Making a Good Demo Reel
I recently finished work on the official Blueprint Video Production Demo Reel. It was fun to create, mostly because I got to look back through all of the projects we did over the past year. It was interesting to see the progress we’ve made, and thinking back through working on each project made for a nostalgic experience. Making the demo reel was a bit of a challenge, though.
The first challenge was how to create a story from a purely visual standpoint. It is tough to do, since it limits how the video communicates ideas. The point of the video is not just to show what the Blueprint Video Team can do, but also to help with conversions for people who are searching for a video production company. At first thought I was tempted to just put in the video the shots and scenes from each project we’ve done that I thought looked the best, or were hardest to create from a technical standpoint. I actually created a first draft demo reel which was basically just that. But I quickly learned from my CEO that this is not enough to either tell a good story or help with conversions. So I had to sit back down and rethink my strategy.
After a lot of referencing, I came up with an editing strategy which I think was a lot more effective. It focused on branded shots and project oriented timeline. This helped with guiding the viewer sequentially through the video, and presented them with recognizable material which encourages trust and gives credibility to the Blueprint Video department.
The second challenge was the music. Music is imperative to effectively transitioning between subject matter within a video. Starting a new music track is much the same as beginning a new paragraph. The challenge with composing for this particular video was there was no voiceover to provide distinct switches in subject matter. Again, the story is completely visual. The music for first draft I did was a single track, which lent itself to the visuals in the video but was not itself very inspiring, and set the wrong tone for the video. Again, strategy rethink!
Most demo reel references that I came across, even for big names like V-ray and Patrick Clair, used a single track which simply played throughout the video. I think this works for them because their work is very focused, i.e. just 3D rendering or just trailers and animation. At Blueprint, though, the work we do is very much across the board, encompassing a wide variety of methods and subjects, from broadcast television reality shows to short animated explainer videos and 3D logo animations. I felt I should probably keep to the 1 track strategy, but approach it in such a way as to create good transitions between the different subject matter. I ended up with a mainly orchestral score that had various themes in it, changing to match the pacing of the video and the transitions. It worked out fairly well, but I think it will need more work in the future.
The third challenge was how to maximize the amount of viewable content while keeping the video length reasonable. The first draft had a lot of quick shots, shots that lasted for less than a second. This was a poor tactic, as it was too short to allow the viewer to take the visuals in. This works well for action scenes in the Bourne Trilogy, but not so well when the main point of your video is for people to get an idea of what you can do. What I ended up with, after more strategy rethinking, was a sort of video collage sequence, where I would show a couple full-frame shots of a particular project, and then transition into a shot of several scenes juxtaposed within the same frame. After some tweaking to get the look right, I think this strategy worked out very well for the demo reel.
All in all, the reel will need more work in the future, and of course will constantly be evolving as Blueprint continues to grow and expand and our portfolio becomes more complex and varied.
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