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Forartists and animators, with or without industry experience, a good demo is the key to getting that dream job. Many of the companies I deal with will look at your demo first and CV second, so if your demo doesn’t hit the nail on the head you really have no chance of being asked in for interview. I have taken sometime to speak to some lead artists and computer games companies to get an insight on what they consider to be a good demo and what good ideas and tips I could pass to you. This information sheet is intended to be a broad guide to help you focus your demo. Please remember it is for animators, artists, juniors, concept artists and for those wishing to enter the industry, so if you are purely a 2d artist please don’t get hot under the collar about creating top notch animation cycles! If you want more specialised advice please do contactus but make sure you have read this first. For new candidates please ensure youhave registered your details at with us at cvs@big-planet.biz


Firstly some general hints and tips that apply to everyone trying to find a job in the industry.

  • If in doubt, keep it out. Your portfolio must be a small, high quality portion of your work. If you are going for a specific role i.e. texture artist make sure you show relevant work, i.e. textures, Environment Artist, just environments – NOT coke cans, your animation reel and some characters you’ve done! If you are going for a more general role then show only your very best work. If you have any doubts about a piece of work it doesn’t belong in your show reel; Bin it.
  • Excuses don’t work. Great quality demos take time and without them you won’t get a job. I don’t want to know if you were too busy at uni / in your current job / down the pub / leading the life of an international playboy and/ or your dog ate it. It doesn’t really matter. Without a demo I can’t get you that interview. So try to find some time and focus on putting together your work.
  • Keep it simple # 1: Presentation. It may sound strange, but companies often prefer a simple show reel. File your images in an easy to understand manner i.e. concept / models/ animations/ texture maps. I don’t like files that need to be downloaded and take too long if I’m busy. Websites that are slow and irritating rarely get a positive reaction. Just bear in mind that the people looking at your work are very busy, so do yourself a favour and make it easy for them to see your work. Animation reels are fine on Youtube or Vimeo, art portfolios are good on PDFs, word docs or simple webpages. A good web page shows full screen sized images and is really easy to navigate. Thumbnails get on my nerves, as do slideshows. Artist fly through reels of environments or character aren’t great as they take up my time at a pace I cannot control without being able to see the detail. Also, think about what software is needed to view a showreel. Will the viewer have it (don’t think – “they should”, what if they don’t? – put it on youtube or vimeo, problem solved). At one job I had, I could not view CG Society portfolios due to my company server’s firewall setting against social networking sites and nudity. Other companies have the same server settings to stop people wasting time on facebook and watching porn. This makes CG society a bad way to show your work, as some clients will not be able to see the portfolio. Try Photobucket or Flickr instead.
  • THE BEST WAY TO SHOW AN ART PORTFOLIO: I like simple websites where I can simply scroll down with my mouse and see a selection of render, wireframe, texture maps, render, wireframe, texture map etc for each image. Screen sized and simple. Nothing can go wrong then.
  • Keep it simple # 2: Samples. Each sample must show a specific skill. Before you include a sample in your demo think about what it shows you can do. Individual samples are best kept simple and clutter free. If you’ve modelled a 3d character don’t put them in an environment, show the environment separately. Just light them well and keep them on a blank background, ideally from a few angles. If you’ve textured a 3d model then show the texture map independently as well.
  • Don’t steal. It’s Naughty.  And it won’t get you a job. The industry is small enough to make plagiarism a risky business (and lets face it, if it gets you through the interview you won’t last long in the job). If you have used someone else’s work with their permission i.e. you have animated someone else’s model, that’s fine just make sure you state what’s yours and what’s not. On a lighter note, for you juniors especially, tutorials are really good way of improving your skills but if you put them in your demo people will recognise them. And then they will point and laugh.
  • NDA. Non disclosure agreements should be respected, but incomplete portfolios and demos are useless to job finders. Saying that “I have stuff I can show at interview” is not good enough. You will not get to interview unless you show your best work. You should take copies of your work as you do it and then you can show work once a game is released. You should, as a serious artist or animator, also do your own personal work, so that if you really can’t show the one game you’ve worked on, you have your own work to show. Please don’t tell me that you are too busy to do your own work  (I refer you to the excuses section above). A good solution if you have sensitive material to show is to put the reel / portfolio online and password protect it. Vimeo.com reels can be password protected. Photobucket.com portfolios can be password protected. Flickr.com portfolios when set to private can only be viewed by people with the URL.
  • The ultimate way to show your work is the have a breakdown associated with your reel/portfolio, particularly if you have no other way to show work except through screenshots.  Clients like a breakdown as this makes it extremely clear as to what is your work and what is not.  It also shows your diligent and have thought this through previously

Ok,so now I’ll just briefly outline what we need from the more specified showreel.And of course if you are an all-rounder all of this will be of interest, butfor some of you only certain advice will apply. Pick and choose as you please…

Concept Art

Some companies employ artists purely as 2d conceptartists, others expect all their artists to contribute to the initial artistic concepts. Either way the same rules apply. By its very nature concept art will be original, artistic, and push the boundaries of what has been seen in games previously BUT it must be USABLE and RELEVANT. You must show the conceptual journey from that initial idea that has been festering away at the back of your mind to a finished character/ environment/or level that will be useful for the rest of the art team and work well in a game. If things start getting a bit surreal, have a break and play some computer games. That’ll help you reign your ideas back in and make them more ‘workable’. A small selection of freehand work is always useful (concept artists must always be able to draw) maybe showing life drawing, still life etc. However the bulk of your work must be games relevant and can be done either free hand, or in Photoshop etc. Start with a couple of concept sketches – these can be as zany or sketchy as you like. If you are working on a character show them in action, in their environment, showing different emotions etc. Then develop that character fully. Show themfrom a few angles (front side and back), in a couple of different outfits. Colour them well. Your final piece would, in the work setting, be the basis for the 3d modellers to work from, giving them a guide for proportions etc. Texture maps will be created from your work so detail is required.

