Five common mistakes to avoid when making a character animation demoreel

More & more animation studios are looking for animators who excel at character animation in a more realistic way. Recruiters at VFX, video game & animation studios find it hard to locate candidates with adequate character animation experience as demo reels with strong character animation is very hard to come by these days. If you are looking to enter the industry as a character animator, then this post is for you. We bring you the five most common mistakes candidates make when they create a character animation demoreel.

The speed doesn’t match the size

Nothing can destroy a shot quicker than having something extraordinarily large moving across the screen too fast. For example, while designing a dragon or a large gorilla, it can be difficult to comprehend just how much time the character needs in its movements. This is especially relative when the creature is starting an action, changing direction, or coming to a stop. Remember, there is no correct timing for all characters. They are all unique. They have different sizes, shapes & emotions – things that radically affect the speed of their movements. But the basic rules will always apply. Something too heavy will take time to move while something light will move faster.

Don’t let your imagination run wild

Designing a quadruped alien? First step is to research & observe how quadrupeds move. Grounding your fictional characters in real world characters is the key to get your audience to accept your character. Sometimes we see characters that look like real world animals but move nothing like them. However, your demoreel is no place to be pulling off stunts like that. If you have a horse running around like a lizard, chances are that the recruiter will just move on to the next demoreel.


A direct replica of live action reference will look good. But will it be great? May be not. Your job as a character animator compels you to think about reference, but copying frame-by-frame is a big mistake. Sure, your goal is realism, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore subtle exaggeration. It is this exaggeration that will take your character out of the realm of being rotoscoped. Your goal should be to exaggerate the movements in such a way that the character becomes exciting & memorable.

The animation is too ‘clean’

Working to create realistic characters means you will need to have a higher level of complexity. Add some dirt to specific curves in a way that feels real. Overlap the actions to make sure they affect (and are affected) by each other. Have the courage to have a slightly less perfect pose or arc at specific moments. But make sure this ‘messiness’ is very subtle & present only when required. Try to add little details, secondary actions, tiny overlapping actions, muscles firing & relaxing, etc. on your creature.

Inconsistent style

Very often on a demoreel, we see a large creature coming along & doing something cartoonier than the previous few seconds & then return to big-heavy-creature mode. The middle of the shot will have faster movements or overly stylized poses in comparison to the rest of the scene. This must never happen. Anytime you are animating, always remember that consistency is a big part of what you are trying to show on your demoreel.

A good course will not only teach you the required skills, but also train you for these details that will help you secure your dream job. But you too have to make a little effort. Choose the right animation institute with credible history, well-designed courses, and trained faculty. And you could be on your way to fame in no time.

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