Demo Reel Tips
21-10-2004, 11:25 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Rep Power: 9
Saw this article on some website a while back and I saved it. I think its written by some hot shot guy working at ILM as an animation director or somethin, pls go thru it :
And here is the list of demo reel do's and don'ts that Shawn Kelly made:
1) keep it under 2 minutes. 2.5 MAX.
2) no color-bars, no 30 seconds of black
3) no flying logos - get your name up there, your contact info, and get
to the goods.
4) don't repeat your shots. If you have 5 shots, show them all, then
repeat them all again, if you want. If a shot goes by that they love and
want to see again, they'll rewatch it later. If things start to repeat,
they are going to fast-forward and potentially miss something.
5) don't break up your shots with "titles." Just show your shots. If you
feel like you really need to show black between the shots, keep it short
- maybe 10 frames of black or so
6) LABELS!!!! Be sure you label the tape, label the SPINE, and label the
box. Remember, it will end up on someone's shelf, so the spine is what
7) Use a new tape. You can buy 5 minute VHS tapes for really cheap. You
don't want a bunch of warbly snow at the beginning of the tape and an
old episode of Seinfeld at the end of your reel.
8) When to send your reel:
Send your reel if you:
A- hear a company is hiring
B- think your stuff is looking good and even if you heard the company
isn't hiring. (it's always good to at least get on their radar, and/or
maybe get onto the "people we want to interview when we *are* hiring" list.
C- When you feel you've made significant improvements to your reel. If
you send a reel on January 1st, but you think it's way better on
February 1st, send it again - that's totally okay. Maybe even include a
note that says your last reel didn't have your "latest stuff" so you
wanted to send an update.
9) Use a VHS tape. The world isn't quite ready for dvd yet. Almost, but
not quite. Some studios are watching dvd reels, but many aren't, and if
the reviewer has to go upstairs to some other room to watch your dvd
reel, it isn't going to happen. They'll watch the 50 vhs tapes sitting
in front of them first, and if they ever do get to your dvd, chances are
they've already found someone that matches who they are looking for.
Everyone has a VCR. Oh - and the worst thing you can do is send a
CD-ROM. The odds that the reviewer will take the time to go find a PC
that is compatible with whatever you made your CD-ROM with are slim to none.
10) Your demo reel is only as good as the worst thing on it, so only
include your best stuff. 30 seconds of kickass animation will always
beat out the guy with a 5 minute reel who had 30 seconds of great
animation , 3 minutes of so-so animation, and 1.5 minutes of crap.
11) Along those lines, only include your short film if you truly believe
that all the scenes show off your animation ability. It's really really
rare for us to see a short film where every scene is demo-reel worthy.
Usually it's 3 or 4 shots in the film that are good, and the rest should
have been dropped.
If you really want to show your short film, cut out your best scenes and
shot them at the beginning of the tape as part of your animation reel
(with excercises or whatever you have). Then at the end of the tape,
include the full film. This way, they can watch your animation, which
chances are is all they are interested in anyway, and then if they want
to, they can watch your film.
This is a double-edged sword though, so only include it if the film is
good. If your animation reel is good, but they see a whole bunch of
stinker scenes in your short-film, their opinion of you just dropped
from "wow, this animator does tons of awesome animation!" to "oh, looks
like their animation is erratic. Some of this stuff was good, but man -
some of it was really bad." Why chance it?
12) include a LOG SHEET. A little sheet in the cover of the VHS box or
glued to the inside that explains which shots are on your reel (a little
thumbnail looks classy), the timecode of where that shot is located on
your reel, and what you personally did on that scene.
13) If you are going for an animation job at a feature animation studio
- keep this in mind: TAILOR YOUR REEL to the STUDIO **and** the POSITION
you are applying for. If you are applying to Pixar, it probably isn't a
great idea to have a bunch of spaceships flying around. If you are
applying to a games job at a smaller studio, it'd probably help your
chances to show that you are multi-talented and can model a bit, texture
a bit, animate a bit, etc.
But if you're going for animation at a feature studio, do not include
any model turntables. Don't show off textures. Don't give them any
indication that your focus has been fragmented between disciplines. As
far as they should be concerned, your life is all about character
animation. They are hiring you to animate, nothing else. They could care
less if you modelled something - don't waste their time with it.
Many Anim supes prefer to see your scene in flat-shaded mode, so I
wouldn't even include any textures and stuff like that. It can make your
work harder to evaluate. They don't care about textures. They don't care
about your model - they care about how it moves and emotes.
Remember - the studios aren't looking for people who are pretty good at
a bunch of different things. They want someone who rocks the house at
14) MUSIC - if you want to put music on your reel, make sure it isn't
offensive or, almost more importantly, annoying. If it's annoying or
super-loud, they are going to crank the volume down on your tape, and
if/when your dialogue masterpiece comes up, the volume will be on mute,
and if you think that they are going to stop and rewind the tape to hear
it when they have 100 other tapes to get to, you're kidding yourself.
