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What kind of reel do you prefer?


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#1 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 03:05 PM

So, I'm currently cutting my new reel and have a bit of a conundrum. I've had four reels since 2008, and I have always separated footage by project and added titles to clearly delineate them. I want to show that while I am capable of creating lots of different looks I can also be consistent in maintaining a chosen look over the course of a project. I'm currently using 9 different projects and the whole piece is 2min 35sec long. Most of them are narrative in nature, with a few commercials in the middle. I'm mostly looking for commercial work at this point, though more features would be great.

I have a commercial director/editor friend helping me who has cut lots of reels and frankly knows the market much better than I. He thinks that this is less important and that it's better to prioritize editorial flow by cutting the projects all together without titles. He also thinks showing cut sequences to get a sense of story and coverage should be for a director's reel, and mostly irrelevant in a DP reel.

I've watched a lot of DP reels lately and checked out both agency and personal sites, and this does seem to be the way everyone does it. However, the top DPs seem to have largely ditched the general reel and favored thumbnail embeds to all of their recent work in its entirety. In which case the latter approach totally makes sense, since anyone interested in consistency of look or coverage style can immediately refer to the finished piece.

Unfortunately, I don't have this luxury as most of the projects on my reel were never released, for internal use, or as yet unfinished. A few finished projects are poorly edited or have had horrible color grading added without my approval before their release. I guess you could say I've been unlucky. But I'm really also just starting out my cinematography career in earnest after working as a 1st AC for 8 years. I don't even have a website yet. So with that in mind, which direction in reel cutting would you advise?
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 05:43 PM

the top DPs seem to have largely ditched the general reel and favored thumbnail embeds to all of their recent work in its entirety

 

This makes sense to me, given that most people will look at it on a website.

 

The problem, as ever, is that you're not dealing with rational people. One of the most important things in camerawork of the type I get the impression we're discussing is consistency. Anyone can light a single setup and make it look reasonable. Maintaining a consistent, per-production look with consistency and without undue compromise to technical quality is the hard part, and I suppose some directors and producers may recognise this. For this reason I've always had very little time for montages set to music. Anyone can pick the good stuff, although I suppose it does establish baseline competence.

 

But then, I'm not the guy making the decision. Perhaps you should ask on a producers' forum.

 

P


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#3 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 09:04 PM

AC Mag did a great article on reels years ago.  They interviewed agents and asked them for their opinions on what they look for. Also DP's and what they usually "think" will work.  I think it was Allen Daviau in the article who wrote that you should post the type of work on your reel that you want to shoot.  Essentially post your favorite stuff and what you like to work on so that you're more likely to get more of that.  Not 100% sure it was him but someone wrote that.  Haha.  I remember it cause it sounded like great advice.  Don't chase trends cause they change all the time and they don't necessarily reflect your own sensibilities.   

 

Not sure about using lower third titles to give descriptions or names of films.  I'd avoid making anyone read while watching the reel.  


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#4 Miguel Angel

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 09:49 AM

I don't like reels and I think that they are quite distracting as everybody can create beautiful single set ups but not everybody can maintain a constant narrative light.

Said that, if I were going to get a reel done I would put the things that I would like to shoot, as Michael said.

If you are looking for commercial work, put together a reel with the type of commercials you would like to get, if you would like to get features, put together a narrative reel with scenes from your narrative projects.

Or even better, get a commercial and a narrative reel separately and put them on your website when you get one
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#5 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 10:23 AM

Said that, if I were going to get a reel done I would put the things that I would like to shoot, as Michael said.

If you are looking for commercial work, put together a reel with the type of commercials you would like to get, 

 

That's true, but difficult when starting out if you don't have that much material to sift through.  As the work builds, building a reel of the type of things you want to shoot will be easier.  Of course I don't know how much you have, so...

 

I prefer DP reels short, like a minute, with only one or two of your best shots from each project.  Get as many of the full projects as you can, (even if it's only one or two things you like.  The more you shoot, the more you can add).  Then build a vimeo page with your reel on top, and the other "labeled" projects below with the best shot in the piece as your thumbnail.  That way people can follow up if they see something they like in the reel, and want to see more.  You can pay for a website down the road, or build one yourself if you're capable, but vimeo is fine until you want to do something more.  Then instead of sending people a link to your reel, you send them a link to your vimeo page with the reel on top.

 

It's good you have your director friend lending you an objective eye.  New DP's sometimes put less than stellar work on their reels, because of how difficult it was to shoot or how big the set up was.  But, no matter how big the shoot was, if it doesn't look great, it shouldn't be on your reel.   ;)

 

Looking forward to seeing it!


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#6 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 01:17 PM

Regarding trends, this is a quote from a director that had been looking for a local LA  DP for a low budget feature he was directing.  Warning, it's harsh, but kinda funny...

