Thursday, 27 January 2011


From Pixar

How to Create a Demo Reel

1) An application that requires a demo reel submission has 4 parts:

  1. the cover letter
  2. the resume
  3. the demo reel
  4. the demo reel breakdown

The cover letter can (and should) be brief. The resume should tell us where you've worked, what you did when you worked, what kind of coursework you've had, and what tools, languages, and systems you can use. The demo reel breakdown is really essential (see #6, below).

2) Your reel should be no more than 4 minutes.

Just like a resume is no more than 2 pages unless you've been CEO or a senator. If you have a lot of great a 4 minute version, and then refer to longer pieces afterwards if you get that far into the process. "For the entire short see..."

Don't do a "collage" of your work, with interleaved random clips from all your different work. No, no, no. We won't be able to figure out what's going on. DO give each piece the time it deserves, no more nor less, and just show it once. Keep it simple.

3) Don't show un-approved work.

Don't show work from other studios if it has not been approved or we will not look at the demo reel.

4) Nobody cares about music/soundtrack.

We typically turn off the sound, but sometimes we listen to it and get really annoyed if we don't like your taste in music. Keep it basic or leave it off. For animators, showcase the dialog without background music if possible.

5) Put your best work first.

If the first 30 seconds of your reel aren't impressive, chances are the rest of the reel won't be seen so show your best, most impressive work first -- presumably the work you are specifically applying for. Make it clear on your demo reel, cover letter, and resume what type of position you're applying for. Don't try to change your demo reel because our website says we only need, say, lighting TD's now, either. Say what you're good at and make your reel demonstrate that.

6) Demo Reel Breakdown (DRB).

We want to know what you did on this reel. Here's a shot of a Luxo lamp jumping over a ball. Did you model the lamp? Do the animation? Shade it? Light it? Render it? Write the story? Executive-produce it? The DRB should tell us what we're looking at, what YOU did on it, and what tools you used.

"Sleeping ball: (June 2003) Group project; I shaded the plastic sphere in Slim/Renderman" is a good entry.

"Group project; project used Maya, Slim, Renderman, and Perl" is less useful.

Put this on the frame before the sequence and again in the DRB we can refer to. We often fall behind in reading your DRB; help us keep track of what you're showing. If you have two dozen entries, number the DRB and put numbers on the reel, too - we may not know the difference between your "Sleeping ball" animation and the opus you call "Lazy Sphere".

7) Include a title card at the beginning and end with your name, address, phone, and email.

Including the position you're looking for is not a bad idea, either. The opening one doesn't need to be on too long, but the end one should last for a while. Don't make people desperately pause to get your email address.

8) Show work that proves that you know what you did.

If you've done a sequence, show it at several stages of production. If you've done shading, show the basic color pass, the procedural shading, the painting, and a lit version. If you wrote clever software, include real work that was done with the software, and include on the title card, like, "Implemented simulation of Segway dynamics" in addition to everything else you did. Don't show screen shots of people using the software or screen grabs of C++ code.

9) Take the time to polish.

It seems silly, but people get in such a rush to get the reel out the door, they lose sight of the big picture. THIS IS HOW YOU WILL GET A JOB. And since it's a job in a visual industry -- it should LOOK really, really good. Don't use clashing colors. Make sure your shaders are anti-aliased. Make sure your lights aren't blown out too bright. Make it clear what we're looking at. Don't use confusing fonts. Keep it clean and simple!

10) Show it to other people.

Have other people critique it. Not necessarily the work on it, but the way you're presenting your work. (Though getting critiques of the work on it is a great idea, too.) If a bunch of people are working on their reels at the same time, have a Reel Showing one night.

11) If you really don't have stuff to put on a reel, don't send one.

Well-presented still images can be as effective as moving pictures.

Make sure you understand the Submission Process as defined in the Job Description, understand the Submission Guidelines, and include a link that points us directly to your dazzling new demo reel!

