How to Build a Motion Design Showreel
Wondering how to build a motion design showreel for your next interview?
You’re in the right place. We asked a range of experienced motion designers what they’d expect from a standout showreel. Read on to find out what the designers, directors and hiring managers from Cookie Studio, Venturethree, ETC and Golden Wolf had to say about it.
Keep it short
“Keeping it short is not only easier for a potential employer to digest, it also means you’ve condensed your reel to your best work.” – George Dyson, Motion Designer, ETC
That’s right. KEEP. IT. SHORT. It might sound like obvious advice, but you’d be surprised how many designers ignore it. It’s tempting to include every piece of work in your reel. We get it. You want to show how much you’ve done. But this is about quality over quantity and you need to be selective. The hiring managers have hundreds of showreels to review and little time to do it in. Every second counts, so make sure you use each one to showcase your best work.
Being selective is the key to success here. As Harry Jones, General Manager of ETC, shares “Choose less work of a higher standard. This means your potential hirer is only looking at your best work and they will also see your ability to self-critique.”
To critique your work, ask yourself:
- What skills am I displaying in this frame?
- Have I already shown these somewhere else in the reel?
- Is this piece of work the best example for the story I’m trying to tell?
Put your best work at the beginning
“Remember that the person you’re aiming it at will be very busy, so the quicker your work gets to the point, the more likely you are to get a response.” – Ingi Erlingsson, Managing Director and Creative Director, Golden Wolf
Once you’ve selected the best pieces to include in your motion design showreel, you need to grab the attention of your viewer right from the start to make sure they keep watching.
So how does this work in practice?
“The opening shot of your reel should contain your name and contact details and stay on screen for 5 seconds max then go straight into a concise reel demonstrating your best work.” advises Harry Jones, General Manager at ETC.
Essentially, don’t make the start all about you and then take ages to get to the good bit. Include a short intro so they know who you are and then get right into the juicy stuff.
Include the work you want to create
“Your showreel is your shop window. It’s what you want to do and want to be doing again and again. The type of work you put in your showreel is the type of work you’re going to get.” – Thiago Maia, Motion design director and founder of Cookie Studio and See No Evil
You’re creating your reel to get more work. So make sure it includes the kind of work you want to make.
What if you haven’t yet worked on the kinds of projects you want to be doing in the future?
Make time for passion projects and make them good enough to include in your showreel. Your passion projects demonstrate your interests and skills just as much as client work. If you’re not sure what you want to create yet, look to your favourite designers or studios for inspiration. What attracts you to their work?
Treat your showreel like a full creative project
“Potential employers aren’t just scrutinising the sequences within it, they’re looking at the whole piece including your title slide, song choice, flow of the edit and any narrative you’ve incorporated. Time and consideration should be taken to plan and execute the order of your work and how it fits together.” – Jason Peacock, Senior motion designer, Venturethree
Beyond your technical ability, motion design employers will be analysing your other creative skills. They’ll look for your ability to self-critique, shown through your selection of only your best work, and your knack for concepting and storytelling, shown through your narrative and pace.
According to Thiago Maia, these skills are often“more important than software”. Any detail out of place will stand out to a potential employer, so make sure you give your showreel the proper time it deserves.
Work your way through this checklist to see if you’re hitting the right notes:
- What story am I telling here? What’s the impression I’m trying to create?
- If the viewer only watches the first 10 seconds, what impression would they leave with? What skills have I demonstrated here?
- What is the overall pace of my reel? Does this change or build throughout? Does each piece fit into the overall flow?
- What audio best supports both the pace and narrative?
“Stringing together a reel consisting of templates is a big no-no. Tutorials and free downloads are there to get you started, but it’s up to you to push the ideas further and create something that you can call your own.” – Jason Peacock, Senior motion designer, Venturethree
You need to make your work and unique style stand out. If you don’t yet have client work that can demonstrate your style, follow step 3 and get stuck into some personal projects that’ll get you there.
Using presets in your showreel won’t cut it. Of course, they’re a big help in honing your technical skills, so by all means do use them in that context. But motion design employers know these inside out and have seen them hundreds of times before, so including them in your reel will actually work against you.
Your future employer is looking for a professional who can draw on both their technical and creative skills to create original designs. It’s your job to make sure your motion design showreel proves you’ve got what it takes.
Ask for feedback
You’ve poured your heart into your motion showreel and every project within it, so it can be difficult not to take criticism personally. But it’s all part of the process and getting feedback is key to growth.
Seek out feedback wherever you can. Reach out to a motion designer you admire. Post your work on social media. Join a creative community and ask your peers. Feedback isn’t personal. It’s there to make you a better motion designer. Getting feedback is an opportunity for growth. And after all, your work is yours, but you are not your work.
With time and practice, you can build a strong motion design showreel. Constantly refining your technical skills with the right tools and getting feedback from an experienced motion designer can make all the difference when you’re in an interview situation.
If you’re short on projects and need a nudge in the right direction, you could be a great fit for our Motion Design Professional course. With technical training designed with industry partners and the support of your very own motion design mentor, you could have a showreel packed with industry-ready creative projects in 9 months.
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