As creatives we all know having a showreel is important, it’s like a taster menu at a restaurant.

a sound design reel is not as straight forward as you first think. 

Building your first reel can seem pretty daunting… I don’t have any content’ or I can’t get it to flow are both statements I commonly hear. So lets start with the first one.

Get some content

If you’re building your first reel there’s nothing wrong with using existing footage, film trailer, animation whatever it may be, removing the audio and replacing it with your own. As someone who has worked in the audio industry for many years I’ve had a lot of reels sent to me. When advertising an entry level job role I far prefer a reel that is a well thought out collection of re-designed audio that flows well rather than a few minutes of clips butted up to each other with fade in/out audio.

Build up your story

Which brings me neatly onto length. I’ll be straight up here, for me two minutes is borderline too much.

One to two minutes of interesting content feels right, remember, this is the internet, attention threshold is low

It’s up to you how you want to fill that time, lots of short clips, two or three longer ones, but as a quick research project sit there and count to 30, it gets pretty boring right? So I would tend to favour the snappier edits.

Useful examples

Here’s an example of a REALLY good audio reel:

Just take a few watches through this, you’ll notice how short each clip is, yet within the reel you get to hear sections of music orchestral and electronic, just sound design, foley, transitions and lots more. Of course these people have a huge portfolio of work to tap into but the audio has been build specifically for this reel which is more my point.

And here’s an example of a reel where the sound designer has used existing visual content and replaced the audio:

Overall I think it could be a little snappier, shorten the clips to just the action to keep things moving but it is a good example of how to make things flow. If you are using this approach then make sure you credit the original footage and make it clear that you used no original audio. And bear in mind that if you are building your reel from scratch with no existing portfolio work to put in it, you are actually in a far more exciting position than someone who is trying to place existing work into a reel. You can hand pick what visual content you want and craft a perfectly integrated piece of audio, transitioning between the visual content.

Getting yourself out there

So now you have your reel you want people to see it.

There’s a fine line between getting yourself out there and spamming, you want to be in the first of those two groups

Good places to start are the groups on Vimeo. Some you can add straight to and others will require approval from a group administrator. There’s Youtube, although you will be fighting the tidal wave of daily content uploaded. You can also have your reel on your LinkedIn profile, being actively engaged in some of the many groups on there will have a knock on effect of people viewing your profile and reel.

Conclusion

To summarise, don’t be put off if you don’t have your own content yet, everyone started at this point. Borrow the visual content you think fits your style and make sure you credit it properly. Keep it snappy 1:30 – 2 minutes and take your time to make sure it flows nicely. Once a potential employer sees your reel it can’t be unseen. 

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If you have any questions or would like to talk more specifically about your own reel please visit Groundbird/feedback for more details. Or put in my email feedback@groundbird.tv, which ever option you feel will yield the least amount of spam;)

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Andy Thomson

Andy Thomson

Sound Designer/ Career Service Advisor at GroundBIRD
Andy is a Sheffield based sound designer.  Having managed music licensing companies, been at the head of record labels and toured with theatre shows he now runs GroundBIRD, a studio producing sound design for animation.  With wide ranging experiences across the audio industry he has a real passion for helping others get a start and dishing out advice, whether you want it or not...
Andy Thomson

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi there!

    Please do not use the term “sound guy” to describe the profession of sound designer. This term is harmful to the female and non-binary population of our industry. It spreads the misconception that audio is something only male identifying people are into. At every convention, every meetup, every gathering of audio people this is a topic and this practice needs to stop.

    Thank you <3

    On topic now: I highly recommend checking out "Reel Talk" by Kevin Regamy and Matthew Martinsson. Every week they take a look at submitted reels and portfolios and give incredibly contructive feeback for sound people over at https://go.twitch.tv/powerupaudio

    love Chris

  2. Backing Chris here, very good point,
    and indeed PowerUpAudio’s Reel Talk is really worth checking out.

  3. The title has been changed, we owe you a big apology here. We did not mean to offend or discriminate anyone, we’re incredibly happy to have so many female colleagues working in the industry nowadays and it’s not our intention to discriminate them.
    Thanks for the constructive comments below and sorry once again.
    Fabio, sounDesign

Comments are closed.