Summary And Reels

Maya: Animation





Show Reels



1. Show Reels
2. Animation Summary


Show Reels

A show reel is essential for landing a job as an animator. It probably accounts for about 80% of your chances in landing an animation job.

Keep it quality and short is the rule of thumb. 1 minute is the perfect length of a student reel.


What To Include

Show a range of animation, lip sync and acting are known to be the hardest but be sure to have some action/physical animation as well. Creature animation is also desired if looking for work in VFX.



Light your scenes well, a good HDRI image with some ambient occlusion is plenty. Bookend your reel with clear small simple text with a well chosen font.



A website should have your reel on the main page, as that is what is most important. Never show WIP or sub par work. People judge you on your worst work. Keep your web page simple and to the point. One webpage with an embedded video and a link to you CV is all that’s needed.



Take some time to write a good CV. Keep it positive short and accentuate your skills including people skills. Ultimately it’s your reel that will land you the work and your confidence and people skills in an interview. Being able to show you’re a confident nice person who’s easy to work with is absolutley paramount. I’ve known a few fabulous animators who’ve not had the greatest people skills struggle in the industry.


Specialist VS Generalist

At this point in time in Sydney there are very few specialist animation jobs, this may change in the future but right now character animation positions are rare and you will be competing against professionals with experience. You need your reels to be of a very high calibre.

I recomend animators in Sydney to have more depth to their skill set than just being a specialist animator or modeller. Because you can slot into companies in a variety of capacities.

The downside of course is that your skillset will be less polished.

“Jack of all trades master of none.”

For this reason keep the projects you work on simple and short and doable. The number one error students make is to take on more than they can handle. Unfortunately this only becomes obvious in the final weeks of the last semester. A showreel of one piece if done well can impress more than a big short film. This is exemplified here with Cindy Chang’s modelling reel which only consists of a kitchen fly through of 30 seconds. Combined with some behind the scenes this reel suddenly becomes 1 min and won Cindy 2nd place in this years CG Student Awards…


A full list of the award winners can be found here


Good Simple Animation Reels







Here’s a list of things we’ve covered. Use this as a checklist to check against your current animations.


Number One!!

Watch the world and other animation in detail. Reference Reference Reference!!!!! This is by far the biggest thing that will contribute to your animation.

The world must be seen not invented through memory!! Our memory will only get us into trouble as the following example clearly demonstrates.


Picasso’s Igor Stravinsky

Betty Edwards is a famous art teacher and autor of Drawing on the Right Side Of the Brain.

A student in his 20s with little drawing knowledge is asked to draw the drawing. He comes up with this…

But he had the assignment wrong, he was really asked to draw the drawing with the original turned upside down.

After completing the exercise he had this…

turned the Right way up…

The difference between the original drawing and the second, drawn only 1 hour apart are staggering…

Here’s an entire class of Betty’s drawing self portrait in the mirror. Before and after drawings side by side from a weekend course.


Watch Your Animation, then Your Favorite Animation

Watch your animation, then watch your favorite animations and compare. What’s better about the professional quality animation? Any feature film will do, or the winners of the 11 Sec Club, or any animation you really admire. Pick a style that’s similar to the one you’re going for. make sure you can step frame by frame to see what the good animation is doing.



Steal, steal movements and timings from your favorite animations. Obviously you can’t take them frame for frame, borrow and steal, count frames for in betweens, copy mannerisms, anything you can rip off from your favorite animations do it.


Do It And Film It

Don’t guess! Do it! Count frames, copy poses, exaggerate.


Flip Your Animation Horizontally

We easily get used to our animation if we watch too much. Flipping the animation horizontally can help us see it fresh. Get a small mirror you can see your animation inverted by watching the mirrored reflection. Or use an editing package.


Show to Friends/Family and Other Animators

Show your animation to others and ask them to be brutal and honest with their feedback. Make sure they’re being honest. Untrained friends probably won’t be able to offer helpful advice but they’ll give you insights to problems. Remember you’ve watched the animation too much and become close it’s hard to see it fresh. This is even hard for the pros.



One of the biggest mistakes is trying to do too much. Do you have way too many poses? Are you trying too much with your weight shifts. Even the most complicated animation can be expressed simply and clearly if the key poses are nailed.


Spaghetti Curves?

Spaghetti Curves? Delete and simplify! Once your curves get too complicated it’s better to key everything on a single pose/poses and delete all the clutter, start again and offset later once you’ve nailed the foundations.



Completely still poses are better than floaty motion.



Jerky motion is eliminated once you know what all your curves are doing. Keep your keys simple, make sure the tangents are smooth, check each curve if you have too. Delete unnecessary clutter.

If you’re going for snappy motion but it still feels jerky, pad out the in and out points. See padding in the first splines class, it’s just a matter of adding slow frames either side of the snappy motion.


Again Simplify!!

If you’re having a hard time moving the character from point A to point B, think of an easier way to get him moving in a way that works that’s easier. Sometimes that might mean taking one step instead of 20. Making a simple gesture instead of a complicated one. Simplify. Don’t be afraid to try things, but if they aren’t working delete and simplify.


Andrew Silke

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