Camera, Light, Projector and Sound Rental in Milwaukee & Chicago

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  1. Choosing a Lens 101

    If you’ve never used a detachable-lens camera like a DSLR or mirrorless camera before, the prospect of choosing lenses can be a bit intimidating.  There are some alright guides online for still shooters, but we felt we needed to write something specifically for people shooting video.  Here’s the quick-and-dirty overview of what you need to know before you pick a lens or set of lenses, whether it’s to rent, borrow, or buy.

    Lens Mounts

    The camera and the lens need to make a physical connection and an optical one.  If you use a lens and a camera that share the same mount, this is usually pretty easy.  The three most common categories of lens mounts in the video world are EF (Canon), F (Nikon) and PL (cinema cameras), but you’ll see others like Sony’s Alpha/NEX/E-mount, micro 4/3 (MFT) mounts, and more, too.  Frequently, you can use an adapter to connect one type of mount to another, but it can be kludgy and often you’ll lose any electronic features built into the lens, like autofocus or vignette correction.  And often, adapters will only work in one direction.  This is because of the imaging area of the lens.

    Each lens creates a circle of the image it is capturing inside the camera.  Some lenses have a very large image circle.  These are usually more expensive and heavier.  They can be adapted more easily to almost any mount.  Some lenses have a smaller imaging area.  These are usually more affordable and lightweight, but can’t be used on a larger image sensor.  This is the reason EF lenses (approx. 43mm imaging area diameter) can be used on crop-factor cameras like the T5i (approx. 30mm sensor diagonal), but EF-S lenses can’t be used on fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D mark III.  This holds true for Nikon lenses (called DX) and some other third-party lens manufacturers, too.

    If all your cameras have the same imaging area, it’s a non-issue.  If you have different sensor sizes, it may make sense to buy for the biggest sensor, since you may be able to adapt your lenses to fit the smaller sensor.  Or buy a separate set of lenses for each of your different camera mounts, if you don’t mind carrying around all that extra glass.  For beginners, definitely start with a mount that matches your camera.  You’ll have plenty of time to experiment with odd mountings later in your career!

    vintage-lens-ad

    Not all vintage lenses are great lenses. This Tamron would be pretty slow by today’s standards.

    Lens Length

    Wide lens.  Long lens.  Normal lens.  Telephoto lens.  These all have meanings, and they all depend not just on the lens itself, but on the camera and imaging sensor they are designed to be paired with.  A “normal” lens is one that gives a field-of-view similar to what we see with our eyes.  We measure lens focal length in millimeters.  What tends to look normal is a focal length approximately the same as the diameter of the imaging area (the diagonal measurement of the camera sensor).  Fullframe cameras like the Canon 5D and 6D are often paired with a 50mm lens when the shooter wants a natural sense of depth and dimension.  Crop factor cameras have a smaller sensor, so the measurement of “normal” will be smaller, too.  On a APS-C sized sensor as found in lots of DSLRs (T2i, T3i, T4i, T5i, T6s, 7D, just to name a few) a 35mm lens will look about normal in most cases.

    Normal lenses, because they are doing “normal” things with light, tend to be the easiest to engineer.  This is why the $300 50mm Canon f/1.4 lens can look amazing, but nobody makes a 300mm f/1.4 at any price.

    Usually a photographer’s first lens is a zoom lens, this means it has variable focal length.  A lens that does not zoom is called a prime lens.  Prime lenses are easier to engineer than zoom lenses, so they tend to be less expensive, smaller, lighter, and of significantly higher image quality.  If you have time to switch lenses, or a team of people to help you, you’ll almost always want primes.  If you need to compose your shots on-the-fly, and don’t have time to dig through a set of 5 different lenses for the right one, a zoom might be the best choice.  Historically, zooms have been favored for 35mm photo and television, while primes have been used more for motion pictures and large-format photography.

