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3 Ways to Spice Up Your VFX Showreel

Posted by on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Showreel

Nothing says “Hire me!” like giant, rampaging death robots — Image source: Itsartmag.com

If you had the undivided attention of the hiring manager for your dream visual effects studio for 60 seconds, what would you do to leave the biggest impression? There are a million different approaches — you could whip out your portfolio, walk him to your website, and talk about your values and skills as an artist. If you ask me, all of those options will fall short of playing your showreel. Short and sweet, showreels emphasize your best work with exciting visuals and punchy music. And best of all, videos are fun. Hiring managers love watching videos because they’re so much more entertaining than a boring ol’ resume.

But how can you make sure that hiring managers will select your showreel instead of someone else’s? Well, the only way to figure out where you stand is to take a look at the competition!

Here are a few lessons that we can learn from professional VFX showreels.

Pick the Right Song

My favorite thing about this showreel is undoubtedly the first 5 seconds. The video opens with a guy rocking it out on the guitar. By itself, this is just one of many visual effects clips, but what makes it so brilliant is that the artist paired it with the opening guitar of Jet’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl. This one-two combo perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the video with the high-action clips perfectly complimenting the high-energy music. I’d bet my bottom dollar that artist Mathieu Chardonnet has done plenty of work that’s subtle and subdued. But did he add any of those clips to his showreel? Of course not! He stuck with skeletal dragons, exploding basketballs, animated barbarians, and machine gun-wielding robots.

The song is the perfect match to this showreel. Can you imagine how silly that showreel would have been if it played to the tune of Mad World?

Transition Appropriately

The first several seconds of this showreel have absolutely beautiful transitions. They consistently pair similar clips next to each other to create an even flow from one idea to the next. For example, the first five clips are all black and white: Central Park, an airport, a clock, a happy war couple, and then the inner gears of a clock.

From there they transition over to full color clips, so they maintain consistency with the previous shot by comparing movement. The spinning black and white clock gears at the 0:10 mark visually parallel the colored shot of the spinning bike wheel at the 0:11 mark. This creates a consistent flow of circular motion to circular motion, so that the transition from black and white to colored clips isn’t jarring.

They maintain this strategy throughout the entire video. At 0:28, the video transitions from a realistic comet, to a stylized comet, to fireworks, to a bright cloud of colors.

Next, it’s a man swimming (water), over to a man surfing on the beach (water and nature), over to kids climbing on to a huge tree (kids and nature), over to a girl walking through a field with paint splatters (kids, color, and nature), over to a chameleon (color and nature). Do you see what I mean? It’s kind of like the telephone game. Each clip reuses one of the themes from the previous clip to create a seamless flow of content.

Obviously, you’re not going to create a perfect transition with every single clip. Don’t worry about that too much — just try to use elegant transitions when you have the chance to create a fluid stream of visual clips.

I’d be writing about this all day if I tried to mention every transition, so see how many you can spot on your own.

Blow Them Out of the Water

You’re almost done with your showreel, and you’re trying to find a clip to fill in 5 seconds of empty space. Should you add that clip that shows a muscled barbarian fighting a fire-breathing dragon, or should you include the clip where you digitally retouched an actor’s face to remove a pimple?

Easy choice! You should prioritize clips with exciting and extremely obvious visual effects. The last thing you want is a very subtle clip that leaves viewers wondering, “What did the artist do in that scene?’

The folks at Uncharted Territory didn’t add an ounce of subtlety to their showreel — it’s nothing but exploding missiles, sweeping aerial shots of fantasy worlds, wanton destruction, and excitement! Take a page out of their book and make your showreel as exhilarating as humanly possible.

Have you created a showreel? How did you choose your clips? Let us know in the comments!

Are you trying to land your dream job as a visual effects artist? The Gnomon School blog will provide you with some of the best current tips about the visual effects industry. We can give you a competitive edge in the job market, whether by showing you how to attract more viewers to your online portfolio, teaching you how to ace interviews with art studios, or by pointing out new job opportunities in the field. You’ve got nothing to lose… and a great job to gain! Contact us to get started!

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