GSG Reel Critique Episode 1

September 21, 2009 - By 

Reels Critiqued

Barton Damer

Paul Conigliaro

Mike Erla

  • good stuff. like to see a pro doin his thing, gave me some ideas of how to get out of student style.

  • Thanks. I appreciate the honesty, as I’m sure Barton & Mike are. I’m in the process of assembling an updated reel and will take your advice to heart.

    (Also, not a student, but an editor and have only been able to do motion work relatively recently.)

  • I also wanted to say that I like that you didn’t appear to preview these before critiquing, giving a very candid first impression.

  • Nice work man, honest but not mean.

    Could be bad if you call someone a student who isn’t in the future. =) But I guess you do say why you think they might be.

  • Gosh, this was excellent. It was so helpful and challenging to watch.

    I’m already looking forward to the next one! And I too like the candid first impression you are giving. I think everyone is going to enjoy these reel critiques.

  • Cool, great comments on the stuff, i really enjoyed watchin that and i want more 🙂


  • Loved watching it, learnt alot about what to try and avoid etc. Keep it up can’t wait for episode 2 !

  • Good job nick. Good comments all around!

  • thanks for the feedback. i am no longer a student unfortunately, but i continue to work hard on my own projects while not at my full time internship. i will take your critique and continue to improve myself

  • Good crit. Good length. I agree with Brad, it was honest without being mean. It wasn’t mean at all. I wouldn’t have figured the second reel was from a student, but from someone in the industry without a ton of experience. And looking at the comments apparently that’s correct.

    I’d add that I’d probably take the second rocket clip out of the last reel. It’s almost the same clip in reverse.

    I also agree with you on leaving the kinetic type out of reels. It’s been done to death by this point.

  • Great job Nick. This all helps a lot!

  • “Ends on Jesus” Made me laugh.

    Anyway, I think this is a good little segment. I’m not a motion guy myself, but I do enjoy watching reels and it’s interesting to hear what an expert thinks of them.

    I also think that this is a great opportunity for up and coming designers to get some honest feedback.

    Well done, Nick!

  • That was great. Your blink reaction assessment and opinions were perfect. I would love to see more of these.

  • Good critiques. It helped those that you did critique as well as those who were just watching. Also, I’ve never seen a critique video like this before. Man that screenflow is really nice. Wish they had something like that for windows.

  • Really enjoyed this. Keep it up. I appreciate Barton, Paul, and Mike for being brave and submitting theirs. I was too scared and now realize I have a lot of work to do on my own. Keep this up Nick, it’s great.

  • Again a very nice post from you Nick.
    Really like the way being direct and honest about what you see and still keep the comments polite. I would never be abled to do so if “the person wasn’t in the room”.
    I kind of like the reels you choose. Good variety of stuff.
    I also think three reels in that detail are a good choice. Don’t try to rush through too many reels.
    Thanks agan for this post as i’m motivated now to get back on my own reel.


  • This is great feature. I would have killed to have this 5 years ago. Keep it up.

  • I think away around Nick having to guess if someone is a student, is to simply say so somewhere on your vimeo page. No one expects a student to have a perfect reel or work that needs no polish, so disclosing your student/work status on the page might make that easier. Then Nick can break down reels by type. One entry can be 3 or 4 student reels, the next one 3 or 4 working reels.

  • Ends on jesus – classic <– that really made ma laugh too 🙂

    I totaly agree on the text animation the flourishes and the plugin doodling!

    But i think that the soundtrack is extremly important. You said it – one can always put the music down. But i think the sound and editing of a reel is just as important as the look itself because it shows a sense of timing & feel which is, in my opinion, a crucial thing to have in motion graphics.

  • even seeing you critique other people’s reels makes me see my own reel with a new perspective.. i’m gonna try and redo mine before you get to it..

  • Hello Nick!
    All this things are great, but talking about “Logos”
    What do you want to mean with built on screen logo???

    Could you explain a simple way or technique to built a logo without breaking it in pieces, or try to give a tip to make it cleaner, elegant, puppy fun as you said?

    Really I would like to Know how to change it, and make it in a better way..
    Thanks a lot for sharing all this comments and critics with us.
    By the way I am from Costa Rica, and I hope you can understand my english, still learning it so hope you can help us!

