Monthly Archives: March 2012

Demo Reel: Length

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Other Formats

Demo reels vary from the very long, 10 minute reels spanning the entire career of a particular actor to a 30 second peak into the talents of an undiscovered star.  In my quest to create the ultimate demo reel, people are always asking me how much footage is too much and how much is not enough. For example, I had a client bring in a couple of clips in which he didn’t have more than one line and he wanted to put something together. As you can imagine, this was very difficult but we got a little reel together very quickly and it allowed him to at least get his name out there in cyberspace. The main thing is to start somewhere and build from there. The idea is that he will hopefully come back with another clip to add which will open the doors to future opportunities. The other side of the coin is an actor I worked with about a year ago. He has been working since the 80’s and things have tapered off for him as of late and he’s got a regular job now but he wanted to revamp his old reel to see if he could spark some interest. He had some good stuff but most of it was very grainy, having been transferred to VHS at some point but he had many good qualities and rolls that it was easy for me to showcase. We decided to put his best foot forward but in the end he refused to cut the final segment which was a 15 minute solo performance. The main rule is that you’ve got to leave them wanting more, rather than having had enough. Does it hurt his chances of getting cast on television? Perhaps it does because a casting director may see this and think, “Boy, that’s just not professional.” It would be clear to anyone that this was mainly for the vanity of the actor and I think it’s important to keep it short and sweet and get out with a bang!

Super 8 Film Transfers

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8mm Film

I handle a lot of film transfers to digital file as well as DVD. It turns out that there’s a lot of people out there who’s relatives got into the home movie craze early in the game. The first thing to figure out when you’re looking at having the footage transferred is, how much is this going to cost me? Most people have no idea. The figure out cost we have to figure out the amount of footage or minutes of footage. Most people have the little 3 inch diameter reels. These tend to be 4 minutes for super 8 and 5 minutes for regular 8mm film.  The larges reels are the 400 footers. These can hold up to 33 minutes of footage. There are also 200 foot reels and 300 foot reels which can be figured my multiples of the 50 foot reels. The next thing to figure out is if you want digital files or DVDs. If you’re just using the for home viewing, DVD is probably the way to go. If you want to add music or titles or put the footage in any particular order, then you’re going to want to edit. For editing, you’ll need the files. A file is a single, self-contained clip of the footage. It could be an hour long or a second long. The main idea is that you can edit with a file whereas a DVD requires an extra step in order to edit. Also, a DVD is signifigantly lower in quality to a file, which can be no loss at all.
Another thing that comes up all the times is, I hear people saying, “I don’t even know what’s on it,” or “I don’t even think the footage will look good. It’s so old.” If I’ve learned anything, it’s that old film footage is so much better than any old VHS or Hi8 tape you have laying around. The resolution is incredible. The amateur photographs of yesteryear also didn’t let the film run on and on and most are very careful to capture only the most important moments due to the fact that they only have a 5 minute reel. The psychology is different. In the 80s you could run a VHS tape for 8 hours and just turn it on and walk away. In the years of Super8 and regular 8, that simply wasn’t the case. Nearly all the most interesting footage I see on a daily basis is this old film footage which tends to keep really well, even if it’s not stored properly. The idea is to keep it out of the direct sunlight, heat or moisture.

Demo Editing: Funeral

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Death his part of life and when a loved one passes, often a commemorative video is a nice way to remember them. As an editor, I have done my fair share of memorial videos for those who have passed on. And even though I am clinical and precise with my keystrokes, many is the video that has tugged at my heart strings. A couple of years back I made the first one for a man who had lost his mother. The idea was to scan a bunch of old photos from decades ago and to put together a montage of photos with beautiful music from the era laid down underneath. We also added titles at the end and the beginning and it was used at her funeral. I did not attend but I felt as if I knew her by the time we were done with the edit. These videos tend to show how meaningful the small moments that make up our lives can be. I also had a friend pass away and some of my friends contributed video footage and I made a memorial video for him, which included photos as well as some video, which I chose to send through a heart wrenching slow motion filter. That one still makes me cry. For another woman, her mother liked to make a production of life and so too in death. We ended up making a one-hour document of the even. We filmed all of the eulogies and parting words from her friends and family. So perhaps death is not the end. Perhaps our loved ones can live on in our hearts and our minds and on the screens that display the moments that are not lost forever.

