How to Make a Successful Portfolio or Demoreel
Recently I advertised two new job positions here at Blender Guru, and over the course of 3 weeks received over 200 applications! I loved seeing all the work that the blender community was producing and was flattered that so many people applied. But I couldn't help but notice several repeated mistakes that many artists made. I'm sure that most of you will probably go on to apply to other studios, and it would be wrong of me not to help you out as best I can. So I'm writing this list to do just that.
Please don't take anything you read here personally. I've made most of these mistakes myself!
Here goes... How to Make Successful Portfolio or Demoreel:
- Put Your Best Stuff First -If the first 3 images on your site are "duds" your employer isn't likely to look any further. Always sort by order of quality.
- Remove the Fluff -Don't include old works that are obviously worse than your newer stuff. It's poison that will taint your good works and make your employer think twice about hiring you.
- Make your Portfolio One Page - If you have 20 images in your portfolio, and your reviewer has to click 20 times, waiting each time for the image to load, he may just give up. Put it all on one page and he'll love you for it. (here's my portfolio to show you what I mean)
- Don't use a Flash Website - ...ever! Flash websites are the most infuriating platform to host anything. Not only is it annoying to use, but it sends a message to your employer that you aren't keeping up with current industry trends.
- Link Directly to your Portfolio - About 50% of applicants sent me a link to their website homepage. Not only is it annoying to hunt for the appropriate page, but I may find the wrong page and judge your work off the "WIPs" category.
Examples of Great Portfolios
- Andree Wallin - The portfolio to end all others. This is a portfolio that does everything right. I can't imagine he ever has trouble finding work.
- Aeiko - Incredible graphic design portfolio.
- ShinyBinary - World renowned typography artist.
- Проснись - More of a blog than a reel, but it's still works and it's one of the best.
- Make it shorter - Anything longer than 2 minutes and the reviewer will probably just skip through to the end. Most people can cut out a LOT of fluff. I've heard some people recommend "Cut it in half, then cut it in half again."
- Music Doesn't Matter - I didn't believe it when I first heard it, but it's true. 9 times out of 10 your employer will mute your reel. Include music if you want, but don't waste time trying to find the "perfect" track.
- Credit what you did - In the corner of each shot, list exactly what you did for that shot (compositing, lighting etc.). Even if you did everything, say "Everything", as it will answer the internal question in every viewer's head: "What did he do in this shot?"
- Include Breakdowns - They demonstrate that you have an understanding of the different elements that make up a shot, plus you it makes you look like a pro. Every bit counts! Great example here at 0:26.
- Include commercial works - Not everyone has commercial works, but if you do, flaunt it! It's basically a testimony from the last studio that hired you. Your reputation will shoot up immensely.
If you want some more blunt advice, here's GreyscaleGorilla's tips.
Examples of Great Demo Reels
- David Vercher 2012 - Direct and to the point. Clearly labelling all shots with what he did. A dream demoreel.
- Janak Thakker - A large amount of commercial shots shows that he can be trusted.
- Richard Spriggs - The sheer quality of works combined with the fast paced nature of the reel makes it great to watch.
- Alvise Avati - A reel by a world class creature animator. This reel of 100% hollywood movies shows he has a lot of experience and has what it takes to join a professional environment.
But the Most Important Thing of All!
...is the work itself. If your work is average you won't get hired. Period.
Following my advice above won't guarantee you'll get a job, but if applied correctly it can make you appear more attractive to a prospective employer.
At the end of the day, the most important thing about your application to any studio is your actual work.
So here's a tip: Post your portfolio or demoreel on forums and ask for critiques. You'll get them. They won't always be what you want to hear, but it's the fastest way to grow and actually stand the chance of being hired.
I'd go out on a limb and say that out of the few artists that actually have a portfolio or reel, only about 5% of them actually ask people to critique them. Be one of the few that does, and you'll set yourself heads and shoulders above the competition.
For further discussion on creating portfolios, I recommend watching these videos:
- The Ctrl Paint guy teaches how to create a Portfolio
- Industry professional Feng Zhu discusses portfolios (submitted by Daren in the comments)
Got any tips for finding work? Share them in the comments below.