With the advent of apps like Facebook Live Streaming and Snapchat, video and motion design editors are becoming an increasingly in-demand sector of creative workers. According to Rendr Fx, motion graphics and video content are expected to increase by 11 times between 2016 and 2020, prompting the world’s largest companies are increasingly investing in motion graphics and video editor talent. Brooks Rowlett, a recruiter at Creative Circle specializing in placing creative talent. “The amount of companies hiring for these roles is really endless – essentially anyone doing video content, from small social media blurbs on Snapchat to full 60-second long commercials.”

So what exactly do motion design and video editors do? The two talents do tend to go hand in hand, though the role varies from project to project. A video editor is a creative working with any and all kinds of video footage to create one finished piece. Video editors most often work with advertising spots like commercials or multimedia social media content, like recipe videos or tutorials. Their work might also encompass 3D artwork or character models, which the video editor will compile along with raw footage using programs like Abobe Premier, Avid, or Final Cut Pro.

Motion design editors, by comparison, would be working on a very broad range of elements within these commercial spots or video content pieces. If you’ve ever watched the news, played around with Snapchat, or sat through the title sequence of a Marvel comics movie, then you’ve come directly into contact with the work of a motion design editor. Motion design editors have varying levels of experience and expertise: Some are great for text and title graphics, infographics and pie charts, while others are more skilled with complex 3D textured models. Motion design editors typically work with programs like After Effects or Cinema 4D.

Rowlett notes that often times, motion design editors are specialized enough to be able to handle the work of a video editor. “Pretty much 99% of creatives doing motion design can be video editors, but not the other way around, since basic software like Adobe Premier won’t be able to do that,” he says. “Video editing is at the basis of everything you do. If you’re a motion design editor you will 100% know how to edit. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an incredible video editor, because there are some that have a keen taste for music and socially relevant content that motion graphics editors wouldn’t necessarily possess. Truly exceptional people will be able to do it all.”

Rowlett spends quite a bit of time sifting through vide editor portfolios and motion design reels, looking for fresh talent for his clients. Here, he dishes on his top motion design and video editor portfolio tips, and shares some examples of some of his favorite recent work.

What to Include in Your Motion Design or Video Editor Portfolio

Be Savvy About What Should Be Included

It’s a sign of experience and knowledge of the market when you hand over the right materials to a potential client or employer. According to Rowlett, being knowledgeable about what your video editor portfolio or motion design reel should include and what it shouldn’t might be the determining factor as to whether you’ll be considered for a job when he’s reviewing your portfolio. “Ninety percent of the time, video editors want to include motion design examples because it’s the cream of the crop,” says Rowlett, “but motion design editors, on the other hand, don’t usually include a straight editing reel because its assumed that they know how to edit.” Be conscious of what’s appropriate to include based on your experience, and make sure that your video editor portfolio and/or motion design reel addresses the specifications outlined in your desired job or gig.

Be Specific About What You Worked On

Often times, a candidate’s video or motion design 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, you should definitely be specific about which aspects of the video or motion design reel were handled and managed by you. “Clients will always ask me what specific role a candidate played in the reel I’m showing them, because its unusual that one specific person handled every single aspect of a piece of content,” Rowlett says. “So I encourage candidates to make space beside their reel for what your role is in that video. When you get down to it, did you actually do the lighting or rendering or the motion? 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 an endless video or motion design reel or limitless portfolio entries. While you may think that four-minute long 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 or being left out of the running. “Every market is different, but I would always say don’t make your reel longer than a minute,” says Rowlett. “If your client watches for 31 seconds, then you’ve already won. I usually advocate for a reel to be no longer than 60-90 seconds max.”

Make it Pop

Naturally, all motion design and video editors will be trying to make their reel stand out from the pack. For Rowlett, the difference between a reel he remembers and a reel he puts aside is one that takes music into serious consideration: 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’s got to be edited so it flows and has an engaging musical catch,” says Rowlett. “A lot of the reels I gravitate towards have some catchy musical component to them. If you turn something in that is edited to the beat and goes with the flow of your reel, 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 video editor portfolio or motion design reel. “YouTube it not the most professional place to present your work,” says Rowlett. “Something like Vimeo, or even your own website, would be a better place.”

Have Both a Reel and a Complete Motion Design or Video Editor Portfolio

Pictured above: A reel by Afterman, a company created by Tsvetelina Zdraveva and Jerred North.

Give a Complete Picture of Your Work

It’s important for video and motion design editors to have both a video or motion design reel and a few longer video content pieces within their entire motion design or video editor portfolio: 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 have your reel, but you’ll also want to present the individual video pieces that appear within your reel,” says Rowlett. “Have these collections that you can send to clients to so they see you in your best light. Just be sure to curate and pare them down.”

Show Your Range

Admittedly, this tip is a little tricky for Rowlett. On the one hand, its important for a candidate to demonstrate a diverse range of industries and projects they’ve worked on. On the other hand, a candidate who is extensively experienced in one arena should probably present themselves as an expert in that industry – especially in a situation in which they’re going for more work in that sector.

“If you’ve edited a TV promo or advertising commercial or documentary film, don’t just focus on one of those things, use them all to show your range,” says Rowlett. “Your video or motion design reel should show the diversity of clients you’ve worked with, because then the client knows you can probably handle anything. The more we see the better.”

“Alternatively,” Rowlett says, “if you have only worked with one type of client, and you love working in that realm and want to keep doing so, then tailor your reel to that. For example, if you want more fashion work, then only include fashion work on your reel.”

Ultimately, the decision whether to diversify your video or motion design reel or not is up to you – but generally speaking, you’ll be much more marketable for a wider range of gigs if you decide to include multiple types of clients and projects.

Don’t Date It

It’s unlikely that a motion design or video editor will take the time to create a new reel or portfolio for each individual client. Instead, they’ll create one or two that align with certain industries or skills, and use those again and again when presenting you’re their motion design or video editor portfolio to potential clients. Rowlett says that’s common practice, but that candidates should never include timestamps or other information that dates the reel. “We get a lot of things that say 2015, but the client sees it and goes no way,” says Rowlett. “You could have some stellar work, but if the first frame says 2015, then the client automatically thinks you’re not doing any new work.” Often times, clients aren’t as familiar with industry practices. So, even though it’s a common practice to show older footage, it’s something you want to refrain from highlighting.

Make ‘Spec’ Work

Not everything in your video and motion design reel or portfolio ahs to be something that’s been previously used by client. If you’re up for a job in which you have no professional experience, yet are confident you can produce the work, then go ahead and make ‘spec’ work, and include that in your reel. “A lot of clients are asking us if we have Snapchat motion graphics people,” says Rowlett. “We encourage our candidates to create this type of work – take two hours to come up with 4 illustrations, so we have something to show the client. It doesn’t have to be work that’s already been produced; rather, its meant to reflect your aesthetic and capability.” Rowlett adds that you should note that the work is being produced on spec.

What are your best tips for a video editor portfolio or motion design reel?

Nicole Martinez
Nicole Martinez

Nicole is a veteran arts and culture journalist. Her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

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