Every great voice actor has an excellent portfolio of voice reels to call upon. Each reel showcases their vocal range and talents across various styles and mediums, helping them secure lucrative work or attract representation. But how long should a voice reel be? What is the optimal duration? Are there any rules?
The length of any reel will depend on the goal. What kind of performer do you want to be? There are so many to choose from:
Whether you plan to work in everything available or specialise will determine the type of reels you require. Here at Voicereels, we offer any style or medium of reel that you need – from business and commercial to character and narration.
We recommend the following durations for each type.
Whilst there are no strict rules to follow, there are some general guidelines for creating reels with the optimal duration. Our advice is based on years of cumulative experience casting, producing and moderating thousands of demos. But it is just that – advice. If you feel strongly that you want a shorter or longer duration, please go for it! We recommend getting an outside opinion just to be sure you are making the right decision.
A standard business or commercial voice reel should be between 90 and 120 seconds. Anything more prolonged, and you run the risk of people becoming apathetic. The casting directors in our team listen to hundreds of demos every day, and the best commercial and business reels start with a great script, supporting music and, most vital of all: they start speaking almost immediately (within the first few seconds). Capture listeners in the first few seconds, or you risk them moving on.
Stringing the best 15-second samples from 6 scripts gives you a reel of 90 seconds. With each sample at 15 seconds, you’re giving the customer time to digest each performance without overstaying its welcome. Aiming for around 15 seconds, with a few longer exceptions, will give your reel a professional feel.
Character reels featuring script excerpts and characters from video games, animations, dramas or theatre frequently include shorter samples of around 5-10 seconds. Shorter samples allow the voice actor to include around 12-20 roles in a 90 – 120 second character reel.
Be careful, though. There is a balance. It’s good to allow your best work to stand out and have room to breathe. Packing too many reads in can make them blur together. On the flip side. If you’re keen on demonstrating your versatility and range, the more, the merrier.
Always start a character reel with your best or most prominent work. Make an impact fast. A character reel also needs excellent FX and music selection, and this is where investing in a professional reel production service with experienced producers will set you ahead of your competition.
A more extended voice reel is typical if you aim to get work narrating audiobooks, documentaries or educational material.
Agents and casting directors need to get confidence in your vocal stamina. If they need you to record 500k words, they’ll want assurance you have consistency in your delivery that keeps listeners engaged for long periods. A narration reel must demonstrate confidence in your cadence, pacing and delivery, which often needs more time.
Many narration samples are a few minutes each, so stringing them together can be challenging to pick and edit the best bits. If you aim for around six reads of between 30 – 45 seconds, you should end up with a narration reel between 3 – 4.5 minutes.
Many Narrators will also create individual samples for each genre or style so they can submit the most relevant material for a prospective job. For example, there is little point in submitting documentary samples when you are auditioning to narrate a fantasy audiobook series!
As mentioned above, this is our guidance based on many years of experience. The industry trend is toward shorter demo samples that better match the user search, and this logic should also apply to reels, which are essentially ‘best of’ collations in a theme.
Short reels offer a greater chance of somebody taking the time to listen to the entire thing. Many customers don’t listen past the first few seconds, so make sure you start speaking immediately and front-load your best work.
Remember, a reel is like a shop window. It proves you are capable and builds trust. If the customer wants a longer read, they’ll probably request you audition their script anyway.
Here at Voicereels, our job is to help actors and performers of all abilities to get a superior voice-over demo reel production that gets results. Our services will ensure that no matter how short your samples or reels are, there will get heard, catching the attention of even the busiest of casting agents.
To find out more about Voicereels’ services and packages, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Reaching out to our team is the first step toward securing more voice-acting work for yourself.