When it comes to compiling your concept demo remember tojust include your best pieces, but key pieces that illustrate the development of the original idea to finished character/ environment/ vehicle/ weapon etc.

3d Artists /Modellers

Ify ou are going for a general artist position it is best to include a mixture of character and environment models.  As a general rule versatility is valuable. Of course if you are going for a specific Character or Environment modeller role just show the relevant pieces. On each model it is best to explain what software and how many polygons were used. Wireframes & texture maps should be shown separately as well as on models. Proportions are very important and can make or break a model. The Internet is a very valuable resource. Collect pictures of people with a wide range of body shapes and use them as a reference guide for building models. The same goes for cars and buildings, and organic models such as trees and plants. Take as long as you need to make your model excellent. In a work setting you’ll have to work faster but don’t worry about that until you get the job.

  • Character modellers

It is important to not only model your character well, with a great sense of proportion, but also to make it interesting. When you are making your own models you have complete freedom, so go crazy. A couple of tips though. Always include some sort of human character in your reel. Monsters are all very well but you must show that you can model with a good sense of proportion. The only way of doing that is by modelling a human figure (so we have a frame of reference). Once you have that out of the way then model fantasy creatures. But steer clear of Robots if you can. For characters let’s see a warrior, a soldier, a sports athlete and an out of shape fat guy. Games relevant characters that you see in Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

  • Environment Modellers

Buildings,cars, organic objects and landscapes. It is best to have a selection of these things if you can. Real world environments must look real and fantasy environments must look interesting.  Textures are incredibly important especially when you are building low poly buildings or cars. Put your texture maps in separately. And don’t think that cars and buildings need to look too pristine, nice scuffed up cars and buildings always look good and can show excellent use of texture. Please just model things that you would be likely to see in games. I have never seen a 6ft mobile phone or a giant Rolex watch in agame and probably never will. So keep them out of your reel please. People who get jobs in studios usually have at least 3 or 4 completed environment sets orcharacters on their portfolios. What gets used in games? For environments create the interior of dungeons, spaceships, battlefields, jungles. If your portfolio isn’t complete or games relevant then make one of each perhaps? Include some separate props such as barrels, guns, chairs too.

  • Texturing.

Justa quick word on texturing. While a lot of companies do use photo-based texturesit is always great to see hand drawn textures in a portfolio. They showartistic talent and are a valuable asset to employers. You never know when you’ll have to texture something you can’t get a picture of, or you may end up working on a cartoon style title. Texture tiles are important in anyone’s portfolio.


Again,the golden rule is ‘keep it simple’. Huge animation files that need to be downloaded don’t get the best results, simply because employers don’t have time. Keep the reels short (under 2 minutes) and no contact details please. The basic, and most important component of your animation reel is the humble walkcycle. Create a walk cycle with a great sense of weight and timing and loop it well. That is the first step. Only then include run cycles and characters being shot, getting in and out of cars, doing somersaults or the funky chicken. If you are going to animate a character with a limp please only do so after you have animated a character without one. The characters personality must come through their movements, I want to know what they are like.  Fly- bys andwalk- thoughs don’t really count. A good tip is to get a piece of dialog from film or tv and then get two characters act it out. If you can bring this sceneto life in an original way, you’re in. Flair and humour really help.

A good tip for an animation reel is to put in thefollowing...

 a) Walk cycle of a lifelike model starting from a standing position. When stillI want to be able to see the character breathing and blinking. Start him off moving at a walk and then pick up his pace to a run, and then back down to awalk and stop after missing his bus.

 b) Show the same model sitting down. Have him get up and pick up a very heavybox, lift it up and put it on a high shelf. Once the box is on the shelf, climbup and sit next to it. I want to see the strain and effort in the body language and facial expressions.

 c) Find a 30 second extract of dialog from a film, tv show etc. Animate two characters acting this dialog out.


 d) I also find that clients like to see fast moving, realistic view sequences with lots of high kicks, twists, turns, running, jumping and landings are also well received.

If you can convincingly animate the above your reel will be very strong.

FX Artists

FX artists with games relevant reels are as rare as hen’s teeth and I can place good ones who understand what you need in videogames without a problem. Unfortunately for me, the reels I see are usually well wide of the mark. I need to see explosions, running water, still water, wind effects, weather, more explosions, lightning, fog,  magic spells beingcast, fire spreading, smoke, fireballs impacting, ghosts moving etc. Again, make a dedicated games particle effects reel and I can place you.

User Interface Artists

I get lots of applications from web designers and graphic designers who think their design portfolio will get them a job as a UserInterface (UI) Artist. It will not. I don’t want to see the kitchen / gardencentre website you made, nice as it is thanks. Print portfolios are equally useless. I need to see games menu screens, heads up display (HUD) examples and game icons. What do you see on the screen in a videogame that you interact with? Ammo bars, health bars, direction arrows, hint buttons, control screens, loading screens. Play the latest games, look at what UI artists are doing, and do that in your own way. Make it relevant to genre too, e.g. Fantasy games, Sci-fi games, Kids Games etc. and have lots of different examples of styles.Show range and adaptability. If you are going for a UI role in a console studio, then show console relevant work. If the role is mobile, then show mobile size please.

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