Pete Leonard, outsource manager at VFX firm RealTimeUK, shares his tips for what makes a good developer showreel.
There are a few key factors we look for in candidates when we’re hiring – but the quality of someone’s work is always the critical foundation on which we then judge everything else. So here are some things I suggest budding artists should look to do, and think about when presenting their reels.
Only your best work should be presented. Anything else doesn’t represent your current skill level, and keeping it allows hiring managers to potentially question how good your eye is. So, don’t be afraid to cut old content. Quality over quantity every time, don’t fill your reel with old work because you’re worried it’s going to be too short.
Decide on both a specialism and then also two-to-three areas or styles within that specialism. It makes you more practical and attractive to hiring managers who look for specific gaps in their teams (such as a realistic environment artist who has lots of experience building large scale vistas, or a character artist who can produce photoreal work). Tailoring what you present and how you present yourself takes the guesswork out of why we should hire you. Plus, it is always a very good sign when people have clear career goals or direction that they are following.
Opinions matter so be sure to seek them out from professionals in the industry. The two best ways to do this are to engage with relevant social media platforms like Artstation, but also events where you can meet leads in the industry (the people who do the hiring and know what they look for). They’ll be able to give you honest, informative feedback which will cut right to the chase of what you have that works, and more importantly, what you need to improve your work.
As well as the opinions of other professionals, compare your work to professional work in the field. In games, how does your work stack up against the top-tier products that are relevant to your style(s) of work? If it’s CG or film, what quality are your assets compared with people who have worked on these trailers/films/shows and so on? You set yourself a bar that may seem high at first, but this is where you need to aim so you will be building a portfolio that moves in the right direction and, once again, will be appealing to hiring managers because it hits, or is at least close enough, to what they create to make it compelling to hire you!
Finally, it’s always a great idea to provide breakdowns and state your contributions to projects. A good breakdown really takes the guesswork not only on what you did but how you did it. Most importantly it shows a hiring manager where you could excel, and where you would need to have further development in your specialism (because you’ll have chosen one now… right?