Demo Reels: Professional Perspectives (Robert Skiena)

About the Author:

Robert Skiena…(info when available)

*Disclaimer*: These are the personal views of Robert Skiena. These are not the views of his employer. The following text has no relationship with how his employer as a company, anyone who works there, or anyone else for that matter, feels about this particular topic. This text may not be used or reprinted, in whole or in part, without permission.

DEMO REELS: Some thoughts on Demo Reels by Robert Skiena

Show both quality and variety.

I don’t think that it is possible to rule out any one genre, except 1 space ship flying through space. If you have 3-5 minutes of QUALITY work, that says a lot about you to potential employers.

You will be judged primarily on the worst part of your reel, not the best, so don’t stick any crap on your tape. Depending on what you want to eventually end up doing, tailor your reel to that. Know ye well that the fastest route to employment is a tape that shows you can animate a character in a somewhat classical style and give him or her definitive personality. Realistic motion is nice, but animation is not necessarily realistic motion. Exaggeration and the other aspects of classical animation should be applied.

Lastly, realize that the people who will be watching this reel will be seeing probably dozens of other, mostly horrid, reels. Make yours stand out, but not by adding “flash” (lens flares, sparkly effects, frontal nudity), but by actually trying to make your tape as enjoyable to watch as possible. Nice, COMPLETE stories show that you can actually follow a job through to the end — just make sure that your stories are well-edited and tight. Don’t have long spaces of dead air on your tape, as that’s boring to watch and would make people (me, anyway) question what your tolerances for quality and pride in your work are.

[Demo Reel: Telling a good story]

I actually attended a “trade school” for CG in Vancouver, but in my previous life I held a BA in English from a respected East Coast American University and made my way as a writer in New York City (and it is well established that if you can make it there you can, well, you know. . .). I learned the elements of story from a different perspective than many people in this industry, so my reactions to your [demo reel] question may not be the norm, but here goes.

Your basic story has three elements: a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Before you roll your eyes at this (oops, too late) it is basic concept that many people don’t consciously recognize.

Beginning – Introduction to who, what, when, where, why, how of the story. Essentially set-up time for the story.

Middle – The meat of the story. This is where everything happens that leads up to the climax of the tale.

End – Well, what do you think happens here?, The story is wrapped up (usually) and concluded.

Dull lecture time is now over. If you’re trying to make short animated piece, and you’re LOOKING for a story, then I wish you luck. The best story ideas have always just come to me, although I am always on the lookout for them.

[Rob Skiena on building a story]

I think it depends upon what the function of the piece is going to be. If you’re trying to create a demo reel to try and get a job, I would try to start with a character in a situation, but if you’re trying to win an Oscar(tm) then you may want to try and center around a concept. In trying to find ideas, though, I think the easiest way to go about it is to come up with a character and then come up with a situation (example, an insecure fish trying to learn how to swim.) If you define the character before creating the story, the story will almost write itself, since the character is essentially reacting to the situation.

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