How to create the perfect animation showreel and portfolio

Axis Studios

Whether presenting a motion-packed showreel or a simple binder of shots, follow these 10 rules from leading studio Axis Animations.

It is no easy task to land your dream animation job – or even to just land the interview. The best way to grab attention is often with a jaw-dropping, hard-hitting showreel and/or portfolio – which is why head of animation Bruce Sutherland and head of FX Hudson Martins from Glasgow/London-based Axis Studios have put together this helpful guide to help you nail your next job.

Axis is best known for its Axis Animations division, which has created promos and FMV sequences for some of the most high-profile video games around – from the Halo series to League of Legends and Dawn of War III. Also part of the group are production house Flaunt and Axis VFX.

Look to these these top tips for making your application stand out from the crowd – explaining exactly how you can create the perfect portfolio or showreel.

(BS: Bruce Sutherland. HM: Hudson Martins)

1) Always be honest about what you have done

Comment – preferably below the shot – on what have been your responsibilities in each piece. HM

2) Show your strongest points

Don't be afraid of showing diversity. Show the strongest piece first to catch interest. Remember that the strongest piece doesn't have to be your best work but the one most relevant to the position you are applying for.

If you have other work which might not be necessarily linked to the role but is still a good piece of work, don't be afraid of putting it in there. It shows you are more interested in the end result and have a better overview of a whole pipeline. HM

3) Think about every single piece you are adding...

...and ask yourself "Why?". Don't try to think too much about what you like the most, but what is most suitable for the role you are applying for, or for the artist you are trying to become.

Try to not showcase several pieces that are the same. If you show the shot once, it means you can do it. Showing three very similar projects or models doesn't sell wide range of skills. HM

4) Show things in context

Focus on the total end result.It is great to see a good set-up, but it is even better to see it in a shot, even if you had to simplify the other aspects of 3D to create that shot. You are still showing that the end result is your main goal while creating a tool. HM

5) Think about the music

Some people don't even listen to the music. I certainly do, because it shows a bit more about the person and the ability to create art because music is a big part of it.

On the other hand, music and how it is cut together with a reel has never been a decisive point. Rather, it has been something that wants to make you stop watching someone's reel. So if you are having any music in there, remember that it will also tell the viewer what kind of person you are. Keep it subtle.HM

Axis Studios

6) Show your animation skills

Don’t confuse a portfolio for a CV. Make sure it displays your animation ability, not just the blockbuster credits you have. BS

7) Keep it short and simple

You’re only as good as your worst shot so don’t pad your portfolio. Remember, you’re being judged on it all. BS

8) Overlay the breakdown

Don’t make the viewer cross reference what task you did, embed it simply on your showreel. BS

9) Tell a story

Walk and runs cycles might be suitable for game recruitment – but even mechanic exercises should show purpose and intent of character. BS

10) Display your directorial skills

Layout artists should show the ability to create your own sequences, not to simply match storyboards. BS

11) Keep it current

Show your current abilities – relying on too many old favourites shows a lack of growth.  BS

For further inspiration, take a look at Axis Studios' own super-impressive showreel below.

Axis Studios is currently on the look out for new talent. Check out the Axis Studio job page for more information. 

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