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Demo Reel Critique


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#1 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 05:48 PM

I know... there is lots of great advice on reels.

But still, something happens when I'm gathering clips, and choosing what goes, what stays. A second opinion is always good for me.
A few pre-emptive thoughts:

• Noteable stuff up front.
• Tried to avoid "dolly" shots. (not actual dolly shots, just ones that could be)
• Tried to include A-> B -> C shots (which sometimes are long)
• It's not as short as I'd like for it to be, but so much of my work is the same (corporate), that I want to remind folks I've been around for a few years. -- But maybe that's not the right thinking.

Reel on Vimeo

Thanks folks.
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#2 Santiago Yniguez

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 09:45 PM

Hey Bryan. Overall, I think its a great reel. My favorite is the push on both the soccer girls...great stops! Your choice of music flows well with your content. In fact, your 1st minute of footage looks ascetically and technically great. It shows that your very comfortable with the rig.

I would actually think about opening up with the soccer shots. You want to catch your potential client's eye right off the bat. I feel that's your most exciting shot. Your opening shot is great, but to be honest, a little boring. Once you catch 'em with a great visual, then you can go into the "walk and talk" slow-mo stuff. The other thing that caught my eye was at about :24sec the focus went out a couple of times. Just something I noticed right off the bat and I think other people will to.

I understand that you do mostly corporate stuff, but I think you could loose the last minute of your reel. Not that its bad....its not, just repetitive. I think keeping your reel at around 2:30 or would suffice.

Hope this helps.

Take care,
Santiago

P.S. Awesome logo on your website
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#3 Ants Martin Vahur

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 07:19 AM

Hi, Bryan!

I noticed you have still the steadicam operators demon called "horizon", many shots seemed to keep tilted slightly to the left horizon wise. I have the same problem with stills photography when I'm in a slightly off the "perfect looking through the viewfinder position".
But of course it's something you shouldn't be afraid of showreel wise. Because directors and producers don't see that. Even some DP-s don't notice it. But I just couldn't help noticing.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be picky but to be helpful. Because I and probably thousands of other steadicam operators fight with the same problem.
What I would search into would be your finger position, in your case on the right hand? Because you operate goofy?
Try different finger positions to see if it works out. I've grown completely keen to the stretched down pinkie position where your pinkie is stretched out all the way to give you better feedback about the rig behavior.

Otherwise you had some really cool stuff. I also looked your short" Thank You" and I think it was done really well. Maybe a bit cheezy for my taste, but I actually liked it.. :)

Hope I was being helpful.
Ants Martin Vahur

You can always "hit me back". :)
It's my third post in 8 years! so hope I'm not braking any rules here.. :)
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#4 Tom Daigon

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 10:43 AM

Hi Bryan:
Stepping out of my "newbie glidecam operator" role into my "veteran editor for 30 years" role I want to say that I think your reel is great. The moves and changing compositions are well executed and if I were asked by the director of a project I was cutting to give my opinion...I would say "Hire that guy!". Nice job.
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#5 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 11:02 AM

Thanks guys for the reply. (I still have more footage yet to come in, but who knows when it will)

My favorite is the push on both the soccer girls...great stops! Your choice of music flows well with your content. In fact, your 1st minute of footage looks ascetically and technically great. It shows that your very comfortable with the rig.

Thanks Santiago. Picking music is always hard for me. I had some popular music in there, but I didn't want the music to be the focus. The Soccer shots were fun.

Your opening shot is great, but to be honest, a little boring.

Agreed. I put those shots in the beginning, because it's the most famous person I have footage of. She's a famous country music star. (I didn't know about her until the shoot, but others seem to know her)

about :24sec the focus went out a couple of times. Just something I noticed right off the bat and I think other people will to.

Yes, another question of mine. The shot I really like. And again it's someone notable (kinda). But if the focus is distracting, maybe I should cut it in half? Or cut it all together? I'd rather keep it.

I think you could loose the last minute of your reel. Not that its bad....its not, just repetitive.

I also agree. I wasn't sure if a shorter reel, with say. 4 or 6 noticeable projects would seem like I didn't work as much. (that seems like a silly statement, and I probably can answer it myself. But I'm seeking other's opinions too)

P.S. Awesome logo on your website

Thanks =)
Ants, Thanks for your comments too.