Apprenticeships at Pixar Canada: Role Descriptions

What do the different roles mean at Pixar Canada?

Technical Artists

In Pixar's production process the term "TD" means Technical Artist. There are four main categories: Modeling & Rigging, Shading, Visual Effects, and Lighting.

    Modeling & Rigging
    The Modeling/Rigging TD will build either character or set models from concept artwork. Character Modelers rig and skin the models so that they can be animated. Set Modelers model the geometry of sets and props, as well as assemble these models into fully dressed sets. The modeler will construct shapes of the digital character or set in a 3D modeling software, such as Maya, then convert the models for use in our proprietary animation suite.
    The Shading TD works alongside Modelers and Lighters to create the look of characters, sets, and other objects in the film. All textures and materials are developed by hand and must integrate into the Pixar worlds. The shading is created with RenderMan shaders, using a mixture of painted and procedural textures, along with sophisticated illumination models.
    Visual Effects
    The Visual Effects TD works to create visual effects in the animated film. Visual effects work often includes aspects of modeling, simulation, animation, shading, lighting, rendering and compositing for the visual effects elements of the shot. Visual effects work often includes simulation of dynamics and natural phenomena, as well as animation of effects elements either done by hand, or using procedural techniques.
    The Lighting TD creates the lighting of sets and characters in each shot of the animated film. Lighting makes the images look attractive, rich and interesting. It does this while conveying the mood, directing the viewer's attention to key story points, and ensuring that important actions are visible and easy to understand. A love of photography can be a great foundation for lighters. Lighting involves the placement and adjustment of lights in Pixar's lighting system, as well as the use of compositing tools to further enhance the appearance of the rendered image.

Layout Artists (3D)

3D Layout Artists continue the visual story telling that has started in storyboarding. The tool that they use to tell the story is the CG camera. Akin to a cinematographer in film, 3D layout Artists create a sequence of shots with the use of camera composition, timing, and movements. These factors must guide the viewer's eye through the scene according to the Director's vision.


Animation is not merely moving an object. Animation brings the object to life and gives it a personality. The animator creates motions, gestures, and expressions of 3D characters and objects. Animators must know their character's motivation and back story, then use CG animation tools to "act" them out for the viewer.

Apprenticeships at Pixar Canada: Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Apprentice at Pixar Canada?
The Apprentice role is intended for new or recent graduates (from relevant programs) with zero to one year of work experience. An Apprentice works on films produced at Pixar Canada, and will have the opportunity to learn from our creative and talented team. All our Apprentice roles are paid full time positions. Apprentices also receive Pixar Canada's benefits package.
What types of Apprenticeships are offered?
Pixar Canada offers Apprenticeships in a variety of departments including Animation, Layout, Modeling/Rigging, Shading, Lighting and Visual Effects. Check out the Apprentice Role Descriptions for more information.
What is the length of the Apprenticeship?
The duration of the Apprenticeship is a maximum of one year and is based in one department.
When do you hire Apprentices?
We hire Apprentices throughout the year depending on our film requirements. It is best to refer to our to find out our current openings.
How many Apprenticeships are available?
This very much depends on our production requirements. We will generally have two to six at any given time.
What can an Apprentice expect when they start at Pixar Canada?
Following a new hire orientation, apprentices will go through extensive training to learn about our proprietary software and job specific skills. Once training is completed, an apprentice will work with Pixar Canada employees and contribute as full team members. Apprentices will be producing shots/assets for the film while continuing to learn "on the job". Apprentices will be evaluated during their time with Pixar Canada and will be considered for ongoing employment.
Is there an opportunity for an Apprentice to be converted to a regular full-time employee on completion of their Apprenticeship?
How and when should students/recent graduates apply?
Our Apprenticeships will be posted on our website typically two to four months prior to the intended start date. As these are posted throughout the year, please continue to check our website for information. International students are welcome to apply. Please note that any offer is subject to the applicant's ability to obtain the appropriate work permit to work in Canada.
What is the best way to show my work?
Your resume should highlight your areas of interest, any relevant work experience, and your education information. A cover letter should describe your interests and experience with respect to the position, and why you are fit for this position. For more information, have a look at these tips for Putting Together a Strong Demo Reel.

