What Features Should I Include in a Demo Reel?

  • 10 May, 2021

A demo reel is a short (several minutes long) video that consists of your best work in animation along with a concise description of which design elements occur in each clip. Think of a reel as a movie trailer-the goals are first to grab your audience's attention, then to keep them engaged and curious about what's coming next. EduMind has compiled a list of the most important features to include in your reel to capture the attention of your intended audience and help you get hired!

What Features Should I Include in a Demo Reel?

  1. Short and Sweet: You are not making a movie with a reel, you are producing a bite-size compilation of animation clips that show your best work, your style, and your diversity in skills. Employers appreciate concise and well-edited submissions. If your reel extends past the few-minute mark, it is not likely that they will watch it to the end.
  2. Tell a Story: One way to demonstrate your competence in animation is to tell a story. The demo reel is typically not long enough for a complete story from start to finish, but certain story clips-especially ones that are funny or surprising-are perfect to exemplify your originality and understanding of how to piece together related sequences. Focus on creating content that changes up what the viewer expects to see happen next. For example, if you want to show a clip of a person juggling, you can have them drop what they're juggling for a comedic effect or have the objects they're juggling catch on fire.
  3. 12 Principles of Animation: Another great way to establish your capabilities is to feature the 12 principles of animation as established by Disney's Nine Old Men. These principles uphold the motion work found in animation: such ideas as squash and stretch, which provide gravity, weight, mass, and flexibility to your animations; anticipation, which lays the foundation of what will come next to your viewer; and exaggeration, which overstates the action to send a message in an entertaining and dynamic way.
  4. Consider Audience: You will want to tailor your reel to your intended audience. Not all employers will be explicit in the job description on which elements they want to see in a reel. Instead of flying blind, we suggest spending some time researching the employer or design studio to gain a stronger understanding of their design style, the stories they like to tell, and the way they tell them. For example, if you are applying for a 3D animation job in entertainment, it might not be in your best interest to feature a clip of a technical animation like the way a part is machined with no related story.
  5. Capture Their Attention: Studies have shown that our attention spans have decreased over time, which makes capturing your audience's attention in the first few moments of your reel that much more important. You want to structure your reel so that your strongest, most engaging animation clips come first. Once you've hooked your viewer, you have more flexibility with the content you include next. As a rule, however, you only want to include your best and most dynamic animation clips. If you have any hesitation about including a certain clip, make sure you polish it completely before you include it, or don't include it at all. Weak or unengaging work will not incentivize your viewer to keep watching.

A strong demo reel is crucial to garnering an employer's or design studio's attention. If you are not confident in your abilities to generate clips and compile a demo reel, consider EduMind's 3D Animation course. Throughout our course, you will produce numerous clips featuring some of the ideas detailed above. We provide you with all the experience you need to not only produce a quality demo reel but also to kickstart your career as a 3D animator.
About the Author: Martha Hansucker

Martha Hunsucker is a content writer for EduMind. She received her BA in English from Stetson University and has experience marketing, copywriting, editing, and blogging. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books by Jon Krakauer (her current favorite author), hiking with her two dogs, and sleeping in on weekends.

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