• Most studios prefer to receive online submissions. So, have all of your materials updated and ready for upload at all times on your computer.
  • Several people will review your portfolio, so having it online will allow them to evaluate it in a timelier manner.
  • It’s also more environmentally friendly to submit your work online, and you don’t have to worry about expensive printing costs!
  • Physical reels and resumes will not be returned do not send originals, EVER!
  • Have everything on your website so you can submit direct links to content.
  • Password protect any content that is not meant for the general public.
  • Do not show any work that is still under an NDA and has not been released.


  • Demo reels should be no more than 4 minutes in length.
  • Put your best work first, since (as they say) you only have one chance to make a first impression.
  • Your reel and/or portfolio should give examples of your abilities and style – don’t be afraid to highlight what truly makes you shine!
  • Keep download sizes small so your reel loads quickly but do not compress content so it is pixelated or the sound clips.
  • You should only include material that is approved for release.
  • Last tip on this: specify within your video exactly what you worked on for each shot in your overlay on the reel in addition to providing a credit list.


  • Art doesn’t begin and end with a Wacom tablet.
  • Include traditional work such as life drawings and concept art (as long as they pertain to the position you’re applying for).


  • A shot breakdown/credit list is a MUST!
  • Include an explanation of what you did and describe what software you used to achieve the effects.
  • I like to also include credits in the overlay so the viewer doesn’t have to look down at the credit list while viewing the reel.


Demo Reels & Starting Over

You should be able to scrap work you do (not just on your demo reel) and start over without a second thought. There is no time to be precious with something that doesn’t work. I cant tell you how many times I start with an idea for a scene and it just isn’t working (no matter how much I think it is, or want it to be) and I scrap it! …only to start clean and finish the scene much quicker and with a much more effective motion.

What To Put On The Reel

The work that you put on a demo reel depends upon the job you are trying to get. If you applying for a jobs as a character animator, put character animation on your reel. Create a story. Compel your audience. Make them laugh or make them cry, but evoke some kind of emotion or response. If you are applying for a job as a lighting TD, then show some lighting in your shots. Have some bright regions, dark regions, transitions in between, focus the viewers eye, lead them around the frame, demonstrate a sense of density balance, color balance, and good taste. Tell me a story with your lighting.  make me feel an emotion through your lighting choices.  Maybe you are applying for a job as a modeling TD? Then, show us your models in shaded and in wire frame. Do not hide the work in dark, moody lighting. Do not animate your models unless you can animate or you have a friend who is an animator do it for you. Just build it, playblast/render it in wire frame as a turnaround and/or render it sensibly with good lighting to show it off. You want to show several kinds of models. Organic, living shapes and hard edged, manufactured objects.


Most reviewers turn the sound down completely and fast forward through reels until they see something interesting. The reviewer probably has 50 reels to look at and about ten minutes to do it, so this is the norm.

In all cases, do not put an audio track dubbed so loud that the clipping causes the speakers to blow. It’s actually more interesting to take extreme visuals and contrast it with music that is quiet or a music box type audio, classical, big band or at least music that doesn’t overwhelm the content. Explore your options and be creative.

If you have characters talking/dialog.  Turn that music down! There is no point in putting a great dialog piece if I cannot hear what the character is saying. My character reel has no music only the original audio from each shot.  My VFX reel has music from a band called Lacunae which is electronic but certainly not techno or dubstep but more, kind of experimental. If you choose music that has lyrics, make sure the singing is more like an instrument rather than singing something specifically. We should not be trying to listen to what the music is saying.  If you put Metallica on your reel, make sure the imagery holds up.  The music should only accompany the imagery.



As far as demo reels go, I dumped all school work after my first job. In fact after each job I took, rarely did I keep any previous work on my reel. This included 4 month contract jobs where the reel was only that 4 months old.

  • Less is more…
  • quality is good…
  • and you have to have a critical eye when it comes to your own work.

I know this costs time and money to do over an over and its hard when you first start out. You must put your best foot forward every time you interview and your reel is the important tool you have to getting that job.

Most people know editing software today and no one has to deal with video tape like I did back in the day when I started out. I had to beg people to help me edit my reel because I couldn’t afford a reel to reel edit bay. I used to work at a lot of video production houses and traded an animation opening for a new, young editor’s reel for his assistance on editing an updating my reel. If you do not have the confidence to edit your reel digitally, get a friend to help you.


I tend to represent any work I no longer have on my reel that still holds a place in my heart– for my portfolio and website. I don’t spend a lot of money on this, simple color copies from digital files in a 8 1/2 x 11 book. This way if people wonder about all the production experience I have it is represented in the book. Having the projects documented in this way also important for archival reasons.

However, I have yet to have someone who has hired me ask to see the book. Frankly, your skills will show through on your reel and the people hiring do not need to see a chronological record of where you’ve been and where you are going.


I have seen remakes of both Luxo and Toy Story characters on reels and the problem is the viewer will always compare it to the original. So, unless those animations are not incredible! Don’t use them. Originality is important. Same for portfolios.  We review the incoming freshman portfolios at USC to get into the program and nothing is worse than to see you bad attempt at a Jamie Hewlett character design or your favorite anime character.  Create your OWN characters based on what excites you about what you have seen already done. It shows you have initiative and fresh ideas.


Keep it simple. Make sure the animations you are creating show what the prospective employer is looking for. If you don’t know, look at the website posting for the job or email call and ask what they are looking for.