Building a Demo Reel for Animation

If you’re pursuing a career in animation, the demo reel is the single most important element of your job application. Without examples to show what you’re capable of creating, you’ll have very little success getting your foot in the door for an interview.

Knowing this, you may be asking yourself: how do I decide what work to include? How should I arrange my reel? What site should I use to host my work? Consider these guidelines as you navigate these questions and start building your reel.

What to Include

You want to present your very best work. Look at the pieces you have—do you have a project you’ve completed that you aren’t entirely in love with? If your mind is gravitating toward a yes, decide whether to continue to refine the project and get it demo-reel ready, or toss it. Never include subpar work. Rather, create new things. The more work you generate, the more high quality work you will have to show off.

One complaint employers often make is that applicants fail to make their inspirations and processes known in their demo reels. Consider including process pieces:

  • Include a base mesh along with your final sculpt.
  • Show your wireframes and textures.

This doesn’t need to be done for every piece, but a well-placed process piece can give an employer a lot of insight into your workflow.

Adding written breakdowns of every piece—including the tools you used to create it—is also a smart move. If you have pieces that were part of a group effort, make sure you let it be known what your part of the project was.

You may also want to try tailoring your reel to the employer. Again, the more work you have, the easier this will be to do. When putting together your reel, create a list of a few companies you’d like to work for. Look at the pieces you have and figure out which ones match with those companies’ styles. Gritty hyper-realism may not work for Pixar, but it might be a good fit for ILM. Always remember who your audience is.

How to Arrange

Include your best work first. Don’t save the best for last, because an impatient employer might have lost interest by that point. Your demo reel should be no more than three minutes. As a student, you may only have enough great work for 2 minutes, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if you only have 30 seconds of amazing work, it’s better to just show that rather than add another 90 seconds of filler or subpar work.

Be careful with the inclusion of music. Consider these tips:

  • You don’t want music that will be distracting or take away from your work.
  • Avoid anything with vocals.
  • If you decide to use music, make it as unobtrusive as possible.

Overall, when it comes to arranging, present each shot or piece separately, make sure you are allowing each piece some room to breathe, and consider using a title card prior to each shot.

What Platform to Use

The final piece of the puzzle is figuring out what site you should use to host your demo reel. The two main contenders, Youtube and Vimeo, both have pros and cons. Youtube is more widely used and can offer a way to have your work seen by more people. The downside is that it’s plagued by pop-up ads and will have a lower streaming quality. Vimeo offers a cleaner presentation and higher video quality. It also offers more detailed analytics to give you greater insight into who is viewing your reel. However, Vimeo has far less traffic than Youtube, which means far fewer people will stumble across your work.

Vimeo is currently the more generally accepted platform for hosting demo reels. You’ll be giving up some potential views for the sake of a stronger presentation, but most industry professionals believe it’s worth the trade-off.

Remember, the key to a successful demo reel is tailoring your best work to fit the interests of your audience. If you need added guidance on demo reels, be sure to stop by the Career Center to chat!

In Between Netflix Binges: Making the Most of Winter Break

By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Among the many perks of DePaul’s quarter system is the six-week winter break; an opportune time to fast track career success by revamping your personal brand and tying up career-related loose ends you’ve put off all quarter. With that said, we’ve compiled a list of four simple things you can do this break—in between rounds of Netflix and holiday get-togethers—to maximize your free time.

Polish your LinkedIn profile

Being a LinkedIn superstar is a title not many can claim. There’s always something to be added, edited or endorsed. As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to LinkedIn, if you initiate, others will reciprocate. For example, if you go through your connection list and begin endorsing your peers for the skills you know they possess, they are likely to respond by endorsing you in return. The same goes for recommendations; if you’re not already connected with previous and current employers and coworkers, connect with them and write a recommendation on their behalf based on the work experiences you’ve shared. Get into the holiday spirit by giving as much warranted praise as you can on LinkedIn, there’s no doubt it’ll come back to you.

Visit the Career Center

Just because school is out for winter break doesn’t mean that the Career Center is; in fact, the Career Center operates from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, throughout break. In one simple visit you can chat with peer career advisors (PCAPS) to get your resume looked at or you can meet with your advisor to discuss upcoming job opportunities and go over job and internship search strategies. Won’t be in the city over break? No problem, PCAPS are available for online resume reviews. Plus, the Career Center website offers a unique online chat forum to connect with PCAPS.

Please note: The Career Center will be closed during the holidays, from December 23rd to January 1st. Regular office hours will resume Monday, January 2nd.

