Five Steps to a Better Motion Demo Reel – Instant Demo Reel Critique

June 8, 2009 - By 

I have been doing a ton of reel critiques lately and the same few comments keep coming up over and over. So, I took the five most popular comments from almost every reel critique i’ve done and made a poster. Follow these five steps for a better demo reel will ya?

  • Hello,

    How do you think about our new (first) reel ?
    There is a 5 second project in it 😉

  • aargh, I’m jealous Ping-ouh. Looks amazing. 🙂

    here’s mine… The guy getting smashed by the printer is me 🙂

  • GSG, thanks for the helpful tips.
    Ping-ouh, pretty cool! I would say the tilt up to space seemed like a natural ending that was abruptly interrupted by the Wii tennis racket. But a fun reel. Thanks for sharing!

  • Yeah totally hahaha I don’t even want to show mine… havent re-edited it for a while. hahaha

    its like 5 mins long… freakin ridiculous

    killer advice though man!

  • hey nick,

    i used your portfolio site as a template for mine, and its been up for a little bit now. I was doing some SEO to it the other day and figured out some good ways to boost SEO using the PHP/MySQL already on the site.

    Shoot me an email if your interested.


  • Sweet! I totally agree, most reels are too long! And what a sexy way to share the information too! 😀 love it….

    speaking of reels, I’ve been eager to make my first reel for quite some time now, but I’m stuck on the music choice! Anyone who knows of a good way to find good reel-friendly music?!

  • Music isn’t really the most important thing. It’s more of a tool to help the edit – you know, keep things moving. I used Cut Copy’s “Lights and Music” for mine, because it has a great beat, plus good structure. But in general it’s good to use a song that won’t be distracting from the animation. You want something that compliments it. You also want to pick something that you can cut down easily, because you mostly likely want to keep it real short – under 90 sec. Don’t pick something that’s ubiquitous, that everyone and their mother has heard.

  • I agree. Most Reels are way too long. You don’t need to show everything you’ve ever done. I’ve actually seen reels from students that are about 4 mins long, which I think is ridiculous. A lot of people hardly have two mins in a day to sit and watch a reel. Most won’t even watch the whole thing but only the first 30-40 secs.

  • one thing i’ve noticed recently when watching a lot of reels is the music. i have a lot more attention and find it a lot more interesting when people are able to put together a nice real with something other than electronic music, it definitely makes them stand out a bit, and much more memorable (assuming the work is good). also, i generally think 45 seconds to a minute is all that’s really needed unless you’re a seasoned pro, or at least have been working in the business for a few years. that being said, i’m pretty stuck on putting together my reel at the moment, i guess not super confident in my work as a lot of it is student stuff that i think could be better. i sort of don’t know where to start.

    i like to save links to reels that i think stand out for inspiration i guess. here are some with interesting music choices that i liked.

  • i’m started planing my reel in the last time. so, i’ll take your poster as my mobile background, that could be a good start ;]

  • Here my showreel too long i now but i’m just an outside student who used after effect for 1 year, and i like it!

  • What do you recommend as a good runtime?

  • Brian: Less than a minute for students. Less than 2 for established freelancers and companies.

  • Hi Nick,

    Thanks for those useful tips!

    Could you please give us some pointers about the codec/compression settings recomended for uploading a reel? I don´t want mine to take too much time to load, but don´t want it to look bad either. In my website you can check my reel

    (I have to re-edit it I think, specially after reading your tips, hehe).

    How much MB is a good size for an online reel?

  • @Oscar

    Great looking reel, I really like how it is all well edited in sync with the music.

  • @ping-ouh

    Great reel! You have very interesting works, specially the one at sec 35. Can we see that complete project?

    I also like a lot the countdown at the start.

  • @A3

    Thank you 🙂
    If you want to see the complete project you can see it here :

  • Great tips! One question I’ve been trying to figure out:

    Should I use stock music or is it safe to use unlicensed music from a band. Should I attempt to contact the band for permission?

    Also, any tips on where to find some good bands that might have some tracks appropriate for an upbeat, fun demo reel? Most reels seem to have great music that I’ve never heard of.


  • Adam: You are safe using licensed music on your demo reel. It’s standard practice. The worst that could happen is that they will ask you to change it. But, that is rare.

    When it comes to picking a track, pick a song that is fun. Make sure it fits your personal style and animating style.

