The Basic Framework of a Demo Reel Sept 11, 2018 23:02:52 GMT -8 LadyStardust, James, and 1 more like this
Post by Hnilmik on Sept 11, 2018 23:02:52 GMT -8
The Basic Framework of a Demo Reel
By The Numbers:
Recommended Total Runtime: 1-1.5 minutes
It used to be as long as 2 minutes years ago, but times have changed as the digital era created people with shorter attention spans. Keep it short. 1 minute alone should be enough.
Estimated Time Per Character/Voice: 6-8 seconds
The length of 6-8 seconds is roughly around 1-2-ish sentences, which should be enough time to develop a character. With your better performances, try to have them be longer than your weaker ones so they have more time to shine. It's not uncommon for a clip or two to be 10 seconds long if it's effective enough. But again, to put it in perspective, it has to be good if it's going to take up extra real estate in a demo only around a minute long; 10 seconds out of 60 is 1/6th of the whole demo.
Estimated Number of Voices: 7-10 unique characters/voices
While deciding on what 7-10 unique characters/voices to use, it's advised to have around 10-15 different clips to choose from. The more the better. That way, you aren't limited to what you recorded and you can have an easier time determining which are your best performances and which clips are weak or too similar to the others in order to not include them. Not only that, but you may be able to sneak in more voices if you're satisfied with the voices you have.
The Demo Itself:
What to Voice
Plan your demo reel around the voices you have at your disposal, like listing which voices you can do before doing it. Try having both extremes of your range so listeners can assume that you can do everything in between, which is handy if you can't fit everything you can do in your demo. Unique voices can be different parts of your range, accents that you're good at, textures you're comfortable with, or even simply just different characters. It's hard to describe the last one, but basically, it's possible to get away with using the same voice several times if you're capable of conveying a different character for each instance. There are professionals who have limited vocal range, but their versatile acting makes up for it. For instance, a sweet girl with a high voice is much different from an evil, demon-possessed monster with a high voice. Mix things up and combine these to make the possibilities seem endless, even though you don't necessarily have to make it so.
Avoid character impressions or imitations, especially of iconic voices that're more likely to be associated to the original voiceover for that character, be they anime characters (think: FLCL's Haruko or Death Note's Light Yagami) or original animation characters (think: Porky Pig or Mickey Mouse). The most character imitation you could probably have are the ones you make your own, like your take on Naruto that doesn't exactly sound like the original—Incorporate your version of the voice with a line “out of context” even, like during an intergalactic battle instead of in Konoha Village.
What to Say
Plan ahead what you're going to say. Slating your name in your natural voice isn't a must, but it doesn't hurt since people get to know what you really sound like before being introduced to everything else you can do. Though, whether or not you should keep the slate is up to your agent if you have one, as they know best how to represent you. There are different schools of thought on whether or not it's better to have someone else slate your name so it better catches the listener's attention. There are many reasons why this may also work against you as they would for you, like the one slating stealing attention away from your performance. Avoid making “seasonal/yearly” slates (example: “Namey Name, 2017 Winter Demo Reel”), as it only highlights the demo's eventual obsolescence as time passes. While demos are a work in progress that should reflect the performer's current skill level, the less explicitly implying that the demo the listener is currently listening to is out of date the better.
Random, thoughtless chatter is discouraged. Example, “Hi, my name is Namey Name, um, this is my demo reel, it's going to have some voices I can do so--” Don't do that. The listener just wants to jump straight to what you are capable of performing. Don't make excuses, don't preface what you can or can't do, let your work speak for itself.
A majority of the time, theme reels don't work because they reveal how poorly planned or written it is and that always exudes amateur. In example, demo reels about a bunch of voices in a house talking to one another can come off as distracting and even annoying to most. Voice work comes in all kinds of forms, but you have to admit that almost all of it requires acting of some kind. A character demo, which works for animation and video games, requires character acting while a commercial demo requires a different kind of acting. Do play to your strengths as a performer. Avoid being arbitrary with your choices—In example, if hitting comedic beats isn't your bag, but your style is more grounded in realism, choose showing off a down to earth scene and perhaps don't feature the scene that's meant to be fast-paced but is bogged down by your natural cadence. Favor your specialties and maybe things you can do on a standard level over the voices and characters you want to do but can't really pull off too well.
Try to have all kinds of material at your disposal to work with, like snippets from scripts, magazines, graphic novels, and pretty much anything that can concisely convey the character behind the voice, because there is less risk in presenting something badly written. Avoid offensive material, like discomforting dirty jokes and profanity.
