Seth Boyden started animating clay models in his parents’ basement in sixth grade. Over five years later, Seth Boyden is an emerging filmmaker who has won three national medals (a Gold Medal, a Silver Medal and an American Visions Medal) from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He not only creates his own Flash and stop-motion animation films, but also designs characters and collaborates with friends and family to compose original music. Seth has even begun drawing international attention. This year, Oxford University Press selected one of his adapted films to be part of an online textbook for language arts.
We recently caught up with Seth to learn more about his craft, his plans for the future and to collect some monster-making tips!
AYAW: How did you get into animation?
SB: My interest in animation began when I was in the sixth grade. Like other young animators, I used my family's camera to animate modeling clay in the basement. Over the years, I have taught myself the techniques of animation and now I have begun to focus on the storytelling and artistic potential that animation has to offer.
AYAW: How do you plan the story?
SB: Of course, the most important element in any film or animation is the story. The stories I come up with are always inspired by a centralized message I want to express. From there, ideas and thematic elements sort of pool together as I organize the story into the form of a script or storyboard thumbnails. Sometimes, the time it takes to polish the story is longer than the time it takes to actually animate the film.
AYAW: What are your inspirations?
SB: I feel that my animations are mainly inspired by things that I have a particular interest in, and like many art students, my interests are always changing. For example, I come from a musical family, so I play piano and saxophone along with my friends to create original music for the animated films. I'm always inspired by jazz improv, and I take any opportunity I can to incorporate it into animation. When it comes to making films, I usually try something I've never done before, which makes each film a different challenge from the last. Whether it is animating cloud layers, or creating retro-1950 characters on a computer, mixing it up keeps me thinking.
AYAW: How do you create the characters and animate them?
SB: No matter what method of animation is being used, I always make sure a character is set in pen and paper before it appears anywhere on a screen. This way, the character develops visually with every drawing and redrawing to better accentuate characteristics I think the audience should know about.
When the final concept drawing of the character is completed, they are recreated either in plasticine for a stop-action animation or created digitally in computer animation software, depending on the chosen medium.
AYAW: What tools did you use?
SB: For my stop-motion animation, a process that requires taking hundreds of pictures to form a sequence, I use a digital camera that's attached to a computer. This way, captured photos are immediately converted into frames in a movie, which are much easier to collect and edit. To be specific,I use Apple's iStopmotion software and then edit the collected scenes in a video editing program.
For special effect shots and computer-generated character animation, I create the material for the sequence in a photo editing program (Adobe Photoshop) and then transfer them to a two-dimensional animation software (Adobe Flash) to be animated, one scene at a time.
AYAW: Do you plan to go to school for film/animation?
SB: That's the plan. I hope to some day join the animation industry, and I've already started visiting various art schools around the country to get a better picture how to build up my portfolio. I love what I do and have fun along the way, so I guess that’s really what it’s all about.
Just like any artist, there's never a finish line where you can say, "I've finished knowing all there is." As far as I'm concerned, I’ve barely left the starting gate!
Photo Credits (above): Concept sketch for Chroma. Seth Boyden. 2010 Gold Medal, Film & Animation.