clips. This allows you to start the positioning process. Grab a clip of your choice on the right and move it to the appropriate position above the music on the left. The editing process has begun. A professionally cut finished timeline always looks like a work of art. You can see the ebbs and flows, the rhythm of the music, the highlights and the fades. Positing the clips intelligently too. Fast moving shots work well when the beat is ‘on the up’. Slower or more considered shots work best when pace dips. Be creative too… listen to what the music (or vocals) are telling you and see if you can match shots to this unspoken language. You just know when the perfect shot lands on the perfect beat. It’s what makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s also worth mentioning that there is no hard and fast rules here, for example you don’t have to cut to the beat [and often you can evoke more interest by not doing that] but one golden rule we always try and stick to is this… if you watch a clip back and it ‘jars’ with you then delete it. Don’t try and force the process. It either works or it doesn’t! As your timeline comes together don’t worry if clips are stacking on top of each other or over lapping. We fix this last.

The Final Polish

Take your time. The purpose of this stage when you are creating showreels is to make the timeline as perfect as you can. Be ruthless and cut, cut, cut. Keep a degree of symmetry to what you do. A short video like a showreel doesn’t afford you the luxury to introduce complex viewing patterns. Your client will just look at you with a very confused look if you do! Move, swap, re-position, twist, stick, invert… whatever you like to make it ‘WORK’. It has to work. Keep going, you will know when it is right. Typically our editors will spend two full days editing when creating showreels of around 60 seconds. When you are happy with the timeline consider a colour grade or adding your branding, typography, motion graphics or audio engineering. Whatever is appropriate to your final goals.

Last Piece Of The Jigsaw

So, you’ve created your masterpiece, saved the final project [please do this now if you haven’t already!] and output to the master file format of your choice. We tend to use HD MP4 files for this. What should you do with it next. Simple… distribute it. We usually do the following; Put it on our website, mention it on our social media accounts and promote it through other traditional marketing channels. All this can make a difference and win you new business but we also have a secret weapon! It always works…

Surprise Your Audience

Without fail whenever we are creating showreels we upload this finished masterpiece to our VideoCloud account, create a VideoTXT push and pull campaign then send it directly to the mobile phone of the client or prospective clients we want to see it. BINGO! They ALWAYS watch it! Ask yourself… when was the last time you didn’t open an SMS?

Don’t have the time to start creating showreels of your own? Contact us today and we will sort it for you 🙂

Back to blog Aug 14th 2016