I noticed you have still the steadicam operators demon called "horizon", many shots seemed to keep tilted slightly to the left horizon wise

NOOO.. ok, you're right. And it's something I'm working on. I'm glad you said something though. It confirms what my subconscious was telling me.

But of course it's something you shouldn't be afraid of showreel wise. Because directors and producers don't see that. Even some DP-s don't notice it. But I just couldn't help noticing.

Well, if it's something you noticed, then someone else will. I did notice that some shots looked off, but the talent looks right. Those were hard for me to judge. Was I wrong? or just compensating for the talent / building / etc.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be picky but to be helpful.

Dude, no problem. =)
Yep, I'm going to start working on that asap. You are right, goofy (how did you know? Website I assume?) I'll grab a practice cage, and work on the GB grip. I actually have a problem dropping my thumb. so that might be the issue.

I also looked your short" Thank You" and I think it was done really well. Maybe a bit cheezy for my taste, but I actually liked it..

Yeah, a bit cheesy is right. That's ok though. It's what the client wanted, and made them cry. (in a good way) Also won a couple of awards. The challenge I had was, the song was so literal. I didn't want to do something that matched completely, but it couldn't be TOTALLY different. I think it went well.

The house we shot in, was TOTALY empty. The attic, the "office" Kitchen, stairway, front porch. Everything you see was brought in by the art director and his asst. (my wife Ame). They had about, 6 days of prep before we shot. So I think they did a great job.

It's my third post in 8 years! so hope I'm not braking any rules here..

I'm just glad my reel encouraged you to post more. I appreciate the input. And I'm sure it helps others too.
Tom: Thanks for the nice words. And it's nice to hear from the editors side too. I certainly enjoy operating (and editing), and need to practice much more than I do.

Ok, off to a meeting. Thanks again everyone.
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#6 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 09:08 AM

So, in prep to remove some of the shots in the reel, what would be the ones you would start pulling first?
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#7 Tom Daigon

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 11:48 AM

So, in prep to remove some of the shots in the reel, what would be the ones you would start pulling first?


There are millions of ways to cut...this is my way to do it...
I would keep most of the scenes just shorten them down to the visuals that show the essence of your skill with motion and composition...
For example in the opening music video I would lose the shot at 11 sec.We have seen it before.
The group walk at :17 doesnt add much for me.
The guitar at :32 also doesn't speak to me .. although I know you timed things so the drums could hit when they do. If I was editing I might edit out a music phrase to shorten the open and allow the drums to happen while
losing these other shots.

The guy coming out of the water at :49 is one I would cut.

The rest seem strong to me. Seconds could be shaved off everything if that was very important to you .I would open with the more dynamic soccer piece and just shove down the music video. I like the shot you ended with because it is a nice demonstration of re-composition and movement over time.

If you really wanted to shorten it dramatically I would first cut the music to length (easily down with this piece) then shorten the scenes more radically. I personally think I would watch this entire reel if I was doing the hiring.
A 3 minute demo reel is a very reasonable length if what you are showing is professional done...and your stuff fits that description.

Edited by Tom Daigon, 13 February 2010 - 11:56 AM.

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#8 PeterAbraham

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 02:53 PM

Tom,
You put a lot of professionalism and thought into this reply. Please stop by our booth at NAB if you are attending this year. I see you're in Vegas but that doesn't mean you'll attend.

I would be delighted to return the gesture you've made here and spend some time with you with some of our rigs. Anyone who regards our efforts with the respect and time you've shown is to be thanked and applauded. So, as a former Steadicam Operator and now Instructor, I thank you for your critique. Good stuff.

Good reel too !!!!

Peter Abraham

Dir. of Technical Services, Steadicam ®
The Tiffen Company

pabraham@tiffen.com
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#9 Tom Daigon

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:16 PM

Tom,
You put a lot of professionalism and thought into this reply. Please stop by our booth at NAB if you are attending this year. I see you're in Vegas but that doesn't mean you'll attend.

I would be delighted to return the gesture you've made here and spend some time with you with some of our rigs. Anyone who regards our efforts with the respect and time you've shown is to be thanked and applauded. So, as a former Steadicam Operator and now Instructor, I thank you for your critique. Good stuff.