15) That brings me to the biggest rule of demo-reels: design it so the
reviewer never has to touch the remote. You do not want them to
fast-forward OR rewind. If the tape starts and there is 10 seconds of
black, that reviewer is going to hit fast-forward and possibly end up
zooming right past your first 2 or 3 shots. Now, if there is a box full
of tapes for them to get to, they are not going to rewind and you just
shot yourself in the foot, because:
16) You need to hook them RIGHT OFF THE BAT. If they don't see something
they like in the first 2 shots, you're probably toast. The rule I like
to use is this: assuming you have 3 shots that are all almost equally
good, build your reel around them like this:
- put your second-best shot first
- put your "worst" (but still really good, hopefully!) shots in the middle
- put your best shot last.
This way, the first thing they see grabs their attention and they say,
"wow - that looked really nice." That should hook them for the rest of
the reel (assuming you don't drag them around for 3 minutes). And then
right at the end - BOOM! You hit them right in the face with your
awesome ninja work and they end the tape thinking that you ROCK.
If instead you put your best 2 shots first and then everything else,
they start out thinking "wow - that looked really nice" but as it peters
off towards the end, they are left feeling "that's too bad, they showed
a lot of potential, but the rest of the reel just doesn't hold up."
It's kind of psychological, but I think it can help a lot to set up your
reel this way.
17) Don't put anything on your reel that you don't want to do full-time
every day professionally. If you did a cool tornado effect in Maya using
particles, but you want to do character animation and hated working on
that tornade, even though it looks nice you'd be insane to put that on
your reel. There is a fair chance they'd say "Oh - we need someone to do
particle stuff!" and then boom - you're stuck doing that.
It's very easy to quickly be pigeon-holed into a position at a studio
and digging yourself out of that hole can be next to impossible.
And once you get into a studio, it is really, really, really really
really hard to change jobs. Best case scenario is that it usually takes
2 or 3 years at least to move from one discipline into another. So if
you hate tornados, don't sign yourself up for 2 or 3 years of tornados!!
18) Include a resume and a cover-letter. And for the love of God, use
19) If you have a great shot that is done to dialogue that is racist,
full of cussing, extremely sexual, etc - I would really reconsider using
that on a reel. I know a guy who did a great acting test to a line that
had a lot of cussing, and found out later that the cussing was the
specific reason the reviewer didn't recommend his stuff. The reviewer
turned out to be deeply religious and was very offended.
If it's offensive in any way, don't animate to it, and at least don't
put it on your reel. You never know who is going to watch that reel - it
could be the very person you're making fun of in your racist "jokes" or
a memeber of the religion you are putting down or the sex you are making
I know it's kind of lame to feel like you have to censor yourself, but
if it's for a job, you'd be silly to ignore this factor.
20) THE BIGGEST NUMBER ONE THING:
Okay, it's number 20, but I'm making it number 1.
Do not, ever, under any situation, put someone else's animation on your
reel and try to pass it off as your own. Ever. This is the single
dumbest thing you can do in your career.
The industry is very small. We all have friends at pretty much every
major studio. I've worked with people in the past who have moved on to
many of the other big spots, such as Weta, Sony, Dreamworks, Pixar,
Digital Domain, etc. We all know what each other's shots look like. We
all talk about people who are applying for jobs at the different studios.
I've personally seen it happen two different times where someone decided
they were going to put other people's work on their reels. What happened
to them? Blacklisted at every major studio there is.
The phone calls start coming. You get a phone call from halfway around
the world from an old friend saying "hey, I'm looking at so-and-so's
demo reel and it has this shot on here. I thought you did this shot?"
And you say, "What? Yeah - I *did* do that shot!" And boom - that's it.
The odds of that person getting a job anywhere after that are slim to
none. Every studio will hear and be warned about that person. The fact
that it's really juicy gossip will only help that information travel
between the different companies at light speed...
It's the kiss of death for your career and it blows my mind that people
try it. If you have a scene on your reel where you animated one
character and other people animated the others, make sure you make that
very clear on your log-sheet.
21-10-2004, 01:24 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Rep Power: 10
Hey rishi thanx for sharing that with us iam sure it will be so much of a help...
keep up the good work
27-04-2005, 07:10 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Rep Power: 0
Demo Reels; Resumes; Cover Letters - Tips and Suggestions>>
Jeremy Cantor ? Animation
Supervisor ? Sony Pictures Imageworks
The best piece of general advice
I can give to someone when submitting a demo reel is this: Imagine that the
people who are going to review your work are the busiest, most disorganized
and most inconsiderate folks on the planet. You want to make it as easy and
painless as possible for them to look at your stuff. Try to avoid anything
that might contribute to them being less able (or less willing) to review
(1) Make it short and to the point. (See previous paragraph).
