Building a demoreel, or show reel, or whatever, has always been one of the more challenging yearly projects I take on. To combine hours of one's best work into a short sub three minute is mind numbing and frustration. How do you select what footage to include and what to exclude? For me, it all comes down to a bunch of questions:
- What message do I want to the world?
- Who is the world?
- Why should they care about me?
- What about me is so special?
But before I can even ask myself those questions and begin selecting footage I have to take a step back and choose music. This is often the most time consuming aspect of the whole process. First there are the basic technical requirements:
- The music must be royalty free or I must have permission to use it
- If the track is not free it must be cheap
- Must be roughly three minutes or easily editable
Next there is my creative criteria:
- Speed and pacing allow for creative editing
- Must feel inviting, inspiring, and/or exciting
- Mood must match my shooting style
- I have to actually like it
The places I go to for my music are Vimeo's Music Store vimeo.com/musicstore and Premium Beat premiumbeat.com . The former is the cheapest alternative with perhaps the largest selection and variety. Most tracks are free or under $10 and all allow for personal use. However the quality is very lacking, in general, and the search features are horribly inadequate (not able to sort by popularity!). The latter, Premium Beat, is a very professional approach to royalty free music. Their tracks don't have the "stock" sound and they offer many tracks the sound similar to current pop music. Additionally many of their tracks have options for different lengths and loop sets. The downside is most tracks are at least $40 and go up from there depending on license and intended use.
I've had surprisingly good luck with Vimeo's service and have found my last two reel's music there. For this reel I used "As Colorful As Ever" by Broke For Free, brokeforfree.com . I chose this track because it has a unique sound, specifically the reversed violin and guitar twangs, and is lively and inviting. Beyond that the track is very easy to work with and I am able to cut and change the different sections of the song to better fit my footage.
With the base track selected the editing process accelerates. Using my criteria above I culled what I considered my best work of the past four years together and keyworded my favorite sections together. My goal with my reel is to express the following abilities and skills I posses:
- Composition and framing
- Sense of color and lighting
- Narrative and emotion
With that in mind I worked with a strategy of focussing on both imagery and editing. To do that I opted to have longer sections of individual projects versus short cuts of more projects. This narrowed my pool of footage by eliminating some lesser projects, such as certain swim promos and client projects. From here I began fitting sections to portions of the song. Basically I blocked out portions of the song for scenes from projects. Adjusting the source footage and editing cuts and transitions to fit to song beats and cues I managed to fit the large chunks in easily. At this point there were blank gaps across the timeline.
I fit shorter projects and clips into these holes. Viewing these as transitionary sections I did more intensive editing, changing the edit structure of old projects, to fit the spaces. A few times I included singular clips that I thought would fit well.
This process had taken about a week. I would spend about an hour working on it and step back for a day or so. Let my mind cleanse itself by focusing on other things and then come back the next day with fresh eyes. This process allowed me to really fine tune what footage was worth including as well as tweaking the edits to allow for better flow and rhythm.
The last step was to create the opening and closing titles. This proved to be surprisingly challenging but simple in the end. Originally I was planning to render out titles I had made in Blender, but I decided that they didn't fit the context well enough. Viewing other reels online I eventually decided on a more simple approach. Very similar to those on my previous reel, I decided to use film burns to introduce and close the titles. But rather than having the titles being a giant information card I decided to keep it very simple and including only bare information. I figured I could add everything else in the description. On top of this I wanted the film burns to integrate and transition skillfully and tastefully into the actual footage. I used a mixture of different source film burns, blending modes, and color grading to get the look I wanted.
The last step was to regrade a few clips in Resolve that I were bugging me and render the film out and get some peer review. I showed it to my boss, roommates, and friends and got their feedback which I promptly acted upon. Finally I uploaded to Youtube and to let the world know who I am.