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 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.)
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 waynot surprising,
since both KPT and Bryce came from the same developer, and they're
both now owned by Corelbut 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.
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.
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.
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)
new mapping modes, including Sinusoidal, World Front, World Side,
World Cubic and Object Cubic.
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a message in the Creative Mac World
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Dave Nagel is
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