Ready to land your next video job? Here are some tips for creating an engaging and unforgettable animation reel.

Top Image: Batman: Arkham Origins via Blur Studio

No matter which area of the production industry you go into, you’ll need a solid reel to showcase your work and sell yourself as a professional. This is definitely true in the world of animation, which can include motion graphics, visual effects, and traditional animation.  Let’s look at eight tips that will help you get on track toward your next big gig.

1. Make an Impression, Keep It Short

Ask 100 professionals how long a demo reel should be and you’ll likely get just as many different answers. Still, most tend to agree on a couple of points:  you need to get to the good stuff as quickly as possible, and you’ve got keep it short. A good rule of thumb is to keep your reel under two minutes while maintaining a consistent pace.

Here’s an example from NEEKOE that proves the benefits of keeping your animation reel short and sweet.

2. Don’t Add Everything

You’ve done some incredible work. You have favorite projects that you feel perfectly showcase your abilities — your greatest hits, if you will.  However, it’s important that you do not give into the desire to show every single animation you’ve ever done. In fact, as you create and develop new animations, you can take out older work. Keep your reel fresh, and give your potential client/employer a variety of things to look at.

This animation reel from Blur Studio is a great example of showing a wide range of work.

3. Target Your Reel

Piggybacking off of the idea that you don’t have to show everything, be sure to highlight specific things in each animation that make it effective. They say you should “dress for the job that you want,” and that goes for your reel as well. No matter if you’re if you’re up for a motion designer position or a rotoscoping gig, make sure your reel reflects your talents in the area.

In this reel from 2veinte, we see a number of techniques, but the one that sticks out above the others is the liquid animation.

4. Only Use Your Work

It sounds crazy to put this on the list, but it happens; some people will do just about anything to get ahead and give themselves an advantage. Don’t do it. If you can’t showcase a set of skills to secure a job, then you are better off passing that job by. Build up your skills and knowledge and then apply. That’s the best way to give yourself a real advantage over the field.

In this reel from Daniel Coutinho, we get a real sense of his skill set and what he can offer potential employers.

5. Highlight Your Contributions to Collaborations

You want to avoid using other people’s work, but what about collaborations? The rule is the same: highlight what you’ve done. Show clips from the animation, but list specifically what your role was. For instance, in the lower thirds, list the name of the work, the director/producer, and your role/title. Certainly take credit for your work — just do it while giving credit where credit is due.

In this reel, Joe Han offers specific information on his contributions, giving potential employers insight into his skill set.

6. Do Not Use Copyrighted Music

In the reel below, The Mill uses music from Aayushi & Dillistone. Of course, with The Mill’s position in the industry and clientele base, they likely have licensing agreements with performance rights organizations — and fairly healthy budgets.

If you’re not in the position to officially license the latest hits, you’re asking for trouble when you use copyrighted music without the permission of the copyright holder. Simply put, you just can’t do it. If you do, you run the risk of having your reel pulled from hosting sites — and in some cases, legal trouble can follow. A better move: licensing royalty free music for your soundtrack from reputable websites like PremiumBeat.

7. Check and Double-Check

Before you upload anything or send anything, read and then reread every line of text. Go through the edit to ensure your transitions are solid. After you’ve gone through this checking process once, go through it again.

In this example, Go Procedural showcases a large amount of information beyond the animation, so you know they went through the edit several times to ensure quality.

8. Always Showcase Your Work Online

Finally, you want to make sure that potential employers can see your work quickly and easily. Vimeo is a great site for hosting your work; it’s filled with professionals from around the industry. YouTube has a wider audience that gives your work the potential to go viral. Finally, consider hosting your work on a personal website and related social media platforms.

Do you have other tips for crafting an unforgettable animation reel? Would you like to share your animation reel with us?  We would love to see it! Please share a link or a tip in the comments below.