Demo reels are much like a resume or cover letter; they’ll demonstrate your skills as an artist. It shows the best of what you can do as an animator and if you really want to bag that job then you have to create a standout demo reel.
The truth is that employers are focused on a candidate’s animation skills, not the paperwork. If your demo reel doesn’t make a lasting impression then hiring managers won’t bother with a second look. That’s why it’s important to put your thoughts and energy into building an effective demo reel. And to help you create an outstanding demo reel, one that will impress future employers, try these tips:
Show Your Best Work
This is a no-brainer but it’s the single most important thing to think about when building a demo reel, quality over quantity. Remember, you only have a few seconds to catch the viewers’ attention so make every second count. If you are adding your earlier work because you are sentimental over the content and these aren’t necessarily your best work, don’t put it in your demo reel.
Think of the order and the flow of the shot to encourage viewers to watch the demo reel from start to finish. Start with your best work first and last because hiring managers won’t stay for mediocre work, they are not looking for time-fillers. If you are having second thoughts about including a certain piece, polish it or don’t include it at all. Update your demo reel often so it reflects your animation skills.
Short and Sweet
Generally, you want the demo reel to be no longer than 2 minutes. This seems like a short length of time but should be reason enough to show only your best work! No need to cram all your work in a 2-minute demo reel, just curate the content and be sure to show pieces that suit the job you are applying for. For example, if the studio specializes in cartoon-y animation like Pixar then your demo reel should reflect that.
If your demo reel shows all the pieces you’ve worked on throughout the years, it will be one lengthy demo reel and future employers just don’t have the time to sit through years and years of sample work. Even if your demo reel is less than a minute long, if it shows your strongest work then hiring managers will watch the whole thing.
If you want a demo reel that impresses, you have to deviate from shots that have been done repeatedly. Hiring managers have seen enough demo reels to last them a lifetime so don’t do the same shots that everyone does. Don’t overthink or overdo the composition because it will show.
Show your original, most unique work! Put your personality into every shot and have fun. If you are including someone else’s animation because your work is in the same shot, we suggest adding a shot list and a reel breakdown list so the hiring managers will know what piece was done by you. For example, if a scene features multiple characters that you and other artists worked on, specify the character that you worked on and outline the kind of work that you did to get the results seen in the demo reel.
Keep it Simple
Presentation is important when submitting a demo reel but there is no need to create unnecessary designs that could take the attention away from your work. Keep your demo reel simple, no need for customized logos, fancy fonts, music, unnecessary sound effects, and other design elements that could affect how your animation skills are presented.
You want to present your animation skills as clearly as possible. Loud music, for example, might distract the viewers from the dialogue (if your reel comes with a dialogue animation test), fancy fonts could distract the hiring manager from giving your character’s design a closer look. Sound effects are nice, just be sure that you are spending more of your time piecing together an impressive demo reel and don’t focus too much on the frills.
Find a Mentor
You probably showed your demo reel to your friends or family and got great feedback but to take your work to the next level, you need (impartial) advice from professional animators. If you know other animators or if you have a mentor, get feedback from them. Listen as they analyze your work and trust their judgment.
Getting glowing reviews from friends and family is nice but they might miss or forgive obvious flaws that will put off potential employers. Having a mentor, getting honest and unbiased feedback will help improve your work down the line. We happen to have an amazing mentorship program where you’ll receive great advice + tips from some of the most respected light artists in the business.