Sizzle Reels are essential marketing tools for both freelancers and production companies in the video industry. A sizzle reel provides the first impression of the personality, skill level, and range of experience of a video professional. Understanding what your reel says to viewers is the first step towards expanding your client base.
The purpose of a sizzle reel is to demonstrate your abilities, so that you can secure job opportunities. So consider, what kind of job are you aiming for? If you are putting together a reel for camera operation, you should choose the best shots from your projects, putting less weight on context, the project’s success, or storyline. You want the viewer to walk away confident that you can film a great looking shot. If you are an editor, you want to make sure that you are including some context, cuts and possibly special effect shots. The edit for the sizzle reel will also speak for your skills. You may want to have a couple of separate links available with examples of complete projects you have edited as well for reference. However, I do not suggest creating a sizzle reel that is a series of completed spots. Instead, use your sizzle reel as an introduction to your other work, so that your viewer is curious enough to watch your other videos.
Also consider where you plan on applying for jobs. For example, animation houses often look for bare-bones reels which show the animation with no music or other graphics. While other post production houses, companies, or individuals looking for animators may look at a bare-bones reel and think that it is unfinished. Make sure that you are creating a reel which fits the expectations of the people that you will be submitting it to. Don’t be afraid to call the company and ask them what they like to see in a sizzle reel. You may be surprised by some of the answers!
Viewers watch their sizzle reel, because they want to know more about you, so make sure that you include a hint of your personality. The most obvious personal touch is your music choice. You should choose a song that you think is cool or represents your personality. It should have enough of a beat to stay entertaining for the viewer. (Having a good beat also keeps you from having to stay on a single clip for too long.) In general, try to avoid songs which are current hits or have strong pop connotations. You want your song choice to support your clip choice, not distract the viewer with other thoughts about the song. If you include any graphic elements, (even using a basic title tool) take the opportunity to add a little style to it. A default font against a black screen is personality-less.
In addition to the considerations I mentioned earlier, song length, the number of shots you want to include and variety should also be taken into account. Most songs are under three minutes in length. If you have enough great quality work, a good rule of thumb is to cover the entirety of a standard length song. However, if you find yourself running short of good shoots to include, do NOT just keep adding shots! Instead, edit the song to make it shorter, or select a different song. A thirty second sizzle reel containing great shots is much more impressive than a three minute video full of mediocre shots. Unless you are creating a sizzle reel for a very specific job, you should try to include as great a variety of projects as possible. Production companies want to know if you can handle interviews, creative concepts, graphics, or special effects. We want to know any/all of your industry talents!
If you are not in the video industry, a sizzle reel is still worth considering as a marketing tool. The sizzle reel format provides information in a fast, effective manner and you may find that entertaining your prospects is a great way to gain access to new opportunities! Check out Frozen Fire’s 2013 Demo Reel and take a look at what others are doing to draw attention to their work. You’ll get some great ideas and have fun the process!
By Liz Johnston
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