    A wide lens is a lens that has a smaller focal length than whatever “normal” is, depending on the camera.  So on my Canon 6D, a 35mm lens is a wide lens, but on my Canon T5i, it’s a normal lens.  A wide lens tends to exaggerate space and perspective.

    A long lens (also called telephoto lens) has a focal length greater than normal.  Some lenses go much beyond normal, and are called super-telephoto lenses.  A long lens tends to compress space and minimize distance.

    A perfect bag of lenses would have all your focal lengths covered.  When I shoot with the Canon 5DmkII, I usually have a 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 105mm in my bag.  That way I know I can get just about any shot I want.  I usually only shoot with a zoom lens if I know I need to cover a lot of different kinds of action at the same time.

    Lens Speed

    If you don’t know the difference between stops and f-stops, take a moment to read our guide.  Once you have an understanding of how f-stops work, you can start to compare lenses.

    As far as we’re concerned, any lens with a maximum aperture of about f/2.0 or faster is a fast lens.  f/2.8 is right in the middle.  Anything slower is a pretty slow lens.  All other things being equal, faster is better.  But there are plenty of times when we’re shooting with an f/4 lens, too.  It’s just a question of what lens is right for the job.

    If you’re shooting outside during the day, you won’t need a fast lens.  Fast lenses really pay off at night, or in interiors.  They are also great for interviews, and any time we want that “background-out-of-focus” look we call shallow depth of field.  I find I can usually shoot people by streetlight with a f/1.4 lens on a fullframe camera.  Even campfire shots are a possibility.

    Lens speed is one of the places where prime and zoom lenses really start to diverge.  As an example, Canon’s 24-105mm f/4L zoom lens is top-of-the-line, and costs about $1000.  But Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is less than half the price, and three stops faster!  If you’re shooting indoors, that extra light can be a huge help.

    Image Stabilization

    Image stabilization is an option on some lenses made for DSLRs.  It tends to be used by people shooting in the style of television as opposed to the style of film, since video cameras have supported some kind of image stabilization for more than a decade.  Canon’s lenses that support it are marked IS, Nikon’s are marked VR (for Vibration Reduction), and others are marked VC (for Vibration Compensation).  As a video shooter, you’ll only want to turn it on if you’re shooting handheld or shoulder-mounted.  Almost all image-stabilizing lenses are zoom lenses, with notable exception.  There are different kinds of image stabilization, and some very high-end lenses will support two or more different IS modes.

    If you do a lot of run-and-gun shooting, a zoom lens with image stabilization might be a good choice for you.  But if you tend to do most of your work on a tripod, you’re better off taking something with extra speed or other features you might need.

    These are the four easy-to-compare differences between lenses.  Of course, we haven’t even touched on image quality, build quality, close-focus ability, or other important factors.   We also didn’t mention autofocus at all, but that’s because for video shooters on DSLRs, manual focus is pretty much the only way to shoot, for now.  How do you choose a lens?  Let us know in the comments below.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  2. Stops, F-stops, and Lens Speed – Exposure for Video

    This is part one in our “Exposure for Video” series

    When shooters talk about speed, they’re really talking about light.  Light is measured in stops.  If lens A lets in twice as much light as lens B, lens A is one stop faster than lens B.  If it lets in four times as much light, it’s two stops faster.  So, if we “stop up” or “open up” we are adding more light and if we “stop down” or “close down”  we are taking light away (relative to where we started).  All lenses have a maximum aperture (also called iris size or f-stop), but can be stopped down to reduce the amount of light coming in.

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea

    Photo: flickr/sodaniechea
    In some images, you can actually see the iris in the photograph. Here, you can tell the iris has six sides, making hexagon-shaped lens flares.

    Lens speeds are measured in f-stops.  Don’t confuse a stop with an f-stop.  A stop is half or double a certain amount of light.  An f-stop is the measurement of the diameter of the iris in the lens.  They are related, but not the same.  I’m going to explain this with some math, please bear with me.  If you can commit it to memory, you’ll be halfway to being a professional shooter.  If it bends your brain too much, just skip to the chart and try to memorize the pattern.

