In filmmaking, a “film reel” typically refers to a spool or cylinder on which motion picture film is wound. So exactly what is a film reel in filmmaking? Well, that has changed over the years in it’s definition.

Back in the day, these film reels are an integral part of the traditional film projection process and are used for storing, transporting, and screening films.

Down below we share a video off Youtube showing film reels in history.

Here are some key points about film reels in filmmaking:

  1. Film Stock: Film reels are used to hold lengths of film stock, which is a strip of celluloid or polyester coated with light-sensitive emulsion. This film stock captures the images and frames of a movie.
  2. Film Projection: In the era of analog film projection, movies were typically distributed on multiple reels. Projectionists would load these reels onto a film projector, and the film would be threaded through the projector’s mechanisms. As one reel finished playing, the projectionist would switch to the next one to continue the screening.
  3. Reel Sizes: Film reels came in various sizes, depending on the format of the film. Common sizes included 35mm and 16mm for standard theatrical releases and 8mm or Super 8mm for home movies and amateur filmmaking.
  4. Storage and Transport: Film reels were also used for storing and transporting films. They protected the fragile film stock from damage and kept it in a controlled environment to prevent deterioration.
  5. Film Editing: During the editing process, filmmakers would often work with individual reels of footage. They would splice together different shots and scenes to create the final edited version of the film.
  6. Digital Transition: With the advent of digital filmmaking and distribution, physical film reels have become less common. Many theaters have transitioned to digital projection, and filmmakers now often edit and distribute movies electronically. However, some filmmakers and cinephiles still use film stock for artistic or archival purposes.

It’s important to note that while film reels have become less prevalent in the mainstream film industry, they hold historical and artistic significance. Film enthusiasts, archivists, and some directors continue to use film stock and projectors to capture and showcase the unique visual qualities of analog filmmaking.

What is a film reel and how did they digitize film reels?

Now let’s compare that to a modern term Demo Reel from filmmakers.

A “Demo Reel” in modern filmmaking refers to a short video montage or compilation showcasing a filmmaker’s or a film production company’s work. It serves as a portfolio or promotional tool to demonstrate their skills, creativity, and the quality of their past projects to potential clients, collaborators, or employers. Here’s a comparison between a traditional film reel and a modern demo reel:

  1. Content:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): A film reel contains actual motion picture footage of a movie. It holds the physical film stock used for projection.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): A demo reel contains edited clips from completed film projects, commercials, music videos, or other video productions. It showcases scenes, shots, or highlights from various projects.
  2. Purpose:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): Film reels were used for screening movies in theaters or for editing and storage during filmmaking.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): A demo reel is a promotional tool. It is created to market the skills, style, and capabilities of a filmmaker or production company. It helps attract new clients or collaborators.
  3. Format:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): Physical film reels were used with analog film stock. They were wound onto spools or cylinders.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): Demo reels are digital and typically distributed online as video files. They can be easily shared via websites, social media, or email.
  4. Editing:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): Editing traditional film involved physically cutting and splicing film stock together to create the final movie.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): Editing a demo reel is done digitally using video editing software. Filmmakers can easily arrange and trim clips to create a polished presentation.
  5. Distribution:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): Film reels were physically transported to theaters for screening.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): Demo reels are shared electronically, making them accessible to a global audience. They can be uploaded to websites, shared on social media, or emailed to interested parties.
  6. Function:
    • Film Reel (Traditional): Film reels served as a medium for cinematic projection.
    • Demo Reel (Modern): Demo reels serve as a promotional tool to showcase a filmmaker’s or production company’s capabilities and attract business opportunities.

In summary, while the term “film reel” traditionally referred to physical containers for storing and projecting movies, “demo reel” in modern filmmaking refers to a digital compilation of a filmmaker’s work used for promotional purposes. The shift to digital technology has made it easier for filmmakers to create, edit, and distribute demo reels, which play a crucial role in marketing their skills and attracting clients and collaborators in the digital age.

