Why Your Demo Reel Should Be Really Really Short

July 6, 2010 - By 

Photo by Erica Marshal

I have been preaching for short demo reels for a while now. But this study adds actual data to the claim that people don’t watch long videos. What’s most interesting is It’s not just content that determines how long you watch. Knowing that the video is long makes you more likely to not finish watching. For example, even though the first 30 seconds of the long and the short video used in the study were the same, people watched MORE of the 30 second video because they could see that the end wasn’t too far away.

Even though viewers were exposed to the same exact content, the drop-off rate of the 90-second video was much higher. By the end of the 30-second video there were about double the number of viewers than at the same point in the 90-second video.

Wanna try this experiment for yourself? Head over too ReelRoulette and see how long it takes you before you want to watch the next reel. How fast do you click the “Next Reel” button?

So, how long is your reel?

Read more about the study
Upload your ‘short’ reel on ReelRoulette

Posted In:  Ideas
  • My reel is 44 seconds.

  • You’re absolutely right. This behavior is understandable, as you don’t need 90 sec to make a decision : even 20 seconds of work can sell your talent. My showreel is 45 sec also, and even if some people told me it should be longer, I prefer to keep it like this. Short enough to keep visitor focused, and long enough to see my capabilities and my style.

  • drop-off rate is one thing, engagement another.
    would love to see how length influences conversion.

  • well i took good note of this. My reel is… 4 minutes long! lol
    If some people want to break the obvious and feel original, you can watch it: http://vimeo.com/10649021 πŸ™‚
    But for the next reel ill follow this useful advice

    • I watched the whole thing,.. Lots of good stuff in there, mate. You really need to to an edit of it, and specialize it to what you want to do the most πŸ™‚

    • Haha mate, the reason why your demo reel is 4 minutes long is because your intro is 40 seconds long.

    • thanks Mats!
      hehe good call Max. This reel is kind of special because it contains work of several years. For the next one ill put only the work of the current year so it’ll be shorter.
      I would say this one helped me a lot despite its length. My new clients are always impressed and pleased to see it (well i am in switzerland so it ain’t no hollywood standard). “less is more” is gonna be the new motto for the next reel.

    • My Gawd! Most impressive! (I watched the whole thing too)

    • Hello,

      I made it to 40 seconds. Decide what you want to showcase and can the rest.

      BTW, I’m an Art Director/Post-Production Director/Animator/Editor with nearly 15 years experience.

      Get it to 30-45 seconds. That’s what you have to impress a potential employer such as myself.

  • I can’t wait more than 20 secs to press the next reel button.
    I think that the showreels are one of the most boring things in the world.
    There’s a paradox, comming from creative people the showreels haven’t even a drop of creativity. I think that just show up your sexiest work is not a good way to sell yourself.

  • My old demo reel from 08 wasn’t short, And I pretty much got a call back from everyone I submitted it to. People always say that but I disagree. Because after going through 600 reels a company will have like 3 or 4 people that it comes down to. Then at that point the person that is able to show more of what they’ve done Wins. The objective is to market yourself. What if movie trailers were only 20 seconds? You would get no sense of story or anything.

    • Sure but when trailers last too long, i just feel like i’ve seen every interesting bit of the movie πŸ™‚

      Personnally, i think a reel should just show what represents its creator the best way, and obviously should avoid showing all he’s done for the past year, as it would be redundant if all of his work is already on his site.

      This study is a great job. Social studies always are !

      ( i’m not sure of my english so i hope i’m clear enough :p )

    • Yes, this is true. There is definitely a fine line which really comes down to the art of editing. A reel is a trailer essentially for your work. So if you suck at editing it could be very boring even if you are an awesome designer or D.P. or whatever, in that case it’s best to make it short. But a good editor should be able to baffle people with bullshit, and can make a less talented dude look better with the right mix, composition, music and sfx. In the end it’s really about doing whatever you can to stand out from your competition. Which is the 600-5,000 other people that have applied for the job.

    • Kind of a bad analogy there alan, I can see what you mean about you feel like you’ve seen the interesting parts of the movie. But in this industry that would make people want to see even more.

  • Just last week I recut my demo reel which was 1 min 20 sec down to 45sec. It’s amazing how much stronger it looks once I trimmed away the fat and repetitive stuff.

  • I think the only answer to Nick’s question is: “Too long.”

    I definitely need to reevaluate/cut down my reel. It originally had some VFX breakdown stuff, but that should be it’s own video for those that want to see more of my work rather than crammed into a demo reel.

    Recently I’ve been coming to the conclusion that less is more. Time to trim the fat.

