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Creating Engaging Animated Demos: Tips and Tricks

ben marvazi 2020

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“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Apple

In all professions, you need two important things at the ready in order to land a job: Your resume and portfolio. Your resume is a written document containing all your relevant work experience, while your portfolio is a collection of all the materials that showcase your skills and qualifications, it’s proof that you aren’t lying on your resume

Now, when starting up an animation business, you will need something of the same sort. This will be your animated demo.

Animated demos may also be called demo reels or a showreel. It is a collection of all your best-animated work, showcasing your range, creativity, diversity, level of skill, and experience in the animation industry. In some ways, animated demos are almost like a combination of an animator’s resume and portfolio. 

If you are a more experienced animator, you can think of your demo reel as something akin to a singer’s “Greatest Hits” record. 

An animated demo is essential to effectively market your animation studio, stand out against your competitors, and impress your animation prospects and leads with your creative range. Without it, your target audience will no idea what you can bring to the table.

Additionally, if done well, it is a great way to refine your branding – shape or reshape how other people may view your animation studio – and establish your authenticity and value. 

But how do you keep your audience hooked to your animated demos? What are the things that make a great animated demo? In this blog post, we’ll provide you with all the tips and tricks so you can create engaging animated demos and attract the right people to your animation studio.

6 Tips And Tricks For Creating Animated Demos

Compile All Your Best Animated Videos

girl sitting at her desk in front of her computer flicking her pencil and thinking

GIF by josefinaschargo via GIPHY

This goes without saying that every animator’s animated demo is a compilation of their best and most relevant works. So, go through all your animated videos and pick out the ones that truly stand out and show your skill and creativity as an animator. 

Whether it be your personal animations or those you have made for clients, add them to your animated demos if you feel they would spark a strong impression on those who would watch it.

Going through your personal animations is even highly encouraged as these are your passion projects so they’re more likely a better reflection of who you are and what you do best when animating. This is unlike animations coming from clients, which show more of your ability to follow directions and effectively translate their vision and ideas into an animated video

You should also consider the animations that elicit strong emotions within you, those with relevant themes and storylines, those that you created for major brands, and those that your peers or clients especially liked.

Besides a good storyline and evident proof of your level of skill, your best animations have a high-quality video resolution and sound quality.

Once you have picked out your best-animated videos, get the most significant parts or scenes that evidently reflect your skill. 

Add most of your best work at the beginning of your animated demos, and consider sprinkling the rest throughout the video. People most likely won’t have time to watch the whole thing so make sure your demo’s opening already contains most of what they need to know.  

According to the LinkedIn article The Psychology of Video, “Grabbing the viewer’s attention is crucial in the first 30 seconds of the video, otherwise, they will lose interest.” The idea is to start strong in order to sustain your audience’s attention to your animations.

Highlight Your Style Of Animation In Your Animated Demos

abstract image of an frige with a pot plant in a pot with an eye and fast food that is steaming

GIF by irenefeleo via GIPHY

An engaging animated demo shows people who you are. What do we mean by that? It communicates your objective, values, and ideals. Therefore, you must be conscious of the animations and the style of animation you decide to include. 

Your animation style is essentially your creative signature as an animator, so it makes sense that it must be highlighted throughout your animated demos. It gives your animations a unique quality and is a key tool for your animation studio to stand out in a highly innovative and fast-paced industry. 

Besides that, your style of animation is a part of your branding, and good branding is integral to having a successful animation studio. With good branding, you will be able to establish your legitimacy and authenticity, attract the right audience to your animated videos, and improve your advertising.

Furthermore, your animation style defines the kind of animator you are because it is a reflection of what you enjoy animating, as well as your influences from the moment you first got into animation. Your style of animation may best be reflected in your animation passion projects, but chances are, you’ve probably been using them for your client’s animated videos as well. 

Also, try not to include animated videos with a style you no longer want to commit to. Prospects and leads might request videos with that style. Then, you would either have to uncomfortably explain how you’ve moved on from using such a style or oblige to their request.

