How to Build a Video Highlight Reel

Written by Michael Axinn

Here are a few do's and don'ts to enable video producers to create a compelling highlight reel to show clients.

What is a video highlight reel?

A highlight reel is a compilation of clips from the videos you've produced that best represents the work for which you expect to be hired. For video producers it is the most efficient way to promote your work and allows prospective clients to quickly assess your capabilities.featured video

Dont try to squeeze in all your video examples

Rather than approach the highlight reel as a comprehensive survey of all the work you've done, you should be looking to convey exactly how you want to be perceived. Clients should be able to assess your strengths and determine whether the video styles you've included match their own requirements. Avoid the tempation to include items just because they represent something you did once or twice.

Your video reel should stand on its own

While you do want to include a range of strong work, your reel will judged as much for its own merits as for the work it includes. Stitching together a group of strong but disjointed examples will make for an uneven viewing experience. Keep your examples brief and find connections between the various clips. Work within an overarching visual narrative such as sunrise to sunset while weaving subtle connections as you go from shot to shot. Consider using a single piece of music to unify the video as whole.

Include only high quality footage

Begin by assembling all of the videos you've produced in a dedicated editing session. As you edit them into a timeline, choose only the most impressive moments from the most impressive videos. As with any video, your choice will also be dicated by the context and suitability of the example to that particular moment. The highlight reel should create a context to allow extraordinary camerawork, lighting, acting, writing and motion graphics to shine even brighter. Include only as much as you need to get the point across. Better to be brief and leave your audience wanting a bit more.

Remember the Rule of Six for editing

The great film editor, sound designer and theorist Walter Murch devised a simple formula for editing in his book "In the Blink of An Eye." Of those six rules–emotion, story, rhythm, eye trace, 2D plane of screen, and 3D space–emotion is by far the most important. Emotion can be read in the actor or video subject's eyes as they make a point. It may also be contained in camera movement or the way light hits a tree. The specific frame you choose to cut at will carry that emotion forward, so choose wisely. "The ideal cut," says Murch, "is one that satisfies all the following six criteria at once.”

Dig down to your source audio

If you've assembled your clips from completed videos you may find that the dialogue from these clips is "married" to the music you used originally, which may not fit with the other clips or the music you've chosen for your highlight reel. To remedy this you will need to access the original "discrete" dialogue without music from your previous edit sessions. These clips should then be equalized and matched in level to the other clips then mixed against your highlight reel music.

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