Making a demo reel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took far more effort and far more time than I ever thought it would. So today, I’d like to break down how I did it in hopes that it would help someone else do the same thing easier.
Why do you want to make a demo reel?
The first thing you need to figure out is why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? Take your time answering this. Don’t just write something that sounds good or say something that people want to hear. Be honest with yourself. Why make a demo reel? Who is it for? I made a sound design reel because I wanted to make a positive impact on the world through sound. I wanted to use my ability to impact the medium I love which is games. The answer you come up with has to be genuine and your truth. Making a demo reel is hard work and if you’re not sure why you’re doing it or if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s likely you either won’t complete the project or the quality will be poor. Find your why.
How long should your reel be?
If you ask 15 sound designers this question you are likely to get 10 different answers. My philosophy is simple. Make it as short as possible. You don’t need 15 minutes of sound design to show you are good at sound design. Keep it as short as possible. To me, around 60 seconds should be enough to display your abilities in multiple games, and capture your style.
How do you pick the content for your reel?
This connects with your why and the length of your reel. You should be picking games that match your style and keeping in mind how much time you have to demonstrate your abilities. I picked three indie games that I thought would showcase my abilities the best and demonstrate to others what I can do. The games I selected were Shu, Kamiko, and Horizon Chase Turbo.
How do you record sounds for your reel?
I’m going to assume you already have enough gear to do this. A working computer, some recording software, and a recording device. If you don’t have that then I recommend taking a look at this article. It’s not perfect, but it gives you a starting point to build off of. This isn’t a sound technology article, but if you are just starting out and want to record sound, start with what you can afford and go from there. Don’t wait half a year to buy the prefect tech, do what you can as soon as possible.
Now, when it comes to recording sounds to complete your reel you have to know what you actually need. Let’s use my reel as an example. Here are my notes for Horizon Chase Turbo.
So I watched the clip I was using for my demo reel over and over and wrote down all the sounds I needed. Then I’d give separate sections to each sound and write down my progress for each sound. Here are my notes for I.Car Engine Sounds
This may seem like gibberish, but it makes sense to me. I worked on the time I needed the sound to be, the variances in volume, and wrote down the different takes I made and a couple comment on what I liked about them.
Making engines sounds was new for me. So I looked up different articles and videos and tried different methods. Here’s a cool one from YouTube
I repeated this process over and over for each sound. Some sounds were easy to make and I had lots of experience like Number 4, picking up gas. Others were a pain and hard to figure out like Number 2, Drifting Sounds. What I needed to do kept changing, but the process was the same. Think of what would sound best, and record what you need to make it happen. Don’t know how to make it happen? Look up articles and YouTube videos from people who’ve already done this.
Now make your reel!
I hope I’ve brought some value and inspired you to make your demo reel. This topic can honestly be an entire book. And maybe one day I’ll write it. For now, hopefully this article will do. Have any follow up questions for me? Comment below or message me on Twitter or Instagram. My handle is @ ECreatesAudio.