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Top 9 Tips For Making an Animation Demo Reel

Your animation demo reel is like your cover letter or resume when applying for a job.

It’s your first opportunity to show your ability to create amazing animations that stand out from other animators. It has to attract your animation client’s attention enough for them to want to work with you

If you already made your own demo reel and want to update it to gain new animation clients, you’ve come to the right article.

In this blog post are our top nine tips to make an animation demo reel to impress your animation clients.

1) Set Aside Time

a man telling you to take all the time you need

GIF by Kim’s Convenience via GIPHY

Updating your demo reel at least once a year is a wise decision to make if you want to show your new animation skills and get new animation projects. Finding enough time to work on it is challenging, but it is essential to get noticed as an animator.

Think of it as a personal project that you work on during Christmas or don’t have that many clients.

2) Include Your Best and Relevant Work

a man telling you to include your best work in your demo reel

GIF via GIPHY

Your demo reel is where you showcase your best work which you are proud of. Start strong and end strong. To make a lasting impression on those who will watch it, you have to make your showreel great from beginning to end.

Grab the attention of creative directors, producers, and hiring managers by adding your personal projects and most famous work, especially if they’re for big brands.

Sometimes your best work won’t always come from your professional work because you have a limit to what you can create. It shows your extra commitment to show your best in your reel.

If you save your best work in the middle or at the end of your demo reel, the person viewing your reel might not be able to see it.

There are times that you have to make different kinds of reels depending on whether or not you want to apply for a generalist or specialist job position. According to Sir Wade Neistadt, generally, you should separate your reels. 

List at the bottom of every shot you did specifically in a shot so that the person watching your demo reel will know whether you modeled, rigged, textured, etc., an object.

But if you want to get into a specific job in the industry, you need to have a particular reel for each specialty, such as modeling, rigging and texturing.

3dtotal says not only should you include your best work but your best animations for the specific animation field you want to work in. Some good guide questions you can ask yourself before creating your showreel are

  • What business clients do you want to work for?
  • What kind of animation work do you want to get hired for?

For example, if you want to work for an animation studio that focuses more on CGI, you need to add your work related to CGI and not 2D animation. Your role as an animator should be clear to your demo eel viewer from the very start.

If you want to let your client know that you are great at rigging a CGI animation, then include several clips of that in your showreel.

3) Keep It Short and Simple

a woman telling the audience to keep it short and simple

GIF by maddyshine via GIPHY

Not many animation studios and companies will have time to watch your whole demo reel. They’re already so busy working with their teams for production.

Your client wants to see what you do and how well you do it in the shortest amount of time. Production People suggests keeping it at the standard of 1-3 minutes short. Anything longer than that will end up making your viewer lose interest.

It’s not the length of your showreel but the first few shots and also the last few shots (for those who watch until the end of your reel) that will make people decide if they should hire you or not. So rather than looking at the time of your demo reel, focus on the quality of it.

To keep your showreel short, be selective about the shots you will include. If you think they’re not a great addition to your demo reel and they don’t fully display who you are as an animator, don’t be afraid to throw them away.

A 45-second reel with great animation is better than a two-minute average reel. Just like what Bloop Animation says, don’t include mediocre work as a time filler to make your animation longer.

In addition to keeping your showreel short, you should also keep it simple. Don’t sacrifice the quality of your showreel by adding too many shots or animation. You don’t want your editing to be distracting, or else your viewer won’t know what to focus on.

Rather than doing too much editing, such as adding fancy fonts and transitions, work more on improving your storytelling. Remember, less is more.

4) Give Importance to Audio

a man giving importance to audio

GIF by A&E via GIPHY

As an animator, you might focus more on the visuals than the music. That’s okay, but don’t forget to also pay attention to your demo reel’s audio.

Choose the right background music and volume to connect your shots and match the mood of the animation in your reel. It shouldn’t be annoying or distracting but should make your reel more exciting and inviting to watch.

