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When you’re starting out in stop-frame animation, or indeed with other animation techniques and video work too, you will...
At our animation studio, we receive hundreds of showreels from all over the world, from London to Singapore. When we first launched the company, we received beautifully packaged VHS reels which progressed into DVDs, USB’s and now emails with links to demo reels. When you’re preparing for the animation industry your showreel is what any job application will rely on.
It can be frustrating when animators send us links to short films, rough tests or even epic 10 minute reels as we just don’t have the time to get through them all. So we thought we’d put together a quick guide for how to create the perfect showreel when looking at how to get a job in animation.
When looking to fill a position on a production, we always review showreels from the last six months. We might look at anything up to fifty reels, so the duration is really important; try to keep it under 90 seconds, as time really is precious. You don’t want people skipping through reels, so try to keep them focused.
There is no golden rule on the structure, as everyone has different animation techniques and styles. The consideration we’d recommend, however, is to have your best work first to keep us watching. Front loading is great to grab attention, especially during multiple reel viewings. Keep the body of your reel full of your strongest work and then finish on another great shot. In order to maintain the flow of the reel, avoid using shots under a couple of seconds or over ten seconds. But all of this depends on your content, so if you’re not sure on a shot, leave it out!
Most animation roles you will be applying for will be of a technical nature. Taking this on-board means you don’t need your reel to show off writing or directing skills. Try and use shots which are going to be relevant for the role you’re applying for. Tailoring your reel for the role is essential. For example, if you’re a motion graphics animator as well as a stop-frame animator, create two reels; one for each. If the role you are applying for is for a kids’ show then demonstrate your best character animation, leaving out effects work.
Some reels can be hard to define what the applicant actually did on a production. As animation is a collaborative process it is essential to make it clear which elements of the work are yours. Where possible, annotating your shots by adding descriptions of your role, what you did and what software you used can be really helpful. Adding simple tags and banners at the bottom of the frame allows us to understand your skills.
It can be the hardest part of creating any showreel – what music to choose? There isn’t one right answer here but there are some simple don’ts…
When choosing a track, try not to distract away from the animation. Using hard, loud music is always warned against so try and refrain from using thrash metal or house music. Music which is really repetitive or constantly loops can also be off-putting. Try and find a track which has a simple pace that works with your own animation. Let your work speak for itself so choose a track that compliments it and sits in the background. Where possible, try not to use licensed music as this can be taken down by streaming services. It’s always worth trying a music library site; they have thousands of tracks which are normally under $20.
Once you’ve finished your reel, don’t forget to add your details. Some animators like to start and end with their details, which is fine, but do remember to add these. The end slate is very functional, so don’t worry about font style, just make everything easy to read. Add your name, role and telephone number, along with a portfolio site.
Finally take a step back and watch it again in a couple of days’ time. Fresh eyes can be really important when you’ve been working for days on a short 60 second edit. Once you’re happy with the reel, show it to trusted colleagues or contacts before sending it out. Getting honest advice from a trusted person (not your favourite aunt!) is really valuable before it goes into the wider world.
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