Price: Standard $29.95 (£19.45) . Pro $99.95 (£65)
Pros: Increased 3D data exchange, instancing lab, new lights, Sky Lab and Materials Lab enhancements.
Cons: Unfinished feel to product; some bugs on the Mac version.
Able to design terrains, water and oceans, skies, clouds, fog, vegetation and architecture, along with strong animation and rendering tools, Bryce is a venerable 3D suite now being developed by Daz As to be expected, Bryce 7 Pro offers close integration with Daz Studio and thus access to the Daz library of digital characters and objects, but there’s a welcome new ability to import models in Google Sketchup format, as well as import and export COLLADA and FBX files.
The new Instancing Lab uses a method that has been around in 3D applications for some time now, referencing object geometry to make copies without increasing scene overheads. In practice we found you need to have at least one other item in the scene with the object that you want to instance.
There are a selection of new lights to place in the scene and Light Lab enhancements.
Selecting this terrain object as the target for the instanced geometry and clicking on the ‘I’ icon brings up the Instancing Lab. By selecting the Tree object from the drop down Source menu, we were able to apply a forest of trees to the terrain.
There are parameter sliders for size, density, distribution and divergence, as well as an eraser to remove individual instances. A Brush Editor allows you to mix different types of objects that you apply with the instancing brush.
It’s a bit of a trial to find, but the Bryce particle system can be customised to provide some interesting effects.
The addition of new lights is also welcome; a new distant light, parallel, cluster, dome and a series of 3D fill lights are instantly available from the Create toolbar in the main viewport. These bring a lot more freedom to Bryce, making it possible for example, to replace the sun in a scene with a dome light set as a distant light source. Visible lighting effects on the scene, such as soft shadows, look much the same but the rendering time is much reduced.
Specular and spectacular
Specular map settings have also been introduced into Bryce, able to add some excellent lighting effects to the materials lab, while Sky Lab benefits from a host of improvements to HDR imaging. Daz 3D has also built on the image-based lighting (IBL) feature introduced in version 6, to add soft shadows as well as a ‘light from the inside’ setting which can map an HDRI image onto the interior of an object. This can enable some very unreal, but artistic effects.
Bryce 7 Pro also has a particle system, slightly limited in that the emitter is a restricted to a sphere, but you can change the size, material and behaviour with respect to gravity of the particles.
On the Mac, clicking on the ‘About’ information displays it as Bryce 6. The Help menu offers a Bryce 6 manual. On Windows, the presentation is more refined, but there’s still no manual.
All this doesn’t paint a very professional picture but it shouldn’t put you off exploring Bryce however, as it otherwise continues to be a versatile and useful 3D application.