However, if you are still in the process of discovering your style of animation, that’s alright. You don’t necessarily need your animated demos to have one distinct style as long as there is still some form of consistency and coherence all throughout. Instead, you can ensure that you include animations that clearly capture your skill. 

There are also a couple of steps you can follow in order to develop your animation style, such as learning the fundamentals, watching as many animated videos as you can, and drawing whatever you see.

Make Your Animated Demos Short But Sweet

Mr Burns from the Simpsons waiting for everyone to sit before starting his speech he says " I'll keep it short and sweet"

GIF by thesimpsons via GIPHY 

The hard truth is: Not every animation studio will allot the time and patience to watch your animated demos. This is especially true if they are a prominent name in the industry. 

That’s because they are most definitely busy dealing with other matters such as building their own brand or working on the production of their animated videos.

Odds are, they’re probably watching tons of other demo reels as well. That’s why it is so important you put your best work at the beginning, so the moment they view yours, they will quickly have an idea of your creativity and capability. 

Strive to keep your demo within 1 to 3 minutes. The shorter, the better, as you might risk losing your audience’s full attention. Face it, you are far more likely to click on a video that lasts 3 minutes rather than one that’s 20 minutes. 

According to research on the performance of videos in business, the average retention rate of viewers stands at 52%. However, this is still dependent on other factors such as the video’s duration and content. Furthermore, 68% of people are more likely to watch an entire video if it’s under 60 seconds, while only 25% will finish one that is under 20 minutes.

Shorter animated demos are especially crucial in the age of social media where short-form videos are all the rage to market your business. When audiences click on a video, they want to instantaneously grasp its gist. 

So, in the case of your animated demos, your target audience will want to know what you are capable of doing right from the get-go. When making your animated demos, aim to answer the questions, “What are they supposed to take away from this?” and “How quickly will they be able to grasp it?

Avoid adding any fluff, fillers, unnecessary elements, or fancy editing techniques that don’t add any value to your animations. It might just confuse your audience. Simply put, don’t drag your content. 

What you can do instead is be particular about the clips you decide to include in your demo reel. Think about it this way: It’s not just about your best and most relevant animated videos, it’s about the scenes within them where your skills shine bright. 

Remember, quality is better than quantity. Less is more. A mesmerizing 1-minute animated demo is better than a 3-minute mediocre one. 

Keep It Direct To The Point

arrow flying and hitting the bulls eyes in the middle board


Similar to the previous point, you want to keep your animated demos focused on one thing: Your animation skills.

Avoid sharing any unnecessary details that would detract your audience’s attention from the main spectacle. 

One common mistake animators make here is in their editing. It’s common to believe that if your animated demos have fancy transitions and intricate edits that would clearly have taken you hours to work on, then you’re more likely to impress your target audience. I mean, if you can edit so well, you are bound to be an excellent animator right?

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Your animated demos are not meant to sell your video editing skills, it’s intended to sell your animation skills. And if your video editing shines as opposed to your animations, then it would only lead to confusion.

Besides that, you would only be wasting precious time and energy on an aspect that’s even overlooked by professionals in the industry. Those are the people who already know what to look for the moment they click on a video. If they sense your demo reel is nothing but 3 minutes of cool video editing, it’s likely to end up on the back burner. 

Even if you believe you only have mediocre animations, try not to over-compensate with the editing. Instead, you can focus more on telling a story

You can use your animated demos to show your journey as an animator. Highlight how your technical skills, creativity, and animation style have developed. How you used to work for smaller brands until the bigger names gradually took notice. 

Come up with a clear message or a key takeaway, and shape your animated demos to be about expressing that. Doing that would be a better technique than oversaturating your demo with fun fonts and transitions. And remember, people, love a good story.

