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2017 Seattle Asian American Film Festival

Director Spotlight: Alyce Tzue

Posted February 18th, 2017 by Brian Park in 2017 Festival

From Architect To Director


Soar (2015)

Alyce Tzue’s various job titles and credentials would hardly fit on a single resume. She is an animator, director, writer, editor, storyboard artist, visual developer, photographer, architect and perhaps most impressively, a Student Academy Award winner.

Alyce studied architecture at Princeton University. But it wasn’t long before she decided to expand her skillset into a variety of other fields. She applied to the 3D animation master’s program at the Academy of Art University, where she had the opportunity to direct her own film.

The process of creating a 3D animated film is an arduous one. And though a variety of studios have different workflows and pipelines, one thing always remains consistent: it starts with a story. Once the director has a clear vision for the story, she will work with a visual developers to create character designs and set designs that adequately capture the mood of the story. Then, the storyboarding artists get involved, creating a rough outline of the film called an animatic. The animatic consists of still images: simple, rough drawings that the editors and director put together. The goal of the animatic is to give the team a clear idea the story.

From there, a modeling team works off of the designs, creating 3D models of the characters while a layout team sets up the cameras and environments. The models are then textured and rigged, which is akin to painting the model and creating a system of controls to easily animate the models. It is only at this point – after the story, setting and characters are mostly developed – that the animators get involved.

Although she was studying animation, Alyce was drawn towards the earlier parts of the animation pipeline; she wanted to be a storyteller. She took a storyboarding class, and when she had the opportunity to turn her storyboard into a film, she seized it.

As a director, she was responsible for an entire team of visual artists, designers, modelers, animators, lighting experts and even music composers. Throughout the process, she remained highly involved, even animating several shots herself. With the help of her professor and a team of diligent, talented students, she was able to bring her vision to life.

Soar was the result. It won the 2015 Student Academy Award for Best Animation, followed by several other awards from various film festivals across the world. The film, described as a cross between Pixar and Miyazaki, is beautifully crafted, and exceeds any standards one could reasonably expect from a student film.

You can read more about the production of Soar here.