Engineer Show Reel
Monday March 14, 2016 | Lasse Laursen

Show reel's are most commonly associated with directors or actors trying to convince a potential employer that they've got what it takes. But being in academia has slowly had a notion dawn on me. Perhaps I, too, could do well with having a show reel:

In 2014, video apparently accounted for 64% of the worlds web traffic. No surprise really, given how much more efficiently video allows you to communicate a variety of topics. Don't get me wrong, a number of things should definately not be communicated with video. For example, the ninth level of the underworld is undoubtedly reserved for creators behind 3 minute YouTube videos to showcase a 10 second task.

But if you work in a medium where something can be visualized, I would strong suggest using that leverage. Just like resumes, there are a number of useful heuristics I'd recommend you follow if/when putting together your own show reel:

  • Make sure to limit yourself to around 5 minutes or less (ideally 3 or less). Attention is a valuable commodity, and it's preferrable to leave someone wanting more, rather than bored by what's being presented. You'll notice I've crossed the crucial 3 minute threshold myself, but I'll tell you why in a bit.
  • In the best case, your show reel will, just like a resume, focus on the area of work most relevant to the person it's being presented to. However, show reel's don't grow on trees, and I've personally opted for the happy medium of a somewhat broader and longer show reel. For optimal results, I'd edit it down to just the core 2-4 projects that are most relevant.
  • Contrary to directors and actors, you don't need someone to absorb an isolated scene, so I'd advise you to narrate the show reel. Not only does this give you an opportunity to show off your communicative skills, it also gives you an opportunity to highlight the most impressive aspects of your work.

At the end of the day, what it really comes down to - in my opinion - is putting forth more energy, so someone else can save some of theirs. Reading is time consuming, and a show reel can be a good way to quickly and efficiently summarize your previous work. It won't supplant your resume, but if you work with visual projects it can help communicate your work in an expedient manner.

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