  • Hrm, mine’s 1:08…I’d assume it would depend on what’s on the line. When I’m checking out reels on RR I start to zone out about 1 minute in unless it’s a particularly spectacular reel…

    However, if I were looking to hire someone I’d watch the whole reel whatever. Only the quality of the work would deter me from watching till the end.

  • Awesome. After reading that article I was tempted to just bang out a 30-40 sec reel, before I remembered how much work I have and how easily distracted I get πŸ™‚ Great advice though, I’d also mention that if you have your complete works on your vimeo account or whatever, your potential client/employer can view the rest once you have gained their interest. Great stuff as always, cheers Nick.

  • great man
    actually i have no demo reel yet
    but when I’ll do it I’ll do it very very short
    thanks man for the great advices πŸ™‚

  • I’ve always been told that when you have a dynamic event unfold, or experience one that is, you should always have three versions of it to tell others that ask. The :30 second, the 3 minute, and the 15 minute versions.

    The :30 second for people just being polite and wanting a quick gander, the 3-minute for people that are busy but interested, and the 15-minute for long conversations.

    I think this translates into demo reels as well.

  • I will watch 2 minutes or more of a reel if the the work is really amazing. If it’s all stuff I’ve seen before, It’s hard to get passed 15 seconds..

    I also bet if someone has a 2 minute reel of great work, they’ll get more work than someone with a 45 second reel of average work.

  • I normally decide if I would’ve hired the person with the reel after 20 seconds, because if they don’t put the best stuff at the beginning of the reel then they probably aren’t good enough, or there is some “dealbreaking” stuff in the reel

    This reminds me, I really really really need to edit my 2010 reel,.. And now it can be even shorter πŸ™‚

  • sound and editing in my opinion is easily the most important thing when it comes to actually finishing and showing a reel. If you can’t edit or work with sound, don’t bother making a showreel. and if your into motion graphics and showing your work as a motion designer, fucking learn how to edit and work with sound. i’ll easily watch a 3/4 minute reel if everything fits tightly and has a solid style to it. i can’t even begin to count the amount of reels that i have skipped just because the music and flow bored the arse off me, regardless of the content…

  • totally agree, my showreel is really old and long, next showreel will be at most 45 seconds.

  • Another tip – please stop putting stuff on reels that are just tutorials from videocopilot or gsg. Seriously.

  • thats true! people want to see more and more content in order to find something they like so better be small but big, they do not have time :_)

  • my reel is…oops in fact i never did a reel.

    I just don’t like the principe of demo reel.
    it’s like hollywoods trailers. In few seconds you see all best scenes and when you go see the full movie you very frustrated…

    Over that demoreels never allowed to feel an atmosphere or a style. Most of the time it’s just a “rush for eyes”.

    Anyway when i will built my own demo it will be for sure longer than 90sec…to show diffeent ambiance/atmosphere…you can’t do it in 30sec! πŸ˜€

  • This study lacks validity due to the limited amount of data. Who was the audience? What kind of material was it? Did the same people watch the 30 sec and the 90 sec back to back? There’s two many variables not covered.

    Its not about length, its about content, creativity, approach, editing, style, etc,. After which its becomes the subjective interest of the viewer(s), or lack there of.

    Its what happens when you take a subjective organic process and attempt to define it mechanically. Besides the greed factor, its one of the biggest reasons Hollywood creates so much trash.

  • I would say another determining factor is music choice. A demo reel with bad or annoying music gets ignored quite fast.

    • I disagree here. From what I’ve learned, most companies will watch your reel with the sound turned off. Why would they bother? Music is deceiving, it’s there to create dramatic tension and to underline what’s in the images – but the images are all that count, really. They’re not interested in drama, they’re interested in your skill to create outstanding visual results.

    • If you’re an animator, and do create animations to music regularly, then yes. As a compositor, that doesn’t apply to me, however (and I’m sorry if everybody around here IS an animator… I am not, and I still read along quite regularly, so I assumed there must be other people like me out there πŸ™‚ ). I usually have nothing to do with music at work and thus the people who hire me won’t care much about the music in my reels. πŸ™‚

  • I’d love to have 30sec of demo stuff to showcase let alone 90sec.

    I fail.

  • I’m just starting to create content for my demo reel. I’m graduating uni tomorrow with an honours degree in computer animation and I don’t have ANY content that I think is good enough for a show reel. I know its not my best work because I was pressured to get it done on time. I want to keep it short but I have no idea where to start!

    • Hi, Lynne,
      If your not happy with your work, start making better work. Don’t even waste time on the reel and all that until you have 20-30 seconds of animation that you are proud of. Keep participating in five second projects and make short animations for yourself as much as you can. Then, take all the great new work and rock that reel. Hope that helps.

