In order to help you artists out, we’ve put together eleven tips to help you put your best foot forward and make sure you get the best showing with our crack team of animation professionals here in Austin, Texas.
Please note that these tips are geared for those people interested in joining us in an Animator capacity, or perhaps in a Technical Director position if we have one open. If you’re interested in an Editorial position, we know that your reels will be different: they’ll be longer, for one. Sound and music, also, will play a bigger part in showing us your editorial ability.
1 — Any demo reel submission should have five parts to it:
• Cover letter
• Demo Reel Breakdown
• Demo Reel
• Online application, which will include the Reel Submission Agreement
Just as with a “regular job,” your cover letter needs to be concise.
Your resume ought to tell us where you’ve been, what you did when you were there, any recent coursework you’ve had, and what languages, systems, tools and programs you know.
The Demo Reel Breakdown (DRB) is crucial (see below). Please don’t make us look at a website. When we’re all juiced up looking at a stack of reels, switching gears to go look at a website leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Plus which, you want to be an animator, right? If you want to be a web designer, then we’ll look at your stunning website.
2 — Keep your reel to four minutes or less.
Just like your cover letter and resume, your reel needs to be clear and concise too. Keep it to four minutes or less, unless you’re a senator or a CEO or something. If you feel you have a boatload of awesome stuff that doesn’t fit into four short minutes, then refer to additional material on a DVD provided afterwards, should you proceed that far.
“Collages” of work are bad. Don’t show us random interleaved clippings from all the things you’ve done. No, no, no, says the professor. Why? We won’t have a clue as to what’s going on with anything you’re trying to show us. You do want to give all of the pieces you include the time they deserve. Show them once, and keep it simple for us.
3 — Make sure what you show us proves that you know your stuff.
Did you have a brilliant idea, then wrote some awesome software to solve a problem with it? Then show us some real work that was completed with this software. Make a title card that says something like “Wrote Maya plugin to Make Better Bump Maps” or whatever. Include the other things you did. DO NOT just show us screen grabs of C++ code (we’re not programmers) or screenshots of excited people using the software.
Done some shading? Then show us the basic color pass, then the procedural shading, then the painting, and finally the lit version. If there’s a sequence you’ve worked on, then show us at several different stages of production.
4 — About that Demo Reel Breakdown (DRB).
What did you do on the reel you sent us? We see a scene of a skinny dude jumping from platform to platform. Did you model the man? Animate him? Shade him? Light him? Render the scene? Storyboard it? Executive produce it?
Your DRB ought to tell us what this is, what part you played in it, and what you used to do it.
“Jumping man: (December 2014) Group Project. I animated the man in Blender” is a good entry.
“Group project. Project used Blender, Maya, Perl and Renderman.” is not nearly as useful.
Since we frequently lag behind in reading your DRB, give us a hand and put this on the frame before the sequence. Do it again in the DRB so we can refer to it there as well. If you have a lot of entries, please number the DRB entries, and the ones on the reel as well. We might not be able to tell the difference between your “Jumping man” opus and your magnificent “Hyper dude” piece.
5 — Don’t even think about showing us unapproved work.
Have any work from other studios? Better get it approved first. Otherwise we won’t look at your reel. We’re serious.
6 — Don’t sweat the soundtrack.
Why? Because nobody cares about sound. Seriously! We usually turn it off. Occasionally, though, we do listen to it. Then it really irks us if we happen to not like your taste in music — nothing personal! Either leave it off, or keep it basic.
7 — Put your best foot forward. First.
We’ll be honest — we don’t go through all the reels every time. We’ll watch the first minute to see if there’s something that grabs us. If there is, then we’ll watch the next 2-3 minutes. If there’s nothing in that first minute — off you go, lad. Next!
Show us your most impressive, your most wow-ing-est stuff first. Presumably this will be the work you’re using to get the job you’re applying for. Please make it utterly clear on all of your materials which position you’re applying for. Don’t just change your labels because our site says we just need Background Animators right now, either. Tell us what you’re great at doing, and take care to ensure your reel shows that.
8 — Title Cards: Love ’em, Use ’em, Make ’em
Both at the beginning and at the end of your reel should be a tidy little title card that includes all of your contact information: Name, address, phone, email, blood type, and so on. It’s not a bad idea to include the position you’re seeking, as well. Your opener doesn’t have to stay on for a long time, but the end one should. Please don’t make people desperately hunt for the remote to get your email address.
9 — Take your time and polish.
Polish your reel. Polish it some more. Polish it a lot. And when you think you’re done polishing, do it some more. Put it away for a week, then take it out and repeat the process.We’re not kidding. Really. This is how you will get a job in this industry. Sweat the small stuff. The devil is in the details and all that.People rush to get things out the door so fast, and they end up pushing shoddy products. It happens to individuals; it happens to big companies too. Don’t be someone that it happens to. If you want a job in a visual industry — take care to make sure your reel looks really really good.
Make sure your colors look great together. Take care to ensure your shaders are anti-aliased. Use fonts that look good together (and don’t use too many of them). Look at your lights — are they blown out too bright? Are they too dark? Make it clear and obvious what we’re looking at. Keep it simple and clean!
10 — Have other people look at your reel.
Ask other folks to critique your reel. Maybe not the work itself, if they don’t know anything about animation, but ask them about the way you’re presenting your work. (Of course, getting opinions of your work on the reel is a great idea too, if you have non-jealous animator friends!) Ask them to tell you if it makes sense to them. If you know a lot of people that are working on their reels at the same time, you can have a Reel Party at someone’s house one night. Woot!
11 — Do you have a reel?
If you don’t really have stuff to put on a reel — don’t fake it. Sometimes it’s better to simply work up some still images and present those strongly. That can be just as effective as jumping men or bouncing balls.
Finally — Be sure to apply online. Make sure you understand the submission process as it is defined in the description for the job. Understand the guidelines for submission, and upload any files as needed.
Visit us at www.AustinVisuals.com to apply and let us know about your amazing work.
– The Austin Visuals Team