Demo Work Guide
Demo work is essential for when looking for an Art, Animation, Design or Programming position.
It is important that you spend time working on your portfolio to ensure it is the best representation of your up-to-date skill set and shows the breadth of your abilities. It must be relevant to the jobs you’re applying for and ideally a mix of personal and professional work. Do ensure that you have the rights to use the work you send to us! Demo needs to be easy to navigate, you only get one chance to make a first impression – let’s make sure it’s a good one.
Our clients like to see online portfolios or demo reels. Ideally you can put these on your own website, however there are other websites you can use for this. Examples include:
For Art & Animation accompany any demo with a shot breakdown, listing what software package/s were used, the name of the project, and (if it’s not obvious) what work is your own and what’s not. Also tell us how long the work took.
If your demo is a video, try to include this information in the reel i.e. in a clip before the animation or at the bottom of the animation whilst it runs. If you choose to write a separate document, number the clips and then refer to the appropriate number, preferably with a picture of the start of that clip. This will help demonstrate initiative and more importantly stand you out of the ever increasing crowd who are also trying to get a job in the industry.
If your work is currently under a Non-Disclosure/Confidentiality Agreement, please do not send it to us. Our clients understand the sensitive nature of Games Development and will try to offer an alternative (i.e. assessment or test) if you are unable to submit your latest example work.
When applying for work an Animators best weapon is their demo reel. The strength of your reel will determine whether you’ll be invited to interview or not! Having worked as a Recruiter in Animation for more than 12 years, I’ve written this guide to help you make the best impression and land an interview with every studio you apply to!
Your reel should be between 1-2minutes, and it’s important to remember quality of quantity! It’s said unless the first 10 seconds captures your audience’s attention it’s unlikely they will watch it all the way through, so put your best / most impressive shots first, do not treat it as a timeline from Uni work to present, no excuses!
The purpose is to clearly show you have an excellent grasp of the 12 Principles of Animation that can be applied to their studio and its projects:
- Squash and stretch
- Straight ahead action and pose to pose
- Follow through and overlapping action
- Slow in and slow out
- Secondary action
- Solid drawing
These should be demonstrated in a mix of Body Mechanics and / or Acting/Performance depending on the type of position you are applying for, Gameplay or Cinematic?
Your reel should be mostly keyframe and mocap Body Mechanic animations that cycle seamlessly i.e. walk, run, attack combo, gun reload, climbing, jumping etc. A cool creature animation or two is always very welcome too!
Your reel should be mostly keyframe and mocap Acting / Performance animations that are expressive, like a dialogue scene between 2 or more characters. Camera placement and animation is also an important consideration. Special Mention: If using fully rendered in-game cinematics in your reel, when it is not obvious what animations are yours, it’s essential you write an accompanying Shot Breakdown either as a separate document, beneath the video or better yet embedded in the shot as it plays.
Try to have a balanced mix of stylised “cartoon” animations along with realistic “human” animation both personal and professional work is recommended.
WARNING! If the work is old (more than 3 years) then think twice before including it in your reel. It is better to have a shorter reel with fewer polished animations than a longer reel with dated animations that do not show your current ability. A couple dodgy old animations can seriously hinder the strength of your overall reel!
Do not use work that you don’t have express permission from the IP holder to use in your reel or breach an NDA, doing so could make you and anyone you send it to liable for prosecution!
Once you are happy with your reel I recommend hosting it on a free streaming platform such as www.vimeo.com this way everyone should be able to watch it with the least amount of hassle.
Games & Level Designers usually submit example design documentation, level designs, scripting or even mod examples (depending on your level of experience) to support your application. Examples can either be a commercial or personal project and will be a snapshot of your capabilities.
Be sure to add links or downloads of your playable levels. We don’t necessarily need entire design documents, just an extract that is relevant to a prospective employer so they can see your design processes and where possible, the final outcome. Your portfolio needs to be your best work, avoid clutter and remove older work as your career progresses to make room for the new as this will be what the studio wants to see.
A demo is an excellent way of showing a potential employer what you are capable of and can make the difference in securing an interview. It doesn’t need to be big, or even a game, as long as it is relevant to the role you are applying for and most importantly highlights your skill set.
If you are producing a programming demo, there are three golden rules to follow:
Make it relevant: there is no point in producing something that would be no use in a game – the objective is to impress, so be bold with your ideas.
Make it easy: i.e. include an executable, which requires no additional software to run. Also, include the source code so they can look at how you produced the demo. A read me file with instructions are always a plus as the recipient will not always know how to play your demo.
Make it stable: the worst-case scenario would be to produce a really good demo that won’t run on another machine. Make sure you thoroughly test it and try it on several machines and at the end of the day you are happy to send out what you have produced.
Art portfolio’s need to be tailored to the jobs that you’re applying for, for example, if you’re applying for an environment artist role, you need to show the employer examples of your environment experience.
Studios are looking for 15-20 images that showcase your diversity as a 2D Artist. They want to be able to see you can go from producing a small in-game asset to a large scale environment, an icon/logo or even a character. Diversity is key in this role, they will want to see that you can produce these images all at a similar level of quality.
Employers are looking for 15-20 images that showcase your diversity as a 3D Artist. They want to be able to see you can go from producing a small in-game asset to a large scale environment, an icon/logo or even a character. Diversity is key in this role, they will want to see that you can produce work with low and high poly counts and also show a good eye for colour and composition.
Usually at this level you have moved away from hands on art creation. You will still be sketching ideas, giving advice and at times touching up your team’s artwork.
Your portfolio will need to show some of your previous experience with hands on art creation. You will also need to showcase artwork where you have been in charge – what was created and where you were involved in the piece or project.
Employers will be looking for the diversity of your work – what can you produce, do you specialise in environments, characters creatures or all of the above? They like to see images from the initial sketch stage to the finished cinematic image. Employers will want to see imagination in your work.
Have you used photo manipulation? If so, let the employer know and explain what you did in each image so they can see what you are capable of.
15-20 images of your more recent work showcasing your skills. It is important to show a good eye for colour and composition.
They will want to know if you created the whole environment from scratch. Explain if you used ready-made assets or if you created them from white box model stage.
Did you do the lighting? Create the organics? Did you do the textures? Have you added breakdowns of each image, including the texture files? Let the studio know.
If you are a lighting artist ideally a demo reel is the best way to showcase your skills so the employer can see your lighting in real-time. If this is not possible, use high quality, high-resolution images that show off your lighting skills. A breakdown of what you did with the lighting in each image is very important.
Employers typically like to see 15-20 images of your UI examples. This needs to include, logos, typography, icons etc. that show a good eye for colour and composition. For the more design-orientated side of UI and UX, employers like to see how you can design interfaces that are cohesive and understandable for players. Examples of UIs, Menus & HUDs, wireframes and User Flows etc. with a brief blurb attached breaking down your rationale for the layout and functionality can really help with your application.
If you are a VFX artist ideally a demo reel is the best way to showcase your skills as the employer can see your VFX examples in real-time. Sending over screenshots or still images will not give the studio the best representation of your work. A breakdown of how you created each effect is very important.