Top 8 tips for the perfect show reel

Everyone knows the importance of a well put together show reel, but it's surprising how many there are out there that fail to tick all of the right boxes.  Very often a show reel will fail to showcase the breadth of skill of the candidate, or will let itself down with a few issues that are fairly simple to fix.  Therefore, we've put together a list of points to help you perfect your show reel and to maximise the impact it has on prospective employers.   After much discussion at Escape Studios, plus a fair bit of back and forth on Twitter, we have whittled down the list to these 8 tips:

1: Watch the length - You need to showcase all of your skills, but it's important to keep things from dragging on and on with a long show reel.  Make sure your show reel lasts no more than one minute as films longer than that will very rarely be watched all the way through.

2: Show a range of skills - We love to see how strong someone is in a certain discipline, but we also like to see that they aren't limited to one technique. Employers want to hire someone who can cover a wider range of jobs well, so it's important to show this in your reel.  If it isn't obvious at first look that you have a range of experience, then find a way to make it obvious..

3: Break it down - Everyone wants to see the finished article, we all know that.  However, we also want to see how you got there. Showing breakdowns of your work is a great way to highlight your techniques and to show that you know what you're doing.  It can take some time out of your precious one minute of film time, but it has more impact than several seconds of other work being shown.

4: Over reliance on techniques - One big gripe amongst employers (or anyone who spends a lot of time checking out show reels) is an over reliance on certain techniques.  Turntabling, for example, is a simple technique for any show reel, but it is often over used.  Find a way to mix up it and always aim to show something new or different.

5: You're only as good as your weakest clip - Whilst we suggest reels should be no longer than one minute, that doesn't mean they have to be anywhere near that long if you don't have your best material to fill the time. Don't try to fill it up with clips that aren't fully finished or any work that you aren't perfectly happy with. It's far better to leave the viewer wanting to see more of your work than leaving them with a weak clip at the end... Afterall, the last clip is the clip they'll remember.

6: The first ten seconds are key - If you had only ten seconds of time to impress a prospective employer, what would you show?  The first ten seconds of a clip are vital to selling your skills, so be sure to maximise this time.

7: Innovate - Whereever possible, try to do something that is unique to you.  When you come to finish your reel try to find a way to differentiate yourself; whether it's with the editing, the work shown, an intro / outro that is unique or completely unexpected, the way you send it to the prospective employer or anything else that is innovative.  Showreels serve the purpose of geting your work viewed, yet there is no reason to stick to the mold that everyone else uses.  If you can find something that makes you stand out (in a good way) then give it a shot.

8: Aim it at the right job - It may seem fairly obvious, but so many people will submit an animation show reel in for a lighting job application. Therefore, it's sometimes best (if you are multi-talented) to have a show reel set up for different jobs.  You may decide to have a sho reel that covers lighting AND animation (for example) but if only 50% of the showreel is relevant to the employer, how interested will they be? Perhaps it's best to blow them away with your lighting skills and provide a snapshot of your animation, or vice-versa for an animation job..

Many thanks to Phil Shoebottom, Richard Costin,  Optical 3D, Paul Berner and Matt Loughran for the feedback on Twitter.

11 Comments Lee Danskin

Posted by
Lee Danskin
Wed 23 Jun 2010: 8:44pm

Tags: , , , , , ,


  • soundar:


  • Raj:

    Thanks really helpful advice.

  • Bhumita soni:

    Thnx. I am preparng a 3d modelng n texturng reel n this wil surely help me...

  • Christopher Dsouza:

    Thanks alot , thats really good advice. Im starting on my showreel for visual effects and compositing.. im new to this field but i need to be really creative n awesome at my showreel.. thanks again :)

  • Francesc Macià:

    Thanks for share!

  • krishna joshi:

    hm,gud tips n advice :-)

  • tushar saahani:

    gud advice thanx

  • Rod Smith:

    good advice and thank you

  • Antoinio Milo:

    Great tips - thanks!

  • David Cox:

    Thanks Lee,

    Looks like I have some homework for this weekend!

  • Paul, Optical 3D:

    Thanks for the mention. I'm not a fan of wading through epic showreels.

comments powered by Disqus