How to prepare your animation reel so it lands you the job of your dreams
Doing animation is fun but finding an animation job is so hard.
This is true. But there is also an art to building your demo reel so it works for applying to jobs. Here’s how I built mine to successfully land my current role at Mighty Bear Games!
Tip #1: Find your focus
Hitting any sort of target will require focus, and prepping your animation reel is no exception. Start by finding out what type of animation you enjoy doing. Is it feature films, television, games (and which sub-genre within games), or commercials? It’s important to know just what sort of animation you enjoy doing, rather than simply saying “I like to do animation”. When you have a singular focus, it’s a lot easier for you to continue to build up your reel.
For example, Mighty Bear Games has an expertise in arena brawlers / MOBAs. Once I knew I wanted to apply to work here, I started with some basic product research. I studied and played Butter Royale and Disney Melee Mania and wrote down the kind of animation the games needed, what animation styles they followed, etc. All of this helped me quickly figure out what I’d need to include in my submission reel. But that’s not all the research I did.
Tip #2: Research. A lot!
Investigate! Explore! Deep-dive! Scrunitise! It’s important to thoroughly research the company that you’re looking to apply for. Some things to look out for would be what the company style is like, and what type of animation they are already doing.
When I prepared to apply to Mighty Bear, I made sure I visited the MBG website, followed the MBG LinkedIn page, followed all MBG social media like the studio’s Twitter and Instagram, and read all of the Medium articles. This gave me a clearer picture of the work culture: it helped me understand what kind of people worked at Mighty Bear, and what they did in their day-to-day.
After you gain an understanding of the style of the company, you should at least have some idea what to put into your demo reel.
Tip #3: Sometimes, basic is better
Sometimes people may make the mistake of thinking it’s better to show as many impressive animations as possible. This can be overwhelming to the reviewer of your reel, and it might make it difficult for them to discern your actual skill with animation.
One thing to keep in mind is that lighting and crazy cameras can actually end up being distracting. Your interviewers only want to see your animation skills, so a simple grey background with a steady camera is good enough. Unless you are applying for a position that requires you to have all of the skills, it is easier to just show what you need to show.
My recommendation is also to always include some basic animation, like a few walk and run cycles. I’ve learned that most interviewers would like to know if you can nail the basic animation principles before they start asking about other things.
Remember, quality is better than quantity.
Tip #4: Network and seek feedback
Once your reel is ready, it’s a good idea to look for feedback in order to improve, or even to get ideas for the next thing you’ll work on. In school, it’s easy to reach out to classmates, but if you’re already in the working world, don’t worry — there is a whole community full of passionate animators and professionals out there who are happy to connect and help out!
Networking can seem intimidating, but it’s actually simple. Here are 4 ways you can try for yourself.
1 Connect with a professional on LinkedIn. Ask politely for them to review your work, or even if they can share what their company is looking for (if you want to work there). Just keep in mind that not everyone will answer your message, which is very normal, people are busy with their own life too.
2Join a Discord channel. There are a few Discord channels that are run by people who want to gather more animators to just exchange information. They are generally welcoming of people to share their work and trade feedback on how to improve. Here are a few recommendations: Newman’s Animation Community, Sir Wade Animation and the RAT (@RATanimators).
3Join animation challenges. You can usually can submit any animation that fits the theme of the month, and if you are lucky, you may win a chance to have a top professionals comment on your work. The most active challenge is currently AnimChallenge. Try it out!
4Get a mentor. Some professionals offer mentorship with a price. You can have them comment on your work, or even talk with them if you have questions about how to build up your career as an animator.
Tip #5: Keep learning
Keep learning, and keep practicing. Animation is a long run, and the more you spend time on it, the better you will become. Here are two things I do in my spare time to keep my skillset active and up to date.
I animate a video. Look for a video with action that you think would look cool if you animate it out. Study the movement and try to recreate it with animation. This is a good practice to understand body mechanics. My top selection would be Motion Actor Inc, Misozi Salaryman Game Style Action, or any cool parkour videos.
I attend animation lessons. You don’t even have to go back to school for this! There are good teachers online! Here are my top recommendations: Harvey Newman, Alessandro Camporota, Jean-Denis Haas, Sir Wade Neistadt and Christopher Hsing.
Last but not least, if you feel frustrated, do remember to take some rest. Pushing yourself too hard will only break your mind and body. Just take your time and go step by step. You will be the person you want to be eventually.
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