Include only your best work
While this might sound like common sense, it still needs to be said because it is something that is easy to overlook. A demo reel is only as strong as your weakest piece. As you create new work, you need to constantly re-evaluate what you have in your demo reel and replace weaker pieces with stronger pieces.
Tips: It is much better to have a demo reel with a few great pieces than a lot of mediocre ones.
Start and end with your strongest pieces
There's no guarantee that your demo reel will be watched for more than a few seconds, so be sure that the first piece on there is your strongest piece. Likewise at the end, you should leave them with something to remember you by.
Tips: A demo reel sandwich is made up of your strongest pieces on both ends and your best work in the middle.
Tailor your demo reel to your dream job
If you want to be a character animator but your demo reel is full of character models, then your potential employer is not likely to hire you as a character animator - no matter how great those models might be. If you don't have enough content to put on your reel for the position you want, take the time to create some more for your reel rather than putting "filler" content.
Tips: If you are a generalist, it's not uncommon to have multiple reels that have different primary areas of focus.
Know your strengths and focus on them
This works close at hand with tailoring your reel to the job you want, but it's important enough to point out that you don't need to show your potential employer that you can do everything under the sun. Whatever your strength, your demo reel should reflect your strengths.
Tips: Your demo reel is a reflection of you as an artist, so your strengths should be clearly evident in your reel.
Keep it short and simple
A typical demo reel should be between one and two minutes. If you have more content than that, start eliminating some of the weaker pieces to make room for your absolute best.
Tips: Less is more.
Leave them wanting more
Your demo reel needs to impress, but when they're done watching it they should want to see more.
Tips: Don't settle for 'good enough,' your reel needs be powerful enough to make them remember you.
Ask your friends for feedback
Getting feedback from your friends, colleagues and forums is a free way to get some great, honest feedback. It might not always cause you to re-evaluate what is included on your reel, but it could help you fix some potentially simple mistakes that you might not have noticed otherwise.
Tips: It is better to have one of your friends notice that misspelling than to have it noticed in the interview for your dream job.
Include an outline and the software of the work
You certainly don't want to include work that you didn't do in your reel, but that doesn't mean that you should only include work that you worked on by yourself. In most studios, you'll be working as part of a team, so if you've worked on team projects those can show your potential employer that you can successfully integrate into a team. In cases like this, you'll need to make sure to let them know what parts of the project you worked on.
Tips: Honesty improves your credibility. Do not take credit for work you did not do.
Include a cover letter
Cover letters are very important even though they are often overlooked. The cover letter should be specific to the position that you're applying to and should include a quick snapshot of your skills, experiences and which software and technical skills are your strengths.
Tips: The cover letter is often overlooked and yet it can be the deciding factor that determines if your reel is even watched.
Label your reel inside and out
When creating your reel, make sure to include your name and contact information at the beginning and end of the reel itself. If you are submitting a physical disc (such as a DVD), be sure to label this with your name and contact information as well.
Tips: If a potential employer wants to contact you, they should know how to do so from each item that you submit.
Check the company's guidelines
Most studios are accustomed to receiving demo reels and post exactly what format they need them to be submitted in on their site. Take the time to make sure that your submission falls within their guidelines.
Tips: If you cannot follow along with directions for submitting a demo reel, should a potential employer trust you with following the directions for submitting a complex work of art?
Bring a copy of your demo reel, shot breakdown & printed resume or necessary documents
While it's likely that the people interviewing you have already seen your demo reel, it's also possible that one or more of the people involved in the interview have not seen it. Bring an easily-playable copy of your reel to any interview just in case.
Tips: It is better to bring your reel and not need it than to need your reel and not bring it.
Make your demo reel easy to play
Your potential employer shouldn't need any special codecs or special software installed just to play your reel. Remember that in many studios the person who is making the first round of reviews for demo reels may not be a CG artist with a powerful workstation. Your reel needs to be able to play on any operating system out of the box. Test it on as many computers as you can to make sure it works without any errors.
Some studios have different preferences for what they want you to submit. Check their site to see what format they want the demo reel to be. Often times a studio may want a DVD, but they may also prefer a website or just an uploaded video file to play. If the studio's site doesn't offer any insight into what they prefer then it's best to stick to something safe like a standard DVD video.
Tips: The best demo reel in the world is guaranteed to fail its purpose if it will not play.
Tips from Industry Professionals