Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather: Studio Views of Student Demo Reels

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Birds of a Feather, SIGGRAPH 2011, Students

This talk was appropriately scheduled to coincide with the opening of the Job Fair. There were three presenters, one from each of the following companies: Electronic Arts Canada, CG Scout Inc., and The Moving Picture Company (MPC).

The presenters had a lot of overlap on what they look for in a demo reel, but ¬†they did have some areas where they differed too. It is for this reason, the importance of doing your research was stressed. Before you send in your reel, be sure to find out what (if any) specific submission requirements the studio has and how best to cater to the company you are applying to. One size doesn’t not fit all when it comes to submitting your reel.

EA Canada started off the discussion with what they look for:

  • Creative originality: avoid copies of things, they want something that seems fully original
  • The “Approach:” what techniques were used/how you accomplished it
  • The “Package:” how you’ve packaged it together (like CD/DVD case), the naming conventions used and, in the case of websites, how navigable they are
  • Revelance: make sure you do your research and that your work is consistent with current industry standards
  • Honesty: your reel should reflect you and what you want to do… assuming you already know

Also, be sure you keep in mind that you have 30 seconds to hook them or they may end up fast forwarding through your reel.

CG Scout Inc. was next to speak with some Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Find a mentor in your field before you start, hopefully someone who works for the company you would like to work for
  • Don’t make it gross, twisted, or sexual: this could be seen as an unfavorable reflection of you
  • A Demo Reel should be no longer than 50 seconds
  • Only show your best work, because you will be gauged on what is consider the “worst” of your reel
  • Consider the style of the studio

She then went into some specific recommendations based on the job you want, whether it’s: animating, modeling, or VFX and lighting.

The MPC began their talk by admitting much of what they look for was already mentioned so there is some consistency from company to company. But there are a few places that they differed or added onto what was already discussed:

  • Be specific with your reel, because if you send a generalist reel you may have a position offered to you doing something that you may have no interest in
  • If in doubt, leave it out
  • Stick to 2 minutes for your reel, but the first 30 seconds need to count
  • Put your name and email address at the beginning and the end to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked
  • If working with a reference object, show the reference and then your work. This shows how realistic your work can be
  • Thoughts on music is dependent on the studio, just make sure to avoid anything that can be considered offensive
  • Check in on your reel, but don’t stalk
  • Reapply once every six months or when you have something substantially different
  • Don’t take it personally if you don’t make the cut– timing is everything!

Finally, be sure to do your research and know your market. There are 18,000 graduates a year in Canada alone; the one thing that can set you apart is your talent.

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