Avoid stereotypical, cliché'd lines that tell the listener what they're listening to—Let your performance explain who your characters are. It really puts a damper on your characters when the British person is talking about crumpets, the Aussie is talking about crocodiles, the mom is reminding Billy to get his lunchbox, and when the computer is counting down the second until the base explodes. It's ten times worse if you explicitly announce what character you're voicing as, like “I'm a super hero, manly man!” when the lines are meant to give your characters substance in the short amount of time they're heard. Also, avoid “throwaway lines” where something is said with little to no purpose other than just to say something random, which is basically what cliched lines do.
On the same note as using unique lines as opposed to lines with “one character dimension”, incorporate unique elements to a single read to keep the line from sounding the same throughout. A laugh, a scoff, an inflection, or even a short stutter in the beginning, middle, or end can make a big difference. I call them reads, someone else called it music. A tune is pleasant on the ears when it's new and interesting rather than repetitive and same-old, same-old.
Try to “cheat in” additional character depth with unique lines. Once you think about it, lines are just lines and it's up to you to put a context to them depending on what character you're speaking as. In example, a young girl may be sweet and endearing starting out, but suddenly become dark and demonic. Or, a sadistic villain may have a heart somewhere beneath his malicious front when in the presence of his secret love (who's traveling with the hero he's trying to destroy).
Avoid using over-used jokes, monologues, Internet memes, and what have you that have already been incorporated in other demos. Your demo is competing against other demos, so you lose points for originality if you sound like the last guy whose demo is possibly getting skipped.
Avoid using audition samples from projects you didn't get cast in, as people will recognize those lines and compare them to the performances of those who actually booked the job. Not to mention it also runs the risk of being the exact same lines another performer is using in their demo, making both of you seem unoriginal.
Have your strongest, best voices play first (within the first 10-25 seconds), especially in a voice closest to your natural range. Demos are all about first impressions and you want to introduce your own voice before showing off your vocal acrobatics. Plus, people tend to listen to these one after another and are very likely to not listen to the entire thing if you don't keep their interest. Try to vary up the voices so they don't run together and sound too similar, like having a dramatic character follow an energetic character instead of two consecutive energetic characters. Ideally, you'd like the listener to get into the state of “Oh, I'll listen to just one more... This one sounds neat, I'll listen to this one too...” until they finish the reel and even then want to hear more. Some people who know how to sing feature a snippet of their ability at the very end. Same for foreign languages they can speak FLUENTLY.
How It'll Sound
Ideally, demo reels feature stuff you've done, like characters you've been. That's why most demos are mixed to include background music, sound effects, and other extra things to seem like it was taken directly from a show or movie. Producing a demo is usually expensive because you need a professional studio, someone skilled mixing the demo, and to pay for any copyrighted music you may be using. However, there are effective demos with no music or sound effects whatsoever so the listener can pay more attention to the voice instead of being distracted by the extra bells and whistles. Ultimately, it depends on what you can do, since voices in a vacuum don't always sound that good.
If working with a demo producer, be sure it's with someone who is familiar with the current trends in our industry and understands your strengths as a performer to best complement what is essentially your portfolio. Not someone who simply slaps music over your voice files and over-processes them so they're hardly recognizable. A reputable demo producer would have industry experience, preferably with recommendations from other veterans in the field.
Title your demos with your name and what kind of demo it is. If you have a website, have your demos on the first page, and in a playable, streamable format. While it is highly advised to also have a means to download your demos, not everyone wants to do that, so being able to play your files instantly is a must. If you don't have a website yet, listeners still need to be able to find and hear your demo to know what you sound like, so even a link to a site that's able to play/stream files is preferable to not being heard at all. In example, if you have a Twitter profile and can only have one link, a sample of your work speaks volumes more than a document listing roles not everyone will have the time to look up. Demos can also be uploaded as a video like on YouTube. The only thing that makes it ill-advised to embed videos to your website is that it takes more time and data to load, and if your partnership requires ads to monetize your content, the ads before your demo will discourage your audience from sticking around. Have your name and contact information at the beginning or end of the video.
Unsolited business inquiries are colloqially considered “cold calls”, and in the digital age, emails out of the blue might as well be the same thing. Many studios have their own preferences in how they'd like to receive your talent submission due to the sheer number of submissions they have to go through. If they're generous enough to provide their preferences, do follow them the best you can—They may ask for your range, resume, agent, union status, contact info, etc.
To weed out the professionals from the inexperienced though, you would have to write a cover letter. After all, your business inquiry is in hopes of doing business. Keep them short and sweet. A brief introduction, not your life story. Where you're based locally as a talent, not information about your fan work/dubs/adaptations/machinima/etc., no matter how popular it is or how well it's done—The New Media Age is a complicated one, so keep it simple by knowing your audience. Some highlights displaying your experience, not your entire body of work. Be professional, not desperate. If the studio does remote work, be sure to mention your recording specs.
Finally, either attach your demos and/or link to them. Attaching or linking to your website and/or resume also helps.