Good reel too !!!!

Peter Abraham

Dir. of Technical Services, Steadicam ®
The Tiffen Company

pabraham@tiffen.com


Thanks for the kind words Peter. I will be attending NAB and look forward to meeting you at the booth. My interaction with Bryan is pretty much a professional reflex that kicks in when helping clients with their projects.
And I hope you dont hold the fact that I just bought a Glidecam V-25 / X-45 with a Gold vest against me. ;-) . My heart was really set on an Archer but since the bottom fell out of the local industry I had to be very conservative with my finances. Although its interesting to note the center of my learning process is based around Jerrys book, the old tutorial dvd and this site. Now if I could only swing a cost effective workshop life would be grand.
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#10 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the help Tom,

I'm cutting some things out now.
The choice to lead with Miranda is basically because of my market I'm in. She's famous, so I was hoping that would help. =) And it was shot 2k, a looks a bit brighter. BUT...the shots are pretty vanilla.

The soccer shots were DV format, from a 1 light off of S16, so they're a little lacking in quality / punch. I do like the move, but I am a little nervous to lead with that.

Also, I was trying to place things together, music video, narrative, corporate. And I felt like the music video options were stronger.

Do you think leading with the narrative would be better? then adding Music videos in the middle?

I'm still on the fence about it. I'd love to have other feedback to help get a couple other opinions.
Anyone?

(hey Peter, any thoughts on the reel? ) heh =)
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#11 Tom Daigon

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:46 PM

Thanks for the help Tom,

I'm cutting some things out now.
The choice to lead with Miranda is basically because of my market I'm in. She's famous, so I was hoping that would help. =) And it was shot 2k, a looks a bit brighter. BUT...the shots are pretty vanilla.

The soccer shots were DV format, from a 1 light off of S16, so they're a little lacking in quality / punch. I do like the move, but I am a little nervous to lead with that.

Also, I was trying to place things together, music video, narrative, corporate. And I felt like the music video options were stronger.

Do you think leading with the narrative would be better? then adding Music videos in the middle?

I'm still on the fence about it. I'd love to have other feedback to help get a couple other opinions.
Anyone?

(hey Peter, any thoughts on the reel? ) heh =)


Its always good to know the rationale behind the use. I agree, celebrity and quality are the best reasons to keep the music video where it is. Although I must admit, I was paying so much attention to the shots I did not discern the
groups of shots by category, even though that is evident on the second viewing. On my reels in the past (not on my website) I would stick "mtv type" info lines to communicate category / client / my role (ie editor or compositor or motion graphics). But Im not really sure that is appropriate or necessary with your reel.
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#12 Brian Freesh

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:15 PM

Bryan, good stuff in general, good work.

I've noticed in general that there does not seem to be any one "tried and true" approach to putting together demo reels, it seems to be very much a personal subjective concept to the operator. There are a few general ideas that seem to be more or less agreed on, but I won't presume that my philosophy fits that mold. However, there may be similarities.

That said, my (and only my) opinon:

I like putting "wow" items first as well. I'm of the opinion that it is the job of the first 5-10 seconds of a Reel to engage the viewer, so they are interested enough to watch for the next 20-30 seconds. And it is the job of those 20-30 seconds to engage the viewer enough to be interested for the rest of the Reel. I consider myself lucky if the person I'm applying to watches the first 30 seconds. And frankly, If I haven't sold them already, it doesn't matter if they watch past that. Although, I can't say that I've ever found out how far any of them got.

Famous peeps are probably the best "wow" factor because no matter how awesome or mundane the shot people infer you're of a certain "quality" and that interests them even more in hiring you. I don't recognize the music star at the head of your reel, but if most people will, then I completely agree she should be first! If you find that less than half of people recognize her, maybe move her a few shots in? If you keep her first, I'd not open with the same shot. Use a close up on her and/or the band playing. Seeing her face CU will help recognition, I didn't even look at her until her first close-up! I was looking at the groom in the opening shot. He's on the left, he's taller, and the frame is very bright with him standing out the most in his dark suit. Also, seeing the band earlier, or at least her singing will help connect that she is a music star. Once I saw the band I figured she might be famous and that was why you had her there.

