This week, I share 9 best practices to create your first effects demo reel, so you get more interviews to ultimately land that dream effects job!
Let’s talk about how to cut an effects demo reel that gets the job!
Why is your demo reel important?
First let’s address why is your demo reel so important well the demo reel is really the only way that an FX supervisor is going to know if you have the demonstrable hire-able skills to give you an interview. Therefore you really want to make sure you get it right.
So what should you expect in a beginner’s demo reel?
If you’re just starting out in the cg industry you know all of this can be all so overwhelming. But I’m here to help you.
This is one of the most fulfilling careers that you can take, so let’s start off with the realistic timeline here. The actual act of cutting a demo reel is actually pretty quick. That’s like one percent of the work.
Editing a demo reel is 1% of the work
The real work begins when you have to create your portfolio pieces where you are learning the skills of becoming an effects artist learning Houdini or learning any other software packages. Maybe as a 3d generalist you’re learning all of these skills and then you’re practicing them you’re doing the exercises going through the tutorials and finally you’re creating your own portfolio pieces that actually gets into the demo reel that you cut.
What exactly is a portfolio piece? Well, be sure to check in the description a link to my guide called the effects demo reel guide where I do go a little bit more in detail about what is a portfolio piece but also check out next week’s video because next week’s video I’ll talk more in detail about portfolio pieces what should you expect what should you put inside a beginner’s portfolio piece.
So the gist of it is plan ahead. Begin early because that journey of creating enough content for your demo reel starts very much earlier.
A realistic timeline for something like that is probably a year of learning and creating portfolio pieces for your demo reel.
No demo reel? No problem.
Now if you’re one of those students who are going to be graduating soon and you don’t really have an effects demo reel you don’t have enough content. Don’t worry I always tell my students who are interested in the cg industry with or without a demo reel I recommend them to do their best to get in.
Maybe you’re more technically inclined there are many ways to get into the CG industry without a portfolio without a demo reel so if you’re interested in that I’m also going to include in the description a link to an article I wrote called how to land a job in the cg industry with no demo rail.
That’s actually possible that’s actually how i got my start in the VFX industry.
Purpose of an effects demo reel.
Okay so let’s get back at the purpose of a beginner’s demo reel.
The purpose of a beginner’s demo reel is really to show the production studio hiring soup the recruiter that you can do the job like we can give you a hot seat you can get onto it you can get onto a desk and right from day one you will be able to execute the tasks of a junior effects artist and hit the ground running.
That’s the purpose of demo reel. To show them that you have what it takes to do the job that lends you the interview.
Once you get that interview it’s just really one ascertaining that everything you say in your demo reel is accurate and really to more importantly is to figure out how are you socially are you a fit culturally are you fit with the rest of the team so there comes your social skills when you get into an interview.
So your reel is going to be judged on the aesthetic and technical potential that your portfolio pieces show.
So no worries if you don’t have shots of a marvel feature film in your demo reel. You don’t need to and you don’t have to have them. It’s really a measure of what your potential is as well as what you can do hitting the road running.
All right if what we’ve been talking about so far has been helpful to you please remember to hit the subscribe button as well as the bell in order to be notified when future content comes out.
So let’s jump into that list of effects demo reel best practices that are going to get you the job.
Best Practice #1
Effects demo reel best practice number one effects shots only please.
I have seen so many student reels because they lack enough effects content they start putting in modeling rigging all of this other content into their effects demo reel.
That is a big no-no.
That just tells me that either you don’t understand the industry or you’re very confused about what it is in there but more importantly i have limited time to go through your reels to figure out what is in that reel.
So if i’m seeing other stuff i might be jumping through that reel and thinking oh this is not an effects reel and i’ll just toss it out. That is often the case. You don’t want your reel to be tossed out, so make sure you only put effects shots in there only.
Your number one challenge for a beginner’s demo reel is not going to be quantity – it’s quality.
So even if you just have like one shot two shots of effects in there it’s perfectly fine. Just do it to the best that you can and don’t put anything other than effects in there.
Best Practice #2
Best practice number two and this kind of falls similar to the first best practice as well – kind of related. Keep your demo reel under one minute.
I really can’t imagine any student fresh graduate who has an effects demo reel that spans greater than one minute of content. That’s almost impossible to have.
Even when you become a senior effects artist you should just curate your content in your demo reel to only show your best content. You may have worked 20 different shows but you don’t want to put all 20 shows in it. You really want to make sure that you’re just putting in the best.
That’s especially the case with a beginner’s demo reel – Only the best. Keep it under one minute. If it is 15 seconds or 30 seconds that is good enough.
Best practice #3
Only put your best work – less is more. Especially in the case of a beginner’s demo reel.
Do you catch the gist of the whole thread that is going on here right now?
I like to say this that quality is the monster that you need to slay as a beginner effects artists.
It is all about quality. You need to slay the quality monster not the quantity monster. Don’t even worry about it.
Don’t even worry if you only have one shot in your demo reel. Make sure it is the best quality that you can achieve.
Best practice #4
Lead with your best.
So there might be some confusing advice out there that talks about making sure your demo reel is entertaining and that you put your best shot first and your second best shot last.
Don’t do that.
Put your best shot first and go down in terms of complexity.
