How to make a compelling sizzle reel.

A good sizzle reel uses video, audio and careful messaging to show off the best you or your project has to offer. Learn what it takes to put together a reel that catches fire.

Mountain bikers ride along a rough path with mountains in the distance

What is a sizzle reel?

Sizzle reels are short promotional videos also known as demo reels, highlight reels, show reels, promo videos, pitch tapes or teasers. Actors, editors, videographers and other creatives use them to showcase their work. In fact, director and producer Taylor Kavanaugh says that when looking to hire for a project, he considers two things: whether someone is easy to work with and how good their sizzle reel is.


Sizzle reels also help sell TV shows to networks, raise the money to fund films and provide an overview of an exciting new product. In these cases, the reel serves as proof of concept, selling the idea by generating excitement.


How can your reel bring the heat?

No matter what type of reel you’re making, these tips will help you to learn to create a successful one. 


Keep it short.

Traditionally, sizzle reels could be as long as 5 minutes. With the shorter viewing times on social media and so much other enticing content to compete with, expecting someone to watch an entire 5-minute video may be unrealistic. Now the average sizzle reel length is closer to 1–2 minutes.


Consider your audience.

What’s your video’s target audience? For example, if you’re pitching a show, are you trying to sell it to a network or to the prospective audience? “A network executive is going to want to know what demographic you’re trying to reach and who they can get as advertisers. An audience just wants to see the show,” says TV editor Gerry Holtz.


Think about your intended audience and what they’re looking for in your video. Try to answer their questions before they come up. If they’re likely to want numbers and evidence of research, give it to them. If they want quick cuts and energetic music, experiment with those for extra sizzle.

Aerial shot of a person sitting on the edge of a mountain above the clouds

Consider your video’s purpose.

What’s the point of your reel? Is it part of a larger presentation or does it need to stand alone on YouTube or Vimeo? If you’re just trying to set a mood before you launch into the details in person, you don’t need to pack everything into your reel. But if your reel is your resume or your whole pitch, it has to make the case on its own.


That might seem tough to do in 60 seconds, but that’s plenty of time to show off your best stuff. “It’s much better to make it shorter and leave people wanting more than to make it too long,” Kavanaugh says. “Create an emotion. Show that your work is premium, show what you do well and then point somebody to your website where they can dive in more fully.”


Also, when you’re showing off your work, make sure to clearly label the work you did in each snippet. If your expertise is in post-production, don’t let the viewer think you were the director or writer. 


Tell a story.

Narrative is how human beings make sense of the world, so even your sizzle should tell a story. “You want it to be exciting, but you also want to make sure it’s coherent. You want to make sure that at the end, people know what they’ve watched. It’s still got to have a beginning, middle and end,” says Holtz. It should also be clear about what it wants the audience to do.

Climber stepping from rock to rock as they ascend a mountain

Make it look professional.

No matter your speciality, every aspect of your reel should combine sound and visuals that delight. These tutorials might help:


Explore editing tools in Premiere Pro.

Edit your video with precision, include up to three audio tracks and add titles, transitions and colour presets.


Learn how to customise titles.

Make default titles your own by adjusting font style, size, spacing and more in the Edit tab. Create animated titles by choosing a template from the Title panel. You can also search Adobe Stock for thousands of additional motion graphics templates to use in your video.


Discover demo reel best practices.

Learn how to take your video production skills to the next level with this practical Adobe Premiere Pro tutorial.


Once your reel is ready, run it by a few people in your field. Absorb their feedback and make necessary changes. Then, share it on social media and let the likes tell you how much your reel is sizzling.


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