I'd lose the second shot. It's essentially the same as the opening "vanilla" shot, save for you walking the other direction (or the camera pointed the opposite way, depending how you did those shots). It doesn't have anyone famous in it (or does it? Just cause I don't recognize them...) and it's from the same project. Another rule I try to stick to is as little stuff from the same project as possible, unless it's not recognizable as the same. I want people to see that I have lots of experience (whether or not I do). If it's obviously from the same scene/project it better be a unique (to my reel) shot!

Personally, of the shots on your reel I would either open up with the first soccer shot or the retirement home party. The soccer shot has great production value, energy, and it's low mode (unique!) It's an attention getter. The retirement home is one of the two most choreographed shots on your reel (the other being the last shot with the hanging canvases) and shows off the fact that it was shot with a steadicam while not being gimicky and being well executed (though slightly off horizon going through that door! Not enough so that I think anyone hiring you would notice and/or care). That retirement home party is probably my favorite on your reel. That's just me.

As far as "quality" of footage, by the way. Who cares? Seriously. I can't tell that you had a 1k scan of 16mm that then lost more going to MiniDV! Even if it was shot on a GL1, I don't care. If I want to hire you, I'm more interested in YOU (not part of the reel experience) and the quality of your shots. Now, if all you've ever shot on is a GL1, I'll certainly want to make sure you can work with whatever camera I'm using, but I can't imagine anyone caring about the resolution of a reel! Especially one on the internet. More important will be the compression artifacts (which don't seem to be an issue here) and that's really just a presentation issue (or if it's really bad, it does make the shots harder to judge). As far as I can tell, those soccer shots were shot with the same camera and lenses and digitized the same way as the country music star! But that's me. While other operator's might be more discerning, doubtful anyone hiring you will be. How many times have you seen footage recorded off a video tap on someone's reel?

I think you could (and should) cut out at least a minute of footage. At least get it down to 3 minutes. If anyone is still watching at that point, they're probably already sold, and you don't need to waste any more of their time. I have seen much longer reels though, so many may disagree with me. But I usually start getting bored around 3 - 3 1/2 minutes, largely I think due to there not being anything new being shown to me. You have enough repetition in types of shots that I think you could cut out a minute without losing something completely. You'll still have at least one example of every shot on there. After you start the first 10 seconds with the most engaging shots, put the next most engaging shot, and the next. But every time you put another shot down, ask yourself if you've already put in a shot like it. There are, of course, reasons to put similar shots in: another star being a prime example, even just to show another project.

The corporate stuff is overall pretty uninteresting and doesn't really show anything new. However, it's probably important to your clients that you have it in there. I wonder if you should make a separate reel? They will likely not care about country stars and narratives anyway, just as the music video and narrative people won't care about anything else! While this is the way I feel I would do it, I've also only done music videos and narratives (and the one wedding) so maybe I should keep my mouth shut.

But you could probably make two really tight reels if you separated them that way, without sacrificing too much from one category.

The final shot is nice, but the matte box shadow shows up on the back of two of those canvases, that needs to be cut out.

The main thing missing from your reel is something on stairs. Other than that, I'd say focus on the unique stuff and you're golden!

Good luck, looking forward to seeing the next cut!

Always Long Winded,
Brian |-)~
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#13 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 09:17 PM

Brian,

Great words.
Great name.

after tomorrow's deadline I'll finish a 2nd draft edit, and possibly write a reply. Thanks much. =)

Bfo
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#14 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 11:08 PM

Bryan,

Great work. My tuppence:

-at :29 there's a cu shot with a big focus buzz...may be deliberate, but I found it distracting and the shot itself is not compelling enough to overcome the distraction.

-at 2:19, the flight attendant shot, there's a little weave at the end, you could cut out a hair sooner to avoid it

-your lockoffs are inspiring....

-there was something momentarily offputting to me with the opening images from a wedding...until I realized it was a music video. If it was me I would lead with something unambiguously "cinematic", like the kids in the period piece at :40.

Let me know when you're in town again and let's grab lunch.
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#15 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 09:28 AM

Draft number 2

http://www.vimeo.com/9575713

I moved some things around. took out a bunch.
Still left Miranda up front, just because a lot of people that will be seeing this should know who she is. But I imagine that she'll get replaced soon enough.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks again everyone for your comments, long or short. I think it's better because of them.
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