Have you ever been sweating in the late hours trying to get your reel done for a deadline? It often ends up being rushed and not thought through. There is a lot of opinions out there about how a proper demo reel should look like. This is why I tried to find the best tips, and put them together here.
What to show in a reel?
A Demo Reel is a short video, which shows the work you have done. Most companies in the computer graphic business requires a demo reel when you apply for a job. In other words; your reel is representing you and what you can as a artist. These tips are what I read, learned in seminars, got told by my coordinators and common sense. This articles are for people in the animation and visual effects area.
Show only your best work and if you feel like some of you older work doesn’t reach your new standards, then leave it out. Its better to show three very good things, than ten average things. Have your absolute best work in the beginning and the second best in the end. The people watching trough reel have too see a lot of reels, and they might not have time to see all of your work. But they will see your first piece, so make sure that's the best one.
How long should a reel be?
Show what you can do and don't be shy. There is a lot of modelling reels out there, but when the show the wireframe, it goes over the character so fast, that it's impossible to see the wireframe. If you are making a modelling reel, take the time to show the good topology as well. If you are a compositor show all the render layers and passes.
Include a title card. Remember to put your name, contact information and maybe the position you are applying for at the end. Also have title with your name in the beginning. Make sure people have the time to see your contact information.
You don't want to bore people. And even though you might have stuff to fill up 10 min. nobody wants to see it. The word Demo actually means a shortened version of something, shortened! Pixar recommends no more than 4 min. Most good student reels I see is about 2 min.
The Pause button!
Your demo reel shouldn't be to slow. Make sure it has a good pace to it. If people want to see the details on your work, the can always press pause. Better exciting than slow and boring.
Music or no music?
The returning question, should there be music or not? Most studios turn down the volume when watching reels, so putting music in it, should mostly be for people watch it online. If you put music on your reel make sure it's something most people like. A reel with heavy metal might not be the best choice. A great tip I got from a Dreamworks talent scout was to put music in with no vocals. It can take the steal the attention from the demo reel.
The breakdown is a breakdown of the work you have done. If you have been working together with a group of people you will in most cases collaborate on the shots. In the breakdown you write what you did. You can add it as a external PDF file or write it under the video. A good idea is to include a little picture of the shot, because then people get reminded about the shot, when they are looking at the breakdown.
The Website for your showreel
Having a nice showreel also deserves a nice place to show it. A website is also a way of showing that you are serious about this, and people can go here if the want to know more about you and your art work. I strongly recommend buying your own domain and web hotel, because it's cheap and easier to remember, than using a site like blogger.com . The domain name should include your own name and what you want to work with, because your domain is the first thing google looks at when searching for results. For example my own domain is 3DArtistDennisJ.com ! Avoid dash(-) in the domain because search engines doesn't like those. The style of your website should be neutral meaning that you don't want the design to take all the attention, you want the attention on your art work. A clean and simple style is the best way to go. Don't show a lot of unrelated stuff like pictures of your dog or recipes on pizza.
If you want to create your own website, I recommend using MeeBox, I changed to them after having a really bad service at a other company, the don't have any downtime and they reply within a hour if you have a problem. Meebox also offers Wordpress which is a customizable blog. We made a deal with them so you can get a 10 % discount. Follow this link: MeeBox and use this discount code: PolyFaceDiscout
You can work on your reel for ever. But there are some mistakes that you can't see with your own eyes. Like when you are doing a model, animation or any other work it's a great idea to get feedback from somebody else. They might see something you didn't see yourself.
Look at what other people did
You might be amazed but this is really important. Find a reel you think is good, and try to copy the good elements. It's easy to do, and it changes the result by miles. I do it myself not only when I making a showreel also when I'm working in general. At the end of this article I included a list of good and bad reels.
The Extra thing?
Every once and then there pops up a showreel with something extra. It might be a cool style or a good amount of humour. I can't say how to do this, but it's worth thinking about. Maybe you will come up with a good idea for your reel.
A Good CV makes up for bad reels
Don't be confused if you see a bad reel, but the person who made it is from Pixar. Sometimes I see uninteresting reel from really talented people. It doesn't mean that they are bad at what they do, or that they won't get a job. If you have a impressive CV the reel isn't that important. People who have been in the busy for many years, might not know how to make a proper reel. Keep it in mind.
Thank you for reading this article if you have anything to add or a cool Demo Reel you want to share, please do so in the comments below.
Tips for a Demo Reel that Works
Pixar's tip on a Demo Reel
What Specific Shots Show the Most Knowledge of Animation Principles That You’d Want to See in a Demo Reel?
Don't do this: