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  • Putting Together a Compelling Resume and Demo

    [07.11.05]
    - Robin McShaffry

  • Professional References

    During your work experience or education, you will have gained the respect of team members, professors, mentors, and other people who can give a strong reference for your ability to do the job. Seek out between three and five of these people and present their contact information on a separate page from your resume. You should use people who are the most familiar with your work experience, so don't list relatives. Always ask permission from the people you use as references, and let them know they may be contacted. It is not necessary to use anyone who you don't think will give you a positive reference.

    Demo Reels

    For artists and designers, the demo reel stands equal in importance with the resume. A resume talks about a developer's experience, but the reel shows it. Both presentation, how a studio sees your work, and content, what a studio sees, are critical.

    The Medium

    The presentation of your reel can take many forms. Some game companies want artists to show their work on a web site and send the URL with the cover letter and resume. Others will accept a web site as the first step, but will also want to see a high-resolution demo on CD-ROM. The resolution and speed of a web site is often insufficient to show really fine detail; many art directors viewing demos are seeking a candidate with the chops to do movie-quality work. You may be asked to present your reel on VHS tape or DVD. Tapes or DVDs do not require a particular operating system or installed software to run -- just a player.

    Cover your bases by having a demo reel ready both on the web and on CD-ROM. There are also many video transfer services that can put a demo reel file onto VHS tape or DVD. Having a good reel file ready in multiple file formats (Quicktime, Real, Windows Media, for instance) is a good idea. You can present it on any media on short notice and prospective employers can view whatever file format they need with ease. The bottom line is to test your demo so that it can run on as many different systems as possible.

    Providing your demo on CD-ROM allows a greater opportunity to show the breadth and depth of your work. Many artists create Flash sites that will run off a CD. Others use HTML files to make their CDs more easily navigated. The clearer and more easily used your CD is, the better your results.

    Only the Best

    Now that you have determined how to best present your work, it's time to put the content together. The demo should be between two and five minutes long, and it should begin with your absolute best work. Just as your resume should start with a compelling summary, your demo should begin with the work that will keep the watcher watching. Your demo reel is one of many hundreds that your intended audience will play. Only the demos that stand out, are original, and show incredible skill and talent will be viewed to the end.

    Substance over style will get you hired. The strongest reels show a variety of genres and styles, illustrating your well-rounded talents. Animations should show unique moves on organic life forms. If your strengths are in modeling, show your unique models, textured and lighted, if you can. Strong texture artists should present a variety of textures and their uses. An environment artist would want to have a great fly-through of environments. Portraying different art styles is paramount. Save 2D art and stills for the end of your reel, but do show your strongest work there, as well, including life drawings or pencil sketches. Let your reel emphasize that you can do whatever the job needs you to do.

    Many game companies have very detailed descriptions of, or advice about, what they would like to see in a candidate's demo. Before you make or remake your demo, go see what your audiences, the game companies, are seeking. Be ready to submit specific pieces to a prospective employer to show that you can do the exact thing they want.

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