(2) If you are applying to a particular department, indicate this so we know
who should be looking at the tape.
(3) If you were referred by someone, definitely mention this.
(4) Include a list of references. Most of us have had at least one or two
bad experiences with colleagues in the past. If you don't steer your prospective
employer toward folks who like you, they might stumble upon someone who doesn't.
(5) Avoid adjectives. I'm always suspicious when someone butters up their
cover letter by telling me how good their work is. I want an applicant to
convince me of their talents with their animations, not their words. One of
my favorite quotes is: "When your work speaks for itself, there's no
need to interrupt".
(6) Check your spelling, grammar, punctuation & typos. This may not matter
to some people but keep in mind that your cover letter is often your very
first introduction to a prospective employer. Don't let your first impression
indicate that you don't check your work and that attention to detail is not
a priority for you.>>
(1) Try to avoid listing irrelevant experience in the previous employment
section. (But consider carefully what is and what is not potentially relevant.)
(2) At the bottom of the page, however, do list skills/hobbies/interests that
might be relevant (or otherwise attractive to your potential employers). If
you're applying for a job at an interactive studio that makes fighting games
and you've studied karate, indicate this. Acting/mime/dance/gymnastics/etc
are good skills to mention when applying for a job as an animator. You never
know what might be relevant. Sometimes an interviewer might notice that, like
him, you are an experienced rock climber. Perhaps there aren't any other rock
climbers in the building and your potential boss hates the fact that he can't
share stories about his weekend adventures over lunch with anyone. Believe
it or not, sometimes a little detail like that can actually have a big impact
on whether or not you get the job.
(3) Accentuate but DON'T LIE! If you were a lead game tester, it's okay to
call yourself "QA (quality assurance) manager". If, however, you
were a grunt animator at a particular shop & you once made a suggestion
to a co-worker and they followed it, don't call yourself an animation supervisor.>>
>(1) VHS! NTSC! Every studio has
a standard VHS player. But they might not have a 3/4 deck or a PAL converter.
Don't send CD's, floppies or zips unless you've called ahead and confirmed
that they can view such formats.
(2) Put your best stuff first. Because of the volume of tapes we look at,
if we're not "grabbed" in the first few seconds of a reel we tend to watch
the rest in fast-forward mode until we see something that looks interesting
enough to stop and look at in normal speed. Don't let us miss your best piece.
(3) Don't repeat animations. Please don't assume that we wanted to see that
particular piece again. We do have a rewind button on our VCR. Also, repeating
animations implies you have a limited quantity of work and it looks like "filler".
(4) Keep it short. 3 minutes is a general target length.
(5) Include a reel breakdown (preferably in the body of the tape itself).
Unless EVERYTHING on the tape is 100% yours, it is essential that you include
a descriptive list of your contributions to each shot. If you don't, we are
assuming that you are claiming that everything is all yours. If you have collaborative
work on your reel, it is dishonest, annoying and potentially plagiaristic
to not include a reel breakdown.
(6) DO NOT PUT OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK ON YOUR REEL! This should be the most obvious
thing in the world but it happens. I recently received a reel without a breakdown
that had work I recognized because it belonged to a friend of mine! After
requesting a reel breakdown, the dishonest submitter admitted to "having had
little to do with" certain pieces on the reel. Since this information was
not initially volunteered I had been led to believe that he was claiming to
have done those pieces himself. We do not make a habit of hiring deceitful
people. Also, do not include any tutorials or demo/stock scenes which came
with the software on your reel.
(7) Don't send inappropriate work. A place that does children's educational
software does not want to see blood and guts. Don't send a creature-shop a
demo reel full of spaceships and camera fly-throughs. This shows that you
didn't take the time to find out about the company to which you are applying.
Why then should they take the time to find out about you?
(8) Label your tape clearly and put your contact information in the body of
the tape. Sometimes tapes get separated from their resumes. Make it easy for
us to re-organize our piles.
(9) Pop your tabs. Remember, we are busy, disorganized & inconsiderate. We
might accidentally hit the "record" button instead of the "play" button on
our remote control.
(10) Rewind your tape. We WILL charge you $1.00!
(11) Include drawings on your tape ONLY if you truly think they will help
your case. I will certainly be more inclined to want to interview someone
whose tape has borderline-quality animations but there are really good figure
drawings at the end. Strong fundamental skills are a good indication of someone's
overall aesthetic sensibilities. However, don't include bad figure drawings
just to demonstrate that you've taken a figure drawing class. You don't necessarily
have to show good figure drawings in order to get hired as a character animator.
Just don't go out of your way to show your weaknesses. It tells me that you
aren't a good judge of your own work and will therefore need a lot of supervision.
