More on Demo Reels

Lately, I have been looking at alot of demo reels. Many people sent in work for the internship we had this summer which is coming to a close. I wanted to touch on some of the works that stood out and others that faded into the background.

1) First off, test your DVD. 20% or more just don’t work. You would be amazed at how many reels don’t play or expect the user to download a quicktime file or try it on other dvd players.

2) Put your best stuff first. That first clip is the hook. You want to impress your viewers.

3) End with something great. It leaves a lasting impression. Alot of the time you remember one or two great shots on  a reel.

4) Don’t use those free Internet models. I cant tell you how many times we see the same 4 or five models. Yes, we know its hard to rig and  find a good model to animate, but seeing the same rig for all these years is getting old. If you are gonna use a free rig, alter it so much so that you cant tell that its the norman rig or the animation mentor rig.Using the stock rig is just boring.

5) If possible, its great to see personal work, like a short film. I realize many people are professionals, but if you have been out of school for a few years, its still interesting to see your short film if its good. If you don’t know if its good, ask someone you respect or post it on a forum for feedback. I remember seeing a reel that had good professional work, but it was a one person acting test that closed the deal. I could see that person had a great sense of acting and emotion. They got the job.

6) Content: People will say: Acting test, one and two person, run cycle, walk cycle, weight test… Thats BS. Of course we want to see all those things, but not in a boring way. An animator has to understand acting, appeal, weight, dynamics, locomotion, etc etc… Its great to see these things in a test that has a little story to it. Something that has entertainment value. What is it that sets you apart from the other person. If your a veteran animator, but have been animating nothing but creature work, its important to really show some work that demonstrates your acting skills, or vice versa… If you are 2d transitioning to 3d, the 3d has to be as good as the 2d or don’t show it. Yes there is ramp up time for a 2d animator making the jump, but you should still have the same skills when you were drawing it. It also goes the other way. I saw a reel that had some nice 3d work, then the 2d stuff came up and it was bad. That being said, it was not the draftsmanship, it was the animation.

7) Demo reel music – make sure I can hear the dialogue. I don’t care about your taste in music. I just want to watch the work and concentrate on it. I hate reels that have loud jazzy music.. This is not a Bill Evans demo reel.

8) Your titles… It always seems that the ones with fancy titles usually suck. Simple titles with your name in the beginning and at the end with your contact info. Put that same contact info on the DVD label. I remember a DVD that was lying around my office for the longest time that had a logo on it. I had no idea what it was… Months later, I played it and it was a great reel. If I had known earlier, maybe that reel would have seen the light of day sooner… (ultimately, the guy got hired)

9) Length – Ok, if you worked 10 plus years in the biz, I know you have alot to show. We just don’t need to see it all. Show the best stuff. Some reels are also too short as well.. Somewhere between 1.5 minutes and 6 is acceptable. The 6 minute or over reel better be amazing or a short film.

10) Make sure what you are showing is ok with the last place you worked. Its akward to see alot of work from a film that is not out for two years. It makes people ask ” So if they work here, will they put their work on a reel way before the film is out?” Just be careful… People judge…

To sum up: There are so many aspects to a good demo reel. I certainly have my opinion and it does not represent everyone else’s. Heck, if I had to apply now, I’d probably have a harder time getting in, but what always impresses me in a demo reel is good ideas. Wheter they be acting ideas, story, etc… how a gesture is done etc, etc… That will win me over more than a reel that has perfect polish. Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge?” How true that rings for our industry as well….

Hope this helps a bit.

Andrew