A demo reel is an animator’s strongest weapon when applying for jobs. The quality of your reel will determine whether you are invited to an interview. Having worked as an Animation Recruiter for over 12 years, I’ve prepared this guide that will help you make the best first impression and hopefully land an interview with every studio you apply to!
It’s crucial to remember that quality, not quantity, should be the focus of your reel. It’s been suggested that unless the first 10 seconds grab your audience’s attention, they’re unlikely to watch the whole thing. Therefore, you should place your best / most impressive shots first, and don’t regard it like a chronology from Uni work up to the present.
The goal is to demonstrate that you understand the 12 Principles of Animation and how they may be applied to their studio and 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. Try to have a balanced mix of stylised “cartoon” animations along with realistic “human” animation both personal and professional work is recommended.
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 also!
Your reel should be mostly keyframe and mocap Acting / Performance animations that are expressive, like a dialogue scene between two 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.
A couple things to avoid
If your 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.