    The F-stop is a ratio that measures the iris diameter relative to the focal length f.  That’s why it’s represented as a fraction, f/x.

    The cool thing about exposure is that as long as f is a constant, it doesn’t matter what it is. We can ignore it for this example, just remember that the number we’re focusing on is the denominator in a fraction, so a bigger denominator is actually a smaller number.

    If I double the diameter of a circle, the area of a circle will become four times as large (remember that πr² equation from geometry class?).  So if I double the diameter of the iris by going from f/8 to f/4, the iris gets four times bigger, and will let in four times as much light.  Four times the light… that’s two stops (because 4=2×2).  Eight times the light?  That would be three stops brighter.  One sixteenth the light?  Four stops darker.

    Now, as promised, the chart of f-stops:

     

    <--Opening up            Stopping down -->
     .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    f/1           f/2           f/4           f/8
          f/1.4         f/2.8         f/5.6
    
    

    What does it mean?  It means that there is a one-stop difference between f/1 and f/1.4.  There is a three-stop difference between f/1.4 and f/4.  And you can extend the imaginary chart out as far as your mind wants to go by just doubling or halving the f-stop ratios.  If you want numbers in-between…. you’d better bust out your geometry textbook (or use an f-stop calculator).  To be practical, we’ve never seen an f-stop beyond f/0.7 on the open side or f/32 on the closed side, and optics tend to get a little crazy as you approach extremes, anyway.

    Remember, the iris (aperture/f-stop/whatever you might call it), is just one of the four parts of exposure.  You will need to combine f-stop, shutter speed, sensitivity, and the amount of light in the scene to get the full equation.  The good news?  F-stops are the tricky part!  The rest gets much simpler.  And now you have one of the tools to compare two lenses side-by-side.  We’ll have more information on exposure in our next installment in the Exposure for Video series.

    Posted by Jon Kline

  3. Tips for Shooting Video on the Canon 6D

    Jon wrote a follow-up to this post in November 2013.

    I first started shooting DSLR video in 2010.  Having such incredible cameras at a low price point has changed the way we work.  The democratization of filmmaking is underway, and the Canon 6D is a milestone on that path.   The key to standing out isn’t spending $40,000 on a camera, it’s taking the time to know your camera and equipment and get the best results.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far while shooting with the Canon 6D.

    Use a monitor.  The 6D supports higher resolution output while recording than the 5DmkII, so you can actually focus while shooting.  You also don’t have the glitch in HDMI signal between standby and recording.  If you’ve been using a 480p monitor, it’s time to upgrade.

    Without Magic Lantern, the 6D is really just a still photography camera.  ML is still in development for the 6D, but you can use the dev kit to install an early alpha version and at least get basic exposure and focus assist features.  This is a huge help when shooting video.

    6D-rig

    We prefer our 6D all dressed up in a cage and mattebox

    You have a new, extended clip-length limit of 29:29.  This makes using the camera for sit-down interviews and events a bit easier.  It’s also quite likely that Magic Lantern will be able to eliminate the clip length entirely, now that Canon firmware has removed all the other obstacles to longer shot lengths.

    Moire is not as bad as everybody says it is.  I spent half a day running around the office trying to create it and I can’t.  I’ve seen some sample shots online, but nothing that 30 seconds in After Effects couldn’t improve.  It’s no reason to ignore a great camera.  Just like rolling shutter and compression artifacts, it’s something that your audience should never be paying attention to, as long as you’re telling a good story.  If you’re really worried about it, try one of the optical low-pass filters, which seem to do the trick as long as you’re not on a wide lens.  And remember that a few years ago, professionals were still shooting 480i to tape.  Trust me, if your picture sucks, it’s not the camera’s fault.

