VFX Portfolio Advice

So to continue the topic of choice at the moment I wanted to start a thread with some general advice about making a first time student VFX demo reel. Maybe after we’ve had a bit of a discussion about the best advice to give we could get it stickied up as a resource for future students to refer to?

firstly two great videos of talks from GDC with general advice:
Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer 2016
Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer 2017

  • Get to the point quickly - we want to see the work first, titles and intro nameplates etc. are all just getting in the way between the viewer and the work - as a final image include your contact details, once I’ve seen your work is good, then I want to know who you are.

  • Branding - better still, include your name and contact details on every frame of your reel, subtly as a small watermark or below the work, you never know when someone might screenshot your work to share with their colleagues and with no names, there’s no way of getting it back to you.

  • Camera work - be critical, clear and concise with your camera work - show off your work as best as possible. Not too far away from the action, not so close as parts go out of shot etc. Show multiple angles if you think the effect needs that to show it off as best as possible, but don’t just show 3-4 angles just because you’re trying to fill time on your reel.

  • Timing - speaking of timing, 2-3 rounds of a single bursting effect is fine, 3-6s of a looping effect is fine, don’t spend ages showing the same thing - people can always rewind your reel and watch it again (and they will if you’re work is good)

  • Backgrounds - currently a hot topic of discussion, the general consensus seems to be: where possible, show your work in context - use engine demo assets to create small test levels if needed. VFX in games are very rarely seen in isolation. That said, don’t waste time building a lot of cool environments - if you’re applying for VFX roles then it’s your VFX work that you’re being judged on, not your environment modelling.

  • Music - another controversial topic, personally I’m not a fan of people including music on their reel. Good musical timing and integration to a reel can be very impressive but, again, you’re not being hired as an audio designer. If you do include it make sure it’s not offensive - no dubstep or death metal please. 99% of people will turn your music off anyway so don’t waste time with it.

  • Length - be critical of your own work. You will be judged based on the worst piece in your reel, so if you’re not happy with a piece then take some time to refine/polish it to a point you’re happy with it or just cut it. Personally 30-60s is plenty for a first time application. Less is more - a few good pieces stands out much better than a lot of average pieces.

  • Breakdowns - include breakdowns of your work if and where appropriate. Use a second video if you need to. Seeing texture flats overlaid on the video or a breakdown of the vfx emitter by emitter is a great way to show what you’ve done and your technical knowledge.
    eg. Watermelon Explosion Breakdown
    Texture Overlaid LoL Example

  • Presentation - lastly the most important: do take the time and care to present your work well. Good work presented badly isn’t good work anymore.

  • Website - lastly a nice simple one - get an Artstation account, upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo and link them to Artstation. Simple, clean, clear and effective - no blogs or super flashy websites etc. Keep things simple and let the work speak for itself.


My thoughts on the topic: