The Secrets to Creating an Awesome Showreel

The showreel is one of the most important shop windows for anybody working in the animation and production industry. It's a way of showcasing your talent and it’s often that foot in the door that can kick start a career or land that job you really wanted. With more and more courses in animation being offered and more people entering the industry competition for work is growing. The right showreel is one of the biggest tools that you have of standing out from the rest of the crowd - however there is a fine line between standing out for the right or the wrong reason. As you can imagine over our years in the industry we must of watched thousands of showreels from budding animators to seasoned pros. These have ranged from the unbelievably awesome to the truly awful with a bit of downright weird in there too! However there are only a few showreels that truely stuck in the mind - some for the right reasons and some for the wrong! There is no magic formula for your showreel (no formula at all really as you need to be as creative as possible) but from our years of experience these are the top tips we would like to impart to help improve the quality of showreels all over the land!!

1. Size does matter!

A showreel should be no more than 2 mins. I know that you think everything you've done is awesome, but after 2 mins (well 30 seconds) we can get a sense of how good you are. Also most creative directors in this industry have very short attention spans and they can switch off very quickly or be distracted by a squirrel! If you are a generalist or have many strings to your bow its better to have two or three different showreels that cover these areas than having a six minute showreel that covers them all. This also allows your viewer to pick the area they are interested in and view independently rather than trying to pick it out of a longer showreel

2. We get it, you worked on Toy Story 3!

This links to the size rule but we do find that most people have a few strong and impressive productions they've worked on and continually intercut the less strong bits with different scenes of the same few shows. After seeing a slightly different angle of the same scene for the tenth time we start to think that there isn’t much else in the locker. We were impressed to start with but become less so as we get inundated by it. Pick the best scenes and intercut them but think where they should go for most impact and go for a shorter showreel over flooding your audience with more of the same.

3. Keep us wanting more

A good showreel should tell enough of the story to get our interest but leave us wanting more. If you've only shown some snippets of those amazing projects you've worked on then you can impress us with the rest of it when we meet.

4. Honesty is the best policy

This is linked to only showing things on your showreel that you did. The animation industry is a very small community and after working in it for sometime we get to know most of the people in it. So be careful with the claims you make. If you once pestered Nick Park at a festival and spoke to him about Wallace and Grommit don't mention you were a creative advisor at Aardman! The same goes for roles you've held at production companies as everyone talks to each other.

5. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!!

It's obvious enough but you'd be surprised how many times we see showreels that don't tell the whole truth about the scenes in them. It's obvious that nothing makes it onto your showreel unless you've worked on it but there sometimes the boundaries become blurred! You need to be really clear what parts of the scene you worked on. For instance if you did the animation for a shot and comped some bits on the showreel, it's uncool to say that you animated and comped it when showing the final release which was comped by someone else. If you comped it for your showreel say this as we will know what we are judging the shot on. Also if you painted out the watch on the 9th spartan back 2 in from the left say that's what you did instead of showing the scene and stating you did the VFX as that isn't entirely true!

6. Choose your tune

Music for your showreel is more important than you know. You shouldn't use something that overpowers the visuals taking the attention away from your work. The music should set the tone of your showreel and move it along nicely.

7. Show your creativity

When putting your showreel together you don't have to be a master editor but do try something different that sticks in the minds of your audience and stands it apart from the others. This can be nifty screen art, character introduction to the showreel or interesting editing around the music. Try a few things out and see what sticks.

8. Location, location, location

Deciding where you put shots in your showreel is almost as important as deciding which shots make it in. You should always put your strongest work first and last with a little bit in the middle. Never build up to your strongest bits as your audience may never make it there! We also see people putting work in chronological order, which kind of makes sense but does put us off as the first work is often weaker.

9. Innovate don't inundate

So to wrap up - remember to pick the right music and position your shots for the most impact. Be honest about what your audience is seeing and what you've done. Most importantly dazzle your audience with innovation on your showreel rather than inundating them with everything you've ever worked on, ever! Keep it short. Keep it awesome!

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