How to make a showreel: 10 tips and tricks

Showreels are essential for getting your work seen. Learn what they are, which formats and software are best, and more.

Showreel footage

Showreels get your work seen and introduce you to new clients. Let’s take a look at what they are, how long they should be, which formats are best, plus ten tips and tricks.

Today, we’ll cover:

What is a showreel?

A showreel is a short video compilation of your work: a trailer, a teaser, a portfolio, a résumé. Usually, you’d provide a showreel when auditioning for a role or pitching for a client, depending on the situation. Most serious agents, casting directors, and producers don’t accept unsolicited showreels. 

Outside of filmmaking, brands will often create corporate showreels — these can be customer-facing or purely for pitch decks. Showreels are used by everyone from actors to editors, sound designers to animation experts, brands to solo creators.

If you’d like a more visual example, take a look at this Epidemic Sound showreel, which heroes our epic Holiday Essentials playlist. 

Why are showreels so important?

In a nutshell, your showreel is your résumé — some might say it’s more important than your résumé. The latter only tells viewers what you can do, while the former shows them. 

If people are to take your output seriously, they’ll need to see it in action. Unless you’re a household name or have an undeniably viral social media presence, a showreel will contextualize your work and show potential clients or employers that you’re the right fit. 

How long should a showreel be?

Typically, a showreel is between two and three minutes long. This gives you enough time to establish your signature style, show a degree of variation, and wrap the whole thing up without repeating yourself or screening material you don’t rate as your very best. 

Editing footage

Anything longer than three minutes may test your potential client or employer’s patience — they’ll be sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of showreels. Give them the essentials and leave them wanting more. 

What’s the best format for a showreel?

MP4 is a safe bet for showreel submissions, as it’s one of the more popular video formats. That said, it’s worth checking any submission guidelines first — if you’re asked to submit an AVI showreel, you should probably stick to that! If you only need to provide a link to your showreel via YouTube or Vimeo, the format shouldn’t be an issue. 

Need music for your showreel? We’ve got you covered. Check out our catalog of more than 40,000 sound effects and 90,000 sound effects below. 

10 tips on how to make a showreel

Now that we’ve gone through what a showreel is, how long one should be, and which format to use, let’s wrap up with a list of ten tips, tricks, and pointers.

1. Nail the opening titles

You don’t want anything too flashy or distracting, but ‌opening titles naturally need to introduce you, your role, and your work. Play around with something more low-key, like lower thirds or a smaller font size. If the opening titles don’t sit quite right on top of your footage, create a title card before the footage begins. 

2. Figure out which type of showreel you want

Your showreel could encompass an entire career, documenting everything from your first project to your most recent. Alternatively, you could hone in on one particular project, if it complements the job you’re applying for.

Let’s say you’re pitching for work on a cologne campaign. You could include previous work you’ve done in this sector, or even spec ads with stock footage if you don’t have that experience. This is a chance to curate your image and present not just the best, but the right version of yourself.

Editing a showreel

3. Create a script or storyboard

The editing process can be overwhelming. Nightmarish, at times. Take out the trouble with some forward-planning — video scripts and storyboards can streamline your video edit and help you sift through the footage quicker. 

4. Make tough choices when choosing footage

Be brutal. Including clips from your debut short film is a romantic notion, but if it’s not up to the quality of the rest of your work, cut it. Sub-par work will bring down the rest of your showreel — only include the cream of the crop.

In a similar vein, try to compartmentalize. Earlier, we mentioned figuring out which type of showreel you want to make — you might be sitting on a killer shot, but it just doesn’t work in the showreel. And that’s fine. It’s better to scrap irrelevant material than risk it confusing a potential client or employer. 

Shooting footage

5. Bookend with the best clips

Hopefully, all of your footage is strong. If you can’t decide which two clips are the best, go for the two you feel best represent your style, or are the most visually appropriate. Bookend your showreel with these two clips, so the first and last clips people see are the ones you want them to remember. 

6. Include variations

If you’re a cinematographer, you’ll want to include a bunch of different shots; if you’re an actor, you’ll ideally run through a range of genres or emotions; and if you’re a video editor, you’ll probably aim to include a bucketload of smooth transitions, effects, and the like. 

There’s a tightrope to walk here, though. Too few variations might come off as uninteresting or basic, but too many may risk losing your particular style or flare. If you’re struggling, step back from the material and view it objectively. Is it cohesive? Does it look like it came from the same filmmaker? Bring in a fresh pair of eyes if you’re still unsure — that’s what friends, family, and colleagues are for. 

7. Make the edits count

If you’re creating a showreel to land a gig as a video editor, well…do your thing. If you’re not well-versed in the world of cutting, splicing, and overlaying, it’s worth stating here: post-production is just as important as the footage itself. 

Editing showreels

Choose the right video editing software for the job, and treat it as seriously as you would the rest of the filmmaking process. Most people will be more than happy with Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects, but it depends on what type of content you’re creating. If you’re unsure of which software to choose, or even how to use said software, consider consulting or hiring a professional to save you the headache. 

8. Think about text and context

Some showreels use text to explain what each clip is, when it was shot, which client it was for, and so on. Other showreels don’t include any of this — they might be three minutes of free-wheeling visual goodness. Weigh up factors like your showreel’s audience, if they’d need sections contextualized with subtitles, captions, or lower thirds, and make a decision from there. 

9. Bring it home with the closing titles

If you used a title card for the opening titles, use the same template for the closing titles. Include your contact details, social media handles, and, most importantly, any collaborators with whom you made the showreel content.

Editing a showreel

10. Find the perfect soundtrack

Making a showreel is tough. It takes time, effort, and buckets of humility — be prepared to throw out great footage and stick to the essentials. Hopefully, with these tips and tricks, you’ll be on your way to creating pro-level showreels.

Now that you know how to make a showreel, you’ll need to clear any extra media — if you include music, for example, you’ll require a license. Otherwise, if you host your showreel on a platform like YouTube, it could be muted or even removed. Not a great look if you’re trying to win clients! 

So, let us take care of it. Our catalog is high-quality, affordable, and safe. An Epidemic Sound subscription goes beyond royalty-free music, removing the headache of licensing and freeing you up to do what you do best. You can enjoy the safety of our license hand-in-hand with our massive catalog of 40,000 tracks, covering just about every genre you can think of. You’ll also gain unlimited access to our advanced search functions — finding the right sound’s never been easier.

It’s better than royalty-free. It’s worry-free. Get started with Epidemic Sound below and find the perfect music for showreels today.

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