What is a shot breakdown?


This is a noob question…

Is a shot breakdown a PDF or Word document that explains what you did in the demo reel? or is it another video file that is longer than your demo reel? I’m just wondering because I’m seeing employers saying “send us your demo reel and shot breakdown.”

… so what is it?


Yep, it’s just notes that go along with your reel, explaining what you did on each shot. If you did all the work yourself, then there is no need for one.


It means quite a bit more to me, and I suspect that this is closer to what the employer might be looking for.

I do not have, and have never had, computer-power to spare. (I’ve never even had “enough.”) So, the only way to get anything done is to break it down into many component parts: [ul][li]Things that move, things that don’t. [] Front-to-back. [] Color, specular, reflection, shadow. [*] etc… [/ul] Then, to get very, very good at (now, node-based) compositing.
Render times are not only “substantially reduced,” but also “substantially avoided." (Sure, it’s more work up-front but “we have Python scripts for that.”) The reason why I say “avoided” is that, once you’ve rendered the raw-material once, a lot of the rest of it is “tweaking.” Adjusting color balances, twiddling the curves on things, but all this is "two-dee” and therefore quite fast. Most importantly, it is adjustable.

You might also want to describe your process. Do you start with low-res animatics and then refine them? (You should…) If the director loved everything about your shot except “this one iddy-biddy thing,” would it in fact be “one iddy-biddy thing,” or would you have to start-over? Could you hand her a revised shot later the same afternoon?



sundialsvc4, what on earth are you talking about? :surprised


How likely is it that an employer would want to know your entire production workflow for a specific job? If you’re applying for an animator position they’re not going to be interested in how you storyboarded, modelled, textured, lit, rendered and composited the scene. Even if you’re going for a generalist role you’ll have to fit into their way of doing things anyway, they just want to know what you did in the reel to see whether it’s any good.


If you did it all yourself, a quick clip of the smooth & highlights preview does the job.


I’ve never heard of an employer asking to see a shot build. A breakdown is, as I said earlier, simply a description of what you did in a shot. If you’ve been working at studios, and your work on your reel is from your job, then generally you’re actually not even allowed to make builds showing what went into it, especially since, in my field, you’re likely to have only done one aspect of something in any particular shot, so shot builds are therefore totally unnecessary.

If a job ad asks for a reel and a breakdown, they’re asking for notes that accompany your reel.


As you’ve noticed, “shot breakdown” is used in a couple of different ways in the industry. If an employer is asking for a breakdown with your demo reel, then it is as Leigh describes: a list of the shots on your reel and what work you did on them. Since CG is a collaborative effort, both in the real world and in school projects, you may not have done 100% of the work on every shot on your reel, and the shot breakdown just states what you did per shot (and usually a list of where the material came from (i.e. school project, such-and-such film, such-and-such commercial, etc.), and the running time as well as what the artist contributed.

When you are talking about a “shot breakdown” from a CG or VFX Sup point of view, then it is as Sundialsvc4 mentions where you take a shot and determine what props and environments show up in the shot, what characters are present, where crowds or fx are used, what scenes you are doing cloth or hair sims for, what is going to be a matte painting and what will be modeled, etc. On effects shows, the shot breakdown will be used to determine what will be CG, what will be practical, etc. These breakdowns are used for budgeting as well as determining who gets assigned to what work.

From the productions I’ve seen, decisions as to whether a static background element is rendered once and re-used or rendered for every frame is generally left to the lighter of the shot to decide themselves, as even objects that don’t move might have animated light effects on them. Also the lighter (or more likely the Lead Lighter) will determine how they want to break up the render passes for the sequence, with shot lighters further tweaking it to their own needs.

Same term, different meanings depending on context.



I thought that what I said was “long-winded but reasonable.” (Maybe not.) When you do a “reel,” you can of course take as much time as you want on it … lovingly caressing it and all-of-that. But production doesn’t work like that. You can create an impressive reel: most reels, I am sure, are more-or-less impressive. But, "how did you actually do that?" The manner in which someone responds to that question speaks volumes.

I know I’d be asking that question (and if all goes well I soon will be). Your “lovingly built creation” is going to mean a lot more to me if it was resourcefully built and if it can be easily changed without starting over. Any tyro can bludgeon their way to a beautiful result, at least once, but only masters of the craft can leverage the tools that they are given…


Shot breakdown means one of two things depending on the context. There is a technical shot breakdown which is essentially a mini behind the scenes about how youve composited everything together, something like this:


If youre applying for a job and they want a shot breakdown then they will be referring to a list either typed up or visual text notes in a video showing specifically which parts you are responsible for. Something like this is only needed if youve worked on a large project with other people.

It could be as simple as inserting a bit of text into your reel which occasionally pops up and reads:

“Tiger model and rigging”
“Everything except whitehouse texturing and colour grading”
“mouse animation and fur rendering”


Thanks for all the responses, guys!


shot breakdown in simple form is simply “in this shot i rotoscoped this, tracked that, painted this, lit that, modeled the other thing and the composited the final shot with color corrections and art director revisions”

anywho, you should get the idea. Keep in mind the supervisors who check your sheet out (pardon the pun) dont need a step by step process to teach them what they know. They need you to pinpoint what you did, not how you did it (unless you have a video breakdown).


Just throwing this out there, but I know quite a few HR people at large studios that still want a shot breakdown sheet with your reel simply saying you did it all if that’s the case. So never just not have one when you apply somewhere.


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