  • Excellent critiques. It’s pretty cool to have someone with your experience telling us what we are doing wrong and where are the weakest point in our work. This is invaluable information and give to us and give us an idea of where our skill level are.
    I’ve learned a lot from this episode, now I know that I have to make a lot of adjustments to my own reel.

    I’ll be waiting for the next one.

  • Hey GSG. Thanks for providing such a great resource for the motion community. Man, I wonder how you get your day job done with all the other projects you are on. Mad props!

    I liked how you broke down the bad scenes and good ones. I hope to see more of these on your site. It would be nice to see the reviews a little shorter in duration. Also, if it was a podcast, I’d subscribe and watch them on my iPod.

  • Those critiques were spot on! People shouldn’t bother putting in too much plugins work, any pros will recognise them quickly. I really liked Bartons reel, some pretty cool lookin shit!

  • Tiffanyforrester@mac September 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Great video- love the way you did it.

  • Love all your work Gorilla but I think you sound kinda condescending with regards I’d hire you, “your higherable” remarks. Love all your other stuff

    • It’s more about his honest opinion as a successful motion designer in the industry. If Nick would hire someone, chances are that so would others 🙂

      A lot of these critiques are really helpful for the rest of us – like the comments about how Barton’s variety is valuable to an employer. Good stuff!

  • omg i cant wait to see nick reviewing me, this is great.

    nice reels there!

    greyscalegorilla is growing(h)


  • Like everyone else here, I really love your videos and even bought the tutorial you made on photoshop, which I must say is great…

    I would say that during the critique that you do when you do the second look of the reel, please kill the audio on the reel as it kind of messes up the whole critique area and it feels like you’re fighting over the music. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Can’t wait for the next one. I’m not into motion design but I’m into photography…hopefully you’ll review my site someday 😉

  • Nick! Thanks man. Great input. Yeah. I tried to take the 2.5D stuff to a different place by modeling the C4d street block behind the people. It was also my first opportunity to do motion graphics for a full length skateboard video. I can see how that is dear to my heart but not others. 😉

    I appreciate your time!

  • Wow amazing critiques, I think some of my teachers should watch this and learn how to appropriately critique something with out being an ass.

  • this is great!

    The first reel was the best but way too long and i also thought the music was a lil bothersome.

    I think the format that your going about is fine, I learned A LOT from it and I think its great that you would spend your time doing this for people like me who want to hear from professionals and what they REALLY think about our work. This is a great opportunity for me to watch these critiques because I am just now taking my major related courses and I will learn what not to do lol so thank you.

    One idea is maybe you and a friend from DK or just anyone who knows about this could also give input about the reels.

  • Great stuff. It’s nice to here what a prospective employer might be thinking when seeing certain types of work. Thanks to Barton, Paul and Mike. And thank you Nick.

  • This is one of my favorite things you’ve done on this site. I got a lot out of it. Nice work. Keep these going.

  • I reckon these are great. From this i learnt that i need to do some 3d logo’s.

    Keep em coming. Very helpful.

    I’ll post my reel when i’m done with my new one.

  • these reel critiques have helped me alot, look forward too seeing more 😀

    great work!

  • Not only is this very helpful for students in school and also people looking to get a job, but for people like myself who already have a job in the business, I think it’s important in the hectic day to day work that you step back and really get back to the basics and like in college art classes, have critiques and have people tear your stuff apart. (of course it’s always nice that you have fellow artists giving input as to clients who sometimes don’t always have the best eye for design)

    This was an awesome idea and keep up the good work. You are very motivating and you site is a huge resource, I hope you realize what a service you’re doing to fellow designers and how selfless it is to devote a large chunk of your time to help out people you’ll probably never meet or know. Keep on truckin!

  • Not only is this very helpful for students in school and also people looking to get a job, but for people like myself who already have a job in the business, I think it’s important in the hectic day to day work that you step back and really get back to the basics and like in college art classes, have critiques and have people tear your stuff apart. (of course it’s always nice that you have fellow artists giving input as to clients who sometimes don’t always have the best eye for design)

    This was an awesome idea and keep up the good work. You are very motivating and you site is a huge resource, I hope you realize what a service you’re doing to fellow designers and how selfless it is to devote a large chunk of your time to help out people you’ll probably never meet or know. Keep on truckin!
    PS: Wanted to say good post!

  • Great Job! This will keep me coming back to your site. Very informative and entertaining.