  • i wish you can come and tell our teachers this at Ai miami International University of Art & Design (wow what mouth full that is… ) they always want more … i showed a lot of your videos to my Career Developing class to help my friends and fellow students in truly understand you don’t need 4 min reel … also must student wouldn’t listen other students but since your a professional they listen.. . now i’ll show them this too.. i graduated on the 17th so …we will have the regular 7 am to Noon.. Reel Showcase….. thanks for all the help..

  • Hi Nick,

    I think you overlooked my comment since you did n´t answer my question, could you please do so? I would really like your opinion on that subject.

    “Hi Nick,

    Thanks for those useful tips!

    Could you please give us some pointers about the codec/compression settings recomended for uploading a reel? I don´t want mine to take too much time to load, but don´t want it to look bad either. In my website you can check my reel

    (I have to re-edit it I think, specially after reading your tips, hehe).

    How much MB is a good size for an online reel?”

    Forgive me if I sound too insistent.

  • A3: I would shoot for under 30mb for a reel. Use H264 compression and don’t forget to compress the audio. As far as feedback on your reel, I would definitely follow the five rules. Ruthlessly cut your reel down to under a minute and It will shine brighter. Nice work.

  • Thanks a lot Nick! Right now I am searching all over the net for a cool music to use. Then I will re-edit my reel and let you know when it´s uploaded.

  • Nick whats the best compression for the web in quicktime?? besides uploading it to vimeo…

  • Andres: H.264 is the smallest. Try about 80% quality

  • Thanks for the help, Nick.
    I’m actually putting together a real now to get out there and get some real jobs.
    I sent you an email a few weeks ago, about the animated 3D lines in your CreamyOrange reel. are those just precisely timed masks in AE, or some sort of plug-in effect?

  • RandomEntity: The ConformNonConform piece was made entirely in After Effects using animated masks like you said. I have been meaning to do a tutorial about that one.

  • Wow, I’d love to see how you did that. I have it mapped out in my head, but I don’t know if I could pull it off yet.

  • RandomEntity: Regarding the lines thing, I was able to reproduce it with shapes, linear wipes, etc. That part’s not bad, you can definitely pull it off if you try.

    However, I’m curious about how it was lit. To give mine a nice look I think I had to use a lot of lights, but I’m sure there’s a more clever and simple way to do it. Also getting the edges to line up perfectly was a challenge since they look perfect at one angle, then noticeably misaligned once the camera moves (and when they were -right- I think the corners looked odd). That’s just my experience.

    I also wonder about the workflow for a professional – choosing the what and where of the stuff in the video, making a palette, managing so much stuff happening. It’s definitely an inspiring piece.

    And big thanks to Nick for all you teach and the sexy work!

  • Hi hi! I was wondering if you could critique my demo reel?
    I kept it under a minute!

  • Hey Nick and everyone!
    it would be awsome to get some critique on my first reel

    i will be changing a few things over the coming weeks as i had to get it done quick sharp for my end of year university exhibition

    many thanks

  • Hey Nick, I really like the design of the 5 steps poster, what font did you use for the “instant demo reel critique” part?


  • Nice instant tips!!!
    Hi over there,

    I have a 1:30 one.

    Feel free to have a look:

    Thanks and best wishes,

  • Hey,
    I absolutely love this poster. Is there a super high res version I can get to print? I’d like to stick it up at colleges I visit.

    We did one of our own,
    but its like 40 tips! We struggled to keep it that low!


  • I’m more of a video guy than motion gfx, but this still applies to my work. I was going to attach my demo reel, and then I realized it is almost 2 mins long… I should cut a lot of that time out.

    I suppose I will attach it anyway:

  • Ooops i got this website really late unfortunately but here is mine mograph reel

    Though i am a Max guy but pretty interested in Mograph seriously since some months. Ready fo comments 😀

  • This is my reel, please comment. It contains 2x 5 sec projects 🙂

  • This is my brandnew motion design reel:

    please comment and tell me what you like,


  • maybe i want this image as a poster 😉

  • Nice colors, and nice rules. You rock.

  • Thanks! I’m cutting mine now, so this is awesome to read. 🙂

  • Lol, what an awesome poster! I need to print it out and stick it on my wall to remind myself every time I edit something!

  • Howdy. Simply just planned to ask a quick problem. Now i’m ddfkgdgkdcdf

  • hey Nick GSG guys

    could you check my in progress showreel and make some comments?

    It is quite short , actually I make it longer in purpose to synchronise it with music

    here is link

    if you watch and make some comment I much appreciated


  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.