at a Glance
Price: $299 for the full version, $149 upgrade
Trial version available? Yes
Platforms: Macintosh, Mac OS X and Windows
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
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
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.
Strong Buy as both an upgrade and a straight purchase.
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AUGUST 29, 2001
[Page 3 of 5]
This is particularly
important with the new, higher-quality dithering, 256 ray-per-pixel
tracing and more processor-intensive optimizations, render times are
longer in version 5 than in version 4. You can also very easily set
a project to render only on client machines, freeing up your primary
computer so that you can continue modeling or move on to another project.
Version 5.0 also adds a new Tree Lab, which allows you not only
to place procedural trees into your scene, but also to add a high
degree of customization to them. You can also multi-replicate
your trees to populate a forest or jungle.
of trees in Bryce is that they can't be exported into other formats.
So, basically, if you want to use Bryce's trees, you're going
to have to do your final render in Bryce as well. I happen to
think that Bryce's rendering is better than at least one popular,
"high-end" package out there, but you may think differently.
(I'll let you guess which one. Hint: It's not available for the
At any rate,
if you do plan to render from Bryce, the Tree Lab is a great tool
for creating custom trees rather than going to the trouble of
downloading polygonal trees, importing them and then customizing
each one to prevent them from looking like duplicates of one another.
The Light Lab is another new workspace introduced in version 5.0.
It allows for the creation of custom lights. This, again, is another
great addition to Bryce's toolset because it pulls together everything
you could possibly want to control about a light into a single
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Dave Nagel is
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