Taking a trip through Horo’s gallery at Bryce5 and his personal site is a fascinating experience. The first thing you will likely notice is that Horo is a man of inquisitive nature with broad interests, many of them quite technical in nature, so it is perhaps quite fitting that Bryce and 3D imagery are among his hobbies. He draws from a deep pool of inspiration for his art, with a passion for optics, lenses, HDR images, and space exploration shining through into his work. Like David Brinnen, Horo’s work tends towards the technical and experimental, pushing Bryce to its limits and. Rarely, if ever, does Horo fall back on postwork techniques to cover limitations encountered in Bryce, instead focusing on finding in-program workarounds. Horo’s work is Bryce at its best, and it was with great relish that I had a chance to get his perspective on the program, and its future.
My one wish here is that his personal site was less temperamental when browsing the gallery section, as there are many fantastic images I would like to point out and share here that aren’t available in his Bryce5 gallery. No matter! I have had a hard enough time umming and ahring over cutting down a list of twenty-five images that particularly caught my attention.
Jim: How long have you been a Bryce user and what is it about Bryce that drew you in?
Horo: I made my very first render in Bryce 5.01 in June 2002, so I’m in the 11th year. What drew me in? I’m not an artist. I come from the engineering-scientific side. I was fascinated by re-creating existing landscapes, particularly from the planets and moons. Corel Bryce was rather expensive at the time, but Terragen was free and I started with that. I also fumbled around with PovRay but couldn’t get the hang of it. Finally, the necessary bit of money came around and I could purchase Bryce 5 – which could import digital elevation maps (DEM). I was happy, but also a bit disillusioned because of the resolution of the available free DEMs. But then, I could do so much more than just visualising some existing terrains.
J: What is it about Bryce that keeps you coming back when there are so many other programs available?
H: Bryce is versatile. I can do almost everything: landscapes, abstracts, space and underwater scenes, still life, toons, pencil drawings and can also model objects. Since 5.5 we can populate our “worlds” with props coming via Poser and Studio into Bryce, and characters, animals.
Bryce has very much evolved since I started using it.
Thanks to David I was chosen for beta testing when the Bryce 6.0 development cycle started. Beta testing is tedious and very time consuming but one learns enormously. In a closed community, there are others who know things you weren’t even aware they existed. Then, for the development cycle 6.3, 7.0, 7.1 I was a member of the Steering Committee, an even smaller community where we could make propositions to the responsible managers, many of those proposals made it into the software. We discussed the workings of the new options directly with the programmers and tested alpha-versions. In other words, we were involved in the process. Bryce is now a wee bit my program to which I stick rather than go “abroad”.
J: Among the Bryce community you are known as somewhat of an innovator and pusher of boundaries. What inspires this exploration, and do you think you are reaching the limits of the program?
H: I won’t reach the limit of this version within a year or two. There is still so much to discover and learn. Of course, there are unfortunately a few aspects where the program does have limits. Inspiration comes from others. They ask questions, you find solutions. Learning is the ultimate fun.
J: Do you think using Bryce as one of your primary tool has influenced your art?
H: Well, yes, in the manner of making me want to create artwork to begin with. No colour on the fingers and clothes. But then, any other 3D/CG application could have accomplished that. At the time, Corel Bryce got a lot of advertising as the ultimate 3D program and therefore something I wanted badly – advertising can do that to you.
J: Given the chance, what are some of the things you would change about or add to Bryce?
H: Foremost and absolutely mandatory is to make this program a 64 bit application. I would also like to see an option to include virtual memory on the HD for elaborate scenes if not enough memory chips are available, even though things will get slow.Bryce has already 2 different render engines built in. A third that is unbiased would be an important addition – or the option to plug in an external render engine.
It is great to get characters over from Studio into Bryce but this is somehow lost because we cannot render a character’s face close up. Bryce doesn’t support SSS (subsurface scattering), without which it gets extremely difficult to get a plausible render of human skin.
Instancing works but is awkward to use and not bug free. The displacement option we’ve got has not been fully developed. There are bugs, Bryce is prone to crash, and the displacement is not accurate. This needs to be worked on; displacement is a must have. We would also like to see a vegetation lab. The tree lab came with Bryce 5 and hasn’t seen any improvement.
There are a few who have mastered animation in Bryce but the animation lab has not seen any improvements lately. This must be addressed as well. And that Bryce doesn’t run anymore on the Mac with an OS more recent than 10.6 is simply unacceptable. Having a Linux version would also be a plus.
J: What are the advantages of Bryce, other than price? Would you suggest it to artists new to 3D? Would you suggest to more advanced users?
H: The greatest asset of Bryce is its community. There is no jealousy, no “I’m better than you”, no “I know how but won’t tell you”. The Bryce community shares, gives advice, criticises in a constructive manner, helping everybody to improve. The Bryce interface is special. It was made by an artist for artists, not for scientists. The votes are very much divided on this score. I did struggle with it in the beginning because I had preferred a more scientific layout. When I finally saw it as sort of an adventure game, I started to love it. I think it is very intuitive once you’ve set your mind to it but I can understand folks who scorn it. An artist new to 3D CG should try it because with Bryce, any kind of visual art can be created.
Advanced users are more difficult because it depends from which application they come from and how easy they can adapt to this uncommon interface. Apart from a few missing options, Bryce can do almost everything other applications can, some even better. I’d wager that Bryce has currently the most advanced IBL options. It must be emphasised, however, that the memory limit can be such a high hurdle that it renders the program useless for an advanced user, depending on what he/she is up to.
J: A lot of 3D artists look upon Bryce as a program that’s had its day, can’t produce good results, and just plain isn’t up to the demands of the day – not to mention outright maligned from some quarters. Do you think the criticism aimed at Bryce is fair?
H: There is what is perceived the typical “Bryce look” in artwork. Nowadays, this is mainly due to artists using materials (shaders), lighting and skies from the legacy library. However, Bryce can produce outstanding results without that notorious Bryce-look without much effort. Bryce is still a modern, state of the art program many professionals use. Criticisms’ concerning it being still a 32 bit application and in this respect out-dated is fair.
J: How do you feel about the future of Bryce, and do you see yourself using it into the future?
The question about the future of Bryce I have asked myself many times. DAZ has a huge potential improving communication. It is a very secretive company as far as their plans is concerned. Bryce was declared dead many times but is still around and after each resurrection much improved. I reckon we will have to wait at least another year until the next development cycle starts, but I don’t think more than two. I conclude this from history; I have no other information whatsoever. Who knows what the future will bring? At this moment, I say that I will use Bryce as long as I have a computer it runs on.
J: Are you considering taking up other similar tools? Why/why not?
H: No, actually not, but one should never say never. I think it is important to remember that the best program is the one you know. Going for another tool also means to start again from the beginning – though progress will be faster. But I will and do use additional tools to create what I have in mind. Perhaps Bryce will sometime evolve to accept plug-ins; much like Studio can use external render engines.
And so here we come to the end of the Bryce artist features. Talking with these artists and spending many hours ponderingly browsing their galleries has been hugely inspirational. I have even gone as far as to purchase a copy of Bryce Mentoring DVD (produced by Horo and David Brinnen), and while I probably will never be a Bryce master I will be very happy to get my hands dirty in this beautiful, Intriguing oddball of a program – a sort of delving into a living relic. Let us hope that DAZ 3D does not abandon Bryce to the slow death of undeveloped software face in the ever-changing environment of operating systems (as it has already done with Mac), but lavishes it with the attention it needs to be brought fully into the modern 3D software environment, while maintaing its historical and intrinsic Bryce features and interface that make it such an endearing program.