  • yeah..praise the age of the short attention span

  • he gorillaz I am back again just right at time to see ja new txty!
    So 60sec is too long now…wtf I spent 1 week just to make a fine cut for my last reel…now I have to shrink it down even more? hmmmm
    Will you do the same with yours? I remember that its about 1:39 min looooong. In generell I think that if you put your best gorilla tuorials in it even 30 sec would be amazing.
    XOXO mr rubber

  • The question is would people who are actually wanting to hire somebody, and who are looking at reels to hire you, would these clients act just like the average viewer and be more likely to watch all the way through a 30 sec reel rather than a longer one?

    Lol you got that? Long sentence but do you see my point?

    Still, awesome research and very interesting results!

    • I have no idea, i think that they too have other thing to look at except your reel. + i maybe the point of having a 30 sec reel is not to put everything in there, just the best of it. If u have 2 min of the best i wouldnt be bothered, i dont know.

    • Hmm… Probably best to keep it short to keep it audience-friendly (for all type of viewers).

  • Do you think the same goes for editing reels as in motion graphics with regards to length? I’ve always been told to adhere to the 90 second reel rule.

    I am first and foremost an editor but I dabble in graphics. I took a different approach with my newest reel version which the majority of it being sound bites from movies & shows I’ve edited cut together to feel as if it is its own scene. By the time my info pops up it clocks in at almost 2 minutes.

    Is it wishful thinking that the dialog would engage the viewer enough to hold on till the end? Maybe it is just me, but if something is interesting and it engages me I will keep watching.

    • I guess it depends on how good you are. A 90 second rule seems silly if you only have 40 seconds worth of really great stuff. But, if you have a TON of super work, feel free to go longer. I would still keep it as short as possible. 90 seconds is the upper limit.

  • I think the thing to do is to make well trimmed short reel with the best of your best only. Below that, on your web page, put all the full length clips you used pieces of. Most demo reels are on websites and that’s the approach I see sites like Troika using. The demo reel is the sampler and the clips are the meal.

  • Thanks GSG for posting this info.
    I have been preaching this fact for a long time.
    This fact does not stop at demo reels either. Just about any online video content should be kept as short as possible.
    Granted, not all content will fit in a short time frame, so you’d better have something that will keep the viewer hooked in and looking for more.

  • quality is quality. if a reel doesn’t pique my interest then I stop watching it quickly. there’s a lot of.. not so great work on reel roulette.. no offense. studio reels, especially top studios.. i watch beginning to end almost every time.

    its more complex than time.. there should be arc, style and subtance.. something i havent lost sight of in my quest to be a better artist.

  • Challenge accepted.

    First reel ever. 15s.

  • Here is mine :


    I need a criticism please πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚
    ( And tks Nick for all of ure advise πŸ˜‰ )

  • While I’m not a motion designer, I’m a graphic designer. And this piece of advice applies to the static portfolios too.

    Keep it short, show only your best 10 or best 5 works.

  • take 90 frames of your gaudiest, shiniest flying logo, follow with 8 more trendy 3 second graphic non-sequiturs, edit on the beat to a stuck-record raver track, throw up contact info in unreadable type. done. (can you really still call 30 seconds a reel?)

    • There are a very small number of people that will dim the lights, make some popcorn and watch reels with undivided attention. Maybe some artists will, but definitely not people that are hiring. They are looking for someone whose work will catch their attention. And, if they already know you (which is usually the case) they just want to make sure your work doesn’t suck. Give them the meat and get out. Hit it and quit it. If they really want to relax, they can watch the full spots that you should also have on your site.

  • why the rythm of first 20 secs is so important in demoreel? it’s complicated to compare sometimes with just a thumbmails one reel or another, but the purpose is to find “the nugget” among this multitude of demo, isn’t it?

  • Normally I prefer short reels than longer, and I know for experience “I’ve received a lot of reels by month” when you see the first 10 20 seconds you know what you can espect for the rest even if its 2 o 3 mins “normally I don’t see that kind of videos”.

    Imagine someone with hundreds of requests, he sees 10 sec and that’s all he knows if the motion designer worth it most of the time just with the intro.
    That says a lot

  • Hey nick some random question, do you think its good to include sketches/process stills of your work in your portfolio website (assuming of course that those are good ones), or you should only show your final, highly polished stills/movies?

  • I created several reels, some showing a raw summary of my work, others my work on a specific project, others my work on a specific shot. In that order, they are 90 secs, 3 minutes and eight minutes long. I’ve been invited to many companies lately, and my experience is that they always want to see more, not less. They want to know in extensive detail what you’ve done on each and every shot. Now, I don’t think myself the compelling genius and I don’t think that my reels are so good that they leave people spellbound. Which leads me to the conclusion: this study lacks some important aspects.
    If you have ten minutes of outstanding work and interesting break-downs to show, why would you cut that down to 40 seconds? I wouldn’t. Of course, if you only have 10 seconds of stuff worth watching, don’t try to make it 90. πŸ™‚

  • QUOTE: here are a very small number of people that will dim the lights, make some popcorn and watch reels with undivided attention. Maybe some artists will, but definitely not people that are hiring.

