How to Create a Demo Reel
Note: This is advice from Pixar for "Pixar-styled" animation reels. Keep this in mind when making a VFX reel or other specialty reel... collage-style is the accepted norm for most reels, for example, and most VFX reels will be much shorter than 4 minutes (1-2 minutes is just fine). 1) An application that requires a demo reel submission has 4 parts:
a) the cover letter
b) the resume
c) the demo reel
d) the demo reel breakdown
The cover letter can (and should) be brief. The resume should tell us where you've worked, what you did when you worked, what kind of coursework you've had, and what tools, languages, and systems you can use. The demo reel breakdown is really essential (see #6, below).2) Your reel should be no more than 4 minutes.
Just like a resume is no more than 2 pages unless you've been CEO or a senator. If you have a lot of great material...do a 4 minute version, and then refer to longer pieces afterwards if you get that far into the process. "For the entire short see..."
Don't do a "collage" of your work, with interleaved random clips from all your different work. No, no, no. We won't be able to figure out what's going on. DO give each piece the time it deserves, no more nor less, and just show it once. Keep it simple.3) Don't show un-approved work.
Don't show work from other studios if it has not been approved or we will not look at the demo reel.4) Nobody cares about music/soundtrack.
We typically turn off the sound, but sometimes we listen to it and get really annoyed if we don't like your taste in music. Keep it basic or leave it off. For animators, showcase the dialog without background music if possible.5) Put your best work first.
If the first 30 seconds of your reel aren’t impressive, chances are the rest of the reel won’t be seen so show your best, most impressive work first -- presumably the work you are specifically applying for. Make it clear on your demo reel, cover letter, and resume what type of position you're applying for. Don't try to change your demo reel because our website says we only need, say, lighting TD's now, either. Say what you're good at and make your reel demonstrate that.6) Demo Reel Breakdown (DRB).
We want to know what you did on this reel. Here's a shot of a Luxo lamp jumping over a ball. Did you model the lamp? Do the animation? Shade it? Light it? Render it? Write the story? Executive-produce it? The DRB should tell us what we're looking at, what YOU did on it, and what tools you used.
"Sleeping ball: (June 2003) Group project; I shaded the plastic sphere in Slim/Renderman" is a good entry.
"Group project; project used Maya, Slim, Renderman, and Perl" is less useful.
Put this on the frame before the sequence and again in the DRB we can refer to. We often fall behind in reading your DRB; help us keep track of what you're showing. If you have two dozen entries, number the DRB and put numbers on the reel, too - we may not know the difference between your "Sleeping ball" animation and the opus you call "Lazy Sphere".7) Include a title card at the beginning and end with your name, address, phone, and email.
Including the position you're looking for is not a bad idea, either. The opening one doesn't need to be on too long, but the end one should last for a while. Don't make people desperately pause to get your email address. Show work that proves that you know what you did.
If you've done a sequence, show it at several stages of production. If you've done shading, show the basic color pass, the procedural shading, the painting, and a lit version. If you wrote clever software, include real work that was done with the software, and include on the title card, like, "Implemented simulation of Segway dynamics" in addition to everything else you did. Don't show screen shots of people using the software or screen grabs of C++ code.9) Take the time to polish.
It seems silly, but people get in such a rush to get the reel out the door, they lose sight of the big picture. THIS IS HOW YOU WILL GET A JOB. And since it's a job in a visual industry -- it should LOOK really, really good. Don't use clashing colors. Make sure your shaders are anti-aliased. Make sure your lights aren't blown out too bright. Make it clear what we're looking at. Don't use confusing fonts. Keep it clean and simple!10) Show it to other people.
Have other people critique it. Not necessarily the work on it, but the way you're presenting your work. (Though getting critiques of the work on it is a great idea, too.) If a bunch of people are working on their reels at the same time, have a Reel Showing one night.11) If you really don't have stuff to put on a reel, don't send one.
Well-presented still images can be as effective as moving pictures.
Make sure you understand the Submission Process as defined in the Job Description, understand the Submission Guidelines, and include a link that points us directly to your dazzling new demo reel!
from the Pixar Canada
website, copyright Pixar