It's that time of year again... The time when I look at my current reel through finger covered eyes and cringe. That's mainly as each year, like every artist your older work doesn't live up to your current stuff. It's also means trying to get footage etc out of this last 12 months clients that I can use in my reel. now if that goes the way it usually does, then by the time they actually clear me to use it, it'll either be too late, or I'll have better stuff to use by then.
It's time to fire up the render engines and start rendering some of the hellishly long render times I have ahead of me. I can't say I like that as it turns my office into a sauna. I'm rendering everything on a single machine as I cannot afford to tie up both (or my 'spare'...mainly as my 'spare' is missing a graphics card at the moment lol.) I also like to keep a machine clear even when works thin on the ground for doodles and making special things for a reel. I always like to throw a couple of things in that haven't been widely seen.
My Advice for What its Worth:
Its less about making a reel people will go 'wow' over in the 3d industry, but more a reel that people who actually hire me go 'wow' at. as nice as you all are, you don't pay my wages so on that side of things a client or prospective clients opinion is far more important. For those just starting out making their 1st or 2nd reel I'll advise one thing. Forget what other artists think of you on seeing your reel. They do not pay your wages and are your direct competitors.
You have to make a choice right at the start when your mkaing a demo reel, are you want to impress other artists, or protential clients? If it is for clients then modesty is for another time, not for a reel that has the sole purpose of selling yourself. You're not making one so other artists like it, but rather so a potential client will look at it and what to hire you over the next guy. While the quality of the actual models is of prime importance there is nothing wrong with selling yourself. Do not listen to those who are either too scared of what others will think if they 'sell themselves' or think that we should all sit like humble monks doffing our hat to clients with modesty. There is a time for modesty, but when you are trying to make a living is not one of them.
There is such a thing as taking it too far. There's a big difference between making the very best of what models, footage and achievements you have and coming across as a total dick. By all means promote your big achievements that you may have over competitors. But do not proclaim yourself 'god of 3d' unless you want to sit wondering why your not getting any work coming in. While I will promote everything I can in my reels to the hilt (as my site is my shop window), most people find when meeting me or talking to me that I have a rather pragmatic view of my art and career. While I am confident in what I do, as you need to be as a professional artist, I like to think in real life or work situations that I come across as a nice normal (ish) guy.
So finding that balance is crucial. So while I will use every trick in the book to make my reel come across as the best thing since sliced bread (as should you all as well), I feel I've got to a stage where my work and achievements speak for themselves. For example while my last proper reel was the one I made in about 2 hours for the Autodesk masters award nearly 3 years back and was very 'pushy', my next one will be a bit more laid back. Although while some other artists detest that reel, clients ate it up. Although its prime purpose was purely for that one event...it just stuck around a bit longer than i thought it would lol.
Personally I know who I see as being the more important people to impress. Impressing your peers comes 2nd. But remember what PT Barnum said over a hundred years ago:
"You can please some of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time"
So my advice to those making a reel is to put your very best foot forward, promote what you have as well as you can and the achievements you may have made. But beware of that fine balance.... on one side of the eternal razors edge are clients coming to hire you, on the other side is coming over as a total dick who no one would hire if you were the last artist alive. Walk the line with care.