Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

Creating a Reel: An Art Director's Point of View

If you are a traditionally trained artist, you probably have a portfolio of your work that you use to show prospective employers or clients the depth of your capability and creativity. Your traditional art and design work is important and should be included in your presentation.

As you begin to use digital tools to create imagery, your portfolio will expand to include a videotape of your 3D work. This is your reel, which takes it name from the pre–video-tape days when an animator carried an actual reel of film with clips of animation spliced together to create an ongoing record of his work. How the content of your reel is structured is important, but not as important as the content itself. A few simple ideas about how to structure your reel will help you avoid some of the problems seen in reels from experienced artists as well as beginners.

Next I'll cover the things that I look for as an art director in the reels and portfolios that come from artists seeking work in our studio.

Show Off the Basics

The first thing I want to see from an artist, regardless of experience level, is an understanding and practice of the basic principles and elements of design and image development discussed in this article. I'm especially concerned with composition, ability to create mood and atmosphere through lighting, use of color and contrast to create depth, use of the fundamental principles of animation, and so on. Showing me a well-lit, creatively animated bouncing ball that reveals an artist's imaginative and unique use of 3D tools is more powerful and relevant than imagery that tries to hide its deficiencies behind roller-coaster camera moves and a techno-pop sound track.

Show off your commitment to the basic principles and elements of image development by including those pieces in your reel that show that you understand pre-visualization, modeling, material development, lighting, effects, and animation.

Show Your Artistic Intellect

Art directors want to see how you think visually. Be prepared to show the sketches or pre-visualization work that you did to support your production development. The quality level of the drawing is not the only important thing; the key factor is the thinking behind the drawings, which communicates your ideas.

Reveal your understanding of the science, physics, anatomy, and so forth behind the objects, effects, and animation you are creating. Producers want animators who can think, reason, and solve problems through their curiosity and ability to think outside the box. Show how you relate your experience and perception of the amazing world around you to your work as a digital artist.

Show Your Experiments

Showing experimental work in your portfolio and reel reveals your willingness to explore. This highlights a certain critical curiosity and questing nature important for developing as a digital artist. Even if the experiments aren't completely successful, the message that you send by showing the work is that you are a person searching for new ways of doing things, and the results of those experiments will show up in your production work later. Think of exploration and experimental work as practice or rehearsal; when the curtain rises on a new project in your studio, you'll be able to perform.

I value this attribute in the artists that I work with. Creating experimental work, outside the confines of production, is important and necessary to your success as a digital artist. Always have a side project in progress, exploring some new facet of the creative and technical possibilities of digital tools, and show that in your reel and portfolio.

Show Your Cinematic Style

Cinematic style is created when you apply the principles of cinematography to your image development. One way to show your individual sense of design and cinematic style or taste is to avoid the herky-jerky camera moves and mind-numbing sound tracks seen in most reels from beginning and experienced digital artists. I usually look at reels with the sound turned off on the monitor anyway. This allows me to focus on the animation without the extra sensory input from the sound track. Unfortunately, bad camera moves can't be turned off. Use good taste in your music selection, allow the music to support the story of your work, and let your camera moves in your shots be appropriately animated.

Show Your Best Work

Every artist's work shows his current level of capability and creativity. A reel should contain two to three examples of your best work; show specific expertise in the areas of animation in which you want to work. Augment your reel with a 2D portfolio showing other fundamental skills, such as the use of color, drawing ability, and so on. Having the advice and guidance of a professional mentor as you create your first reel is the best way to learn what to show and what not to show.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020