If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the smartest thing I could logistically do to convey the genius of Craft, an animation and game production learning tool, would be to post an image of a giant "Eureka!"-screaming lightbulb on this web page in lieu of an actual article and call it a day. Well, it doesn’t take much scrolling down for it to be pretty clear that that very much isn’t something I’m going to do – and for that, you can thank me later, because Craft is one service worth taking the time to read about. For this, a shortcut will not do.
Craft is a venture that has set out to open the eyes of prospective visual artists and storytellers to the wealth of learning material available to them in the raw materials of animation and game productions. Craft users can dive right into a trove of concept art, animation tests, and early-version scripts of massively-popular projects to give them a competitive edge when it comes to getting their own masterpieces off the ground. The project materials available have been hand-picked by the Craft team in an effort to ensure that their community must never again scrape the bottom of the barrel for professional guidance on technique and style.
In its essence, Craft aims to act as the ultimate art book for the most visually-inventive films, games, and graphic novels. Its ever-expanding portfolio of works include films such as Loving Vincent, a recent hand-painted feature film which tells the life story of artist Vincent van Gogh; Khumba, a 3D animated film from Africa’s leading animation studio, and The Secret of Kells, an traditionally-animated Irish 2D film that achieved an Oscar nomination for its studio.
For insight into the world of game development, Craft users need look no further than the reams of ready-to-view concept art for Jazon and the Dead, a plucky Danish 2D action adventure game, and The Forest Beyond, a beautiful, one-of-a-kind children’s game featuring stop-motion animation and a handcrafted playing environment. Amazingly, these wonderful projects only scratch the surface of the contents of Craft’s materials archive; from short films to comic books, Craft can help you stir up ideas and fuel your most exciting projects of every kind.
By working directly in collaboration with the studios whose materials are utilized, Craft is able to deliver the full package of a comprehensive look into every part of the creative process, meaning that searching for artistic references can finally be a one-tab job – no more juggling Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google searches all at once to get the visual guides you need! With access to animation, art direction, project management, scriptwriting, storyboarding, sound and music, and every other kind of insight imaginable, Craft users are left in the dark for no aspect of the idea-to-screen process (meaning my lightbulb note earlier was actually pretty fitting after all). Craft also offers exclusive content directly from the directors and artists behind these high-quality projects, such as audio commentary on their work, interactive comments continuously added to the material, and freshly-released video content in which the creators give in-depth walkthroughs of their process. Craft really is the next best thing to peering over the shoulders of the best of the best while they work their magic.
The users of Craft (of which there are over 1000 at present) can vouch for this, too. "Two images in and I’m completely sold on this idea," said Gareth Gough, lead animator and illustrator of Ganimation. "It’s really nice to be able to view the work and get a really personal narration on the thinking behind the imagery."
Craft offers memberships from $9.99 per month for the monthly package and $7.99 per month for the annual deal. Both of these plans give members access to all films and crafts available on the site (which come to over 70,000 files and counting), as well as new content weekly. A 10-day, no-credit-card-necessary free trial is available for prospective members who’d like to give the service a whirl, though it’s unlikely they’ll be able to resist coming back for more, especially with the knowledge that 50 percent of all subscription fees go into supporting the content producers on Craft, meaning that by helping themselves get inspiration, they’ll be giving others new opportunities to inspire. This kind of creative loop – and Craft itself – is an artist’s dream come true, and picture or no picture, it doesn’t take a thousand words to know that for fact.