Apprenticeship Tips: Putting Together a Strong Demo Reel

Check out the Demo reel guidelines on the main jobs page to get information about how to set up your reel. However, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the time you spend on your demo reel.

General Guidelines

  • Student reels should be no more than 2 minutes TOPS!
  • Do your research. Find reference material from film and photos.
  • Show you! We want to see your personality coming through in your work.
  • Focus. Make sure you focus your reel on the role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for an Layout Apprentice, show Layout, not modeling and lighting.
  • Keep it Simple. Over-complicating shots/designs may lose the viewer's focus on your core skills.

Specific Role Guidelines

  • Always have a reason to move your camera. Unmotivated camera moves are distracting.
  • Make sure you are happy with your camera angles, cuts, and timing.
  • Pay attention to composition of shots. What are you trying to tell your viewer?
  • Study the work of great cinematographers.... They are your mentors.
  • Test your cut on other people. Do they understand it? If not, change it.
  • Don't feel like you have to make your own concepts. Use designs that have been created by professional designers.... It will make your models better.
  • If you use your own designs, create detailed drawings (front, side, and 3/4 drawings). It will make the process much smoother.
  • Know everything about what your character does, who they are, and what happens on your set. This will help you make design choices.
  • Model environments to a camera so that you only build what we will see.
  • It is best to build characters with conventional proportions as they are easier to rig and animate.
  • Study anatomy and find out where animals bend, rotate, and how the skin moves over bone.
  • Shoulders are the hardest part to rig on a character. Take your time with skinning this part.
  • Test your rig out. Ask an animator to help make sure it holds up to the movements we would expect.
  • Don't build in crazy expressions that no one would ever use. Ask an animator what they need and then build those expressions into your rig.
  • New shiny environments do not offer the opportunity to test your skills with materials. We like things to be rusty, dirty, and scratched. This is also truer to life than clean and brand new!
  • Try models with multiple materials, not just metal, but also leather, skin, glass, and hair.
  • Paint your own textures. Don't rely on scans or photos.
  • Remember to create a story that sells your skills. Think outside the regular format for your project. Consider two short films or a few vignettes - they don't have to be long.
  • Know the story point and emotional quality of every shot, as well as your character's development through the story.
  • Watch for blank areas in the middle of a face as they reduce the punch of facial animation.
  • Some things are hard to animate. Choose wisely when deciding want to incorporate: E.g, Two characters interacting (fighting, hugging, pulling), weight change (heavy objects, pulling, buoyancy, falling & contact, gravity), emoting, dialogue.
  • Film yourself doing the actions in your project.
  • Use dynamics efficiently and only when it's worthwhile.
Visual Effects
  • Show more than a particle or fluid effects right out of the box.
  • Find a way to make your explosion, liquid, hair, or dust have a personality.
  • Accurate timing and weight is everything. Make sure you pay particular attention to this.
  • Show more than one type of effect in order to show a breadth of skill and knowledge.
  • Show the breakdown and your process of creating the effect.
  • See if you can create stylized fire, water, hair...something that would fit into the Pixar world.
  • Lighting is not just about allowing us to see a scene. It’s directing our eye and making a statement about mood.
  • Lighting needs to have a sound foundation in order to be effective. Use good models that are well textured and shaded.
  • You should attempt interior and exterior, as well as day and night setups in your reel.
  • Consider using a design or photograph to recreate an exact lighting style.
  • Be sure your lighting doesn't cause a shot to flatten out. Find a way to separate foreground and background.
  • Make sure to have your camera move a bit in your scene so that we know you did not doctor your lighting in Photoshop!

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