Do video journalists need showreels? While I don’t know the answer to this question, for the past two years I’ve gone with —yes. However, the science of creating a (show)reel is seemingly far more complicated than one might believe.
Showreels have traditionally been made by cameraman, DP’s and those of us in the photography industry that find themselves on the film side of things. However, as I explained recently, video journalists, cinematic news photographers and documentary makers are certainly in a gray area between film and traditional video journalism.
When DP’s, directors and producers need cameramen its normal for them to request to see a reel. Since going freelance, I’ve had weekly requests for these from various people around China. However, it would not be so normal for a newspaper or magazine to ask to see a reel. So if you work in news photography, why would you make one and what are the challenges?
WHY: With converging media, its certainly becoming easier for photographers to jump from one industry to another. If you can film a news clip, chances are you might be useful as a cameraman in motion picture or documentary. So having this tool together is useful when someone is in your office asking for it.
WHAT: Now comes the tricky part — what do you put in your reel? I’ve found this tricky because it really depends on who you are showing it to. In many ways, this creates the possible need for more than one reel. You might have one to show documentary makers and another for a commercial client. Further more, you might need another one to show your ability with motion graphics or post production work. If your video has too much post production, it might reflect negatively if the inquiry is for documentary where the look is supposed to be more natural.
While last year I was doing much more still photography, the product became more of a photography show with small video clips embedded. This year I’ve been much more focused in video production and created the entire film with just video. If you notice, the footage kind of shows a cultural and developing world theme. I tried to add some clips of people from different countries to show a larger demographic of who I work with (westerners, developing world peoples and indigenous peoples). However, does this peg me or ‘type cast’ me? And if it does, am I ok with that since this is the type of work I want to be doing? I’ll ponder those questions and get back to you …
SEQUENCE: If you’ve figured out which content you want to include in your reel, you next need to decide how to order it. Since its mixed footage and in many ways simply eye candy — putting the images in an order that logically makes sense might be different for everyone. I’ve been trying to make mini sequences that flow together from one to the next. However, the logic behind these sequences and the order in which they appear is quite subjective. Trying to find logic in this can be difficult.
SOUND: Music is another tricky part. The song I used this year from Hanggai I personally love. However, its pretty distinct and different than what most chose.
Most of my friends’ reels and reels I see online use relatively ambient electronic music. By doing this you certainly push the focus to your images. For me however, I’m involved in production and photography. So I wanted the music and images to compliment each other in making a self contained visual demo of what type of imagery and films I’m interested in producing.
If one does chose this route, you become a bit a risk of offending someone (musically). While I like Hanggai, I can certainly imagine someone not liking it. So by choosing something more subtle, you might be a little more safe of not offending anyone.
I however, aren’t really trying to be subtile with my images. I prefer high impact images. But, this is certainly a style thing as well as a time-and-place thing.
NEVER ENDING FOOTAGE: Perhaps the most difficult thing is trying to figure out when it is done. I’m always creating new images and therefor, feel like I can always replace images with better images. In many ways, this means — you are never done. The images keep coming. So I think its always a work in progress. The version above is a third draft and I have a fourth draft in the works already.
If you’re interested — comparing last years reel to this years I think it shows a larger change in my visual direction and a bigger push towards video production. But for a quick look at 2010 – check out this video in still photography form.