(12) Show "acting". Let's face it, walk/run/flight cycles alone will not get
you hired as a character animator anymore. This is mainly because such motions
can be easily copied from a variety of sources. Your animations need to convey
emotions and thoughts through body language. Example: Don't animate a kid
eating a bowl of peas. Animate a kid who hates peas but his mother is making
him eat them anyway. If you can tell such a story through timing, posing and
facial expressions alone, you will get hired. (I actually rarely have the
volume turned on when watching tapes).
(13) If possible, show some style variation. If you can do cartoony style
animation as well as realistic human motion and lip-synching, make sure you
demonstrate all of these skills on your reel. However, consider carefully
whether or not it is appropriate to show too wide a variety of skillsets.
Video game companies will want to see that you can animate as well as model
and light and rig and draw and design interfaces, etc. Large film companies,
however, often want to see strength in one particular area. The perfect demo
reel will demonstrate a variety of skillsets while making it obvious that
you are especially strong (and experienced) in one area that shines above
the others. It should say, for instance, that you clearly belong in the animation
department, but you could potentially fill some other holes if absolutely
necessary. In the film biz, a singular strength will tend to help you land
a job, but versatility tends to help you stay employed beyond the current
(14) Avoid large, cumbersome packages that are difficult to catalogue, file
and shelve. I've seen them bent to fit into boxes. Which of course brings
up: Don't send original artwork. It WILL get damaged.
(15) Don't show stuff you don't want to be asked to do.
(16) Wireframes with solid motion are better than fully textured renderings
with mediocre motion. (You might accidentally get hired to do lighting!)
(17) Be careful when including work that isn't supposed to be publicly viewed
yet. If you are showing me clips from a film that has not yet been released,
you are telling me that you'd be willing to show OUR work before it's released
as well. Make sure your interviewer knows that you've cleared it with your
current/previous place of employ first.
(18) Be careful when including animations of your potential employer's characters.
I've heard that Disney absolutely never wants to see any of their characters
on a reel. You're opening yourself up to the same level of scrutiny that goes
on in dailies every morning at that shop. If, however, you truly think you
can animate their characters as well as they can then, by all means, go for
(19) Choose your background music wisely. Avoid songs that might be deemed
annoying or offensive.
(20) Make sure your tape really shows what you're capable of. I get a lot
of tapes from ReBoot/Beast-Wars folks who mention that they have very little
time to do a shot and the style is dictated very strictly. Given such restrictions
I can't really judge their skills by seeing this work alone. When I get such
tapes I immediately request additional work. Include personal stuff as well
as professional work. I like to see what you can do on your own as well as
what you can do on a team.
(21) Be honest with yourself. If your entire demo reel is limited to demonstrating
that you've managed to pull off a couple of walk cycles, you're probably not
quite ready to offer your services as a character animation supervisor in
a full fledged animation studio. Only apply for a job that you truly feel
you're capable of handling. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you
have to have done that particular job before. In most cases you WILL in fact
be expected to rise above your current skills. Aim high, just don't bite off
more than you can chew.
(1) Be on time. Remember, first impressions are lasting impressions.
(2) Dress appropriately. You don't have to wear a suit, but error on the side
of over-dressing rather than under-dressing. Don't worry. You're not going
to insult a prospective employer if you are better dressed than they are.
Chances are you will be...after all...they already have the job!
(3) Project a positive attitude but don't go overboard and act like a used-car
salesman. Show that you are interested in working there. Compliment their
work. Just try not to make it too obvious that you're "buttering"
(4) Bring another copy of your reel/resume. Remember, we?re really disorganized.
We might not have it handy.
(5) Bring some additional work. Don't let us believe that your reel comprises
everything you've ever done.
(6) Be very careful when speaking negatively about a former job/boss/co-worker.
This is a small industry. There's a chance your interviewer knows the person/place
of which you speak. I lost a job opportunity once myself because of this mistake.
(7) Watch for trick questions. "Oh...come on...you can show us those
shots from that movie that isn't out yet...we won't tell anyone!" Or:
"Hmmmm...I see you have 3 months to go before finishing your current
project...we could really use you sooner...are you sure you can't just abandon
your current team and join us now?" If you do it to them, you'll do it
Keep in mind it often takes a while before a demo tape gets reviewed. If you
haven't heard anything for 3 weeks or so it is okay to call and make sure
your tape was received. But don't be a pest. After an interview, it is a good
idea to send a follow up letter thanking your prospective employer for taking
the time to meet with you. Don't call unless you haven't heard anything for
a little while. And do not contact the company repeatedly. If you don't get
hired, resubmit your materials every 6 months or so. Their needs and criteria
change all the time. Your skills/style might not have been appropriate for
last year's project, but they might be right for this year's. >
Tips for lighting reel
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Demo Reel Tips.
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Demo reel tips needed urgently...
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Demo Reel tips
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