That is extremely important because as a supervisor i’m going through so many rails i’m probably am jumping around i may not even have time to complete it.
So in the first 10 seconds you want to wow me. And you want to really give me a compelling reason to keep watching.
Quite honestly in the first 10 seconds i’ve already formed an opinion of whether the candidate deserves an interview or not.
So remember you got 10 seconds. Make sure you make full use of that first 10 seconds to really tell whoever is looking at your demo reel that you deserve that interview.
Best practice #5
This advice sounds simple but best practice number five you want to begin and end with your name and email.
You just want to start off your demo reel with maybe three seconds of your first name last name and your email, how to contact you. That’s really important.
Those are critical because at the end of the day you want to make it really easy for the recruiter or the supervisor to get back to you – to contact you if they want to offer you an interview.
If you have say three seconds of just your name and your email at the beginning and at the end, it’s really easy to scrub to the beginning and at the end to quickly get your contact and reach out to you to schedule an interview – which is what you want right?
Best practice #6
State your contribution.
If this is a group collaboration project you want to say exactly what you did in this project.
Even if it’s a solo project but you made use of assets from libraries out there like the quixel megascan library, you bought stuff or you utilized animation.
You know, whatever it is that is not your responsibility (not your work) you want to highlight that or you want to specifically highlight what is it that you did in that piece.
You can put that in the lower thirds. Just some simple text.
Sometimes it’s helpful to also have little icons of what software you use to create. those are not absolutely necessary but kind of nice to have if you can do that.
Make sure that you do state what you have done in terms of your contributions in the lower thirds.
Best practice #7
Pick your music( or not) and move on.
You’ve got people who tell you to put music in your demo reel. You’ve got people who tell you don’t put music in your demo reel.
Really you don’t need to have music in your demo reel because this is an effects demo reel. You aren’t being judged by your ability to put music to your demo reel.
Sometimes when people put music in their demo rail they’re trying to cut shots according to the beats of the music which sometimes can be really distracting.
And can derail my ability to actually read what you’re doing in those shots and judge your skill sets.
So if you have to pick a piece of music always make sure that you are not trying to cut in between shots that I don’t get sufficient time to really judge what is in that shot.
But I do realize that we are creative people. We want to put music on our demo reels. So if you do, just go find some music in my effects demo reel guide where I do provide some links to places where you can get potential pieces of music.
If you don’t know how to cut music into your demo reel you don’t have to and you really don’t need to. Because a lot of supervisors and recruiters are actually not listening to the music. They’re just focusing on the visuals a lot of times.
We just don’t even put our headphones on. We’re just completely focused on the visuals – which is what an effects demo reel is all about.
Best practice #8
What is best practice number eight? Cull it some more.
After you have cut a draft reel, wait a day or two, then come back to it and see what do you have in there.
Are there things that maybe would cast doubt in your ability to achieve a quality effect?
Maybe it’s something that you really put a lot of time into working but the result wasn’t that fantastic.
Well, take that out from your demo reel.
As a beginner less is more. You only want to show your best.
Just by showing that you can take out pieces that are not good in quality tells the supervisor that you aesthetically can tell when something is good or not good. And that’s a good thing and that’s something that we are looking out for.
So best practice number eight cull it some more. Be a little bit merciless, but it’s really the best for your demo reel.
Best practice #9
Okay best practice number nine this is the last one. It’s really simple.
Make it easily accessible on line.
Don’t make it difficult.
Don’t upload it somewhere that is password protected and has a really difficult URL.
If you have a wordpress website you can use a plugin called pretty links to generate a custom link. Like say, “http://www.nelsonlim.com/demoreel”. Going to that link then just goes to your vimeo video that plays your demo reel.
That probably is the best. It’s easy to remember and easy to send out to recruiters and for them to remember how to access your demo reel.
Don’t password protect it because you have really nothing to protect.
To be honest that’s really irritating because I’m going through 10-100 reels. I’m not going to copy the password into the password field. Just imagine having to go through 50 to 100 password logins. No, that’s not gonna happen.
Your reel is going to be the last one to be seen. Or maybe not at all.
So don’t password protect it.
If you have somehow work in there that’s under NDA(non-disclosure agreement) that cannot be shown – it’s under NDA! It CANNOT be shown. It shouldn’t be in your demo reel.
All right, I don’t think beginners have that problem so don’t password protect your reel.
Make it accessible.
Vimeo has great quality. Youtube can be a little bit questionable sometimes in terms of the video quality but Youtube is fine too.
Just make it easily accessible is the point.
You want it to be as easy as possible for a recruiter to give you that interview so don’t put obstacles along the way for no reason.
FREE Effects Demo Reel Guide for Beginners
Before we wrap up, I really want to point you to the effects demo reel guide that I created. It’s a 10 page PDF guide with lots of tips insights and more detailed information then I can put in a video.
I go into how you should create your demo reel in such a way that it really gets you more interviews and ultimately land you the dream effects job that you want.
I’ve also included two really helpful checklists in there that you can go through as you’re creating your demo reel and your portfolio pieces.
It’s a FREE guide so just click on the link below and I would love to email you that guide as a gift. Until next week where we’ll be talking about portfolio pieces I’ll see you and take care!