So bipedal rigs are the bare minimum most of us expect to see now. I mean, show one yes, but it’s the equivalent of “Do you have a highschool degree?” on the application form. Building the rig is pretty straight forward and eventually/often automated. So it’s just showing you have some good skin weighting and everything you can do beyond rigging. Fluid methods of FK and IK matching or transferring animation. Have you done clothing systems before and understand large mix and match libraries like that? Solving complex machines. Like I’ve got one in my reel of a functioning helicopter rotor system, where the pistons rotate the blades as the blades spins, and I show it working in engine as well which always goes over well in interviews.
That’s another part, showing you know how to hook up animate state trees if you are going for games. Show you know how to get that rig in engine and hook up collision and animations to it.
Most of the time I try to show something animated by a good animator first so they can see the end results, because that’s what it’s really about. Can you make something that animates well that animators like working with. Then I’ll show off the rig. The basics I usually fly through at 4X speed. Just enough to show you what choices I made for the type of setup. But them more complex facial rigs are interesting. Complex machinery. Wires or hair that was rigged. Procedurally rigged stuff. I would say aside from small studios, the days of saying I just rig characters is over. You have to build tools and functionality there. Show you have systems that let you iterate those rigs quickly when there are mesh changes or skeleton changes.
If you’re all characters, basic character rig is the starting point. Then you need to look at Naughty Dogs stuff. Where they build in stuff for muscle and clothing deformation. How they maintain volumes in the wrist while twisting and bending. Tying in normal maps blending in and out for things like the face, not just blend shapes. How to have blend shape driven deformation without necisarilly needing to export those blendshapes in engine. Rig a dress of a character. Rig a character with a cape. Rig a character with dangling straps. Then show off how the animation worked out. Make characters that have a lot of secondary motion options on them with what they are carrying or wearing. Make those parts dynamically animated. Particularly in a way that can be exported to a game engine where you need to blend transitions from one state to the next. (Dangling changes can’t be at one spot at the end of one animation and a different spot in the animation they need to blend into without a bunch of jank happening.)
Then, after all that, make a reel that’s no longer at 2 minutes at most. At least 1 minute, and if you don’t have that much shorter is better. And you have about the first 5 seconds to hook my attention as I slog through terrible reel after terrible reel. Show all your best stuff up front. This isn’t a tv show you are saving the finally till the end. This is a telemarketing call where you are trying to keep me from hanging up. If you have too much for a 2 minute reel, make multiple reels. One can be your highlights reel like a teaser trailer for a movie, but with all the action shots in it. Then make seperate reels, like here’s my character stuff, here’s my weapon stuff, here’s vehicles, here’s in engine setups, etc. Hook them with your sizzle reel and then they can check out the other ones they are interested in.
You can do music but keep it fairly neutral and don’t make it super loud. Half the time if not more your video will be muted or immediately muted to stop the music blaring out in the office (back when there were offices…) It’s fine to set the mood, but I’ve heard music that makes me wince. If you wouldn’t hear it out while shopping or something, maybe not here. Exception being if it’s from the game, like Doom or something, but take the volume down 25% at least.
Have your name and contact info at the end, because good chance we already forgot who you are and which resume this was tied to.
Lastly, target your audience. If you are applying to Respawn, then your reel better be a bunch of soldiers and weapons and clothing options that look as real as possible. Insomniac, you might want to have a bit of that but also some cartoony stuff. They are looking to hire people to make the content they need right now for the game they are working on. If your content doesn’t look like what they need to make, there’s going to be doubt whether you can do that style. That said, you can’t make everything and please everybody so pick your strengths, focus on the type of content you want to make and target those companies. Probably don’t send Turn 10 your character reel, unless the job opening is specifically for that. I can’t tell you how many reels I’ve looked at where I go “… what is this? Does this guy even know where he applied to?” It just is a waste of my time and honestly yours because instead of sending me random work, you could have been either targeting the right company or learning how to make better work. Which… if you want to apply to Respawn, and none of the content on your reel looks like it could be dropped in a respawn game… Then probably time to up your skills before applying (That said, not on modeling, texturing or animation. Get help there on the forums and stuff. Get a good model to start with. See if you can get an animator to play with your rig. Getting help isn’t cheating. It shows us you can work with other people which is all game development. But your rigging, skin weighting and deformations better be top notch.)