Your animation demo reel, or “show reel” is a video which displays your best animation work. If your looking for work as an animator (especially a character animator), It is without a doubt the most important piece of material you’ll use to get a job. Even more important than your resume and cover letter.
I’ve conducted a fair amount of interviews for character animators and have done some scouting on more than one project (for animated TV series). Based on my experience with that, the following is my opinion of what you should avoid when creating your demo reel…
The most common mistake I’ve seen with demo reels is including too much material. It’s tempting for new graduates to include everything they’ve done in school – and that’s understandable, you want to show a wide range of what you’re capable of.
The last thing you want to do is show a potential employer some work that isn’t that great or doesn’t accurately communicate your abilities. It will only leave a bad impression – they may just move on to the next demo reel in the pile.
Only include your best pieces of work and leave a good impression! Don’t be afraid to keep it really short. Your better off leaving it short and sweet than long with hits and misses. Most of the time, whoever is reviewing reels is pressed for time and will appreciate the fact that quality work was shown, and it didn’t drag on.
Demo reels should be between 20 seconds and 2 minutes (approximately). As you animate on various projects and gain more experience in the industry, you tend to accumulate animation clips from projects you’ve worked on. An experienced animators’ demo reel may reach 2 or 3 min in length. (if you have that much work you feel should be shown). It’s safe to say that you should never go longer that that. Keep in mind that some industry folks may say that 3 minutes is too long.
Keep your reel focused on one craft. For example, if you’re looking for character animation work, don’t include all kinds of modeling and rigging stuff on there. When we see demo reels with the kitchen sink thrown in we don’t know what this persons strong points are or what they really want to do.
What About Music?
Adding music is OK but keep in mind that everyone may not have your taste in music. Try to choose a tune that you think has a broad appeal. It’s safe to say not to use death metal…you get the idea.
Should also keep the volume low and have the volume taper off for any character dialogue. The reviewer will want to check character acting with the recorded dialogue.
In my case, I used to have some background music with my work, but as I added more production work to my reel I cut out more and more of the music so that character dialogue, sound effects, mood music, etc..could be heard.
What They’re Looking For
In a studio environment it will usually be an Animation Director or a Supervisor reviewing demo reels. Often, what they are looking for is:
- Could you hit the ground running. In other words, start working right away with little or no training. (this is why it’s helpful to know more than one animation software package).
- Will you be able to produce the standard of animation quality needed for their project.
For example, in almost every case if they’re hiring for a Maya project, they will prefer to see some Maya animation on your demo reel (or at least 3D animation in another software package). Same goes for Flash, ToonBoom/Harmony, or any other 2D software package. Which ever software they are using, that’s what they’ll preferably want to see in your demo reel.
Most importantly, they’ll be looking for good character performance/acting, and will take notice if you are employing animation principles (especially good timing and posing) in a way that gives your work a certain level of charm and appeal.