What makes a good showreel?

What do you like to see in a showreel? What drives you crazy? What are must haves and should nots?

Quality over quantity. EVERY TIME.


I love a before and after.

I do not love a “and here is every element added one by one and individually graded” however.


I was thinking the same thing! Where you just see every single cg pass wipe on “swoosh- swoosh- swoosh- swoosh”- by the end of the 15 swipes it’s kind of like, “wow that definitely looks a lot better than it did when it was just the ambient occlusion pass!” Haha


Great point. I don’t give a shit what passes you used. Just show me some amazing comp that has cg in it.

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I try to keep mine as short as possible, like, under two minutes. Beyond that, I’ve gotten very little feedback beyond “yep, seems like you know what you’re doing,” or silence. Also I feel like it rarely even gets asked for anymore, but it’s possible that it’s getting looked at before the salutary email goes out.

So in terms of what makes a showreel that will get you hired, my best guess is: decent range of stuff, before/after if you can wrangle them, keep it tight.

A pet peeve: don’t set your name in Myriad or the Discreet font, people. Have some self respect.


And, you know, a music bed that won’t have them lunging to mute…


I default to Marilyn Manson’s “Personal Jesus”- people seem to like that one. Also, referring to your post above, I gotta think it’s probably like most any other industry and networking and knowing folks is way more important than any Vimeo page.

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Yeah but if you’re showing a before and after, it better be spot on amazing with perfect edges and no dodgy paint strokes.

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Hey man! It got past Netflix QC- that paint was a creative choice, vfx is about storytelling…


If it fits it ships! You know what I mean. :slight_smile:


Be more specific.

Well, this is clearly a hobbyhorse of mine, and while I suspect that a lot of reels get watched on mute already… in case they aren’t, something with some pep, an easy beat to cut to, not a lot of distorted guitars or yelling, and some range of tempo so you can a) cut it down to a manageable time, and b) vary the length of your shots if you want to. Also, just, like, not a nuisance.

It’s way outside of my taste range so it’s hard to even cite an example, but I see CG reels occasionally that really make me wonder what the dude (and it’s always a dude that does this) was thinking. Like, System of a Down? C’mon buddy.

The music can make or break the edit, so it really helps if it’s something you enjoy cutting to (if you’re the sort of person who enjoys cutting their own reel, I personally do not, so the music is what makes the process bearable), and either fairly recent and slightly obscure, or very old. I might revisit some gems from the soundtracks to Hackers or The Saint next go-round, for example. Remember when everyone was using the same two Crystal Method songs for their reels? I sure do.

I also like to imbue the track with its own pressure, imagining the person will hear it and say, “ahh, this guy is clearly also a KCRW fan, let’s bring him in! He’s obviously a man of taste and refinement.” But that’s just my own psychosis showing through.


Thanks for expanding.

I’ve never watched a reel on mute. For me, its important. It’s a necessary detail. It should help support the story you are trying to tell with your reel.

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I completely agree, but I also think they get evaluated along a pretty wide spectrum. Anything from “can this person do hair cleanup for a shampoo spot featuring only curly-haired gingers?” to simply “is this person going to embarrass us or themselves?”

Some EPs just want to check if you’re a joker or not. The music is not a factor, so it gets turned off. It bums me out, but I’ve watched it happen.

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Sure, there’s a scale… can this candidate roto 1,000 frames of hair detail for me by Tuesday at 9am vs. can she lead a complex team of multiple artists strewn out across the globe? If I was an EP, I’d be looking at all sorts of clues as to who to pick. In the absence of relationships, thank you @BrittCiampa for mentioning them, you look to someone’s online presence and the reel is the mint on the pillow. A quick look on LinkedIn. A quick Google search. Oh, there’s the website. Oh, that looks professional. Oh, she’s done a lot of amazing work with amazing companies. Oh, here’s her form w-9. Oh, she changed the name of the form on the NDA from the default file name to something helpful. Wow. I don’t have to rename it. Details. Cool.

If an EP turns music off then perhaps that isn’t the EP for me. Then again, I’ve heard that some artists get looked over because they don’t live “on the way home.” To each their own.

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This is the tragedy of befores and afters.

I can think of many, many shots I have done this year that I won’t do befores and afters of because they aren’t perfect. I am nonetheless proud of them, and to show them as standalone shots would be boring cos they all look completely normal in the after and verbally explaining what was done isn’t exciting.

Shame really, because the question should always be whether the after looks good enough, not whether it’s 1 to 1 with the plate. Especially because we’re not given weeks to get this stuff right.

Fuck it. I’m gonna start doing imperfect ones. Nobody watches my reel anyway.


A nice transition can even out a shaky A/B. If you’re beforeing and aftering something extra janky, consider a star wipe with a jumbo border.


I haven’t cut a reel since 2007. I thought everyone (in commercials) just showed the adverts they worked on? That’s what I’ve been doing. Also if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have much to show these days as I’m mostly supervising others. That grass ain’t greener.

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As someone that frequently hires flame artists, I always preferred reels. It’s a window into someone’s sales strategy. What are you trying to say and what is important to you? A collection of spots is helpful but not a complete picture.