    Don’t be afraid of the dark.  Compared with a crop-factor camera, the 6D has 2-3 stops more room to work with.  The T2i/T3i/T4i tends to get “fuzzy,” especially in the blacks, at 800ISO and beyond. I would say the 6D at 3200ISO looks cleaner than the T2i at 800ISO.  The difference is so big, I usually don’t take crop factor cameras out of my bag indoors anymore.  If you’re also shooting photos, the 6D is a great indoors camera.  While the action-focusing doesn’t keep up with the Canon 5DmkII or III or the 7D, the low-light focusing performance on the center point is unmatched in any DSLR I’ve ever shot with.

    Use All-I compression modes.  The camera supports IPB compression, but why would you intentionally reduce the quality of your video?  The real bottleneck for DSLR filmmakers has always been the data rate.  Canon gave us an incremental improvement with the All-I option.  Just make sure you have a fast enough memory card to handle the extra data.  We recommend the Sandisk Extreme Pro series.  Since Magic Lantern unlocks even more data rate options, you’ll be glad you spent a little extra for the higher-speed card.

    Give it some glass!  If you wanted performance like this ten years ago, you would have spent, literally, $250,000 or more on the camera body.  Why would you shoot through a $99 lens?  The 24-105mm is the logical walking-around lens, since the IS will help on the shoulder mount.  But you can get 2+ more stops of light out of a prime kit.  Take a prime lens kit out for a shoot at night and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  The limiting factor on almost every shoot in 2013 isn’t the camera, it’s the lenses.

    Accessorize.  If you want results that look like film, you need to shoot like film.  Having a nice matte box on rails, follow-focus, filters, and monitor can be a huge boost to image quality and productivity on set.

    If you’re on the fence about buying your own 6D, consider renting the 6D from us and letting us know how you liked it!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  4. Magic Lantern and Canon Cameras

    It seems like once a month or so, I run into someone who still hasn’t installed Magic Lantern on their Canon DSLR. Whether you’re shooting on a T4i, 7D, 5DmkII or III, 6D, or one of the other growing number of Canon DSLR cameras that support Magic Lantern, you’re missing out on some great free features!  But, since the Magic Lantern project is run by programmers, not marketers, it can be a little confusing at times.

    Canon 6D

    The Canon 6D Magic Lantern is still in Alpha

    We’ve been using Magic Lantern on every Canon DSLR we rent, and we think you should, too.

    Here’s a few reasons why you should be using it, and how to get started.

    What is Magic Lantern?

    Magic Lantern is free software, developed by a volunteer third party (the Magic Lantern team), that runs on your Canon camera.  It runs “on top of” your current Canon firmware and adds some features that Canon chose not to include.  A slightly different version of the program runs on each camera, but all of them work pretty similarly, and add features for video and still shooting.

    Exposure aids – zebras, histogram, waveform, vectorscope, and false color displays, plus HDR features in still and video modes.

    ml1

    One of the Magic Lantern menus, from the Canon 5DmkIII ML beta

    Focus aids – focus assist (even during recording), peaking, more control of external monitoring options, programmable focus racking, and trap focus features for still photography.

    Sound control – earlier cameras like the T2i (550D) lacked any manual audio control, and newer cameras have only basic configuration options.  Magic lantern allows you to control the gain manually and record two mono channels at different levels, as well as have on-screen metering of audio levels.

    Improved bitrate – if your memory card is fast enough, the camera can write more video data to the card, allowing for an image with clearer fine details and slightly better results in color grading.  Multiple Canon cameras now support raw video recording, at least in limited file lengths and resolutions.  This may help keep the Canon DSLR family competitive with newer offerings from Blackmagic Design.

    Tons of other stuff – including things that were so helpful, Canon integrated them in to official firmware updates. Features like alternate frame rates and manual sound controls were available through Magic Lantern before they were released by Canon.

    What’s the Downside?

    We’ve used it on hundreds of shoots on dozens of cameras and we’re confident in recommending it.  We have heard multiple users have installed Magic Lantern, needed unrelated warranty work, and still had their cameras covered under warranty.  But, because there is a third party involved, there’s no guarantee that Canon will honor it if you do something crazy like melt your CMOS sensor. Basically… don’t be a moron and use it to circumvent safety features, and you’ll be happy.

