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How to make a Show reel?

A crisp and informative step-by-step guide on creating a show reel for artists.

A screenshot from Sina Pahlevani’s 3D Artist Show reel 2016 on YouTube.

The most facile way to showcase and promote your work as an artist is through a well-made Show reel. Although it is just a short video compilation of all your best work, making an appealing show reel is not as painless as it sounds. We have garnered some expert guidelines for new artists on making their first flawless show reel in this article.

1. Quality over Quantity

No client can spare more than three minutes of their time to watch your show reel. An ideal show reel stretches from about 60 to 100 seconds. Make sure your video is particular and only contains your prime artwork. It doesn’t have to include everything you’ve ever done.

The next tip explains how you can intelligently shortlist the contents of your show reel.

2. Include only relevant work

You’re supposed to be going after your dream job title. Show reels or Demo reels are the first and the most important step of your recruitment. Make sure you know who you’re trying to impress and which skill/skills do you want to put forward while doing that. Try to avoid the projects that don’t fall under the umbrella of your dream job title.

A picture with lists of top 5 skills and qualities to possess to become a great Irish Dancer that is absolutely unrelated to the topic of the article and successfully wasted a few precious seconds of our readers.

Look at it this way - it is, needless to say, foolish to include a lot of your character animation projects in your show reel when you’re applying for the job of an environment artist. However, there is no harm in briefly showcasing the wide range of skills you possess. Beware of the temptation of feeling like you do not have ‘enough’ on your reel. The viewer is looking for the mere 5 or 6 seconds that will be useful to them.

3. Open and Close well

It has been said before; it has been said a lot - Your reel should open with your best project to date. The opening will decide whether the viewer will watch the whole thing or not.

What isn’t said enough is that closing your reel with a banger is EQUALLY important. Your top project will get the viewer’s hopes up. So if you place a basic piece at the end, the first impression won’t be lasting. Choose a first- and a second-best project. The third best is what you continue the reel with after opening.

4. Explain your work with clarity

The viewer needs to know what you did and didn’t do in the creation of the project. If you’re using another animator’s or modeling artist’s work as the base of your project, you must offer credit by mentioning their name in front of their part in that project. In that case, make sure the project you’re presenting has enough of your contributions to make an impact. Consider adding a breakdown of that project in the reel to show your work process.

A screenshot from Sina Pahlevani’s 3D Artist Show reel 2016 on YouTube.

5. Be Creative

Your show reel should be presentable. Think of it as an advertisement that advertises your skills. We do not want the viewer to feel bored and uninterested at any point. A few ways to make sure of that are explained below.

Experiment with Music

The best way to keep your audience hooked is to sync your video to background music and sound effects. The music shouldn’t be offbeat or in contrast with the mood/vibe of your reel.

In the demo reel linked above, Michelle Cheng perfectly syncs her video to the song ‘walking dream’ by Louie Zong with added sound effects wherever needed. The music excellently compliments the vibe of the whole video.

Tell a Story

Everyone loves stories. And what better way to showcase the flow of your creative juices than putting together an interesting story. Make it heart-touching, moving, or funny. Think of one or two emotions and go out of your way to provoke them in the viewers through your story. Impress the viewer with your capability to flaunt your technical skills with an appealing narrative as a backdrop.

Remember: selling a story is a separate art form altogether. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, don’t force it.

6. Get Constructive Feedback

This is a two-part step to the perfect show reel. The first step is to present your video to your fellow students, colleagues, teachers, and family members. Gather their views and note them down.

Once you’ve done that, ask your friends or knowns to show your demo reel to people who don’t know you. This is how you can receive an unbiased opinion on your work. Ask them for detailed feedback if they have time. Note these down as well.

Now review all those comments and make the changes you think you can and should for your show reel to come out stronger.

You’re now ready to post your show reel on YouTube or Vimeo. In the end, make sure you keep updating your show reel with every major change in the industry.

We hope this article helped you. For any questions or suggestions, email us! For more knowledgeable articles, follow our blog at Sleeping Sloth Productions.

Thank You, readers!

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