Director Alejandro González Iñárritu once said,

“Movies become art after editing.”

Video editing is vital to any production. Through the process, the raw footage of a shoot is assembled into a coherent story.

But many editors neglect one of the most important components of the profession: the demo reel. You might think putting together a demo reel is easy, but it requires careful thought and preparation.

In this post, we’re going to learn how to make a video editing demo reel that employers will love. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or an aspiring freelancer, a strong demo reel is essential in landing your next job. 

Alright, let’s get started!

 

Your Video Editing Reel Should Highlight Your Best Work

Now, this first point may seem obvious, but it’s often taken for granted.

Remember, the primary goal of a demo reel is to showcase your technical abilities and unique sensibilities. Never try to cram your entire videography into the reel. Instead, select clips from the top 25% of your body of work.

image of computer monitors with a video editing reel being built
Demo reels should showcase a video editor’s top work. Image courtesy of Schweinert.com

Yes, you may be proud of that life-cycle-of-a-slug project you worked on. But ask yourself, is this the kind of footage that is going to represent me, and attract employers?

Besides technical ability, individuality is key to a demo reel. Your clip selection and the manner in which it is assembled should be an extension of your personality.

Also, don’t be afraid to list prominent clients in your editing real. This could include major corporations, along with film and television productions.

Of course, employers want to be confident in your technical expertise. But they are also looking for someone who brings something special to the editing bay.

 

An Editing Demo Reel Should Be Short

A common question that arises is how long should a demo reel be? When it comes to a video editing reel, brevity is essential.

Typically, a demo reel should not exceed 60 seconds. With 90 seconds being the absolute maximum. Not everyone is going to watch your entire reel. Your goal should be to capture the attention of the viewer in the first 20 seconds. After that, use the remaining 40 seconds to highlight specific skills and achievements.

The added benefit to a succinct demo reel is a smaller file size. Usually, a potential employer doesn’t jump for joy when they see a project with a huge file size enter their inbox. Of course, if you’re hosting this somewhere, this is less of an issue.

Again, a video editing reel is not supposed to be a complete compilation of your work. A shorter, targeted reel will always triumph over a longer, meandering one.

 

Music Is Important For A Video Editing Reel

Proper music selection is an important element of any video project. The same rings true for a demo reel.

The tendency is to think: “well, I need a fast-paced electronic beat to hold the viewer’s attention,” but when it comes to music in a video editing reel, one style does not fit all.

screenshot of an demo reel in final cut pro x
Proper music selection is key for demo reels. Image courtesy of ProVideo Coalition

Pay attention to your clip selection and the tone you are trying to convey. Chances are, you’re not going to use a slow, melodic composition for an epic action sequence. Determine the emotional intention of the sequence, and cut to the appropriate beat.

And remember, avoid copyrighted music. Besides being illegal, the action will likely disappoint potential employers. Take the time to carefully research and implement free music for video editing

Although this may seem unlikely, some viewers will watch your editing reel without audio. In the end, your reel should be elevated by a soundtrack, but remain strong in its visuals.

 

Do Not Misrepresent Yourself In Demo Reels

A video editing reel is meant to showcase your best work. But remember, the emphasis is on your work.

Make sure that for every sequence included, you clearly indicate your involvement with the project. This means identifying the specific elements you are responsible for, and what software or video editing tools you used.

You may think: “well, I was in the room when the video editor cut the sequence. That counts right?”

If there’s ever an ethical question as to whether to include a clip or not, always err on the side of caution. Better to be overly cautious, than risk damaging your professional reputation.

 

Collage Style Vs. Scene Style In A Video Editing Reel

When discussing a video editing reel, there are two basic styles: collage style and scene style.   

Collage style is typically cut to music and contains footage in rapid succession. The collage format tends to be ideal for showcasing commercials and other short-form work.

Scene style, on the other hand, contains segments around 15 seconds in length. This style is used to highlight a specific technique or theme. Often, this style promotes long-form documentary and narrative work.

Whatever style is chosen, make sure the clips are digestible. As mentioned, not everyone is going to finish your demo reel. The goal is to always engage with the audience and solidify their attention.

 

Place Demo Reels Online

Okay, you’ve done the hard work of putting a video editing reel together, but now what?

Sure, you can create DVD’S and have the file ready to be sent off to potential employers. But chances are, you’re hurting yourself by not putting your portfolio online.

Let’s face it, things can go wrong when sending a demo reel. DVD’s can become lost, or an employer’s software doesn’t support your file type (WMV, MOV).

image of video student learning how to make a video editing demo reel
Online demo reels are essential for the video editor. Image courtesy of ProductionBeast

Having your video editing real online saves time and energy. Whether on Vimeo, YouTube or your personal website, a simple link where employers can find an extended portfolio is beneficial.  

Be aware though, that often when uploading to one of these platforms, the project will be re-encoded to a smaller file format. Always preview a project before making it public, checking that the quality is up to the highest standards.

In an industry where time is of the essence, being able to showcase your work in an efficient manner is vital.  

 

Include Contact Information In Your Video Editing Reel

Again, this sounds like it should be common sense. But, too often a video editor gets caught up in the creation of a reel that they forget one of its most important components.

Keep in mind, a demo reel is a branding opportunity. It should never be released without the name of the individual or the company producing it.  

Include the owner’s name and contact information at the beginning and end of the reel. Also, make sure this same information is present in YouTube and Vimeo descriptions.

Think carefully about the design and presentation of this information. As mentioned, each component should engage with the viewer. In a demo reel, make sure that every piece of information reflects your personality and skill.

 

Review Your Demo Reel

Finally, the reel is done! Sure, you’ve had a few sleepless nights, and consumed more coffee than you’d like to admit. But the important thing is you’ve assembled something truly worthwhile.

But wait a second. Before sending this showcase out to the world, make sure to review every aspect of it.  Carefully check for any technical glitches or spelling errors. The last thing you need is for a clip to stall, or be labeled “Fill in later.”

Again, don’t let a simple demo reel oversight jeopardize your chances for success.  

 

Wrapping Up Video Editing Reels

As we’ve seen, your video editing reel is vital to promoting yourself or your brand.

Yes, each demo reel is different, but the important thing is to succinctly balance your technical ability, with your personal creativity.  

By taking these steps into consideration, your chances for professional success can only increase.

 

If you are putting together your demo reel or editing project, you need to make sure it sounds as good as it can sound. If your sound design isn’t sounding quite as professional as you’d like, try looking on Soundsnap to find some sweet new SFX to make your project pop. For $199, you can get unlimited download access to over 250,000+ searchable sound effects. You can also pay for a few at a time, or just browse around for free. Check it out!