  • Bra-vo! As great as the 5 Second Projects! It was nice to see how you got into the reels and talked about them.
    General question: Is it possible to use any music you want without running into copyright issues? I’m always thinking about that…

  • Nick,
    You didn’t start off by saying, “Hey everybody, it’s Nick from Greyscale Gorilla. I am the Gorilla.”

    Your critique was good. I’m guessing student.
    I felt like I was watching’American Idol’ for Motion Designers. You played the part of Simon/Paula/Randy quite well, but it left me wanting more. Three Nick Campbell’s on screen, perhaps instead of just one. Try working on that.

    Good critique, but could be shorter and have the same impact.

    Needs music, although music isn’t important.

  • Great stuff. Critiques are the meat and potatoes of design and having this format will make for an excellent resource.

    Couple thoughts…

    I think some of the inclusion of plug-in generated elements and type elements is great but they need concept and context. The most impressive work on a reel is when it’s seamless. Some of the elements in these reels just need more context.

    One thing that really is important is type. Having a strong showing of control over type and the ability to choose a typeface is really helpful.

    Looking forward to seeing all 100 🙂

  • Was great to watch maybe a bit to much repetition bye you but overall really interesting to hear youre opinion!

  • Hey Gorilla! I’ve got a question: I’m in the process of putting togehter my reel, and I’m thinking of making two separate reels – one for motion work and another for vfx work. Is that a good idea to keep these two separate, or should I put it all in one reel?
    Thank you for a great blog!

    • If your new to the biz, I would make one reel. If you have enough great work to make a more focused reel, then it may be a good idea to get the specific job you are looking for.

      • Thanks man, great advice. Yes I’m new to the biz, having been a freelancing motion designer for a year. Although I’m really looking into getting a job doing vfx, becoming a Flame apprentice or the like. Thus my question. Vfx reels tend to contain lots of breakdowns, whereas motion reels don’t, sort of interrupting the flow of a good motion reel?

  • Great Nick! if one day you get a Teacher job in some university i want to make part of your class!

  • this are great keep doing them!!!!!!!!

  • I think, this is one of your best ideas yet. We get to see what others are doing with their skill, and yet get some feed back on what works and what does not work. Very Nice!

  • Great Stuff Nick!! Thank you so much for taking the time to do it. I really think doing this brings the industry up a level, and your advice is definitely respected. Very Good Stuff! Thanks Again!

  • Great critique Nick. I love the honesty in your remarks. I think it will really help people looking at their own work.
    I know when I did my first reel that I wanted to put everything in.

    It’s so important to keep only the very best shots. A 30 second great reel is a powerful tool.
    Unlike a 2 minute ok reel, which will just bore the viewer.


  • real useful! much appreciated!

  • What is the etiquette in regards to what to include in updating your REEL year to year. Should you look at each year as a chance to showcase your entire collection of work. Or should you only include work from 09 in your 09 reel?

  • Awesome post, Nick.

    I’ve been away from the site lately, catching up on work. I still have yet to really get into motion graphics myself, but I can’t stop looking at reels and projects that include them. The possibilities simply blow me away. I keep coming back because your website, work and business strategies totally rock. And Great critiques!

    I hope the post DK life is going great! If you USTREAM it this week I will try to stop by. Keep up the good work, man.


  • For me, I kind’a I love reels, where there are found interesting ways to get transitions between each of footage. You get one awsome sequence in the result, not just cut&paste favorite episodes of projects and add soundtrack. Yes, I understand that these type of reels take a lot to complete, but yeah, they really stand out.

  • So I just got done watching your critiques, and I’ve got to say I’m very depressed. Let me say first that everything you said was spot on, and always helpful, never mean. But as I watched this I realized that my reel was no better than “student” level. Problem is, this is my job. I kind of fell into it and know I don’t know what to do. I’m paid fairly well, and keep my employers happy, but I work on the same bland projects week in and week out. My work hasn’t gotten any better since day one. And I’m the only motion editor on staff, so there’s nobody to learn from. I’m self taught, but I’ve watched the tutorials, and even taken some online classes, which are great, but they don’t replace being in an actual creative environment. I feel like my work will never get any better till I get myself around some other creatives, to work under somebody who can help me develop my skills, but at the same time, I feel like I’m “unhireable” and that will never happen. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • It’s really tough sometimes when you don’t have anyone to learn from around you. It’s always better to have someone at work to look up too and learn from. If you are motivated to learn, then you may be able to find a place that will help push you forward and teach you new things. If you can’t leave, try to find a mentor in your area that will let you hang out for a day or two. Shake things up a bit and see what happens. Keep rocking!!!

