A demo reel (AKA demo tape, show reel, etc) is a video or audio presentation designed to showcase your talents to a potential employer. The idea is that the employer can see what you are capable of based on the examples you have supplied. Depending on your area of experience and the position you are applying for, your demo reel may include examples of your camerawork, editing, graphics, sound mixing, presenting, etc.
One of the most common questions about demo reels is "How long should it be?". You may be shocked by the answer but it is absolutely imperative that you understand this....
You have 30 seconds to make your impression!
This is how it typically works: Your tape goes in the machine and the employer presses play. Your best case scenario is that the employer is still watching after 30 seconds, at which time the tape may be ejected and placed in the "Maybe" pile. If the employer hasn't seen anything which stands out from the other contenders, or if there is the slightest hint of any substandard work, your tape goes straight in the "No thanks" pile. No second chances. This is not an exaggeration - it is the reality of the industry in which you are seeking to work and this is a good time to get used to the ruthless rules which dominate.
Anyway, 30 seconds isn't as bad as it sounds. After all, 30 seconds is the standard length of most television commercials. This brings us to the first piece of advice regarding the structure of the demo:
Make the first 30 seconds a TV-style commercial in which the product is yourself. Make this self-contained so that the employer gains a good understanding of your abilities and experience. At the conclusion of the commercial, invite the employer to watch the next section of the demo which contains more examples and details.
Emphasize your strengths
Make sure your demo reel is relevant to the job you want. If you want a job as a character animator, don't show only compositing work on your reel. Focus on your strengths. If you are not good at modeling, get stock models and concentrate on animation.
The Right Format
U.S. companies want VHS reels in NTSC format. Everyone knows how to run a VHS cassette player. Many people don't have the latest and greatest computer so often they are not able to view CD Roms and other media. Not everyone has a DVD player or 3/4 inch machines. VHS in NTSC format is still the preferred format for everyone.
ALWAYS include a resume and a reel breakdown/credit list with your reel. A demo reel breakdown sheet is mandatory and should clearly spell out your involvement with each piece. The breakdown sheet should include a title/description of each shot, what the applicant was responsible for, software used, and any special extenuating circumstances. However, never include "works in progress." You will be judged based on the work on your reel, not what someone might conjecture you can be capable of. A demo reel breakdown is simple with a short sentence for each shot. For example, Shot 1: Project: Wizard of Oz feature film- Modeled melting witch with Maya. Animated witch melting using Softimage. If you did everything on the reel, enclose a note stating that. If you worked on a group project, be clear about your specific role on each shot.
Always include your name, phone # and an email address on your resume, reel and reel breakdown. Include a head and tail slate with your name and phone number and email address on the reel. Make sure your tail slate is at the end of the reel or people will eject it and not see the stuff behind the end slate.
Start with your best work
If you don't impress the viewers in the beginning, they will move on to the next tape.
Customize your reel to the job and company you are applying to, if possible.
Divide your reel into sections and label them with a brief slate: "Character Animation", "Modeling", "Logos", etc.
Include life drawing or other fine art work such as sculpture, painting or photography at the tail of your reel. (strong traditional art or photography, tending towards representational styles with an excellent understanding of 3d form, perspective and quality of light and texture is a plus)
Update your reel every six months and remove old work.
Don't expect to get your reel back. Never send your only copy to anyone.
DEMO REEL DON'TS
Never send masters or originals.
Don't put your best stuff last.The viewer may never get to it.
Don't do a chronological work history. We don't care how you improved.
Don't include early tests or tutorials.
Don't include mediocre work.
Don't use loud, obnoxious music or elaborate sound. Many people turn off the sound when they view reels.
Minimize erotica and violent material. It limits the companies you can submit to.
Don't include live action film without animation or computer graphics.
Don't send work in progress.
Don't ask for feedback by phone.
Fancy packaging is unnecessary.
Don't shrink wrap your reel. Color bars are not necessary. Don't do countdowns between each shot. Don't repeat shots unless you are showing a "how to" (how elements were added to the shot)--there is a rewind button on the cassette player so don't repeat. I repeat. Don't repeat.
Don't ask prospective employers to view samples or a resume on a web site or email images.
Don't send them a web address if you want them to see your resume.
Don't make them do the work to give you a job. If you want them to see your resume, email it to them as a message rather than a download. Better yet, fax or mail it to them.
Don't expect your reel to be returned.
Don't send the exact same reel in 6 months later.
Last update: 09:02 PM Sunday, February 19, 2006