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Corel Bryce 5

3D landscaping and animation suite By Dave Nagel
I haven't even looked at Bryce since version 1 or so, so when I got a hold of Bryce 5, I was, needless to say, pleasantly surprised. Bryce 5 is Corel's 3D landscaping, modeling, animation and rendering suite that the company acquired during the dissolution of Metacreations. As with an awful lot of tools originally developed by Metacreations, Bryce has achieved something of a cult status among users, along with Painter (which Corel also owns), Poser (now owned by Curious Labs) and Carrara (now owned by TGS). There's better reason for this now than ever, as we'll get to below, as well as more reason than ever for professional 3D artists to consider Bryce as an addition to their toolset.

First off, I should note that Bryce 5 is Corel's first Mac OS X-native application. However, I'm reviewing it under Mac OS 9.0.4 because, as with most applications running under OS X, there are still some limitations attributable to the OS itself that won't be worked out until the OS X 10.1 release due in September. These are chiefly related to OpenGL, but there are also some quirks in the OS X interface and device support that simply make working in OS 9 better for the time being. In OS X, this translates to slightly longer render times, which can create unnecessary problems for those working on multi-frame pieces, and a lack of support for some input devices, such as pressure-sensitive tablets.

All of this said, it should also be noted that Bryce 5 is Carbonized for OS X, meaning that you simply install the OS 9 version, which will then work natively in OS X as well without any further installation or hassles.

At any rate, kudos to Corel for putting out an OS X version for what is right now a very limited subset of the Macintosh market. This is the kind of move that shows when a company's interested in serving the customer's needs, even customers in a small niche. It takes time and money to port applications to OS X, and it says a lot about a company that chooses to do so.

What it does
Bryce is a tool for creating terrestrial, atmospheric and astronomical features in 3D and rendering scenes either as still images or as QuickTime movies (including QuickTime VR). While it is possible to do some modeling with the primitives and new metaballs in Bryce 5, the program is geared much more heavily toward landscapes and seascapes than anything else. Ideally, the output from Bryce would be used for compositing with the output from another 3D package, and the program offers a number of masking options to make the process easier. It's also possible to export some (but not all) of Bryce's objects into popular 3D formats or import 3D objects into Bryce.

I see Bryce as a tremendous tool for creating mattes/backdrops for film or video work to be incorporated into either live action or animated pieces. I think it would be even better if it could be hosted from within other 3D packages (a la Poser) or gain better integration with other programs (as detailed below), but, as it stands, it's still quite a useful, professional-level tool.

Bryce 5's new interface

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