    To have a trouble-free install, you need to make sure your camera’s firmware matches the version Magic Lantern is expecting.  If you try to use the wrong version, you may get lockups or other weirdness.  If things get crazy, just take out the battery, remove the memory card, and restart the camera.

    How do I Install it?

    The process has become simple since the Magic Lantern project unified all the different cameras together in one download.  This information is current as of version 2.3

    1. Confirm your camera is running the proper firmware version for the version of Magic Lantern you’ll be using.

    2. Copy the Magic Lantern files to your memory card.  If your camera uses SD cards, it’s a bit easier to use 32GB or smaller (SDHC) cards instead of the 64GB and larger (SDXC) cards, which require an extra step

    3. Turn your camera mode dial to M, power on the camera, and perform a firmware update.

    Magic Lantern will take care of the rest, including making the card bootable and setting the right flags.

    Of course, take it out for a spin and shoot some tests before you bring it along for paid work.  If you ever have problems, you can always use a blank memory card, or format the card without reinstalling Magic Lantern, and you can revert back to standard functionality.  But we bet after a few weeks of shooting with it, you can’t imagine ever shooting without it again!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  5. The Future for Canon Full-Frame Video

    CanonPrototype

    I’m pretty sure the f/1.2 lens is mounted in this picture just to rub it in Nikon’s face. 

    Canon announced last month it had developed a full-frame sensor exclusively for video applications, and the blog world didn’t seem surprised.  Here at MKE, we felt like the internet passed over something that could be a much bigger deal.  Here’s why:

    1. This could be the end of moire in DSLR video.  The larger pixels have no need to subsample the image into a 1080p raster.  We were really hoping this would be a 4k sensor to replace the Canon 1Dc, but running the numbers in the press release, it’s pretty clear this is a 1920-pixel horizontal imager.

    2. This is a leap forward in low-light sensitivity.  How much of a leap?  Think “shooting video with available starlight.”  Or “I had to cover the camera LCD so bounce off my face didn’t ruin my shot.”  Canon specifies 0.03 lux, which is five stops darker than the light of the full moon!  There are literally more dollars in the US federal debt than photons used in a frame of video.  The coolest application we can see for it?  High framerate videos indoors with available lighting.

    3. The megapixel war in photography is ending.  We could see the end in sight, with Canon dropping its full-frame cameras down from 21MP to 18, and cameras like the Lytro forcing us to re-define resolution all together.  This regular old 1080p sensor is just 2MP.  Of course, Canon will still make full-frame photo cameras in the 18MP range, but Canon’s engineers are definitely not chasing after more marketing megapixels at the expense of image quality.  And 8K for video is probably as far as consumer resolution will ever go, at least in the TV/cinema experience.

    4. Processing 2MP is a lot less intensive than processing 18MP.  The upshot?  Theoretically 9x more data, or capabilities in the range of 1080p240 with the same DIGIC processors (assuming that Canon provides a memory interface that can handle that much bandwidth).  This could also help cover the limits of the rolling shutter CMOS sensor, until Canon catches up with cameras like the new Blackmagic and their global shutter feature.

    The press release from Canon seems to focus on the astrovideography and security applications, but we hope to see this prototype in the hands of some of our favorite cinematographers soon!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  6. Shooting Food – Top 6 Tips

    Plenty of us snap a pic of what we’re about to eat with our smartphones, but taking a well-composed shot that’s worth printing is a very different undertaking. Food photography can be as challenging and rewarding as human subjects.  Here are my top six tips to get great-looking food in photos and video.

    Food-Photography

    Color is key. Shoot raw or triple-check your white balance.

    1. Start with good, fresh food.  This may seem obvious, but you’re not going to get a great shot of a dried-out pizza.  Use fresh ingredients, a good chef, and have the tools you need to cook nearby.  You want to be able to go from the grill/oven/fryer to the lights in as few steps as possible.

