A show reel, also called a demo reel, a film reel, or simply a reel, is like an audio-visual resume for a director.
A show reel considerably sums up the kind of director the person is. This reel is commonly shown to prospective producers, clients, and production companies looking for a director for their projects.
Whether a student reel or a professional reel, this type of audio-visual presentation is usualy about two to three minutes long. It highlights excerpts of the director’s best works. At the same time, s/he must be able to present his/her style, and possibly, his/her niche as a director through the reel.
While having a niche is not really a requirement, having one helps the director get remembered by people. His image generally showcases his/her style and credibility in a specific genre or style. For instance, for film directors, Tim Burton is known for his dark elements and German Expressionist looks for his films. Guillermo del Toro is known for epic films with fantasy themes and humanistic monsters and other creatures. Michael Bay is known for big-budget special effects movies with music video looks.
A show reel for a TV commercial director or a music video director works in the same way as a film reel. Each reel must showcase the director’s best shots and highlight his/her best assets in the profession.
How to Make a Show Reel:
1. Compile copies of the director’s works (movies, TV commercials, corporate videos, music videos, advocacy videos, student films, etc.) at the highest video resolution as possible. If s/he has made dozens of works already, it may be good to first make a complete list of the movies or any audio-visual projects done.
For a director working in between various projects in films, music videos, TV commercials, and other types of videos, a general show reel showcasing the scope of his/her body of work is typically edited. At the same time, more specific reels are also made to fit the requirements of those who shall look into the each reel. A film reel clearly features all movies. A music video reel has purely music video projects. A commercial reel presents TV commercials and corporate video works.
2. Trim down the list with the best choices of shots to use for the reel. Determine which parts can best represent the director’s works. Choose impressive shots that can feature his//her strengths, while also considering the overall look of the reel once the chosen shots from the different projects get edited together as one body of work.
3. Edit the reel using short but striking scenes. Choose any applicable video editing software such as Final Cut Pro, Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Sony Vegas for the editing work.
Editing the video must consist of cuts from one clip to the next, without adding any major special effect or video enhancement to each video clip. The reel must simply show an excerpt of what the director has already done.
The reel can become questionable if a producer, a movie studio executive, a creative director of an advertising agency, or a client asks for the actual copy of one of the shots seen on the reel, but the work where the shot originated doesn’t really look the same as what the reel shows.
Most of the shots in a reel are simply edited cut-to-cut, or at the most, edited with simple transitions such as cross dissolve or fade in/fade out transitions to just provide smoother changes from one shot to the next.
4. Lay in a suitable music to enhance the visuals. Editing a reel is quite similar to making a music video, in the sense that the short video cuts offer eye-catching shots that go with the flow of the music used for the video.
5. Include the name and contact details of the director at the start and/or at the end of the reel. Effects or any creative presentation for this would be fine. However, most reels, including professional ones, also keep the said part plain and simple. The most important aspect of the reel which needs to be the highlight of the presentation is the director’s actual body of work.
6. Export the edited video to a movie file format. Archive a high resolution master copy, then burn copies in DVDs and make converted copies in movie file formats suitable for playback in portable media players and for uploading online copies. An .mp4 (mpeg-4) file format is typically used for both portable media player copies (for iPods, mp4 players, or mobile phones) and online copies (for Youtube, Facebook, or Myspace).