Every Thursday at 1600 PST, unrepentant Canadians Kevin Regamey and Matt Marteinsson head over to Twitch to watch a couple of game audio demo reels, and it’s pretty much the only source of honest, professional feedback most people can get on their reels. Better than your roommate or your mom, actual audio leads who make hiring decisions providing insight, advice, and a good bit of praise. Smart critique is an important part of getting better at any creative craft, and in a specialized discipline, finding people with experience to judge your work is incredibly valuable. The fact that the chat has emoji support is only a bonus. Reels are tough. Most of us hate our old stuff, and know we can do better now. That’s usually true, but a reel will always be past work*, so make it the best it can be.
To do that, I’m a big fan of Kevin and Matt’s approach, and have pulled out a few notes from their dozens of critiques:
Reel Talk’s Rules for a Good Reel
- Keep it short. Aim for 1 minute. If it’s 2, it better be amazing. If it’s 3… don’t make it 3.
- Make it yours. Your work, your games, your music, your SFX, your redesigns. Class projects are fine, but not the same 3 demos everybody has seen.
- Clear titles and cards. Name, professional email, twitter, site, etc. on a card at the start and end. And please change the default iMovie or WMM font.
- Get right into it. Don’t do 10 seconds of titles or a long stinger. Punch in, show 1 minute, get out.
- Say what you did. This means lower thirds for each segment that describe what you’re showing and your role. Redesign/original score/game jam project/whatever. Don’t make the viewer guess which part is you.
- Don’t include other people’s work, and if you do, credit it. Work with someone else on this? Put their name, too. Capture this footage? Cite the game.
- Don’t include work you don’t like. Hate that redesign of Mirror’s Edge you did? Don’t include it just to fill time or because you “need to show it.”
- Don’t mix sound design and music. Even if you did both, feature one or the other, and if you didn’t do both, what’s other people’s work doing in your reel?
- Make your website look pro. This can be as simple as paying $15 for a domain (use Hover) or $100 a year for Squarespace (with promo code uh… listen to any podcast).
- No Blizzard. No Star Wars.
- Target your reel for the job you want. I mostly work in dialog, so my reel is mostly talking. Want a AAA gig? Show AAA style games. Want to be an indie darling? Throw a rock at Steam.
- Idiot check it. Really. Watch it on your TV. Listen on speakers, headphones, and earbuds. Make sure the mix is solid, and check your LUFS. Does the embedded player cover the lower thirds? Does the embed not work in Edge? Is your name spelled right? Is something missing? What about the ambiance? Is it suddenly in mono?
tl;dr: 1 minute of your best work. Put your name on it. Don’t mix music and SFX. Label everything.
*Blatantly stolen from guest host Gordon McGladdery on today’s episode of ‘Reel Talk’