Tips on how to make your reel for filmmakers

Creating a compelling film reel or demo reel is crucial for showcasing your filmmaking skills and attracting clients or collaborators. Here are some bullet point tips for making an effective demo reel in the modern age:

  1. Select Your Best Work:
    • Feature clips from your most impressive and relevant film projects.
    • Quality matters more than quantity. Showcase a few standout pieces rather than including everything.
  2. Show Diversity:
    • Include clips from different genres or styles to demonstrate your versatility.
    • Highlight a range of skills, such as cinematography, editing, directing, and sound design.
  3. Start with Your Strongest Footage:
    • Place your most captivating or visually stunning clips at the beginning to grab viewers’ attention immediately.
  4. Keep It Short:
    • Aim for a duration of 1-3 minutes. Busy professionals have limited time to watch lengthy reels.
  5. Craft a Story or Theme:
    • Organize your clips around a central theme or narrative, creating a cohesive and engaging viewing experience.
  6. Smooth Transitions:
    • Use seamless transitions between clips to maintain a professional and polished feel.
    • Avoid jarring cuts or transitions that distract from the content.
  7. Include Your Name and Contact Information:
    • Display your name and contact details at the beginning or end of the reel for easy reference.
  8. Add Music or Sound Design:
    • Incorporate suitable music or sound effects to enhance the mood and pacing of your reel.
    • Ensure audio quality is top-notch.
  9. Focus on Quality:
    • Use high-resolution clips to showcase your attention to detail.
    • Ensure all clips are color-corrected and well-lit.
  10. Highlight Your Role:
    • Clearly indicate your role in each project (e.g., director, cinematographer, editor) to showcase your specific skills.
  11. Create an Engaging Opening:
    • Begin with a captivating sequence or clip that immediately captures the viewer’s interest.
  12. Avoid Generic Templates:
    • Customize your demo reel to reflect your unique style and personality rather than using generic templates.
  13. Keep It Updated:
    • Regularly update your demo reel to showcase your latest and best work.
    • Remove outdated or less impressive content.
  14. Seek Feedback:
    • Share your reel with peers or mentors and gather constructive feedback.
    • Use their insights to make improvements.
  15. Optimize for Online Viewing:
    • Ensure your demo reel is easily accessible online through platforms like Vimeo or YouTube.
    • Optimize the video’s title, description, and tags for searchability.
  16. Test on Various Devices:
    • Confirm that your reel looks and sounds good on different devices, including smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
  17. Keep the Viewer in Mind:
    • Tailor your reel to your target audience, whether it’s potential clients, employers, or collaborators.
    • Consider what they’re looking for in your work.
  18. End with a Strong Finish:
    • Conclude your reel with an impactful clip or sequence that leaves a lasting impression.
  19. Professional Presentation:
    • Use a clean, modern design for any text or graphics in your reel.
    • Ensure your demo reel looks polished and reflects your professionalism.
  20. Share Strategically:
    • Promote your demo reel through your website, social media, and professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
    • Include a link to your reel in your email signature and on your business cards.

Remember that your demo reel serves as a visual calling card, so invest time and effort into creating a compelling showcase of your filmmaking talents. Tailor it to your strengths and the expectations of your intended audience.

Take a look at our Demo Reel from back in 2018.

Film reel from 2018 for Provid Films


In filmmaking, a “film reel” traditionally referred to a spool or cylinder used for winding motion picture film. These reels played a significant role in storing, transporting, and projecting analog films. They held the physical film stock that captured images and frames for movies. Film reels were used for film projection in theaters, during editing, and for archival purposes. However, with the digital transition in the film industry, physical film reels have become less common, but they still hold historical and artistic value.

In contrast, a “Demo Reel” in modern filmmaking is a digital video montage showcasing a filmmaker’s or production company’s work. It serves as a portfolio and promotional tool, demonstrating their skills and creativity to attract clients and collaborators. Demo reels are edited compilations of clips from completed film projects, commercials, music videos, or other video productions. They are digitally distributed and shared online, making them accessible to a global audience.

Call to Action: Embrace the evolution of filmmaking! While traditional film reels had their place in cinematic history, the modern era demands a different approach. If you’re passionate about filmmaking, it’s time to create your own digital Demo Reel. Here’s your encouragement:

  1. Select Your Best Work: Carefully choose the most impressive and relevant clips from your projects.
  2. Show Diversity: Highlight your versatility by showcasing different genres and skills.
  3. Keep It Short: Make your reel concise, with a duration of 1-3 minutes.
  4. Craft a Story: Organize your clips around a central theme or narrative to engage viewers.
  5. Highlight Your Role: Clearly indicate your role in each project to showcase your specific skills.
  6. Seek Feedback: Share your reel for constructive feedback and continuous improvement.
  7. Optimize for Online: Ensure your reel is easily accessible and searchable online.
  8. Share Strategically: Promote your Demo Reel through various platforms and networks.

Remember, your Demo Reel is your visual calling card in the digital age of filmmaking. It’s a reflection of your creativity and skills. So, take that leap, create your Demo Reel, and share your passion with the world. Your next filmmaking opportunity may be just a click away!