    2. Bring at least five times the ingredients you need for a single entree.  I suggest starting by making the entree once just as a sample, before you even take out the camera.  Get an idea for the color, the shape, the texture.  This is your chance to play with light and plating.

    3. The background is the context for your work.  Is the product fast-casual?  Upscale?  Infinite white may work great for fast food photography, but it’s usually too dry for fine-dining work.  Build a set for your food after you see how the first  sample comes out.  If the emphasis of the food is on the origins, consider including the ingredients in the background, like wheat behind a fresh-baked loaf of bread, or an orange behind your delicious glass of orange juice.  If the emphasis is on the mood and ambiance of the restaurant, try shooting in a table setting.  If the emphasis is on the culture of the food, try to connect it to the people or the place it comes from.

    4. This is macro, be prepared.  You’ll want a close-focusing lens that can be stopped down if necessary.  If you’re shooting video, try adding very slight motion.  A tabletop dolly and a high framerate will give you extra-smooth motion, especially if someone in your shot is pouring, cutting, or moving the food.

    Photograph of food by Jon Kline

    The best part is that you get to eat it when you’re done.

    5. Lights matter, and you may need more than you think for high framerates, fast shutters, and control of focus in macro.  Three-point lighting usually works for opaque foods, but remember that the heat from tungsten lights can dry out or melt the product.  For stills, flash is definitely the way to go.  For video, I like to use natural light when possible, but Kino Flo banks and other fluorescent fixtures are a good option, too.  Avoid LED lights, they tend to shift colors in odd and unpredictable ways.  Big softboxes may have a tendency to flatten out textures, since they are many times bigger than the subject they are lighting.  Often, semi-soft or hard key light is the best option for food shots. Pay special attention to reflections and highlights on polished and wet surfaces.

    6. Every great photograph tells a story, and food is no exeption.   Think of one brief thought you’d like your audience to have when they see this shot.  Is the picture making your mouth water?  Does it invoke the emotion you’re trying to convey?  That’s how you know you’ve got the shot you want.

    Thanks to Bleu for the delicious tuna! Now, go find some food, take some shots, and dig in!

    Posted by Jon Kline

  7. Get it Delivered!

    delivery

    We prefer to work with Quicksilver courier service in Milwaukee for delivery and pick up needs. They are available 24 hours a day. After you place your order with us, contact them and arrange your delivery and return details. If you prefer to use a different courier, just let us know when you place your order.

    Need to rent equipment last minute?  We offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

     

     

     

     

  8. It’s Opening Day!

    Posted by Jon Kline

    Today’s the day! We’re so excited to be Milwaukee’s newest video equipment rental house.

    We started on this path because we’re independent filmmakers, shooters, and producers, too, and we know that production has changed a lot over the last few years.  It’s time for a rental house that can change with you.   We’re planting our flag and saying “Thanks for waiting, Milwaukee!”  Milwaukee filmmakers deserve a camera rental house that carries DSLRs and accessories.  You deserve transparent pricing. You deserve 24/7 emergency rentals.  We’re glad to be the first company in Milwaukee to offer all that to you.

    Miller Park (Image: Flickr/compujeramey)

    Miller Park (Image: CC Flickr/compujeramey)

    As we move forward, let us know how we can keep changing to match your needs.  New gear?  New services?  Something else?  We’re here for you.

    We hope the Brewers don’t mind sharing our Opening Day.  Here’s you you, Milwaukee!  Now get shooting!

     

     

     

     

     

  9. When You Need Crew

    milwaukee-production-crew

    Photo by OnMilwaukee.com

    In this business, like so many others, people tend to work with someone they know and trust.  We’ve been shooting, producing, and editing in Wisconsin for eight years, and we have worked alongside almost everyone who works in video and film production.  When you need crew, we’re happy to recommend someone we trust.

