Make sure that potential employers only see their best work in the right light when they apply.
To help you get the job you want with your next application (for example 3D configurator), we’ve written the following article for you, where leading industry experts give you valuable advice on how to develop your showreel.
Cut anything that doesn’t convince.
Shelley Page, Head of International Outreach at Dreamworks, says: “There are seldom student films that are 100% convincing.” Many student films are too much, which often leads to a blunted recruiter getting to the point quickly: “Typically five minutes of bad animation with poorly equipped models in horrible environments.”
“Don’t get too attached to the content that doesn’t present your very best work, even though your work has created an emotional attachment to your content,” says Patricia Kung, Senior Recruiter at Animal Logic. Demo Reels are about focusing on your strengths and not trying to be a character animator, for example, when your talent is more modeling and texturing. Or as Dave Throssel of Fluid Pictures says: “I don’t want to see a showreel where everything the applicant has ever done has been processed.”
Keep it short.
You should internalize what companies are confronted with in the application process. You will most likely receive hundreds of applications and therefore will not be able to watch a 90 minute showreel with every applicant.
“Since we have to look at a lot of applicants, we recommend that the showreels are about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes long,” says Claire Anderson of The Mill, “We don’t always get through, so I can recommend that the best should come at the beginning.
Good start and finish.
Neil Gallagher, senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, suggests starting with her best work to make sure you convince right from the start. You should then choose the second best piece to ensure a good ending. If your third best work is significantly worse, consider carefully whether you should include it at all.
Consider it advertising.
In case of doubt you should imagine each segment in your showreel as advertising in which you are the sold product yourself. Lee Danskin notes: “Commercials are 30 seconds long for good reason. If they last longer, they quickly get boring.”
Adapt your role to the vacancy.
All studios look for different skills, as well as their research, and adapt the role to the position you are applying for. The role should show some of the work the company is doing. But don’t involve anything just because it’s relevant, just integrate content at a high level.
“Some people don’t even know what job you’re applying for,” says Trond Greve Andersen, co-owner of MIR Visuals, which specializes in architectural visualization. “In a studio like ours, it doesn’t make sense to look at models of orcs.”
Make your role clear.
One of the reasons recruiters don’t like student films is that it’s usually teamwork and it’s often unclear what the applicant has contributed. If there are three characters on the screen, is it obvious which one you have illuminated, animated or modeled?
In group work, it’s important to explain what the candidate has created,” says Neil Gallagher. “Either you point this out in the video if there are group pieces or you provide a breakdown as a PDF or Word document”.
Show how they work.
What you’ve created speaks for itself to some extent, but people will also want to know how you’ve done it. “Communicate at the end of your play what your contribution was and what software was used,” says Patricia Kung. “When you apply for a technical position, you show that you have a creative eye, too.”
Keep things simple.
It’s better to do something that’s simple and well done than to opt for more complex projects and look like an amateur.
“You see far too many animators trying to build their own five-minute avatars, and in the end they get so distracted by everything else that the actual animation becomes the last thing you do,” says Andrew Daffy of House of Curves.
“In contrast, I always remember the story of a candidate who became one of the most important animators in the BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs. His role was about a minute and a half long and it was a five-second sequence that secured his employment. It was a poorly rendered line character, but the body language was perfectly animated.”
Technique beats originality.
Demo reels need some flair, but never at the expense of basic skills. “When it comes to choosing between originality and technical quality, I’d go back to something that’s simple and well done,” says Throssell.
Images to avoid.
Some CG clichés should be avoided if possible. “If there’s one thing that makes my heart beat faster, it’s a demo with spaceships,” says Joylon Webb, R&D Art Director at Blitz Games Studios Ltd. “They’re usually textured cylinders with no modeling skills: You can’t see weight, they don’t interact with surfaces, they don’t show composition, and they’re a cliché that’s been made for 20 years.” Other clichés that should generally be avoided are kites, robots, cameras flying endlessly around sets and worlds populated by supermodels and manga heroes.
However, it is not always the subject you choose that counts, but how you treat it in your work. “There’s nothing wrong with visualizing a dragon in a showreel as long as it has an original design or looks as if it came directly from a Harry Potter movie,” Andrew Daffy points out. “The work can’t look so kitschy. It has to be pretty elaborate or at least really well handled.”
We hope that our tips for their showreel have helped them. If you internalize this advice, nothing will stand in the way of your next job.
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