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 4 of 5]

This includes intensity, softness, shadow ambiance and softness, volume, falloff, color and gel type. (Gels can include textures and images.) It also provides a space for animating a light's properties outside the main timeline and away from the clutter of the Advanced Motion Lab. (Actually, the Motion Lab isn't cluttered, but, since the window can't be resized, it's just easier to work in the Light Lab for animating light properties.)

Sky Lab
Not new to Bryce 5, though certainly improved, is the Sky Lab. The Sky Lab allows you to customize the look of the atmosphere in your scene and position celestial bodies (sun, moon and stars). If you're familiar at all with the KPT 6 Sky Effects filter for Adobe Photoshop, using the Sky Lab in Bryce will be a no-brainer. It functions almost exactly the same way—not surprising, since both KPT and Bryce came from the same developer, and they're both now owned by Corel—but works in 3D space. It also gives you a few added tools, including cloud cover and atmospheric conditions.

Many of the features in the Sky Lab are accessible directly in the main composition workspace, but the Lab itself offers more options for customizing the scene, including animating cloud movement, adding volume to the atmosphere, etc. For night scenes, you can also add custom star fields or select a field based on the stars that are visible from the earth.

And the rest
Over the four weeks that I've had Bryce 5 on my system, I've had a chance to test a good bulk of the new features in various scenes. There's really so much that's new that I can't cover it all adequately. So I'll just cover a few of the more major ones here.

First there's new support for metaballs. For me, Bryce is first and foremost a landscaping program, and I won't pretend that it would be a great environment for doing character modeling or anything like that. Still, the addition of metaballs does give Bryce users one more tool to work with in the creation of their worlds, and that can't be bad.

There are new import and export filters for supporting a broad range of objects from popular (and not so popular) commercial 3D programs. These include everything from LightWave scenes and objects (but not LightWave 6 or above), OBJ, DFX, NFX, VRML, U.S. Geological Survey DEM and DDF and a whole lot more. I do hope that in a future release users will be able to export entire scenes to popular formats, especially the trees that Bryce creates.

It also includes new terrain grid resolutions (up to 4,096 for planetary scale) and five new mapping modes, including Sinusoidal, World Front, World Side, World Cubic and Object Cubic.

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