Bryce 5
at a Glance

Maker: Corel
Price: $299 for the full version, $149 upgrade
Trial version available? Yes
Platforms: Macintosh, Mac OS X and Windows

Overall Impression: For new users looking for software specifically designed for landscape/terrain modeling, Bryce is an excellent choice. There will be a workflow learning curve, as with virtually all 3D software, but once you learn where things are in the program, the creation of terrestrial features becomes a snap. For users of earlier versions of Bryce, the upgrade is definitely worth it for the wealth of new features you get.

Key Benefits: The benefits of using a dedicated system for the creation of 3D worlds is pretty self-evident. Bryce 5 takes the concept to the next level with valuable new and refined tools for getting the job done. The Light Lab and Tree Lab are brilliant additions to the program's features. And other enhancement's to the program's other workspaces, such as volume lighting and volume blending for both distance and altitude, bring Bryce squarely into the realm of professional 3D tools. The Sky Lab is highly customizable and allows for the creation of sophisticated atmospheric and astronomical features. And the Terrain Editor allows for easy modification of terrain features, such as erosion, spires, height, etc. Finally, network rendering is a critical and much appreciated addition to this program.

Disappointments: There are three negatives to Bryce 5, all related to workflow. First, the interface, while attractive, can easily get in the way. In many cases, you'll find that functions can be accessed only through little dots or icons not really related to the function they represent. I would like to see a customizable interface in the next update, including the ability to add nested functions to the main interface and the ability to add text labels to icons. Second, when you mouse over an icon in the main interface, explanatory text appears in the lower left corner of the screen; however, in subsections, such as the Motion Lab and Sky Lab, you get no indication whatsoever as to the function of a given button. Third, I would like some standard interface elements added in, such as the ability to move and resize windows, more functions accessible via menus, etc.

Recommendation: Strong Buy as both an upgrade and a straight purchase.


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Corel Bryce 5
[Page 2 of 5]

New and improved
Version 5.0 adds major new features and minor tweaks that make this a very worthy upgrade for users of previous versions. It would simply take too long to cover every feature of this program, but we'll take a look at some of the major functions and enhancements that appear in this latest release.

As a whole, rendering has gained several improvements, including volume lighting, volume objects and volume blending for both altitude and distance from the camera. Camera features, such as depth of field, improve the photorealism of the render. And new shadow and light features, such as self-shadowing and light falloff, add to the options.

Volume blending and depth of field add to Bryce's render capabilities.
Click for the full-size image (680 KB).

But by far the most appreciated new rendering feature is network rendering, which allows Bryce's rendering client—Bryce Lightning—to aid in the rendering of still images or animation files across a network, including the Internet. All you have to do is run the client on a networked device (regardless of platform) and enter the client's IP address in the network rendering setup dialog. Each client can also be set to render tiles of a single frame so that even still images can benefit from additional processors.

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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.
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