Photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, etc. They have a special way for show their work: “Portfolio”. Okay, we have something similar, known as “Demo Reel”.
Sound Designer Kyle Vande Slunt published at the amazing Audio Cookbook “The Guidelines for making a Sound Design Demo Reel” with really interesting tips and things to consider for make a sound design reel.
“The first thing that I discovered was that making a sound design demo reel sucks. Sucks hard. I think its much more difficult to make an audio reel than a visual one. You can’t demonstrate your skills with quick edits of 5 second clips being backed up by a song by your favorite artist. You have to make more considerations in your edits because you’re dealing with audio as well. You also have to show longer clips to let the sound design develop and be heard in context. In my research I noticed a lot of similarities and tried to implement the ideas I liked into mine.”
Here are some simple guidelines to consider for your sound design demo reel:
1. Start off with your best work.
It would be a small victory if a potential employer or client actually viewed your demo reel. Don’t waste any time. Hook them right away. If you start off with a bang, they’ll feel more inclined to keep watching. This doesn’t mean you should put your worst work last. You should still end with something that will stand out in their ears. In my case, my first and last clips are different sections of the same piece of work.
2. Keep it short.
The first edit of my reel was over 7 minutes long. The second edit was 5 and half minutes. My final edit came in just under 4 and half minutes. I’m a sound designer myself and even I was getting bored watching other reels that went over 3 minutes. Imagine what it must be like for an employer who has to sit through hundreds. Don’t waste your time making it any longer than 4 and half minutes. You want as much of your reel to get viewed as possible. If you wanted, you could make a longer version which you can reference at the end of your shorter reel. I was going to do that, but let me tell you how sick I was of working on this thing after the short version was done.
Note: Animation geniuses PIXAR have their own guidelines for aspiring employees. One of them demands that their demo reels not exceed 4 mins. Oddly enough, they turn down the volume and do not listen to ANY audio.
3. Don’t worry about content.
Some sound designers who are just getting started might not have a large collection of work. Don’t sweat it. Use what you have. If your demo reel consists of three 1 minute clips…so be it. It still displays what you’re capable of. Don’t let your lack of content prevent you from making a reel. If you’re worried about not having enough, you can always take a scene from a favorite movie or download a silent film from the internet archive and redo the sound design. A lot of people do this. It’s great for keeping your chops up as well.
4. Label Everything.
One thing I noticed in almost all the reels I watched…every clip was labeled with the designer’s responsibilities. You want to make what you did very clear. You don’t want to be associated for something you haven’t done and you don’t want to look like you’re intentionally being misleading. Labeling everything eliminates all confusion and highlights your abilities.
5. You are more than just a Sound Designer.
If you’re a sound designer you’re almost always an audio editor as well. There is a good chance you’re doing everything sound related on some of your work. Make sure to label things like Foley Artist, Recording Engineer, VO record, ADR, mixing engineer, music editor, and music supervisor to your responsibilities list. These are legit credits…you’ve earned them.
There are 12 steps in total. Visit Audio Cookbok for the complete article.