Portfolios and Demo Reels

Forums General Discussions Advice for Artists Portfolios and Demo Reels

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      Animation Pagoda StaffAnimation Pagoda Staff
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      Many college students make the mistake of filling their portfolios with school projects that reflect a curriculum rather than their own interests.

      Include a variety of subjects to show versatility, but don’t put in work you think might be mediocre just to have more content. Quality is better than quantity.

      Be mindful of what types of skills and projects will be in demand outside of college.  For example, it is easier to find paying jobs in illustration than 3D animation.  There is an established online market for freelance illustrators, but most people cannot afford to hire an animator, so the freelancing prospects are not as good.  You can’t always rely on getting hired by a studio, so it is always smart to have backup options and skills.

      CG Channel: 10 questions to ask before you apply for an art job

      Specialize in a Specific Niche

      Focus on specific areas rather than broad subjects. If you know you want to be a director, don’t settle for Production Assistant internships in hopes of moving up the hierarchy. Get experience directing, even if it is on low-budget films or commercials.

      Walk cycles, facial animation, and movement studies are usually considered mandatory for animation demo reels, but if you are more interested in modeling or rigging, fill your reel with examples reflecting that. There is a lot of tough competition in the field of 3D modeling, but many studios need technical directors, riggers, and storyboard artists.  People who specialize in niche skills stand a better chance of getting hired.

      Graphic designers should include branding on your resume and website, and filmmakers will want some awards and recognition attached to short films or videos.  Illustrators should include lots of life drawings and figure studies, as well as original artwork.


      Always put your best work first. The first 10 seconds of a reel are the most important. For websites, the equivalent is generally a cover page or design that the viewer looks at first. Make sure your name and logo are prominent, and include contact information.

      Keep reels and resumes concise. 1 page is the preferred length for resumes. 1-3 minutes is ok for a reel, but 5 minutes is probably pushing it for someone who hasn’t been working in the industry for decades.

      Update your sites and reels occasionally to reflect your most current projects and style of work.

      Sketchbooks, Blogs, and Personal Projects

      Some studios and universities like to see sketchbooks and samples from personal projects.  This shows that the artist practices developing their skills in their free time, which also implies they will likely work extra hours for the company.  You might have a great portfolio, but if you don’t maintain any extra projects,  it may suggest you don’t really have as much passion for the subject as someone who also maintains a blog and volunteers on an indie project.

      Most studios look for diversity and range.  They want to see life drawings, figure drawing, anatomy, references, and color studies of a variety of different subjects, both stylized and realistic.  This indicates the artist understands fundamentals of art, and can be flexible in adapting new styles.

      It is equally important to have a unique personality and style.  Don’t send in a sketchbook with 90% life drawings and nothing original, or a sketchbook filled entirely with dragons or anime.  If you are into that stuff you can always post it on separate blogs or Tumblr pages, but keep the content of your main portfolio well balanced.

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