I’ve been working on getting together a new show reel for LooseKeys and myself over the past couple weeks. Even if I don’t think reels are as important as they once were it’s still a nice calling card; it’s the motion designers business card. Building a reel is always a bit of an obstacle, there is a lot to think about when you start piecing it together.
Matt Butler shared a few tips on his blog the other month but I wanted to share my workflow. Matt says he brings all his footage into After Effects… I’m all for using whatever tool you are most comfortable with in order to get the job done but I don’t think After Effects is the best tool for editing. If you don’t know Premiere or Final Cut then ok, but if you know either of those programs you’re going to save yourself a lot of time editing in an editing program and not in an animation program.
The first thing to do is to find a song; this is the hardest step for me. When you do find a track that you think could work, you’ll know it and it will just click. You want a song that will be good to edit to, something with a good beat and also a song that reflects a bit of your personality.
Next, gather all your clips and videos. Hopefully you’ve been saving those to a folder over the last year or so, otherwise you’re going to have to do some digging. Try to find the best & highest quality versions you can. If all you have is an h.264 then ok, but you’re going to notice the compression.
Once you have all your clips, bring them all into your editing program. This is where doing this in an editing program comes in handy…. playback. You can just watch all your clips, you don’t have to ram preview or render, all you have to do is hit play. If you don’t know which part you want to include, watch all your videos again. Heck watch them all again just to see what you’ve done over the last year or so and refresh yourself. You want to find the best parts, make sure you’re happy with what you’re choosing.
As you find your favorite parts, drop them into your timeline. Oh! And make sure your timeline settings match the size and format of most of your clips so you don’t have to keep rendering. Just drop your favorite parts in the timeline, don’t worry about getting them the exact length yet, right now just get it all into the timeline.
Now that you have all your best clips together, grab your song and trim it down to the length you’d like, whether that is one minute or two minutes. Try to keep it under two minutes. Don’t be afraid to keep it short. One minute reels are great and keep whoever is watching wanting more.
Your song is ready and you have all your favorite clips selected. It’s time to start editing.
Start with your favorite and best work up front, you want to start strong and grab their attention. Then start grabbing other clips, move them around and see what works together and see what shots work from one to another. Start to play around, since you’re in an editing program you can move clips around much quicker than After Effects; time to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t feel like you have to use all the clips you selected, it’s ok if something get’s left on the cutting room floor. If whoever is watching your reel wants more, they will dig through your site or Vimeo page.
Matt recommends coming back to your project in a few hours or even a day and think about the clips you picked. I couldn’t agree more, you often get caught up in your projects and that time away can give you a new insight into what you’re doing. You could also send a rough cut around to friends or peers and see if they have any input for you. There likely isn’t a deadline for your reel, so take the extra time and make sure you’re 100% happy with it.