FEATURE STORY BROUGHT TO YOU BY SELZ
Maciej Kuciara is one of the world’s leading concept artists. He has over a decade’s experience in the industry, including four years at Naughty Dog and five years at Crytek, where he was concept lead on Crysis 2. His portfolio includes movie work from Guardians of the Galaxy and Jupiter Ascending, and illustrations for Applibot and Wizards of the Coast. But until recently, there was one thing he had left to try: teaching other artists.
“Ever since I began work in the entertainment industry, I knew I’d have some kind of teaching experience – I just never had the guts to do it,” he says.
Today, thanks to a life-changing experience with Brazilian jiu-jutsu (“it taught me to face my fears, whatever form they take”), Maciej is an established educator who has taught at some of the world’s top CG schools.
And thanks to a new online platform that enables artists to publish video tutorials without having to set up their own websites, he now makes those insights available to anyone, anywhere in the world. Maciej has recorded 20 tutorials on topics ranging from speedpainting to designing game environments, selling thousands of downloads at up to $40 a time.
Maciej begins each new tutorial by preparing materials ahead of time. “I gather references, set up work folders and stock up on water – your throat dries up real fast when you’re talking for hours,” he says.
To record audio and video, he uses the screen-capture software Camtasia, adjusting the capture settings to optimise for 1080p output. “I have a pretty decent workstation, so I can afford the overhead of recording full HD without too much of an impact on performance,” he says.
After recording is complete, he uses the built-in editing tools to add simple text overlays for the tutorial’s introduction and chapter headings, and renders out in MP4 format.
Maciej advises other artists not to over-think the recording process. “It’s actually pretty straightforward, unless you choose to make it complex,” he says. “Always record audio as you work, though. I’ve learnt the hard way that adding or editing audio after finishing the painting process usually ends up being twice as much work as talking while painting.”
Once a video is complete, Maciej uploads it to the Selz online sales platform. Selz automatically generates a widget containing a cover image, information about the tutorial and a simple ‘Buy it now’ button. Users can also add a tutorial to their online shopping cart for later, or share it with friends via social media.
Maciej praises the system’s ease of use: “Setting up an account took about one click, then I just added my PayPal and bank details, and I was ready to post tutorials. You just record, upload and market, and everything else is done for you. If any of your clients have problems with downloads, you can easily track each purchase and address any issues.”
For Maciej, a key benefit of Selz is its ability to process PayPal payments, which make up almost half of his total sales.
“It’s a complete sales platform where the artist receives almost 95% of what they sell,” he says. “For all of the hosting services and other benefits that Selz can offer, 5% commission is a pretty damn good deal.”
Maciej promotes new tutorials through his Facebook feed. Fans can suggest topics for new tutorials in the comments. Again, he advises other artists not to over-think marketing and market research, but to dive in and see what works, noting that “topic, length and price are details that you will figure out on the way”.
For Maciej, the defining quality of a good tutorial is artistic quality. “You have to want to deliver the best image you can every time you push the record button,” he advises. “Without that mindset, any content you deliver will be mediocre, and will turn off anyone interested in learning from you.”
“It’s hard to say which topics will sell best, because it will be different for every artist,” he concludes. “People love to see how your best pieces are done. Any tutorial will find its market, but the universal value needed for good sales is quality.”