By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks


A smaller company or boutique shop is going to be looking for more generalized talent, because they cannot afford to hire as many people to fill specialized areas. The larger the company, the more specialized you will need to be. A specialized reel should show work in only one area. If you have work that fits into other areas, put those on your website, or edit together a general reel in addition to your specialized reel. You could even have several different types of reels based on the amount of work you have, such as an animation reel, a rigging reel, and a general reel as in Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 Opening Titles of Two Amazing Reels From the Same Talented Guy, David Bokser

Just because you are specialized, however, does not mean you should not have experience with all aspects of the production pipeline and process. The more you know, the more hirable you are and the more likely you are to keep a full-time position if you have the ability to transfer to a different department when the project you are working on moves on through the pipeline and your specific job is finished on a project. Your ideal goal would be to become a specialized generalist, who understands and can work in all aspects of the production pipeline, with at least one area of specialization.



Putting together a demo reel is really much simpler than most people make it out to be. Only put your best original work on your reel. That’s it. Very simple.

The problem is that most people, especially when starting out, want to put everything they have ever done on their reel. Every project becomes like a child, and you become like an annoying stage mother. They are so proud of what they have created that they are blind to see that it’s really not that good.

Or they are the exact opposite. They become overly critical. They think that everything they have done isn’t good enough, so they never get around to putting a reel together and continue working at their local retail job making minimum wage.

The ideal situation here is to put on a critical eye, review what work you do have, and choose the best three pieces to put on your reel.

Showing that you can use industry standard software is a must. Most of the larger studios use proprietary software, which means it is software that has been developed in-house. However, some of them do use off the shelf software as part of their production pipeline. Be sure that you keep up with what is being used in the industry. For example, Shake was the industry-standard software for compositing not too long ago. Now it is Nuke. Tomorrow it may be something different. The most important thing however is that you can demonstrate proficiency in the area in which you are applying.

Many of the software companies provide student or educational versions for a discounted price compared to professional licenses. However, in order to get the student pricing, you must be registered as a full-time student or teach at one of the acceptable schools. Is very important to note that if you are using an academic license, you are not allowed to use that software at a freelance or contract position.

Excerpt from Reel Success by Cheryl Cabrera © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.


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Author Bio

Cheryl Cabrera, Assistant Professor of Digital Media – Character Animation Specialization, University of Central Florida; on Board of Directors, Animation Hall of Fame; Autodesk Certified Instructor in Maya; member of SIGGRAPH, Society for Animation Studies, and Women in Animation.

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