AUGUST 29, 2001
by David Nagel
I haven't even looked at Bryce since version 1 or so, so when I got a hold of Bryce 5, I was, needless to say, pleasantly surprised. Bryce 5 is Corel's 3D landscaping, modeling, animation and rendering suite that the company acquired during the dissolution of Metacreations. As with an awful lot of tools originally developed by Metacreations, Bryce has achieved something of a cult status among users, along with Painter (which Corel also owns), Poser (now owned by Curious Labs) and Carrara (now owned by TGS). There's better reason for this now than ever, as we'll get to below, as well as more reason than ever for professional 3D artists to consider Bryce as an addition to their toolset.
First off, I should note that Bryce 5 is Corel's first Mac OS X-native application. However, I'm reviewing it under Mac OS 9.0.4 because, as with most applications running under OS X, there are still some limitations attributable to the OS itself that won't be worked out until the OS X 10.1 release due in September. These are chiefly related to OpenGL, but there are also some quirks in the OS X interface and device support that simply make working in OS 9 better for the time being. In OS X, this translates to slightly longer render times, which can create unnecessary problems for those working on multi-frame pieces, and a lack of support for some input devices, such as pressure-sensitive tablets.
All of this said, it should also be noted that Bryce 5 is Carbonized for OS X, meaning that you simply install the OS 9 version, which will then work natively in OS X as well without any further installation or hassles.
At any rate, kudos to Corel for putting out an OS X version for what is right now a very limited subset of the Macintosh market. This is the kind of move that shows when a company's interested in serving the customer's needs, even customers in a small niche. It takes time and money to port applications to OS X, and it says a lot about a company that chooses to do so.
I see Bryce as a tremendous tool for creating mattes/backdrops for film or video work to be incorporated into either live action or animated pieces. I think it would be even better if it could be hosted from within other 3D packages (a la Poser) or gain better integration with other programs (as detailed below), but, as it stands, it's still quite a useful, professional-level tool.
Now I already know what a lot of 3D artists out there are thinking. First, they're very attached to their 3D package. They've invested years of training to master it; no other tool can do what it can do; and they surely do not want to leave it to do a portion of a project in another application. Add to this the fact that Bryce is almost never the topic of interest in professional discussions, and they have lots of fuel for skepticism. These seem to be fairly common attitudes for 3D artists, but they're also very impractical and limiting views. If you're a little more open-minded, I suggest simply going to Corel's site and downloading the 30-day trial version. It's more than enough time to learn the basics of the program and give you enough information to tell you whether it will be useful for your needs. Couldn't hurt, right?
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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.