Making Your 3D Animation Demo Reel

Six tips to create a demo reel in 3D animation that stands out from the crowd.

Six Tips for a Successful 3D Animation Demo Reel

animator working on his demo reelYou may have the talent it takes to succeed in a 3D animation career, but you’ll need an effective demo reel to impress prospective employers.

Knowing how to show off your skills is an important step in getting started in the animation field, especially since animation is such a competitive field. You have to sell yourself quickly, and to do that you need the right marketing tool—a professional, impressive demo reel.

You’ll need to plan carefully to produce the best demo reel possible and you’ll need to figure out how to put your demo reel out there where it will be noticed (YouTube or Vimeo anyone?).

Here are some tips to help you create a great 3D animation demo reel:

1. Include only your best work and put that work first.

This might sound obvious, but really, only include your most amazing content. Your demo reel is your “Greatest Hits” album. Only include work that is polished and highlights the skills you need for the job you’re hoping to get. Also, put your best work at the beginning. Time is money—especially in the entertainment industry. If your 3D animation demo reel doesn’t grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds, they probably won’t stick around to see the whole thing.

2. Make it two minutes or less.

A good demo reel is meant to open the door for you—not stay for an extended visit. Save something for the interview. Your demo reel should be long enough to intrigue your audience and show that you have a body of work and a variety of animation skills to bring to the table. Make it two minutes or less. A longer demo reel only indicates that you don’t know how to edit yourself.

3. Be unique, but don’t go over the top.

It’s good to show that you have creativity, problem-solving skills and a unique way of looking at things. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to express your individuality. Include pieces that set you apart from the competition by using unique concepts or technique. However, don’t include pieces that might put off potential employers by addressing controversial subject matter or including music or other elements that might appeal to too narrow an audience.

4. Don’t make your audience work.

This is just a good overall rule of thumb. Don’t make your audience work to figure out how to contact you. Don’t make them work to understand what work you did in your pieces. Don’t make them work to get past titles that are flashy or highly stylized. Animation reels should present each shot separately to let the viewer know what he or she is looking at. Simplify. Make it as easy as possible for your future employers to figure out that you are the right candidate for the job.

5. Give credit where credit is due.

If you collaborated on the pieces in your demo reel, make sure to call out exactly what your part in the project was. This helps employers understand your strengths and what to look for in your work. It also shows that you’re not trying to take credit for other people’s work.

6. Be clear about the job you want.

It’s important to be specific. For instance, if you really want a job as a texture artist, make sure that is clearly communicated in your résum and at the beginning of your demo reel. Also make sure that your demo reel showcases your texture work. Don’t expect prospective employers to know what you’re looking for in a job. If you have a specific interest, spell it out.