Reel Success : Creating Demo Reels and Animation Portfolios book cover
1st Edition

Reel Success
Creating Demo Reels and Animation Portfolios

ISBN 9780240821023
Published June 19, 2013 by Routledge
224 Pages

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USD $38.95

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Book Description

Are you an animator looking to get your foot in the door of the top studios? Break it down with Reel Success.

It's tough to get a job in the animation industry if you don't have a demo reel and portfolio that reflects your unique style and incredible talents. The reception of that reel will make or break you; so it's no wonder that creating a demo reel can be such a daunting task. Reel Success by Cheryl Cabrera can help. This book guides you through putting the right content into your portfolio, how to cater to the right audience, and how to harness the power of social media and network effectively. Accompanied by case studies of actual students' demo reels, this book teaches how to develop a critical eye toward effective and ineffective demo reels.

Reel Success offers you real successful:

  • Best practices for animators looking to get their foot in the door or remain active in a competitive market.
  • Examples of demo reels, featuring techniques beyond just animation for Concept, Story, Layout, Modeling, and Effects Lighting
  • Actual student experiences, professional animator’s techniques, and recruiter insights to help you get the inside track in the animation industry.

Table of Contents

  1. Book Outline

Reel Success

Introduction: What is a demo reel?

Chapter 1

This chapter includes the design of branding yourself, from font and color choices, to the design of Business Cards, Letterheads, Logos, and WebSites.

Chapter 2

This chapter goes over the overall portfolio package that you need to develop before you look for a job. This includes Business Cards, Letterheads, Resumes, Cover Letters, Thank you letters, Demo Reels, Demo Reel Breakdowns, Flatbooks, as well as developing a Web Presence

Chapter 3

This chapter covers what to put into the demo reel. A discussion about whether one needs to specialize or not is included, as well as what specific content is necessary for each area of specialization.

Chapter 4

This chapter focuses on how to target specific studios and what those studios want to see.

Other topics include how to find entry level jobs and networking.

Chapter 5

This chapter is the "how to" in putting your reel together. Considerations of assembling your reel are discussed. Suggestions of what to do and what NOT to do are covered.

Chapter 6

The breakdown that accompanies the demo reel is discussed in detail, from clearly identifying your work and crediting others when necessary.

Chapter 7

This chapter talks about distributing your demo reel. What dimensions and codecs are needed? What is the differences? How to go about getting accurate feedback. How to go about networking and getting your reel into the right hands.

Chapter 8

This chapter talks about the interview process. What to bring and how to prepare. What to do about an Art Test. How to negotiate a contract.

Appendix I (should be posted on the web, but book can have a printed list most of the information)

Includes sample demo reels, critiques (ideally would be screen captured with a voiceover critique), and jobs that resulted from them

What works, what does not.

Appendix II (should be posted on the web)

Is a supplement of studio listings with specific requirements



Reel Success

Introduction: What is a demo reel?

Chapter 1

Presentation Design of Self Promotion


Font Choices

Color choices

Unified theme

Personal Promotion

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 2

Professional Package Presentation

What to Include

Business Card


Cover Letter



Web Presence

Demo Reel / Breakdown


Thank you letter

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 3

Gathering Content - What to put into the reel

Specialization reels vs. General reels

Specific content for each area: Concept, Story, Layout, Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, 3D Animation, 2D Animation, Visual Effects, Lighting, Compositing, Motion Graphics

To include or not to include

Original best work

Ongoing portfolio development

Presentation of material

Separate passes

Playblasts or renders

Still images?

How Long

How Much to include

Legalities - the proper process and procedure to obtain legal rights to use footage from a movie, game or tv on your reel, Music on your reel

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 4

Targeting specific studios - what do studios want to see?

Interviews with industry professionals and recruiters

Large studios- US, Asia, Europe and other areas.

Small studios- US, Asia, Europe and other areas.

How to find entry level studio jobs

Networking - It's not just what you know, but who you know.

Every person you meet is a potential connection. Linked In, Facebook, etc.

Chapter 5


Dedicated demo reel drive - the ever changing demo reel

Continuing Ed.

Animated logo introduction

Non-linear editing

Unique editing ideas


Sequencing and flow

Music and timing

Legal issues with Music

Contact info

Font Choices

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 6


Clear information

Credit those necessary

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 7




Web publishing: Websites, Web Communities, Social Media

Getting your real critiqued


Getting it into the right hands


Guilds and Unions

Trade Associations

Film Festivals

Competitions and Contests

Trade Shows and Conferences

Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Chapter 8

The Interview

What to bring

How to Prepare

The Art Test

How long do I have to wait to hear something?

When should I follow up?

Negotiating a contract.


Pointers from Industry (Recruiters, employees, leads, etc.)

Appendix I

Sample demo reels, critiques, and jobs that resulted from them

What works, what does not.

Appendix II

Studio listings with specific requirements

View More



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.