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
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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.

Tree Lab
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.

The negative 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 Mac.)

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.

Light Lab
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 interface.

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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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