Ask a Recruiter Blog

Ask A Recruiter: Making a Motion Design Reel

Welcome to our Ask a Recruiter Series, where our Creative Talent Representatives answer your burning questions related to job hunting, resume submission, portfolios, and more.

This month, meet Brooks Rowlett! Brooks is a Senior Creative Recruiter based out of our New York City office.

Q: What are your best tips for a video editing portfolio or motion design reel?

A: Be savvy, be specific, and make it pop! Read on for my top tips.

Be Savvy About What Should Be Included

Knowing what your Video Editor portfolio or motion design reel should include and what it shouldn’t might determine whether or not you’ll be considered for a job. The majority of the time, Video Editors want to include motion design examples because they're shiny and catch the eye. Motion Designers, on the other hand, don’t usually include a straight editing reel because it’s often assumed that they know how to edit. Be conscious of what’s appropriate to include based on your experience, and make sure that your portfolio/reel addresses the specifications outlined in your desired job or gig.

Be Specific About What You Worked On

Oftentimes, a candidate’s reel will include visually stunning work in which a team of creatives each played their part. While you should certainly include collaborative projects in your portfolio, be specific about which aspects of the video were handled and managed by you. Clients always ask me what specific role a candidate played in the reels I show them, because it’s unusual that one specific person handles every single aspect of a piece of content. I encourage candidates to make space beside their reel for what their role was in that video project. For example, did you just do the lighting or the rendering or the compositing or the motion, or did you produce the piece soup-to-nuts? Being specific about the work you did will speak highly of your experience level.

Make It Quick

It may go without saying, but most clients don’t have time to sit through a 10-minute video. While you may think that even a four-minute reel showcasing all of your work would be done a disservice if cut down, failing to do so may be the difference between getting serious consideration and being left out of the running. Every market is different, but I always recommend keeping your reel under a minute. If a client watches for 31 seconds, then you’ve already won. I usually advocate for a reel to be no longer than 60-90 seconds.

Make It Pop

Naturally, every editor will try to make their reel stand out from the pack. Music often makes the difference between a reel I remember and a reel I pass on, so rather than just including examples of your work, set that work to music. It doesn’t have to be the most current pop song, but it should be edited so it flows and has an engaging musical catch. Many of the reels I gravitate toward have some catchy musical component to them. If you turn a reel in that is edited to the beat and goes with the flow of your footage, then you’re ahead of the game.

Don’t Use YouTube

While it may be the most popular place to see new video content, YouTube should not be your go-to place for hosting your portfolio or reel. YouTube is an excellent place for building skills and sharing engaging content, but there are more professional places to showcase your work. Vimeo, Squarespace, or even your own personal website would be a better place to professionally connect your clients to you.

Give a Complete Picture of Your Work

It’s important for Video and Motion Design Editors to have both a video reel and a few longer video content pieces within their entire Motion Design or Video Editor portfolios. Think of the reel as a trailer of your creative experience, while the additional video content pieces display the entire movie. You’ll want to include your reel, but you’ll also want to present the individual video pieces that appear within your reel. Have these collections ready to send to clients so they can see you in the best light. Just be sure to curate and pare them down.

Show Your Range

This one can be tricky. On one hand, it’s important to demonstrate a diverse range of industries and projects that you’ve worked on, but on the other, if you are extensively experienced in one area over all others, you will likely want to present yourself as an expert in that area — especially if you’re pursuing more of that kind of work.

For example, if you’ve edited a TV promo or commercial or documentary film, don’t just focus on one of those things. Use them all to show your range. Show the diversity of clients you’ve worked with — the more, the better. You’ll be much more marketable for a wider range of gigs if you decide to include multiple types of clients and projects.

Alternatively, if you have only worked with one type of client and you love working in that area and want to keep doing so, then tailor your reel to that. If you want more fashion work, then primarily include fashion work in your reel. Like sports? Show sports.

Don’t Date It

It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to create a reel that you truly love. Because of this, it’s unlikely that you will create a new reel for each individual client so you should almost never include timestamps or other information that dates the reel. You may have some stellar work in your reel, but if the first frame says 2015, the client will automatically think you haven’t created anything new since 2015. If the work in your reel looks and feels fresh, the date that you created it doesn't matter.

Make Spec Work

Not everything in your reel or portfolio has to be something you produced for a client. If you’re up for a job in which you have no professional experience, but you are confident you can produce the work, then make some spec work and include that in your reel. Many clients ask us if we have motion graphics people for Snapchat or VR, for example. I always encourage candidates to create this type of work if it’s something they think they would be good at or are passionate about. Take a few hours to come up with a few more relevant or tailored pieces so you have something to show the client. For safety, you should always denote that the work has been produced on spec or was a personal project.

Need More Help?

Consider signing up with a staffing agency like Artisan. Working on your portfolio or reel with a Recruiter is a great idea. Send us your stuff! Need someone to help you hire someone with a great reel? We can do that, too.

Apply For Work


vector-brooks (1)Brooks was in Production for almost 10 years before falling in love with the creative staffing industry. During his career, he produced close to 1,000 live episodes of tech-focused webshows, covered several of Steve Jobs’s legendary Apple launch events, logged more hours in virtual reality than The Lawnmower Man, and still thinks his reel is perfect at four minutes and 23 seconds…regardless of what he tells you.

Other Posts You Might Like