Demo reels, where to start…
Let’s make one thing clear, I am doing research at the moment and looking for the best way to approach making a demo reel. This means looking at countless of demo reels from both the cracks and the starters. All to find out what style fits me best.
That said as a teacher of game audio I of course have an opinion. I believe a demo reel should always have your best and diverse work!
I come from an era where it was common to send people a CD with your work. In 90% of the time this meant ending up on a “I should check this later!” pile of CD’s with the other 20 or so laying there. This was however an artefact left over from the music business and actually in no way a good way to go about in the game industry.
From what I’ve learned in the last 10 years is that there is no such things as “cold contacts” (acquisition without knowing someone personal) in the game industry. The industry I learned to love is like an extended family almost. People are almost always very friendly and welcome you with open arms to their group of likeminded people. For a newcomer this can be a little frightening as the game industry seems closed, or rather introvert.
I’ll tell it straight! Networking at parties, conventions, conferences, trade shows, you name it, gives you a way bigger shot at a new gig than sitting in your studio space and hoping that phone is going to ring! This means making time and investing money (GDC is not cheap I tell you…) to go to these get togethers, meeting other game audio people and game devs and getting to know each other. After a nice talk at the bar they just might remember you and your demo reel and will check it out faster then when they’ve received a business like email with a download link.
I’m stalling…I need to talk about making a demo and that’s hard.
Making a demo reel
As a composer AND sound designer for games I have spent a lot of time thinking how I’d want to approach my reel or reels. You want to have a choice what to show people depending on their interest. So after some contemplation and asking some of my colleagues I made up my mind and went with a separate demo for my music and one for my sound design. This way I could emphasize every detail of lets say the sounds I made and accompanied ambiences instead of it being washed over by music and the other way around where I’d have to make concessions to the music level as not to drown the sound effects.
The key I think when making a demo for what ever art is to keep it compact; show as much as possible in a vid of about 3 to max 5 minutes. When possible preferably shorter than longer.
Overall the people you are showing or sending your demo reel to don’t have the patience or attention span to listen through 10 minutes of material.
If you made a “draft” demo reel show it to someone and ask for feedback. I for one show my wife my demo reels before I polish them, she isn’t into gaming and I can safely say she tells it the way it is, however straightforward that may be (bless her).
If you have projects you worked on that used middleware like Fmod, Wise or Fabric you could also think about capturing a working middleware project so as to show your audience you’re more than a content provider.
Some other tip I got from colleagues over at a game audio chat was to emphasize in the clips what it is exactly you’ve worked on for that game. This way the person listening knows exactly what to listen for. Plus, I can imagine, has the added benefit of keeping your audience focused.
While writing this post I’ve already learned much again from watching other reels, talking to colleagues and so on. I hope you get something from this as well and perhaps have a little less stress while making your reels.
Time to get to business and freshen up those reels!