Thursday, December 4, 2008

imageworks...a conversation on demo reels

I spied this conversation between Robin Linn and Chris Bailey, an animation director at imageworks on that horrible timesuck, Facebook, about demo reel does and don'ts. To me demo reels are something of a riddle at times, as it's different at different studios, but this covers a lot

one of my favorite quotes

"My kryptonite is that I'm an impatient guy. So if I go to an animators website to look at their work and don't see a big button that says DEMO REEL, I'll search for about 15 seconds and then move on. Likewise if I can't get a demo to play on the site for some reason, I'll simply pass."


Robin A. Linn at 7:54am December 3
As long as the work is good, I don't mind a reel being on the long side - especially if it shows a variety of work (some cartoony and then some more realistic, as an example) but if the work is just okay - nothing is going to help it. Oh, and another thing, dont repeat your animations. If we missed the mistake you made on the first view, odds are we'll catch it on the subsequent one...

Robin A. Linn at 9:23am December 3
I think students (and professionals) forget that animation is acting. We want to see acting on their reels - their acting should show us they know about physics, posing, timing, etc. BUT the performance should always come first and be at the heart of their reel.

When i see reels cut to to a cool piece of music, the first thing I do it turn the sound off. Petty Jedi mindtricks like this don't work on most directors.

And then there's "the more fancy the demo's titles are, the less accomplished the work is" rule.

Chris Bailey at 8:18am December 3
A couple of animators on my crew (whom I loved, btw) asked me after the show what I thought of their reel. So I watched it with them and said my thoughts out loud as I recall from watching it the first time. I could tell it was an eyeopener. Some things that they had on their reel meant little to me and then when I got to a meaty bit I'd say, "... this is where I decided to hire you."

I'm not sure we're all the best judge of our own reels...I've had editors and agents give me advice that I thought was counter-intuititve, but they turned out to be right.


Chris Bailey at 11:01am December 3
I look at fancy music on a reel as a smokescreen. Also, if the music isn't to the director's taste, you might lose points. A lot of public domain music that people put on their reels sounds like porno music...yipes. Better to let the work speak for itself.

Robin A. Linn at 8:36am December 4
Morning all, Animation Director (and all around great guy) Chris Bailey and I were just talking about reels and I thought you might like to read what was being discussed

Robin A. Linn at 8:38am December 4
Chris, what terms would you use to describe the typical Reel Review? For those of you who dont know what a Reel Review is - it is where a recruiter sits down with the supervisors and takes a look at the reels that have been submitted

Robin A. Linn at 8:40am December 4
Please know that most of the time these take place with one or two supervsiors (lets use anim. sups for this example) and we tend to look at between 25 to 50 reels as fast as possible. Remember these sups are on shows and are very busy ppl

Robin A. Linn at 8:43am December 4
The reels once they arrive are, sorted, logged into a database and stored in bins. Sometimes the resume and cover letter get separated from the reel case. This is why I say not to send a separate CV - slip it under the clear plastic cover of your DVD's case

Robin A. Linn at 8:45am December 4
They may sit there for weeks before a reel review can get scheduled - like I said, these supervisors are busy ppl.

Robin A. Linn at 8:48am December 4
If you are one to put your reel into an elaborate case and send along a portfolio of your life drawings, please know that the packaging will probably get tossed and the life drawing may get looked at but more and more I am seeing that anim sups are not really interested in your drawing skills


The first thing people need to know is that director and supes have very little time to review work. If I'm looking at an art portfolio and see life drawings for more than a couple of pages, the next time I'm going to jump a few pages ahead ...if i ... Read Moresee still more life drawings, I'm going reach for the back of the book skipping what's inbetween. I can tell if you can draw by just a few drawings...I'd like to see a progression and range from page to page.


Robin A. Linn at 8:50am December 4
A coordinator will assist in the review - he or she will take the reel and put it into the DVD player. You'd think the artist who sent us the reel would make sure it would play, but all too many times, it wont and the reel gets tossed.


Robin A. Linn at 8:53am December 4
Okay - did you read that? A coordinator sees your reel case. NOT the sup. so why would you spend a lot of time designing a reel case? SPEND THAT TIME ANIMATING


Chris Bailey at 8:55am December 4
I do like to see drawing skills. The most common thing I find lacking in CG animators work is their staging skills. Poses are weak and don't read as well as those with a background in drawing.