 

As I alluded to yesterday, none of the other DP's blew me away. All their reels were the same melange of long lens CU's, tracking shot with some sort of stunt/car-by/gunplay, faux-dreamy hand-held floating focus, FX shot they had nothing to do with, pretty image of clouds they stumbled upon, gratuitous celebrity shot, etc, etc.

 

:lol:


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#7 Miguel Angel

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 02:45 PM

And that's true Justin!

 

If you take a look at the "new cinematographers'" reels you will see a lot of that, pretty single shots with no narrative, as a director I met the other day for a project told me: "Their reels look like a music video". 

 

Give him my phone number :D I have none of that ha!

 

Have a lovely day!


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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 03:12 PM

Thanks for the thoughts, I appreciate it. If anyone would like to offer feedback on the work in progress, my most recent cut is here:



Please PM me for the password, and feel free to leave feedback on the Vimeo page. I'll put up the other version when we get it tighter. Thanks again!
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#9 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 10:59 AM

Cutting a reel is a bit of a nightmare really. Do you blend your narrative work with your commercial work? Do you keep them separate? Is cutting in more complete coverage of scenes a better way to show the capacity to light and lens a scene in full?

 

It's hard.

 

In the end, I decided to keep everything to a single reel (mainly to spare people having to watch two), and intercut shorter shots from commercial work amongst my narrative work (a fair bit of which I edited down to allow me to show continuity of scene coverage where I could (albeit in brief sections).

 

I'm pretty happy with it as an overall strategy, as I feel it's a decent compromise in allowing me to show off a broad range of work and styles, but also show that I can shoot cohesive scenes and not just occasionally get nice shots in isolation. I certainly think it works a bit better in this ADHD age than compiling all the best shots from individual projects and pooling them together.


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#10 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 04:19 AM

Hey mate, I've watched it through a couple of times now and I'm not really digging the combined-clips-from-single-projects approach. There's some really nice work on there, but the format kinda slows down the pacing of the reel a bit (and I think that's the one of the single most important things to try and avoid). I'm also not too keen on the music you've set it to, the track isn't as dramatic as the imagery you'll overlaid it with, so it feels a little out of place.

 

If narrative and commercial work are more of your focus I'd be putting those clips up front (particularly 'Abaddon', 'Goodbye Havana' and the 'Vitaflex' spot, which all look really mint.

 

So yeah, my recommendation would be to recut it to more dramatic music, and try it in a more conventional montage-style, grouping shots that come from the same scenes together, to show continuity of vision where you can.

 

Some really nice stuff Satsuki.


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 10:34 AM

If you want to shoot narrative, then I think the best model for a reel is a movie trailer -- it should remind you of movies you'd like to see, should have some emotional and visual sweep to it.


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#12 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 03:40 PM

If you want to shoot narrative, then I think the best model for a reel is a movie trailer -- it should remind you of movies you'd like to see, should have some emotional and visual sweep to it.

 

And trailers used to have a real impact on me.  Even on films that wound up being horrible.  People knew how to sell the film, but these days, few trailers actually pull me in and make me say "I need to see that in the theater."  The best have a great mix of narrative elements (editing, cinematography, etc.,) mystery & rhythm.  And for me, the music can be the final selling point or the final nail in the coffin.

 

I'd have to say the last one that really did all that for me was The Railway Man.


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#13 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 05:06 PM

Hey mate, I've watched it through a couple of times now and I'm not really digging the combined-clips-from-single-projects approach. There's some really nice work on there, but the format kinda slows down the pacing of the reel a bit (and I think that's the one of the single most important things to try and avoid). I'm also not too keen on the music you've set it to, the track isn't as dramatic as the imagery you'll overlaid it with, so it feels a little out of place.
 
If narrative and commercial work are more of your focus I'd be putting those clips up front (particularly 'Abaddon', 'Goodbye Havana' and the 'Vitaflex' spot, which all look really mint.
 
So yeah, my recommendation would be to recut it to more dramatic music, and try it in a more conventional montage-style, grouping shots that come from the same scenes together, to show continuity of vision where you can.
 
Some really nice stuff Satsuki.


Thanks for the detailed feedback Mark! Yes, I totally agree with you on all counts. The music is definitely being changed, and the current edit structure we are going with is an intro with a mix of eye grabbing shots, then a middle section with grouped shots, ending with a montage flurry. Will be much shorter as well.
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#14 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 05:37 PM

The music is definitely being changed...

 

For what it's worth, I always watch reels with the sound off.  I'm not interested in watching a music video. 


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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 18 July 2015 - 05:47 PM

If you want to shoot narrative, then I think the best model for a reel is a movie trailer -- it should remind you of movies you'd like to see, should have some emotional and visual sweep to it.


That's a good point, thanks David. I thought it might also be interesting to have a sound designer put together an fx mix for the reel instead of traditional music. I have a friend in the sound department on the feature I'm day playing on who might be down, he does a lot of mixing up at Skywalker Sound. Maybe I should add some dramatic voiceover too... ;)
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