3 Things to Look for When Watching a Video Sizzle Reel

By Tim Bradley

At year’s end, most video production houses should be recapping their latest and greatest work into a short video for the world to see. Also known as the “sizzle reel,” this video showcases said video house’s best work and truly provides good insight into the group’s production value, quality, aesthetics, and knowledge in industry. This best-of-the-best video is ultimately edited very intentionally to project or parallel the type/style of video the House wants to be creating in the future, so I’m offering some tips of what to look for when watching a video house’s sizzle reel. If you’re a B2C or B2B content marketer or business in need of a video and researching production houses, keep an eye on these key elements within a sizzle reel:

1. Production Value

A simple quality control check, ask yourself this question: does this look good to me? From drones to jibs and image stabilizers to dollys and sliders, there’s nearly an infinite amount of production gear readily available to video producers to create dynamic video that help craft your story and detail your message. A professional video house should be using ALL of them, and not resting on the laurels of any given one. The sizzle reel should exemplify all facets of production tools and techniques. And two major things that are equally as important as the video quality are the lighting and audio. Lighting sets the tone and mood of the picture so working beyond just natural lighting is important. And many splashy sizzle reels tend to omit audio clips and soundbites, choosing to let the music bed do the talking, but we all know that audio can make or break a video so it’s important to provide examples of professionalism.

After these essential fundamentals, it’s important to dive a little deeper and acknowledge the editing choices and techniques showcased in the sizzle reel. Shot selection in a sizzle reel is important to acknowledge because every video editor should be very deliberate in any video project; each shot should tell it’s own story in some way. In a sizzle reel, each shot should highlight some facet of the video house’s production value: camera movement, framing, lighting, audio, video coverage type, and/or industry knowledge. Lastly, bonus points for advanced editing techniques such as timelapses, transitions, overlays, color grading, motion graphics, animation, etc.

2. Industry Knowledge

In a 1-to-2 minute sizzle reel, there’s plenty of opportunity to showcase one’s expertise in any particular industry. Especially when, to reiterate, the sizzle reel is a video house’s opportunity to present the type of work they want to be doing. As a content marketer, it’s important when reviewing a sizzle reel to note what type(s) of industry said video house has produced work with/for because each has it’s own opportunities and challenges. Primarily working with an industry that’s based mostly outdoors vs. working indoors is probably the most obvious, but others include: product vs. service, people vs. places, and action vs. static.

Working with a creative services group that’s in-house of a PR and social media agency offers a wide berth of industry perspective and knowledge that ultimately translates cross-businesses. Not being stuck in just one industry can open up possibilities for how you look at other projects, and allows for fresh perspectives as well as best practices when creating different types of videos.

3. Story-telling

A video house’s expertise can fall under any number of arenas: company explainers, thought leadership, company or product launches, testimonials, recruitment, lifestyle, event coverage, social media, live broadcasting, etc. And obviously a sizzle-reel is a compilation of many such individual stories. But it’s important that the sizzle reel should tell a story within itself as well. A content marketer should be able to watch the sizzle reel and have a good understanding of the video house’s service offerings as well as the expertise they can bring to the table.

If you’re a content marketer who plans to produce engaging and compelling video, we’d love to brainstorm your ideas. What types of video do you intend to create? Check our Agency Reel: