Demo Reel Critiques: Episode 3

October 14, 2009 - By 

In the third episode of Reel Smackdown I critique the following reels…

Also, the critique shouldn’t stop here. I would love to hear what you think about the reels or about my critique. If you want your reel reviewed, head on over to the Original Hardcore Reel Critique post and drop a link to your reel in the comments.

  • Good shit Nick! :p

  • I feel as if for the first reel, the lower thirds should always go, because most people eyes are focused on the individual in the shot. Most reels don’t hold those shots long enough for the eyes to move on down to the bottom of the screen to notice the nice motion work done for the lower thirds.

    • I think it’s also assumed that if you’re able to make a detailed, well designed animation, creating a lower third would be a piece of cake. I could be wrong though.

  • I don’t know if i can do this but im wondering if you could Critique someone other then my self’s reel? this is maltannons reel and i would love to see it Critiqued. I was so impressed i thought this would be a good subject

    • Yeah do it, it’ll be like a diss record of the motion graphics world, be interesting to see what jerzy comes back with… Ha ha I’m kidding, maybe tear Andrew Kramers to bits while you’re at it 😉

  • Very good and constructive critiques. I totally agree about tutorial stuff on reels, It does not look good. The point about how the reel is cut or edited is very important too for a more eyecatching effect. Thanks for the Demo Reel Critique Episodes, really good idea. Cheers!

  • Great critique Nick. These critiques have really helped me while building my reel. Hopefully you’ll be able to critique it when it’s done!

  • Thanks to the artist for sharing their work! And thank you gorrilla for your insight!!! Pretty cool stuff!!

    greetings from argentina!


  • Hey Nick,

    Thanks for all the positive feedback, I’ve been learning a lot watching your stuff this year. Hopefully I’ll have some 3D stuff to show in next year’s reel.

    I’ll respond to a few points you made:

    1) The cut-out picture of the buildings moving in 2.5D space – client insisted on having the pictures treated as such – but I agree they could have a little more of a border of some type.

    2) The BMW logo resolve was for an in-house BMW project. The grey box, I agree, is ugly. Also had to be on white. But it had to be there for brand standard purposes.

    3) The Coke thing was for a screensaver.

    3) Anyone who’s curious, the “Jesus” thing was for a National Geographic Channel intro last spring.

    4) The kinetic type piece for AFI SilverDocs won a Gold BDA this past summer, so I’m pretty proud of that one.

    5) The dog in the beginning is my beloved beagle, Sparky, who passed away last December. The opening was kind of a tribute to him:

  • hey nick,

    really interesting what you were saying about the anim on that last guys reel. I’ve noticed in the past on these critiques you seem to really like the 3D side of stuff on motion graphics reels (even more so that the 2D maybe?). Just wondering what you r opinion is on this. Do you think you need 3D these days on a graphics reels to get a job or if your animation is sound, is just 2D enough? Personally i kindof prefer that vector cut out style if its done well.

    As an example heres two anims i’ve been inspired by recently with no 3D as such but great anim.

    • Hey rich, mutanthadns has an amazing reel… i really enjoy 2D. and there’s a lot to do out of it. But sometimes, for some ppl, 2D means plain… so that makes every thing looks poor. Mutanthands here have a million textures, astonishing 3D cameras (throu 2D layers) … the sense of perpespective is (as I see it) what enriches every thing.

    • Yeah i agree, i think that you need to give 2D something else these days. Especially with the sort of cardboard/scrapbook type style thats pretty big at the moment

    • I think it depends on where you want to work and how skilled you can afford to be in a specific area to limit your options. It’s the old ‘jack of all trades master of none’ argument, and it gets to the point where you think (myself included) is it better to concentrate on learning after effects like the back of my hand and strive to be ‘the best’ card cutout guy ever and get hired on that quality, or make yourself flexible by learning 3D, compositing, film techniques, stop motion etc. interesting discussion that I think will continue to crop up

    • @Matt, couldn’t agree more, especially when you find all the different mixed media so fascinating, as always there seems to be the odd person who can do it all… I’m self employed (somehow!) and I have to do a lot of all nighters etc. trying my best to accomplish something unfamiliar, even to come up with something that looks absolutely turds. BTW that ‘blokes’ of yours is crazy good, I downloaded it from vimeo and watch it all the time, really want to try something of quality like that.

  • I have to be a little harsh here and say that a lot of the 3D work i’ve seen in the reels has not been that great, especially in terms of animation and lighting.

    Focusing on reel 2 from today, the 3D animation lacked character and the lighting work could be a lot stronger. I actually think right now it detracts from the reel.

    Think about shaping the light in the scene more and not just applying a general global illumination. Light and composition is one of the most important things to get right in 3D.

    The abstract 3D stuff was great though. Digging the style.

  • Yeah man I WANT to see the man fall off the bike. Nice going Nick, keep it up.

  • curious about your comment that the bmw sting at the end was inappropriate ‘even if it’s real…’ – is it common for reels to contain product logos when the animator didn’t actually have the client? i just assumed that was a no-no

    • Nick is right – a lot of student reels often have logo animations that weren’t actually created for the client, but simply to show what they can do. In this case, the logo animation was for the actual client.

      It’s not really a “no-no” as far as I know (heh). But I’d avoid it.

