The Dos and Don’ts of building a motion design showreel
Wondering how to build a standout motion design showreel for your next interview? You’re in the right place. We’ve asked a range of experienced motion design professionals, from designers, to directors, to hiring managers, from some of London’s most well-known creative studios, what they look for. Read on to find out what hirers from Cookie Studio, Venturethree, ETC, and Golden Wolf, have to say about the dos and don’ts of making that killer showreel.
Motion design showreel DOS
DO #1: Keep your reel SHORT
Keeping it short is not only easier for a potential employer to digest, but it means you've reduced your work to only the BEST pieces.Motion Designer, ETC
That’s right folks, KEEP. IT. SHORT. It might sound obvious, but this was was the number one tip from every pro we interviewed and you’d be surprised how many choose to ignore it. We know 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 people hiring have little time and hundreds of reels to review. Every second counts, so make sure you use each one to show off your best work, a unique skill or technique and tell your overall narrative.
You may have a wide selection of footage from years of study or practice. It is tempting to put lots of examples on your showreel to illustrate how much work you have created. However, more often than not your earlier work won't be as strong as your most recent. Be selective and choose less work of a higher standard. Not only does this mean your potential hirer is only looking at your best work but they will also note you are able to self-critique and are able to identify your stronger work.General Manager, ETC
To filter your work, ask yourself:
- What skill/technique/story does this piece say about me?
- Have I already shown this elsewhere in my reel?
- Is this the very best example for the skill/story I’m trying to tell?
DO #2: Put your best work at the BEGINNING
Once you’ve selected the best pieces to include in your showreel, you need to grab the attention of your viewer right from the start to make sure they watch right through to the end.
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.Managing Director and Creative Director, Golden Wolf
DO #3: Include the work you WANT to make
Another biggie, also often overlooked.
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.Motion design director and founder of Cookie Studio and See No Evil
What if you haven’t yet worked on the kinds of projects you actually like and want to be doing in the future? Our pros say that personal projects are the way forward here. Take time to explore the things you want to be doing and set yourself personal projects that will allow you to demonstrate your skills in this area. The beauty of personal projects is that you set the deadline, so you can get feedback, perfect them and put them in your reel when you feel they demonstrate your talent. Your reel is there to get you more work. So make sure it includes the kind of work you want to make. If you’re not sure what that is yet, take some inspiration from artists and companies you admire – what is it about their work that appeals to you?
DO #4: Treat your showreel like a full CREATIVE PROJECT
Your showreel is not just a patchwork of all the work you’ve done so far. It is a project in itself and the way you stitch together different work pieces speaks volumes about your skills as a professional.
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.Senior motion designer, Venturethree
Beyond your technical ability, creative employers will be analysing other crucial creative skills, such as the ability to self-critique (shown through your selection of only your best work) and 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 exponentially to a potential employer, so make sure you give your showreel the proper time it deserves.
Here’s a quick checklist to consider:
- Narrative? What story am I telling here? What’s the single take-out/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 sound/music do I need that supports both the pace and narrative?
Motion design showreel DON’TS
DON’T #1: Include anything you’re not PROUD of
Tying in with DO #1, your reel needs to show the best you can make. Including projects you’re not proud of, such as early-stage student work, or “anything irrelevant, will bring down the overall impression of your work”, says Ingi Erlingsson from Golden Wolf.
Don’t pad your showreel with filler content. Quality is more important than lengthMotion design director and founder of Cookie Studio and See No Evil
DON’T #2: Use TEMPLATES
Simply 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.Senior motion designer, Venturethree
Using pre-built presets in your showreel just 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.
You need to make your work and unique style stand-out. If you don’t yet have client work that can demonstrate your talent or the skills you’ve learned, follow DO#3 and get stuck into some personal projects that will help you do this.
As one of our pros put it, your potential employer is not looking for “button pressing monkeys”. Instead, they’re looking for professional creatives who have the ability to create a piece where both technical and creative skills shine.
DON’T #3: NAME LINGER at the start of your reel
You already know that the beginning is the most critical part of your showreel. You have to grab your potential employer’s attention right off the bat. But you also need to consider how you introduce yourself and apparently this is also something that employers take note of:
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. No one has time for a name lingerer.General Manager, ETC
DON’T #4: Take feedback PERSONALLY
Receiving feedback on your reel can be challenging. You’ve poured your heart into the reel and every piece of work within it, but sometimes you still don’t get the job. Don’t lose heart. A lot of variables are in place in the job-hunting scenario, but if you are given feedback on your reel, take it and give yourself proper time for reflection. Feedback isn’t personal, it’s an opportunity to help you grow and make better work. And after all, the work is yours, but you are not your work.
A strong motion design showreel is created with time and dedication. Practising your technical skills with the relevant software and getting feedback from a mentor, peer or potential employer can make a big difference when presenting your reel at the next interview. A lot of work that definitely pays off!
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