    • I’m in a similar situation, however I have worked in other places and continue to work on shorts and the like in my spare time with some of those people. Interaction is highly important to creativity. Even following the Twitter feeds of other motion designers helps with that and offers some motivation though it’s not a perfect solution. You may be in the office for 8 hours but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with others afterward.

    • Don’t be depressed, there are a lot of folks who are no doubt envious of your job. Keep up the work, it will improve over time and effort.
      I empathize though, I am a student and have to create a reel for a final class project. My 3d and AE work are entry level at best so it will be a large challenge.

  • Great work Nick. Really liked it.

  • Great critique Nick.

    I’m pretty new to AE and motion graphics. I’m print designer by day and my student days are long gone. What would be the best way to go about building a reel that will get me work and not look like a hobbyist?

    Keep up the amazing work.

  • Great work Nick, i think over all it work out good , enough time in each reel, its great that your doing this to help those in the “student work ” get better which is where i feel I am , i just started to work more in my field (meaning get to do motion graphics and get paid for) , i hope to see more of reel breakdowns and it sure helps to understand what is good to have and what shouldn’t be there.

  • Great critiques, felt like I was back in film school. I pretty much never had a positive thing said about my work those years, only what I needed to work on and help me improve

    One point I would like to make about Barton’s reel. The whole “ending on Jesus” thing makes some people laugh, but I think it brings up a great point in that, Barton does a lot of Christian work, and has tailored his reel to reach those clients. I think sometimes it is smart to think of your reel as bait… sometimes you need different bait for different clients… A guy like Nick with DK experience etc can focus on a purely kick ass reel, but many others are looking to use their reel to bring in specific clients, and building it to suit those needs can be very smart.

  • Hi Nick,
    First of all this a great way to present feedback … very cool. But what I wanted to know is do a good reel always have to be so practically oriented. What you see is, that these guys have an extremely strong focus on motion design, formally and in practice. Is it up to date to focus on the demands of only one industry, in order to get a job. There are so many possibilities, especially with 3D and Animation – I do not want to determine myself too strong … because it is just too interesting not to be determined (sorry for the language i am from berlin)

  • these feature was realy cool and exciting to watch! I have started to learn motion graphics, and 3d recently..self taught mostly..and still have a lot to work.. I wish my days were 48 hours.. not time enough to learn it all.. Good luck for next reels. Big up from Portugal.

  • i think this is a pretty good idea. it’s nowhere near as harsh as what you’ll get if you go over to sometimes you really have to tell people that something isn’t good for them to change for better or worse (maybe that’s what i need!).

    and with that being said…please…tear it up:

    it’s pretty old, contains work from school through several years of real world work and i’m sure i’ve got enough new stuff laying around to make a new one.

  • Really useful info nick, i’m putting together a graphics reel at the mo and this works pretty well as a guideline of what to put in and what to ditch. Hope you keep doing em

  • good question. i never studied motion graphics so maybe the question look studied. what is the “correct way” to go about making a kind of a logo into? can you give some advice?

  • I agree Nick, this was great. You are really paving the way here with new ideas to help the mograph community, its awesome!

    I can kinda feel the comment up there from Depressed. But for me inspiration and motivation come in waves, so there’s never a reason to give up even if you are feeling down one day. If you don’t have people there in person to help you learn, turn to the GSG. It just keeps gettin’ better!

  • Indeed, that was very helpful. I particularly liked the places where you pointed out student tropes to look out for (I personally liked the point on stock elements and plugins, I see that a lot). Being able to contrast various videos is really engrossing. And I dare say one of the more relevant things I’ve seen.

    I believe this is also invaluable to people don’t have access to other sources for professional critique.

  • Deffinetly loving this!
    Great info and thoughts.

    One thing (personal I guess) I don’t mind seeing typography in reels as long as it’s not too much. Cause typography CAN be really well made as you siad.

    I’d say for the 3rd reel he might have picked bad parts of the typography cause the camera was just flying all over the place (the red background)

    Looking forward to the next one! Is there a specific day everyweekor are you just gonna do this kinda when you feel like it?

  • Still learning from it in 2012 🙂

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