• Price: 55

  • Company: Daz

  • Pros: The original landscape rendering program has come a long way but still combines its original virtues of ease-of-use plus a fair degree of depth. New OpenGL and Daz Studio plug-in features are a bonus.

  • Cons: No longer leader of the pack – slow rendering and a little crash-prone when network rendering make it a less compelling option.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

Bryce has a history of being passed around from company to company, but now it’s back, under the care of 3D content suppliers Daz Productions. This at last seems like a good fit.

The new version has a number of interesting new features that, while not terribly major in themselves, suggests that Daz is willing to spend some time and effort bringing this aging 3D application up to date. Most of us are aware that Bryce is not exactly cutting-edge 3D technology, though when it was first released it was a revelation for digital artists, designers, and hobbyists who never got their hands on a 3D program before.

It was just so easy to use compared to anything else. It’s still a useful 3D program and it’s dead cheap. At only £55, it represents very good value. What’s more, Daz has made it a lot more useful by adding a plug-in to their own 3D software Daz|Studio, which is installed along with Bryce. With Daz|Studio you can import models into Bryce that might have been much more difficult before, and since Daz sells 3D content it’s important that Bryce integrates with the company’s other offerings.

Daz|Studio has some good tools itself, not least the 3Delight renderman-compliant renderer (though don’t expect any high-end features). Flitting between the two is pretty painless, and accessing content such as Poser models, poses
and props is simplicity itself.

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<b>The Daz challenge</b>
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In use, there’s not a lot to see that’s different from the previous version, apart from the big button in the Create panel that launches Daz|Studio. However, the 3D display has been overhauled and now sports a fuller OpenGL graphics implementation. There are seven new OpenGL display modes including Textured Shaded, Lit Wireframe and Wireframe Textured Shaded, though the Hidden Line option didn’t work properly in our version – running on a Mac G5 with NVidia GeForce FX 5200 card. What’s best about it is that now you can view large scenes complete with file textures at reasonable speeds. 
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Bryce 5.5 has been tweaked so that it renders faster, too. Daz claims up to a 150 per cent increase in speed in some scenes and 30 per cent faster on average. Bryce is a raytracer and it’s never been particularly quick, so any improvement is welcome.
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Bryce’s network renderer Bryce Lightning has also been updated with a new client interface and better file compression. You can make use of networked Macs and PCs to render your 3D animations faster with no extra licensing cost.
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There are better landscape programs around, such as Vue 5 Infinite, but they cost a lot more and don’t have the Daz|Studio integration, so if you buy a lot of Daz content it will be a bigger incentive to buy. Taken in isolation, though, Bryce 5.5 is not as compelling.
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