Clearly Indicate Your Contact Details

purple phone ringing against a red background

GIF by neighborlynotaryNYC via GIPHY

Your animated demos might be the most impressive or creative ones, presenting all your best and most relevant animated videos — They may include big brands you worked for or noteworthy people in the industry — but what would be the point if there’s no way for audiences to reach you after they watch?

Adding a card for your contact details is the most obvious and crucial tip, but it’s often the one animators forget about. 

What ends up happening is people struggle in reaching out to animators or animation studios because of the lack of contact details. This causes them to choose another animation studio.

Accessibility and user convenience is such defining factor when running a business. It’s part of your customer experience. In line with that, according to a customer service expectations survey by the customer service platform Gladly, “68% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and services from a brand with positive customer service experiences.”

Your contact details can simply be indicated in print on a plain white background. It doesn’t have to be edited in some fancy way; just keep it clear and comprehensible. If you prefer to be a little more creative with it, that’s alright as long as all the necessary details are still there.

What’s important is that you include your name, the name of your animation studio, your phone number, your professional email address, and your social media accounts. You may also include your studio’s location (if you have a physical animation studio) and the country you work in, just so people know what timezone to expect.

It’s ideal to indicate your contact details at the beginning and the end of your animated demos to make it clear and remind everyone how you can be reached. That way, people can conveniently get in touch with you if they’re interested.

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Some Changes As You Progress

man character drawing an octopus on  his computer screen and making it look more cartoon like

GIF by squideo via GIPHY

Every businessman is bound to make some changes as their organization grows, whether it be major structural changes or less significant ones. The same applies to you as an animation studio owner. You may believe that your animated demos are set and done but you are always going to make some tweaks every once in a while.

Whether it be adding a clip here and there, or even making an entirely new one that would better reflect your animated skills – you shouldn’t feel afraid or even lazy to go back to the editing software and update your animated demos. 

The same logic can actually apply to your animation skills. Don’t get too complacent with what you know and can do. There’s always room for growth, to accomplish more, and develop your skills. 

Keep updating your demo reel as you grow, especially as you hit certain milestones in your journey as an animator. It would keep your audience engaged and impressed. Additionally, it would even strengthen your client’s pride in your skills and trust in your legitimacy. 

You can update your animated demos at regular intervals, perhaps annually or biannually, so as not to startle your clients and any leads or prospects.

However, despite all the tweaks and revisions, you must strive to keep one thing constant: The intent of your animation studio. No matter what changes you impact on to your animated demos, it must still reflect the core values and objectives of your animation studio. It must still reflect your animation skill and your identity.

Your identity is part of why your clients have flocked to you in the first place, switching it up would not only be a lot of work but it would be a bad business strategy. So while it’s important to make changes, make sure that they’re smart and well-thought-out changes.

It’s Time To Create Your Animated Demos

girl sitting at her computer working the whole day and night

GIF by emmelinedraws via GIPHY

If you want to land the first client of your animation studio, you will need to create a couple of animated demos. A great one clearly presents your level of animation skill and experience. For more, it must also reflect your identity: The ideals and objectives you espouse. Think of it as your visual resume.

By containing all your best, relevant, and up-to-date animated videos, it serves as your tool in developing your branding, impressing your target audience, and attracting leads to your animation studio.

Your animated demo is an integral part of building your animation career, that’s why you have to do it well. Fortunately, this blog post has provided you with 6 useful tips and tricks to create engaging animated demos.

First, compile all your best-animated videos. Remember to pick the most relevant parts. Second, highlight your style of animation throughout your demo. Third, keep it short but sweet. Aim to make it 1 to 3 minutes long. Less is more.

Fourth, make sure your demo is direct to the point. Don’t say anything that’s unnecessary. Chances are, your audience will only ignore it. Fifth, don’t forget to add your contact details at the beginning and the end of your animated demos. And sixth, don’t be afraid to make any necessary changes as your animation career expands.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, it’s up to you to compile your clips, open your editing software, and get to work.

For more tips on developing your business skills as a freelance animator or animation studio owner, you can join our informative free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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