    • Although I find the box around the BMW logo annoying, I am familiar enough with the brand to know that it is a brand guideline and not a creative choice that was made by this animator.

  • awesome reel btw dave (from 1 dog luvva to another)

  • Great critique Nick. I hope we can do this more in the future.

  • Great critique once again Nick!

  • Good critiques, it’s good to also point out some editing techniques. I suppose this video was recorded before you ‘minimized’ your mac, looking at your dock 🙂

  • I realy love those reel reviews, they are very enligntening….I think your critiques are right to the point..

    This is such a great blog….

  • Man, look, on the firt episode one of the reel that u comment have a basketball player in the middle of the reel and u sad that its not cool show shoots like that. On this episode in the firs reel the have the painter shooter and u sad that look cool!

    Ok, thats your opnion and all depends of the reel itself like the music, the cuts, the animations, etc. Dont have a rule for right or wrong, in some reel can be work perfect and some not.
    Im pretty sure that u know that and most of ppl who come here know that too.

    But u cant chance your mind without explain why, if im the guy who make the reel from the first episode, probally i will be kind of upset and not give too much credibility for u anymore.

    Sorry for my bad english, i hope u understant what i try to said.

    Anyway, your job is great, and this reel critiques are really important for help and improve motiongraphics skills for everyone!


    • Good point. However, I would say that the painter shot in Andrea’s reel was shot well and went well with the breakdown of the music in the reel. It was also presumably shot by the author. The basketball clip on the other hand, was a piece of video that wasn’t shot by the author of the reel with shine applied to it.

      It’s all about context and tone. The painter clip fit the tone of the reel, but the live footage of the basketball player did not.

  • Yeah! Having some friends coming over to your place to watch some reels would be interessting. Have some beers before recording your critique? 😉

    Seriously, there’s one thing I wonder for along time now:
    for an absolute newbie would it be better to fake stuff, like end tag animation for a real TV station or do you think it’s better to take a step back, thing about a cool logo for a fake TV station and animate this?

    Sometimes reels get more attention if there’s a lot of big names in it – or am I wrong?

    keep up the good work!

    • No no no, if your very new… definitely charge yourself with creating a ‘fake’ channel and do a great job of animating that (even if it’s remarkably similar to an existing one). Aside from using tutorial stuff, using big brands unwarrentedly looks terrible unless you’re amazing. Good question tho.

    • Yeah, I agree, Don’t use other people’s logos unless you are ACTUALLY doing a spot for them. It almost always looks unprofessional.

  • Your best episode yet Nick! Thanks!

  • Nick,

    The best thing about this round of critiques is the positive emphasis you gave to the intro (dog) shot of Dave’s reel. It was immensely helpful to force us to look at details like the ears of the dog, the reflection of the sunglasses, etc. I’d almost like you to break down an actual studio’s project or reel (like DK!) and point out the detail within. DK’s Key Bank spots from last year could provide hours of discussion. Ditto for DK’s Front Line shoe spot.

  • Yes, Mr Nick

    I find sometimes your basketball is not good for me and my family. You fix please?

    Just kidding Man. Looking forward to the “Day in the Life of DK” That would be awesome!
    (nO PRESURE)

    You Rock THE mOFUGGIN hOUSE!!!

    tAKE cARE


  • “Reel Smackdown” what a pompous name

  • I like the segment, you should call it “REAL criticism”. To late now. Sure its not the end of the world. Greetings from Ireland.

  • thanks a lot for your critiques!
    I’m already working on them and… sorry if I was too much “inspired” by your tutorial…

    p.s.: it’s so funny the way you say my name =)

  • A quick question. Since demo reels are not sold for any commercial purpose but simply to represents ones work, is the use of Led Zeppelin or any music for that matter, fall under “fair use” for making a demo reels or are you subjecting yourself to copyright infringement?

    • I wouldn’t worry about copyright music on a reel too much unless you plan on submitting it to festivals. Led Zeppelin is a bit over used though. Try finding a smaller band you like. That way there would be less of an issue.

  • Hello Gorilla !
    In the video you spoke of the “boring slow-mo spinning reels”.
    Any idea’s on how to make 3D stills or “spinning sculpts” more interesting in a reel?

    • (sry for second post, just thought about this today)

      Or should stills and sculpts stay in portfolios and not in video reels?

    • It’s tough. I think that most of the time, modeling stuff doesn’t belong on a mograph reel. If you do great modeling, maybe you have a separate reel or photos of your models? Maybe there is a more fun way to show off your models rather than spin them around?

  • Hey Nick, the tutorial you thought that you had seen somewhere is properly AETUTS+’s (first) tutorial:

  • Agree with you on everything. Especially Kelsey Grammer Nipples Up.

  • more great advice! nice one.

  • This was a fantastic episode, many reasons. Can I critique the critique or is that too douchey for words? Anywho, I like how long it was and appreciate your time on that one, I also like how the content for this one was in part less polished than some previous ones, especially the experimental stuff, and how you didn’t slam it right away for being less professional, there’s’ alot of people, I guess, who read/watch your stuff who could find ‘reel world’ (sorry) criticism a little daunting. Great work as always Cpt Gorilla

  • Great crits Nick!

    Heres a link to my showreel if you have a chance to crit it…

  • Hi from Paris Nick,
    here is my 2010 reel:
    all comments are welcome!

  • I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this during my hunt for something concerning this.

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