One of the most important tasks you will undertake in your job search is the creation of a demo reel. A demo reel is your audio and visual calling card. It tells the potential client or employer about your skills in just a few short minutes of viewing time.What you present and how you present it will reflect directly on you and may potentially affect whether you get work or not.

A demo reel is simply that - a demonstration of your skills and expertise related to whatever job you are trying to land. A "reel" may take one of several forms. The content may be audio only if you are working in that medium. It may be film and video based. Or, it may contain examples of multimedia and web based design efforts. Some demo reels are hosted on a web site. Others are burned as CD ROMs or DVDs.What ever format you choose take a proactive stance and make the demo reel sing praises about your expertise.

Do demo reels make a difference? As in any other business, you need some sort of promotional device to get the recognition and earnings you deserve in return for your skills and services. In many instances, your most important promo is your demo recording. It is estimated that over 50% of hiring firms in the video production area, as an example, believe that a demo reel is important and will spend up to 2 minutes viewing it. About 68% of potential employers will view the demo material before an interview (1).

The purpose of the demo reel is to get you an interview. Prepare your demo reel with care and have someone else look at it and get feedback.Keep it short - less than 5 minutes and let it show your strengths.

Here are some basic tips:

  • Keep it brief. Include only a few minutes of your best work. A short reel gives an employer enough material for them to know if they want to see more and invite you in for an interview. Too long a reel and it may get ejected from the hiring process. The best demo reels are no more than 5 minutes in length.
  • Start with your best work. You need to grab and hold the employer’s attention so don’t save the best to last as it may never be seen.
  • Customize your demo reel. Organize the content of your reel to meet the expectations of the employer.
  • Divide your reel into sections to show your different skills such as: interface design, video editing, photography, etc.
  • Update your reel every couple of months. Keep it fresh and current.
  • Annotate your reel. If you’ve produced material with others give them credit and explain your part in the production. Include a page of notes outlining your specific contribution.
Do you want to know more? The following online resources each has unique ideas about designing and producing an effective demo reel of your skills and expertise.

Creating the Ultimate Demo Reel. Specifics for those working in computer animation.

Demo Reels:Some Professional's Perspectives. Articles by Oren Jacob, Senior Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios; Steph Greenberg, Supervising Animator in a well known entertainment company; Rob Skiena, Supervising Animator for Mainframe Entertainment (Reboot, Beast Wars); Beverly Garland, Art Director at Titanic Entertainment.

Tips for a Demo Reel that Works by Bill Davis. "....not having a reel - or at least the building blocks of one at hand when someone calls saying they've heard about you and want to see some examples of your best stuff - leads to panic work. And panic work is typically not the best we can do. So take a proactive stance and make today the day you face the demo reel "beast" head on.

Your Resume Reel. Outlines the process, content, structure, and "Common Complaints and Comments."

Demos That Deliver - Tips on Mixing Your Demo Recordings By Michael Cooper.

Demo Reel Presentation by Daniel Joseph Pezely.The art of presentation for artists, animators and filmmakers including things to consider before building your portfolio.

Demo Reel Do's and Don'ts by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson. A demo reel is a vital marketing tool for animators. The purpose of the demo reel is to get you an interview with someone who can hire you. Prepare your demo reel with care and have someone else look at it and get feedback on it before you send it out.As a recruiter, I have seen many demo reels. Here's how to make sure yours does the job--to get you that job.