    Our list of qualified Production Assistants, Grips, Assistant Camera, Camera Operators, Gaffers, Directors of Photography, Crane and Jib Operators, Drivers, Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup are all people we’ve worked with side-by-side.

    In Milwaukee, virtually all production crew are non-union.  If you require it, we can connect you with union crew, often from Chicago.

    Whether you’re shooting a feature on film or a reality show with mixed video formats, Milwaukee has crew with the experience and the Midwestern work ethic to get the project done well.  We’d love to help you get the absolute best crew on whatever budget you’re working with.

    For more information, get in touch.

  10. Keys to a Great Demo Reel

    In the days before internet video, the reel was an essential piece of self-marketing, the capstone on top of a polished resume and project list.  These days, a killer reel can give you a leg up on the competition, especially if you’re trying to make new contacts, or stand out in a field of dozens of candidates.  In the world of social media, each of us is our own brand, and it’s up to us to make a sizzle reel that gets potential clients excited.  Here’s my top ten list for how to make a reel jump through the screen and get gigs on your calendar.

    1. Start at the top.  In almost every other video, you want to build to a climax.  With a reel, you’re starting at the end of the third act.  Open with something awesome, and set the bar high.

    2. Keep it short.  There is no reason a reel should be more than 90 seconds, ever.  Closer to 60 makes even more sense.  If the audience needs more, make them click “replay.”  A good reel should be short enough to make them ask questions, and they should still remember the beginning when they get to the end.

    3. Stay specific.  Don’t show me one project you edited, another you wrote, and a third you were assistant camera on.  I’ll just assume you have no idea what you want to do with your career.  If you really want to showcase your work in multiple positions, try making a different reel for each category of work.

    film4. Don’t cheat!  I’ve gotten reels where I KNOW who actually worked on the project, and it wasn’t the person who was taking credit.  I assure you, your resume will end up at the bottom of the pile for a very long time if you take credit where you haven’t earned it.

    5.  Over-text is so 2009.   In montage (sometimes called “collage”)  reels, pacing is more important than context.  You can give the viewer context in the video title, in the video description, and in the email you send with the video link.  We don’t need something to read while we’re supposed to be watching what you’ve done.  A long list of brands or campaigns will take us out of the visuals and turn your reel into a video resume.  If you’re making a scene reel (where you’re only showing 3-4 excerpts each about twenty seconds long) a very short description may be appropriate.  Personally, I think scene reels are too short to be useful, and just long enough to risk being boring.  If I’m hiring a director or editor,  I will ask to see some other work samples, and this is where I learn about their ability to cut together scenes and tell stories.

    6. Don’t just cut to the beat!  I’ve seen other people suggest just exactly that, and it’s terrible advice.  The term for this is “Mickey Mouse Editing” and it will seem amateurish and predictable.  Use the motion within the shots to connect with the music. Finding the internal rhythm of the clips will seem more professional, and leave the audience wanting more.  If you’re not a pro editor, consider hiring someone to edit it for you.   A professional editor will also be a big help if you’re trying to mix multiple formats, frame rates, and aspect ratios in a single reel.

    7. End your reel with a simple way for your audience to get in touch with you.  This is where it’s okay to use text and logos.

    8. Put it online.  Of course, you should probably have a hard copy of it with you if you’re in an interview, but these days we expect everything to be online. Sites like Vimeo and YouTube make it very easy.

    9. Ask for feedback.  Your audience will see things that you don’t, and be confused more easily than you might expect.  Show your friends, show your mom, and definitely show other people in the industry.  Try to listen without being defensive.  Remember, you won’t be there to defend your reel when a potential gig is on the line.

    10. Keep it fresh.  I suggest updating your reel at least once a year.  If you’re continuously improving, then your most recent work should always be your best, so show it off!

    So go cut a killer reel, get it online, and share it!  Post it in the comments and we’ll even give feedback!

    Jon Kline is a Cinematographer/DP living in Chicago.  You can see his reel here.