Actors learn how to stage their bodies to direct attention to to what they want the audience to see or not to see...traditional animators were taught the same thing, but I'm not sure that CG people are taught this anymore. There are exceptions, of course.


Robin A. Linn at 8:56am December 4
Sometimes the sup will ask to see a resume - sometimes. See, your reel is in truth your resume. It not only tells the sup where you worked but also what you did - what shots you were assigned and how well you did them - you reel is a thousand times more important than your resume/cover letter - so, please do not spend valuable time designing logos, etc. Not to be blunt, but we dont care about that stuff

Robin A. Linn at 8:58am December 4
Chris, what is the most common mistake you see on animator's reels?


Robin A. Linn at 9:01am December 4
Here's a lil background on Chris - just to let you know the caliber of his comments....http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0047193/


Robin A. Linn at 9:07am December 4
for me the most common mistake is that they all assume we look at their entire reel all the way through. We dont - we just dont have the time - you'll get 10 seconds or so....


Chris Bailey at 9:11am December 4
My kryptonite is that I'm an impatient guy. So if I go to an animators website to look at their work and don't see a big button that says DEMO REEL, I'll search for about 15 seconds and then move on. Likewise if I can't get a demo to play on the site for some reason, I'll simply pass.

On my last project, I did just that and if it wasn't for my ... Read MoreAPM going the extra mile to make sure i got a copy of this person's reel, i would have never hired them. That would have been a shame for the both of us as they turned out to be very strong and we became friends.

Chris Bailey at 9:13am December 4
Please don't put weak work on your reel. We've all done work that isn't our best, when you put weak animation next to strong, it says that you either can't tell the difference or that your supervisor contributed to the strong work.

Is this too blunt?


Robin A. Linn at 9:14am December 4
How do you feel about elaborate menus that require you to push lil tabs to see part of the reel? I HATE THEM.

Robin A. Linn at 9:29am December 4
Ive seen reels where the characters that the applicant animated were in color while the rest of the shot was in black/white - that was a great way to break it out


Chris Bailey at 9:36am December 4
One last thing before I go out the door to the gym to beat my puny animator body back into some kind of shape. I posted about this earlier, but it bears repeating...

Since I haven't worked on big, multi-year spanning animated features in years, I need to know how fast my animators are. Sometimes, I'll need a shot in a day and while it doesn't ... Read Morehave to be the best shot in the world, it needs to look like a shot, meaning that the poses must communicate and there is a sense of timing.

When I see reels from feature films with just a few shots on them, it makes me wonder how fast they are. If I were to look at the shot breakdown from Alvin and the Chipmunks, my guess is that 90% of the shots were animated by 30% of the crew.

I can't count the times I had to go to the animators on my latest project at WB and say, "we need this new insert/fix/whatever, but it has to be done be end of day tomorrow or it won't make it in.

The animators that can do that for me are invaluable.


Chris Bailey at 9:36am December 4
One last thing before I go out the door to the gym to beat my puny animator body back into some kind of shape. I posted about this earlier, but it bears repeating...

Since I haven't worked on big, multi-year spanning animated features in years, I need to know how fast my animators are. Sometimes, I'll need a shot in a day and while it doesn't ... Read Morehave to be the best shot in the world, it needs to look like a shot, meaning that the poses must communicate and there is a sense of timing.

When I see reels from feature films with just a few shots on them, it makes me wonder how fast they are. If I were to look at the shot breakdown from Alvin and the Chipmunks, my guess is that 90% of the shots were animated by 30% of the crew.

I can't count the times I had to go to the animators on my latest project at WB and say, "we need this new insert/fix/whatever, but it has to be done be end of day tomorrow or it won't make it in.

The animators that can do that for me are invaluable.

Chris Bailey at 9:37am December 4
The color/BW solution is brilliant!

Peter Saumur at 1:07pm December 4
Ah HAH! So you know Demian then... :D

I was wondering what you would look for in a demo reel that was only motion capture shots? I've worked with motion capture my whole career, and will likely start AM this year, so I am curious if you hold the same criteria for those types of reels.

Chris Bailey at 1:11pm December 4
I can tell if the animator knows how to interpret the mocap data.

Well, experience has taught me that Mocap only goes a very very very small way to finalling the performance - if these was someway to see the raw feed vs. the final that would be great, but I dont even know if that is possible. How about this - do you have any work that is Mocap free that you could put on your reel as well? That'd help. Look, I know one thing, animators that are Mocap savvy are also very tech savvy - and that is always a bonus