News Reel & Blog

Written by James Cheetham on 18th August 2014


Over the years I have sat through hundreds of showreels, which has given me a pretty good idea of what makes a great reel. So with the risk that ‘I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs’, here are my top five tips for a tip-top reel (try saying that after a few drinks!):

1) Best foot forward

Try to grab the viewer’s attention by putting your best material at the start of your reel. Don’t forget that yours is not the only reel that the client is viewing.

The use of montages at the start is very effective and gives the viewer a taste of things to come.

2) Size is important

Again, don’t forget your potential client has a stack of reels to look through. Keep your reel as short and sweet as possible – leave them wanting more!

A good rule of thumb for motion graphics designers is to keep your reel to about 1.5 minutes in length.

Editors showing off their skills through a montage of clips should aim for a reel 3-4 minutes in length.

3) Show your very best work only

This will help you to achieve (2), but be careful not to repeat your favourite work.

4) Music

Most clients watch reels on mute, so don’t rely too much on cutting your work to the music. Try using an instrumental piece and obviously keep away from death metal and anything in the charts, (you should be doing that anyway.)

5) Video quality

Try and only use work with the best quality compression. Also, aim to balance your reel’s online playback and download efficiency with its visual quality – learn to get the best out of your video compression. 

In addition, here is a wish list for when you get time in your busy schedule (i.e. never):

a) Logo at start

Brand yourself

b) Demonstrate your Versatility

I’m being greedy here, but having separate reels to show different styles can be very useful:

Editors – a longform and a shortform reel.

Motion graphics designers – a visual effects and a compositing reel and a graphics reel.

c) Personalised Website

‘Vimeo’ can be very useful for demonstrating individual jobs, but sending a client to your own personalised website shows that you are a professional who is serious!