David Brinnen is an artist of the highest repute amongst the Bryce community. His art is an unrelenting experimental push towards mastery of the program. In this pursuit he has crossed many genres and styles, and while his images are often of a technical and experimental nature, his keen artistic insight renders breathtaking works that express an irrepressible enthusiasm for CGI and his chosen software.
David has been a Brycer since 2003 with an interest that stretches back another five years to 1997 when he first encountered a demo version of Bryce 2 with Computer Arts Magazine. At the time the price of both the software and requisite hardware were prohibitive. Recently I had the pleasure to correspond with David, talk Bryce, and become utterly mesmerised by his Bryce5 and DeviantArt galleries.
Jim: How has the software kept your attention over the years and inspired you to innovate?
David Brinnen: The software has kept my attention because there is a lot to it, so many things to discover and try. It also helps that DAZ 3D kindly invited me to become involved in the development of the software for 5.5, 6 and 7, so having an input is a great way to keep involved.
J: So it was a passion to discover all Bryce’s intricacies that kept you going. Is that passion unique to Bryce or do you have the same sense of exploration with other programs?
D: Mostly it is down to the procedurally generated elements in Bryce. I’m not fantastic at Math, but I have found that I do have a better understanding of recursive functions than most people. Other programs that interest me are Minecraft (which has a procedurally generated terrain that extends in all directions
from the spawn area to mind-boggling distances), Genetica – which is a node based texture generation program, any Roguelike game (FTL, Binding of Isaac) which creates random/algorithm based experiences, Mandelbulb 3D, that’s nice too… Boarderlands 2 – they use types of randomisation on their weapons drop that are determined by a number of factors. Yes I guess a lot of things interest me, but time is limited so I try to remain focused on my main hobby otherwise I’d get nothing done.
J: Given the chance, what are some of the things you would change about or add to Bryce?
D: The premium effect render engine when running in TA [true ambience] mode, although slow, offers a good level of ambient light simulation, but it has weaknesses, it needs Sub Surface Scattering simulation to make it really robust and at that stage, it would also be a good idea to fix the DAZ studio Bryce bridge. [W]ith SSS it would be possible to have scenes populated with people rather than dolls and corpses (which is what skin looks like to me without SSS). If I were really being wishful, export to Octane (including material conversion) would be a good idea for those lucky enough to have the hardware to run that on – those CUDA graphics cards are really expensive.
J: What are the advantages to Bryce, other than price? Would you suggest it to artists new to 3D?
D: The advantages to Bryce? Oh that’s easy, Horo and myself have provided a ton of learning tools for Bryce, and another friend of mine has put together this site Bryce Tutorials. [T]he point being, many of the concepts, even if the interface isn’t, are interchangeable with other rendering software. So if you fancy having a crack at digital art, want to give rendering a go, but don’t know if you are going to like it enough to fork out a bucket load of cash, learn here and if and when you want to move onto something much fancier and more expensive, [you can] take your skills with you.
Bryce’s advantage is that it is very fast to work with. [Y]ou can move from idea to finished piece in a short time scale (bar rendering – that may take a while). But that’s what beginners need, lots and lots of scenes under their belt. Also, there’s plenty of helpful friendly advice to be got at the Bryce Talk forum over at DAZ 3D. So community is another advantage of Bryce.
J: Would you say Bryce has a lot to offer more advanced users over other applications (Again excluding price)?
D: That’s a tricky question. That depends on what your aim is. If you are a professional, probably you will need something more efficient than Bryce to work with, partly because of time constraints, but mostly because the industry will have certain expectations and standards for the kind of resources you will need to pass back and forth. If your aim is art, then Bryce is a tool like any other, to some extent the tool will have some influence on how your finished image looks, but otherwise, if you have control over the tool and you like using it, then it is ideal to achieve whatever you want.
J: Do you think using Bryce as your primary tool has influenced your art?
D: Yes, as a conventional artist might think in terms of shading and texture, using a render engine as a primary tool makes you think almost exclusively about light and how it moves around the world, interacts with surfaces and the atmosphere. It also makes you keenly aware of the limitations of your monitor in terms of colour gamut and dynamic range and even the limitation of your own ability to perceive light in the real world.
J: Do you think there is a part of your work that is unique to the Bryce process that you would not see from work done in other applications?
D: Only to some extent, beyond a certain level of familiarity/stubbornness, any tool and media that is sufficiently flexible can be bent to the will of the artist. See this carving of a pumpkin [character]. That effect would most likely be far easier to achieve with ZBrush and a high end render engine like Octane, this guy did this with a knife and a pumpkin. That’s mastery of the tool – in this case a knife.
J: As someone with some inside knowledge as a beta tester, how do you see the future of Bryce?
D: DAZ 3D play their cards close to their chest, even with “inside knowledge” as you say, every development cycle I’ve been involved with has come as a bolt from the blue. An email will arrive one day and an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] and the process begins. [I]t is a long and arduous process for all involved, so it is not something to be undertaken lightly.
J: Are you positive about the future of Bryce?
D: Positive at the moment, as Horo (fellow Brycer, product maker and HDRI expert) and I continue to discover new things that can be done with Bryce 7.1 Pro. If we run out of things to experiment with – usually takes between 3 to 5 years per version – then I’ll become more neutral and start wishing DAZ 3D would pull their finger out and start another development round. Then I’ll be both excited and irritated, new features – new bugs – and another seemingly endless cycle of testing and fixing.
In a recent development David has began experimenting with Octane Render and hot on the trail of the SSS he so wishes was part of Bryce.
Don’t forget to visit David’s galleries for all the fantastic images I couldn’t share here. Also, for those of you who are Brycers or are considering the program either as a first 3D application or an additional one don’t forget that David is the producer of a large collection of tutorials and other Bryce related content which can be found at his page on the DAZ 3D webstore, and at Bryce Tutorials which contains quite a number of free content.