several hats equally well: model a character one day,
light a building another day, and design a new charac-
ter the following week. So the ideal portfolio reel—par-
ticularly for someone who is just starting out—has to
demonstrate deep proficiency in at least one important
skill while also indicating broad creativity and talent in
That's a tall order, and hard to nail perfectly.
Talented graduates from the same program in game
art and design may have radically different experiences
in landing a job, depending on the mix their reels
Obviously, the deck is stacked in your favor if
you are a multitalented generalist because you can fit
yourself to a wider range of positions. However, if you're significantly better at one
role than most of the others you could apply for, it doesn't matter if there are more
jobs for generalists. Narrow your emphasis to your strongest suit and you'll increase
the chances of getting your foot in the door.
Most stuff that goes into any
animation is fairly mundane.
So when big studios see an abso-
lutely gorgeous, beautifully
modeled, textured, and lit highly-
detailed, pixel-tight ottoman,
they'll just drool. You know that if
you hire this person and you say,
“I need this living room done. Go!”
that they can do it.
The reel has many of the goals, limitations and requirements of a movie trailer.
In a very short time, it has to pull in the audience, keep them engaged, and make
them want more. Even a momentary lapse of tension can break the spell.
You'll need to plan your reel carefully to make it past the levels of gatekeepers
to the people who will actually make a hiring decision. You have a better chance of
hitting that sweet spot if your material is unbelievably great. But few people are so
amazing that they'll be hired no matter what. For the larger number of people who
are good or really good, the goal is to create a reel that will move the perception of
their work up a notch.
Reels are probably the most time-intensive type of portfolio to design and
develop, including the portfolios of multimedia specialists. Even when you take that
as gospel, chances are that you will spend infinitely more time creating your demo
reel than you expect. No matter how organized you are, set aside several weeks before
your due date to have the luxury of recutting and tweaking as you get feedback and
rethink your decisions.
As with a regular portfolio, the first questions anyone asks are how many
pieces to include, and how long a reel should be. The number of pieces is less of an
issue than length. Unless you have a remarkable history of high-profile projects, your