You can get free and paid stock music that you can use from websites such as Stock Music and Premium Beat or, even better, create an original track.

There are many sound designers and sound design studios out there who are willing to collaborate with you for free or at a low price.

5) Tell a Story

a woman listening to a story

GIF via GIPHY

Just because you’re adding animated clips from different kinds of animation for various clients does not mean you can’t make an entertaining story for your showreel. Think of how you want your viewer to feel as they watch your showreel.

If you want them to feel cheerful while watching it, add animations and music to make people feel cheerful. If you want them to smile, add heartwarming animation shots. As mentioned earlier, you should keep your demo reel short.

CineD says that it is a must not to cut shots too fast and just jumble them together. Give every shot enough time it deserves to be appreciated by the person viewing it. Putting everything in a disorganized way shows a lack of quality and creativity.

On the other hand, according to Creative Bloq, by adding together pieces of your animation, you send a message to your potential clients that you know animation concepts such as cutting and continuity.

You need to have a good understanding of how weight, overlap, gestures, cycles, and squash and stretch work together. It tells your viewer that you know what you are doing and can make an animation from start to finish.

6) Show Your Personality

a woman who is proud of her personality

GIF via GIPHY

Don’t forget to show your personality in your showreel. In Level Up, an online course for motion designers, Ryan Summers, instructor and Creative Director of School of Motion, says that a reel is not only a process.

A reel is also a proclamation that shows who you are now and your hopes and dreams of who you want to become in the future.

You can add all animation principles and your best work in your reel, but what will make it more attractive is bringing something unique and unexpected that other animators haven’t done before.

7) Ask for Feedback

 man waiting for feedback from a client

GIF via GIPHY

You might have worked on your reel for tens of hours that you don’t know what areas to improve. This is where you seek help from your mentor, friends, and other animators who can spot things you might have missed.

Upload and post your showreel to a LinkedIn or Facebook Group for animators where you can receive honest and professional feedback. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like about it from the animation shots, transitions, spellings, speed, and music.

Once you have gathered feedback, start editing your showreel. This can be time-consuming but might be the key to help you land a new animation project. Don’t underestimate what a single showreel can do for your animation career.

8) Include Your Contact Information

a man waving to some hiring managers

GIF by Got Talent Global via GIPHY

Finally, building a great showreel is to start and end your demo reel with your contact information such as your name, website, email, social media handles, phone number, and logo.

It’s common-sense to add your contact information when making a showreel, but it can be overlooked. Your showreel won’t be of any use if hiring managers and animation studios won’t have a way to get in touch with you.

9) Upload It Online

a man uploading his demo reel

Image by Chase Chappell via Unsplash

After creating your demo reel, where will you upload it? Send it to animation studios and animation clients, post it on your social media platforms, and upload it on Vimeo or YouTube.

Make sure that it’s published as a public video and that it works. Don’t give people a hard time accessing your demo reel by putting a password on it. You want as many people as possible to view your reel to open doors of work opportunities for you.

Add a relevant title, your contact information in the video description, as well as keywords and tags that will help you rank on search engines. 

Posting on YouTube can give you more views and gives your work the potential to go viral. Take note that there is a big possibility that not many professionals from the animation industry will be able to watch it since YouTube has a broad audience.

On the other hand, if you post on Vimeo, which is like YouTube for people in the creative industry, you will get fewer views, but your views will more likely come from professional artists and filmmakers.

You can also enjoy its awesome feature of replacing your reel while still using the same URL. It’s not the number of people who will view your reel that matters, but the quality of those who will watch.

In Conclusion

Building a great showreel is challenging, takes a lot of time, involves storytelling, and compiling as well as evaluating your works that best represent who you are and what you can do as an animator.

If you want to impress your following animation clients, then start working on updating your showreel today.

Follow our tips above, and you will impress hiring animation professionals. Best of luck to you as you strive for success in your animation career!

If you’d like to learn more about getting animation clients or the business side of animation, join our free masterclass and get a copy of our free marketing handbook.

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