Build a digital portfolio

Admit it, free time during break usually means extra screen time. Well, what better way to maximize your favorite online platforms than by developing a digital portfolio? You get that screen time you desire, all while doing something majorly productive—win-win, right? If you’re willing to invest a bit of time upfront to build your digital portfolio, you’ll see long-term payoff. Register for a personal site with WordPress or Wix, for example, and start organizing a comprehensive list of your work for potential employers. Check out Career Advisor Michael Elias’ beginners guide to crafting digital portfolios for more tips.

Take personality assessments

Looking for a productive alternative to BuzzFeed quizzes this break? Take a crack at common personality assessments that are actually used in the workplace. One of the more well known assessments utilized by human resources gurus is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). A condensed version of the assessment can be found at 16Personalities. Other popular alternatives include Gallup’s StrengthsQuest and Marston’s DISC Assessment. Spend some time this break identifying your key strengths and personality traits. Remember, the more you understand yourself, the easier it is to convey to potential employers what you bring to the table.

Regardless of what you’re up to this break, be sure to squeeze in time for career development! Stop by the Career Center for more tips and tricks on curating the most productive break possible.


A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Digital Portfolio

Digital portfolios are terrific tools that can help you stand out in the application process. When you present employers with a portfolio, it provides them with tangible evidence of your skills and capabilities that a resume may only be able to hint at. Adding a link to a digital portfolio in your resume—or in an email to an employer—can help you stand out from the competition, even in industries where portfolios are not often required by hiring managers.

If you’re new to creating a digital portfolio, it can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that the crew at the Career Center can provide a wealth of knowledge to help you create and build a digital portfolio. More good news: You don’t need to be a tech whiz to create one.

Here are a few key tips to help you get started with building your own portfolio from scratch.

Gather Samples of Your Work

The purpose of a digital portfolio is to highlight work that you have produced in a past internship, academic course, extracurricular, or volunteer experience. So, the first step is to gather a variety of samples to include in your portfolio. A minimum of five samples is a good starting point, as you want to have enough samples to justify the creation of a portfolio; anything less than five samples can be easily emailed as attachments to employers.

Begin by reflecting on your work experience. Are there particular projects you worked on at an internship or job that you could include in a portfolio? These samples make a strong impression because it shows that you’ve utilized specific skill sets in a professional setting. Before moving forward with a work sample, though, make sure you have permission from your former supervisor to include it in a personal portfolio.

Next, think about some of the classes you’ve taken and identify papers, PowerPoint presentations, or other major projects you’re proud of. If you didn’t save your work, check with a past professor to see if he or she has a copy. Or, if you submitted assignments through DePaul’s online teaching tool, D2L, log in and see if they’re still available.

If you don’t have access to a particular project, see if a former supervisor or professor is willing to write a mini-recommendation for you. A portfolio is a great opportunity to showcase both your work and any positive written feedback you’ve received from professionals you’ve worked with in the past.

Finally, a great advantage of a digital portfolio is that you have the ability to include audio/visual components. If you took (or can be seen in) pictures or videos that pertain to any of the experiences above, these can make for great inclusions in a portfolio.

Select a Website to Host Your Portfolio

Once you’ve gathered samples, the next step is to explore different websites that you can use to host your digital portfolio. Many students prefer Wix or Weebly, as these are relatively user-friendly and do not require coding, HTML, or other skills of more technical professionals. For applicants with writing samples, blog platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr are great resources to post longer pieces of written work. Finally, there are portfolio platforms designed specifically for creative professionals who want to highlight a lot of audio/visual artifacts, including Carbonmade and Coroflot.

Many of these sites allow you to create a portfolio for free, but if you want to add a few more bells and whistles to your site—or have complete ownership over the domain name and URL—there is usually an annual fee. With this annual fee, however, comes greater control over your site.

Build Your Site

Now that you have chosen your samples, and a website to host your portfolio, it’s time to begin putting it together. While every portfolio template is different, there are a few categories every digital portfolio should include:

  • homepage that clearly articulates your name, your professional brand (e.g. “Aspiring Public Relations Professional”), and a visual that helps your page stand out. This could be a professional headshot, or a photo that has some relationship to the industry you want to work in. If there’s a quote that resonates with you and your work ethic, that can make a nice addition here, too.
  • A separate page that’s dedicated to your resume. This should include both the content of your resume directly on the page as well as a downloadable PDF or Word version, which will allow employers to see your resume in its original form. Just remember to omit any contact information you do not want to make public on your site.
  • Regarding contact information, you should include a contact page that let’s employers know the best way they can reach you. Many people will include their email, but this is a great space to also highlight any additional social media channels you take advantage of for professional purposes, such as a LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, or personal blog.

Next Steps

From here, your digital portfolio will begin to take shape as a tool specific to your individual skills and goals. Take a look at the Career Center’s portfolio page to see samples of completed student portfolios across different majors. You can also meet with your career advisor to learn more about what employers really want to see in digital portfolios.