Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Demo Reel Reviews

When I was applying to the studios, I would always wonder what Demo Reel Reviews were like.

What do they talk about? How many people attend?  Was someone taking notes? How many do they look at at one sitting?  There are more than enough resources out there that address the golden demo reel do's and dont's ;  Keep it short, best stuff up front, cut the so-so work.  But even equipped with that knowledge, I know there's still a sense of vulnerability that comes with sending out your work. 

I've been able to sit in on quite a few reviews since being here,  so here are some things I've seen that I'd like to share to students wondering the same thing.  It seems like after the holidays, a new wave of demos are being sent out, and hopefully this helps.  I'm sure every studio is different, but here's how they go down at Blue Sky, and I'm betting there are lots of similarities.


-In an average week, there are maybe 2 reel reviews.  The attendance varies , usually hovering around 8-12  animators, and one Animation PA loading about 6-10 reels per review.  It's usually in this small theater room called the "Chop Shop".  But your work will be projected on a pretty big screen.

-Any animator can come to these reviews,  if the majority of the room likes it, it gets forwarded to the supervising animators.  If the supervisors like it, they will contact the candidate.

-There actually isn't much discussion or deliberation that goes on in these things.  It's usually either a yay or nay.  And no one is taking down notes to give feedback to the candidate. (which is something I always wondered about =). )  

-Since I've been here,  candidates are considered for 3 different positions.  Staff Animator, Junior, or Temps.

-Most animators don't look at reviews as a chore, but are pretty genuinely excited about finding new talent.  They WANT to see awesome!  They want to be inspired like everyone else. 

-Fancy packaging and labels.  I don't even see them.  Everyone gathers into a dark room and watches it on a big screen.  The Anim  PA is in the back, opens and plays the DVDs one after another.

-Fancy titles don't impress.  Ironically, animators are really impatient and hate sitting through shiny animated logos, they just wanna get to the work.  Hell, there's even a running joke that the fancier the titles, the worse the actual animation will be.

-The "best stuff up front" thing is no joke.  I've seen demo reels get shot down 5 seconds into the first shot.
Someone will immediately speak out "NOPE." and the rest of the room will tend to agree.

-By contrast, the reels that impress the room usually get watched again.  Like I say,  animators want to be inspired.

-  I hear "He/She should've cut that one.." alot, so get picky about what you show.

-The type of test that seems to say the most about a candidate is the dialogue.

-Great ideas impress.  " This one's a little rough, but He/She's got some great ideas..." 

- Now, the above said,  make sure you've polished your mechanics!  A slight IK pop will jump right out and ruin your chances. 

-No one really seems to mind cursing, but sex gags never get a laugh.

-  I see AM's Bishop alot, likewise with AAU's Norman.  It's certainly not a deal-breaker.  But if you want your stuff to stand out,  modify them a bit if you can.

-People are on the fence seeing 2D animation for a 3D position.  Usually the 2D we see is pretty weak.  But I have seen some beautiful work come in and even the stronger 2D candidates will be contacted being asked to see some 3D samples.

-If you've applied before, be sure that your reel has enough new work on it.  You have to show that you're progressing.  Sending the same reel with just one new shot won't show that. I learned that one the hard way.

-Every session has a few reels that don't play (Usually they are data DVD's).  The PA sometimes accomodates, but the reel ends up being played on a small laptop screen with the room crowded around it struggling to see.  Make sure your stuff gets on the big screen!

-The whole review usually lasts around 15-20 minutes.  But I've been at some that were much faster.

So Good luck !  Hope this helps.  Get out and knock us on our asses!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Bobby! :) This is extremely helpful for a lot of us students out there. I emailed you some more questions I have. I hope it's okay? :)

  2. Hey Bobby, cheers for this advice some really great tips. Loving the blog :)

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  4. Awesome post Bobby. INSANELY useful for those of us applying.

  5. completely agree to the 5 seconds rule and I have also seen it happening.

  6. Great insight Bobby! Very helpful to know what goes on in there.

  7. Thanks Bobby, that is really insightful!

  8. Sweet post Bobby, thorough and really useful, if not wholey suprising :D

  9. This was awesome Bobby I always wondered about this stuff and im gonna be sending in my reel in a few days. Great insights and info to read before I did. Thanks Man !! hope your stay in New York is treating you well

  10. Bobby..you are the man! These insights are gonna be a huge help. I'll probably be sending out my reel after March..so all good stuff to know. Hope you keep giving us newbies tips on ways to get in, man! I also hope your NY time is going good!

  11. Great insight into the demo reel review process. Cheers!

  12. Great tips Bobby! Thanks very much!

  13. Thank you Bobby! So great to get an insiders perspective. I didn't know they showed them on a big screen! Does that mean we should format our reel for a projector? 16:9 etc. or can we stick to NTSC format for TV's? 4:3?

    Thanks again!

  14. Great post bobby!!! thank you so much!

  15. Glad to hear this is helpful everyone!

    @ Chris W - Yeah man, stickin to the NTSC's work just fine.

  16. cool article. my AM mentor guided me here. i'm in class 6 and will be following in your footsteps in 3 short months. congrats on getting a job in the film industry! (fellow seattleite)

  17. Thanks for the post Bobby! Seems like you're enjoying it over there :) Really good notes, I followed a link from the AM forum here.

  18. Brilliant post Bobby!

    This advice is worth its weight in gold.

    There are lots of people saying what should be on your reel, but very will take the time to explain why.

    Can't wait to see some more of your work.

  19. This is absolutely gold as to what you reels should be about and how the reels are reviewed actually!

    Thanks for the share Bobby ! U rock !


  20. Really great info Bobby. Thanks for taking the time

  21. Damn informative post sir. Way to reveal so much good intel and detail for the little guys out there. I'm still proud of you.


  22. Thanks for sharing this Bobby. One of my current AM students shared the link in class tonight.
    Glad to hear you're working at Blue Sky!

  23. Thank you Bobby for sharing very valueable information and it's realy helpful for students and non exprience animators again Thanks