Growing up in Ventura, California, Kearsley never really thought about animation as a career path. Because his dad was in the building trade Kearsley grew up around construction sites, learning the importance of building a solid foundation and the art of overseeing projects from start to finish. As he went through school, he always had a sketchbook in hand. They got pretty messy. One day, a friend who went to California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) looked through his sketchbooks and suggested he apply. Kearsley tackled animation at CalArts where he made his first film and never looked back.
As a producer/director, Kearsley started out using Flash for storyboarding and animation. Everybody was using it at the time. Although he wasn't wild about the tool, it did the job. "I was forced to learn Flash because I was hired to direct a pilot, and it was decided before I came on that it would be a Flash show," Kearsley explained.
Soon after, Kearsley discovered version 1 of Storyboard Pro.
"I had been producing a show where we were doing all of the storyboarding in Flash, and I felt like it was working great. So at first, I was reluctant to learn a new software as I had already built a pipeline that worked. However, I soon realized that I could do everything I had been doing in Flash with Storyboard Pro in a more intuitive way – all the tools made sense for what I needed to do. After I finished that production, I insisted that we always use Storyboard Pro for our boards."
With a toolset designed for storyboard artists and animators, it was a pretty easy transition from Flash to Storyboard Pro.
"It was as though, with Flash, I was trying to put screws in with a hammer whereas Storyboard Pro was a drill. I loved that you could select individual lines to delete or manipulate, and how easy it was to work with the track to output animatics and traditional storyboards. Storyboard Pro was made for the work I was doing."
Adopting Storyboard Pro gave Kearsley more creative control over story. He's able to use his artistic and technical animation skills to the advantage of the project when he needs to convey his visual ideas to the larger team.
"Especially from a director's perspective, it's so much easier to fix, change and manipulate other people's boards when they're done in Storyboard Pro. I can go into their sections and manipulate their art to do what I need it to do without a ton of redrawing."
You can see Seth Kearsley's Director reel here.
Although Kearsley was using Storyboard Pro, he was hesitant to try Harmony. However, Flash wasn't performing to the level he wanted. "It wasn't like I loved Flash. I think the most telling thing is that the term "Flashy" is synonymous with bad puppet-y animation. I always felt like Flash was an unwieldy beast that wasn't really designed for animation."
The workarounds and proprietary add-ons and patches didn't help. Most of all though, results from Flash tended to go against his artistic sensibilities. "The only animation I liked in Flash was when someone just traditionally animated in it. I tried this approach too, but it was still too cumbersome."
At the time, he was the new producer/director for the second season of Animal Control. The first season had been done in Harmony, which was becoming the industry standard. Although hesitant, Kearsley made the switch. "I downloaded Harmony, fired it up, and was traditionally animating in it within minutes. I was just scratching the surface, but it was already light years ahead of what I was used to with Flash."
Things started to click. Kearsley began to appreciate the efficiency of Harmony as well as the flexibility it gave him with regards to look. "My little studio produced six three-minute episodes of Animal Control for Cartoon Network Asia using Harmony. I personally composited all 18 minutes. When we got the dreaded "Flashy" note on some of our scenes, I personally reanimated the scenes traditionally from start to finish."
Kearsley's journey with Harmony is still underway. "Six months later, I'm far from a master of all things - I don't know how to rig, but I can use the rigs. Harmony is so much more intuitive than Flash. I'm able to constantly tweak things to make scenes better as I composite."
One of Kearsley's proudest accomplishments was directing Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. Looking back on this project, Kearsley is most impressed about how far the technology has come, and how accessible it now is.
"I'm blown away that we can now get Harmony for a low monthly subscription – it's sure to play a big part in the creation of an independent animated feature market. The tools are so accessible and affordable now - a prime example of how Harmony puts feature animation quality within reach of small studios like Dojo."
Seth Kearsley is a director, producer and animator who is probably best known for his work on Mummies Alive! (1997), Dilbert (1999), Eight Crazy Nights (2002) and Family Guy (2004). As proprietor of Dojo Productions based in Studio City, California, he has gotten deeply into animation and storyboarding and along the way, made the jump from Flash to Harmony. His clients have included Starz, Google, Cartoon Network and FOX. Currently, Kearsley is using Storyboard Pro to do story development for Illumination Entertainment on The Secret Life of Pets, slated to come out next summer.