Updating your Demo Reel

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The Web Surfer

I edit demo reels on a daily basis for actors and actresses in the Hollywood area and I’ve been doing it for a few years now. A common question that performers want to know, is how often should I be updating my demo reel? There are several answers but the best one is probably a simple, every six months. Why is that? It seems quite often, right? The fact is, that in this fast paced environment, the glamour and the glitz, one thing truly holds sway and that commodity is called “current.” Casting directors want fresh talent. Directors want the next big thing and there is constant turn over in the business of entertainment and it’s up to the entertainers to keep their video resume current. This could also mean updating your reel every time you have new footage. By all means, there’s no need to update a reel if you don’t have anything new, unless a manager or Producer or somebody requests a re-cut of your material based on the part you’re auditioning for. In fact, this happens quite often. I also do a lot of reels designed for a specific roll or for audition tapes that need to be sent across the country. In the modern age, air travel is expensive and we help people every day get their faces on a screen in front of powerful people who have the ability to bring an actor out of obscurity and into the public eye.

Demo Reel Editing: Montage

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I help a ton of actors with their demo reel editing and sometimes the question of Montage comes up. In fact recently, a beautiful young starlet came into my office with some really amazing footage. She had a bunch of poetic imagery and a song. In fact she had it all planned out and when we put it to the test, we came up with something really like a tone poem. Sure it was only about the first 20 seconds of her reel but it ended up like a commercial for a mysterious perfume. Another actor I worked with was all about action and guns and manly muscle. We put down some heavy riffing guitar based music and cut together about 30 seconds of good old fashioned ass kicking imagery at the beginning of his reel. The footage spanned his entire career and it was quite impressive. Most actors don’t want to do this kind of montage sequence because they really want to just get down to brass tax and start showing that they can deliver lines with power and grace. In the end, there’s no wrong way to structure the reel. The main thing is to keep it interesting. Of course you’ll watch your reel over and over again but the question is, will anybody else? That’s why it’s important to keep it creative, keep it fresh and keep it moving.

Video Sharing

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The Emailer

As a video editor with Advanced Media LLC for the past 3 years I have had many clients wanting to share their videos with friends, family and business associates. In this modern world, there are many ways to do this now. I feel that the best solution in most cases is to upload your content to a website. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, sites like Vimeo and Youtube will host your video and you can set them to private if you wish to control who views them. The reason that this is probably the best way to share is due to file size limitations set on emails. Most email services such as Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail have a strict 25MB limit on attachments. That means your video will have to be resized and reformatted in order to fit. This has the effect of diminishing the quality of your video. With Vimeo and Youtube, the limits are set at a much more reasonable amount of data. Also, you can still email the video by simply cutting and pasting the link into the body of your email. It’s very easy and free for the most part to sign up for either of these sites. The other option would be a website like or dropbox. These sites do generally cost money and the upload and download times can be lengthy depending on the size of the file. In many professional cases, these do tend to be the best solution so I wouldn’t rule them out but for most of my clients, uploading to a website is the answer to sharing your video with others.

DVD Duplication

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As the Office Manager of a media company in Hollywood, one of my jobs is to help people with DVD duplication. The first thing to understand about the process is that a duplicate will look exactly like the original. No content is added or removed from the disc at all. Therefore this process does not involve editing and that’s why it tends to be a very affordable service. I just put the master in the top of the duplicating tower and load the blank DVDs underneath. The tower does the rest. We also use inkjet printable discs so I can print any text a customer wants right on the disc. There are no labels to attaché or to peel. We can also print an image on the disc with some very high quality results. The only drawback to using ink can be if you want to use a full color image to cover the entire disc. In this case, I can recommend thermal printing which involves heat to print on the disc. These thermal prints tend to have a more durable finish. The ink can smear if it gets wet where as the thermal will not. Also, the thermal disc has a more shiny finish which some people prefer. Thermal printing is only offered for orders of 100 or more because the process of creating the label is labor intensive. Some people also request large quantities of 1000 or more DVDs or CDs. The process we use is completely different in this case. Rather than duplicating the discs, we would replicate the discs. Replication is how consumer DVDs that you would get of a professionally made disc are made. The process involves the creation of a glass master and it only works for orders of 1000 or more. This process also dramatically reduces the price of each disc.

Demo Reels – Length vs. Quality

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As the demo reel editor at Advanced Media LLC, I encounter a great number of actors and actresses concerned with putting the best possible version of themselves out there in order to get highly sought after parts in television and film. Last night I was working with a new client who had quite a bit of material from various tv shows and movies. In fact, there was too much footage and we wanted to get this thing in under 4 minutes if possible. I think the idea here is that in all likelihood, a casting director is going to spend as little time as possible with each reel in order to comb through the many possible candidates. So in order to keep the reel short enough, we came up with the solution of just cutting short scenes and including mostly dialogue and close up shots. This had the effect of showcasing a number of different looks and characters. It also show how the actor has been in a lot of quality shows. He’s versatile, opening him up for more possible roles in the long run. Also, I think we have to understand that the casting directors are most likely very good at what they do, otherwise they would be out of work. Ultimately, the decision is out of our hands and it is our job to simply shed a little light on your unique talents as a performer.