How to Make Your Portfolio or Demo Reel Stand Out

How to Make Your Portfolio or Demo Reel Stand Out

Great news! You've finally got enough high quality work that it's time to gather it all up and make a demo reel or portfolio and start getting it out there.

But, before you go and throw together a 20-minute opus beginning with your Primary School finger paintings and finishing with the 100-layer environment sketch you just finished, make sure you read through our list of tips provided by several of our mentors here at CG Spectrum. 


Do's and Don'ts, structural tips and what to include. Our mentors are industry professionals who know exactly what clients and studios are looking for in a folio or demo reel.

1. Make Your Reel or Folio Entertaining

This is an industry that is all about entertainment. So make sure your folio or demo reel shows off just how entertaining your work can be.

With over 15-years experience working in the animation industry, Animation mentor Mark Pullyblank has seen his fair share of reels and folios. 

"What's compelling to me is if I forget I'm watching a demo reel. I'm just being entertained."

An entertaining reel will be remembered. It has a better chance of being re-watched. And those watching it might even be compelled to show it off to their friends and colleagues. Who knows?

So, take a minute to look at your reel or folio objectively. Is it entertaining? Does it have personality? Is it memorable? If not, have some fun with it and make it your own.

2. Open and Close With a Bang

Put yourself in the shoes of the studio you're applying to for a minute. They are a developer looking for a new modeller who not only has the required skills, but also suits the studio. After advertising the position for a couple of weeks, they have a mountain of applications and a list a mile long of artist's sites to sift through in the hopes of finding the right person.

It's a huge job that can consume a lot of time. If the person watching your reel isn't immediately impressed by your work, they might just move on to the next.

"Show your best work first." Says Animation mentor and Co-Founder at CG Spectrum Nick Fredin. "And make sure you close with a bang."

It is incredibly important to grab the viewer's attention as early as possible with what you think is your best piece then leave a them with a lasting memory to close.  

3. Keep it Short and Sweet

A demo reel or folio that is concise and concentrated is not only filled with high quality content but also stands a better chance to be appreciated by the viewer.

Animation mentor Simon Warwick told us just how important it is to keep the viewer in mind when putting together your demo reel or folio for a job application.

"Think about the person watching your reel. They might only have a short amount of time to get through all the reels they have to to make a decision. So keep it tight and concentrated. You don't want one dry moment."

It doesn't have to be five minutes long and show off every piece of work you've ever done. Cut it back and only show your best work.

Which brings me to tip number four... 

4. Be Ruthless With Your Own Work

"Find concise ways to explain your work process." Says VFX Mentor Greg Hird-Rutter "Don't be afraid to trim your reel. The best reels are always short and sweet."

It always pays to look at your work objectively. Does that piece make sense for this job? Is that piece as good as it possibly can be?

Don't let sentimentality get in the way of having the best demo reel or folio you can possibly create. Sometimes you have to cut away pieces that might not apply to the position your going for, might be out of context or just might not be good enough. Keep it short but dense with high quality work.

One to two minutes is more than long enough for the studio to get a good idea of what you are capable of.

5. Make Sure it's Applicable to the Position or Studio

Different studios and developers have completely different styles. When they are hiring they will be looking for artists that can slot straight in to the studio and understand what their work is all about. It is up to you to do your research to see just what they are looking for. 

Concept Art Mentor Brandon Reimchen believes it's all about making it clear you can have an immediate impact on the studio.

"Make sure the artwork you're showing relates to the studio or product you're applying for. Show the art director that you can slot straight into the team."

343 Industries and Bungie develop games that are mainly sci-fi, first-person shooters. Where as game studios like Bioware and CD Projekt tend to focus more on third-person, open world role-playing games. 

Although both make animated films, Pixar and Dreamworks have completely different art styles from one another. Video Game studios are the same. Although both Bethesda and Gearbox make open world first person shooters, they have incredibly distinctive art styles.

Do your research and create pieces that show off what you can do for the client. 

6. Show Work Your Process

In some instances, studios and clients might ask to see how you go about creating your work. They might want to see that you have mastered the basics or that you are using techniques that they can work with.  

Modelling mentor Katerina Dzolganovski believes that this is especially important if you are new to the industry. "Make sure, as a junior, you show the wire frame work. They will want to make sure you're modelling cleanly."



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