Anyone involved in creating moving image work – whether live action, animation, or mixed media – will agree that there’s one job that’s more dreaded and tougher than any other to complete. And it’s not some underfunded job with a squeeze on timelines that you might expect, but the humble showreel.
On the surface, it’s a straightforward task – create a short montage film that showcases your ability to produce inspiring and compelling moving image work. So, you grab your favourite recent pieces, cut them to a punchy soundtrack, slap a logo at the end and Robert’s your mother’s brother.
In reality, it’s a much more nuanced process and often involves equal parts diplomacy and creativity to complete. One of my favourite marketing-isms comes to mind: the job here isn’t to TELL our audience what we can do for them, instead it’s to SHOW them.
The first task is to select which standout pieces of work to feature, which is often the most rewarding part of the process. It offers a rare moment to reflect on the amazing work your team has completed over the last 24 months, after all the late nights and rounds of client feedback have been forgotten.
With that bit of space between you and the delivery deadline, you can watch your work again with fresh eyes.
The trick is to include a range of work, showing a variety of styles and approaches, while ensuring you’re always presenting your highest quality work. A showreel is ultimately a sales tool, not a self-indulgent director’s cut, so tough decisions have to be made. For every project featured in the final edit, another fifteen are left on the cutting room floor.
It’s funny, despite being people who make their living helping clients tell their stories and communicate their brand values through media, we also struggle with the same pitfalls of indecision when it comes to making work for our own company.
As a medium, channel, and platform agnostic agency (we believe in using the best set of tools for each job), our body of work includes live action, traditional 2D animation, and 3D animation work, and so balance is a big consideration when curating our content.
What works for one potential client may be completely irrelevant to another. The main takeaway I want to communicate is that, whichever medium we decide to use (and we have options), the end result will look and sound brilliant.
Selecting a soundtrack for your work can take a lot longer than anticipated. After giving each job its own sonic identity while creating it, it can be odd watching them back in a different context and with a new soundtrack. Slow, considered, dramatic moments have a very different feel when paired with a 160bpm electro dance track.
Finding a track that fits the range of work, but also represents your brand is a tough task. For Harvard jobs, I always find myself gravitating towards 80s-inspired retro electronic music…I’m not entirely sure why yet, but they’re fun and work well.
Once you’ve landed on the key pieces of the puzzle, the final step is to throw it all together. Unfortunately, like all creative exercises, this isn’t as simple as summing the parts together – we aren’t making sausages here.
I think the best showreels reflect the personalities of the companies making them. They can be cheeky and fun, or straight and serious, and the interaction (or lack of) between the visual and audio elements help to reinforce these characteristics.
The feeling of the reel needs to ultimately tie in with the vision and feeling of your company – if you’re a serious company, let that show through your reel. If you’re more irreverent, this is the place to show it. When using a showreel to promote your creative production offering, the medium is very much the message.
Showreels are a snapshot in time – they represent the best bits of work you’ve completed over a particular period. By nature, they’re temporary, and are only as relevant as your most recent piece of work, which means they need to be updated regularly so as to be accurate and effective (otherwise, you’re not putting your figurative best foot forward, and are selling yourself short).
By the time you’ve reached a final edit you can live with, you’ve likely completed newer client work and it’s tempting to start the process all over again. Like all creative work, showreels are never really finished – simply abandoned.
With all that said, showcasing a range of our best, recent moving image work (completed as of 21.08.20), covering a range mediums, styles and approaches, and paired with a funky 80s retro soundtrack, it’s my pleasure to present our most recent Harvard Moving Image Showreel.
If you’ve got a story to tell through moving image, or are looking for creative production support please get in touch with me at Johnny.Brock@Harvard.co.uk