I’ve recently been doing a few talent showreels and was asked to give some advice to an acquaintance with no editing experience how to get her showreel done with another editor.
The resulting email was so detailed I thought it would be a great template for me to send out to anyone thinking of cutting their showreel.
This might also be useful for editors to send to a talent before they cut their reel with you to save them money and you, heartache and frustration. Everybody wins!
- Put your name and contact details very clearly at the start.
- Whoever’s watching might not have the time to watch your showreel to the end and you want to make it easy for them to contact you if they’re impressed enough with the first minute.
Best foot forward
- Following on the point that most people might not watch it through, put your most impressive work first.
- You can start with a montage at the start to highlight the diversity of your work. This is for stuff that shows a different side of you that might not be included with your most impressive work at the start.
How you can save money
- If you are paying by the hour, be organized to save yourself money. Make sure all the editor needs to do once they meet you is to start cutting.
- Convert your footage to an editable video file format. Check with your editor what files he/she needs. They should tell you the file extension(.mov or .avi), and codec (DV-PAL,ProRes, DVCPRO50,IMX,DVCPROHD, etc).
- Ask whether they’re working on a Mac or PC. Provide them with the files on a harddisk. Make sure your harddisk is formatted as NTFS if you’re cutting on a PC and HFS for a Mac. Harddisks formatted as FAT32 can be read and written to on Mac and PC but cannot accept any file larger than 4GB. Video files will get that large easily.
Prepare the assets
- Do the conversion yourself if you can. If we do the conversion for you, we will charge you for the time and harddisk space at our full rate because of our opportunity cost.
- Learn to do it yourself and you can do it on your own time, instead of being charged by the hour to watch a render bar move.
- Before you spend hours converting everything, I recommend that you convert a small file first and send it to your editor to make sure it’s in the right format, and that it can be viewed in real time.
- Having a harddisk also means you can ask for a copy of all the video files and the project file when the project is completed.
Future Proof Yourself
- Negotiate about whether you get to keep the project file before you start, if your editor wants to charge more for handing over the project file, decide if it’s worth it.
- Having the project file will make adding material and recutting your reel easier. I normally give it to clients for free but some editors might not and it is their right to do so.
- Be aware of what Non Linear Editing (NLE) platform the project is being cut in. This could be Avid, Final Cut Pro, Quantel, Vegas, or Premiere
- Translation of project files between different software platforms is not completely seamless and you’d be better off working on the same platform, so make sure the NLE your editor is using is widely available in case you ever need to recut it with someone else.
Give yourself enough time
- Do not assume it will only take a couple of hours. Make no other plans on the day of the edit, and come early, especially if you have never worked with the editor before.
- We have the right to start charging from the appointed time, because we’re turning down work to be available to you at that time.
Have an idea of what you want
- Decide on your structure and sequence in advance. Have a rough duration in mind for each section/part of your showreel and select a music track long enough for it.
- Each definative section of your reel should be accompanied with a music change and a visual transition. Don’t let viewers confuse one piece of work for another because you did not signpost it properly.
Graphics, Effects & Supers
- If you want fancy graphics, bear in mind that it will take time and think carefully about whether it’s even necessary.
- It might make the overall look of the showreel more slick, but it might also distract from the strength of your performance.
- Remember, you’re selling yourself, not the skill of your graphics artist or editor. Also, not every editor will do complex graphics work unless you are willing to pay for it.
- If you insist on complicated graphics, I suggest you do that in advance, before the edit session, so it will be rendered and ready to be inserted when the edit session commences.
- Prepare graphic supers of your contribution to each project (eg Choreographer, Ballet in the Park, Singapore 2008, etc).Better to dig up dates, namecards and flyers for the information before you’re 10 hours into your edit and realize you can’t complete it because you’ve forgotten the name of the project.
- Choose your music before you start. Pick different tempos and have fallback options in case your first choices don’t work.
- If you are going to have upsound (you’re speaking in the video), choose some music without vocals.
Be productive, specific and assertive
- Supervise the editor, let him/her know early on what you want and be clear and decisive about it. If you change your mind, say so immediately, so you can get back on track.
- Don’t be distracted and surf the net or check your emails while the edit is happening. It’s a waste of your money for the editor to spend time polishing up and color correcting a part that you’re going to cut out anyway.
- Listen. You may be in love with a certain piece of work, but if the editor recommends that you leave it out, find out why and decide. Few people get into conflict for its own sake, so there might be a good reason for that.
Pay on time
- We need to eat too. Some editors have been forced to hold the final cut hostage so they can receive payment.
- This is unneccessary, unpleasent, and we don’t enjoy it anymore than you do. Pay us on time and let’s avoid all that.
Any other tips I’ve left out? Feel free to add them in the comments!