A demo reel is your calling card. It not only shows what you can do, but also shows who you are. It displays your personality. It is also your resume and a key component to helping you land that dream job or client.
Every single scene in your demo reel MUST be your very best work. You have one chance to impress and first impressions are everything. Your goal is to capture the viewer’s attention immediately. Keep the reel short. I think that reels over :90 are too long. You don’t have to show every piece of work you have done..just your strongest pieces. As a creative director I receive a lot of reels and I don’t have a lot of down time to spend watching reels, so a short, very strong reel is going to capture my attention.
Don’t ever, ever, ever claim someone else’s work as your own. I have seen this happen too many times and it has happened to me more than once. It’s a punch in the face to see your work on someone else’s reel. If you only worked on a small piece of a scene, don’t act as if you created the majority of the shot. Let it be known what you actually did. I have also worked with teams of animators on projects in the past where it quickly became obvious who lied about the work they had done or were capable of doing.
Don’t use tutorial content to build your reel and don’t repeat work on the same reel. No one wants to see the same piece of work twice. It will make you look less credible. If you don’t have enough content to fill :60 – :90 then create a fictitious client or spec work for an already established brand. The first reel I created 15 years ago was 50% actual work and 50% made up client work. I created logo animations and spec content for clients that I never had intentions of being paid for. The work was good and it got me my first “real” job.
For motion graphics work it is best to create a collage-style reel. Show a variety of work, but your reel should be focused on the type of work you would like to get. For example, if your specialty is compositing or effects work, you could show before and after shots to highlight this. In general I will show the most recent work first. If you have more than one reel in cyberspace, chances are that potential clients have seen your past work. You don’t want to bore them immediately with work they have already seen. One suggestion is to start your reel with your name or company name and end with the same including your contact info. If people don’t know who you are and how to contact you then your reel is worthless.
The music should also reflect your personality. When picking out music for your reel, take this opportunity to showcase more of who you are. Pick a song that compliments your style. Most likely, it will need to be cut down to a shorter run time since most songs run in the range of 3+ minutes. I use Logic Pro to do this, but in the past I have used AE or Premiere to cut down tracks. It’s not ideal, but it worked. Express your personality through the cuts and music. Show some emotion. I view the music as just another opportunity to showcase my editing skills. While I prefer to edit in AE, Premiere and Final Cut are great tools for putting together reels. In today’s age, most clients expect you to be more versatile and that include editing skills.
Lastly, make sure you have no errors in your reel. No spelling errors. No glitches, pops, etc. This makes you look unprofessional and if you’re looking to work for a high end client you had better cross your T’s and dot your I’s.
I hope that you find this information useful when building your reel. Use this information as a baseline for your reel, but make your reel unique. Some of the best reels out there are ones that break the rules. I have broken the rules on a number of occasions and it has brought me positive attention.
To your ever-betterment,