    ———- THAT’S NOT TRUE – FOR EVERYONE. (…and the ones is is true for you don’t want to work for!)

    WHAT IS TRUE… is we will keep watching if we are be being Engaged, Enthralled and Excited.

    Music is a problem sometimes as someone commented. We don’t all have the same tastes, so yes, if we are ever in doubt we mute it.

    Its only fair to the artist that way. After all they cant help their musical tastes. πŸ™‚

    Seriously folks, FORGET a specific number eg 30 /45 / 90 / 120 /240 seconds.

    I’ll use SEX as a good example, how long is good sex? It would be dumb to give a number to that, given all the variables, right? And the same is true for a reel.

    So rather aim for a actually harder goal, to engaged, enthrall and excite, irrespective of the duration.


    Engaged, enthralled and excited.

    …because while your doing it, your not thinking of anything else.

    …And while we’re watching your reel neither should we. πŸ™‚

    That’s exactly what we look for in a reel every time.

    Because if you manage the above, it SHOWS you know the job, and that’s what we’re looking for. Creativity and ability plus technical skills.

    If you make us experience that, and i’ll say it again;


    You’ll win. Best of Luck.

  • Hi everybody ! Here’s my contribution : i’m working on DVD and Blu-Ray graphics designs but i’d love to work as a motion designer (TV, commercials…). So I’m learning C4D to get some cool stuff to show in my showreel… Unfortunately,
    when a company ask me to explain my works on my showreel, i have to say : “Well…i’m just a dvd/Blu-Ray graphic designer and all that “motion design” stuff in my showreel are just “fakes” to practice.
    Anyway, my showreel is 2mn30 long. Do you thing I should cut it ? http://vimeo.com/10575160

  • Man, I definitely feel that my 3 1/2 minute reel is excessive now, though it did encompass more than just motion graphics. At least it was my first one, so subsequent reels will only cover a year or so of new work.


  • Some really interesting points here, we have to agree that time is everything with a reel but its difficult to get everything in without making it to long! Our latest reel is just under 1 min and we thinks it hits the spot. Please take a look and let me know what you think, enjoy;) http://www.kitedigital.co.uk/web-design-manchester/demo-reel.php

  • Here is a perfect demo reel that i could NOT ignore πŸ™‚

    “I am very proud to present you my demoreel 2011.
    I sent it to ILM and Pixar, I hope I will have some answers and I have a job…”


  • http://vimeo.com/35188075

    im running late on this but i just recently began making my reels bout 1 to 2 minutes long, but only because im also a producer and i tend to show off all elements of my work. ill begin with half of a custom instrumental that i made, then match the comp work to the track but i make at least 10 proud products a week, im always trying something new. However i think it’s best to lower reel time, due to the known facts here in this post. please enjoy and like and share. this is my 9 months of heavy learning, practice, and experimentation. tell me what you think.

  • can you guys check out my reel …its 2:20 ….feedback would be awesome!


  • I’ve actually had to watch dozens of these for people applying to the company I work for and I have to say… if I don’t like it with in the first 10 seconds, I don’t continue watching it. And if it’s over 30 seconds I don’t watch more then that either. When I review these, we get so many of them in and we have so little time to look at them that we can’t waste time. Also we know what we are looking for and so should you. If you’re work doesn’t match the quality we are looking for then fix it and make a demo reel more suited for that job. Being well rounded with several styles is the best way to go, but include the majority of what the employer is looking for in the demo you send them. I.E. if we are looking for realism game art, then don’t send us a demo of only stylized art. 1 or 2 pieces in there is good so we know you can do other things but don’t fill your entire reel with what you want. One of the first things I remember hearing in college was; “When you are in the industry you will make games for people that play them, not for you.” Meaning, just because I like it doesn’t mean it’s what the general public will like or what will sell. So you have to appease your audience. The same statement in quotes can be adapted to any artistic position. Hope this helps.

  • My reel is 1:40 but it feels much shorter, could you guys give me some feedback?


  • My reel is short and it’s worked for sure.

  • Hey πŸ™‚
    My reel is 0:54 seconds, Quite short now ?
    My promotional spots are always about 2 minutes but it looks shortly

  • my demoreel is 1:07 long. I have got job interviews and projects by showing it even itΒ΄s now 2 years old. Now I donΒ΄t have time to make another one anymore.


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