Bryce Alive

bryce render surreal astronnut

One of Santosky’s images from his Ancient Astronauts series

Some people love it, others hate it, but such is the way with just about anything in 3D or anywhere else. With its roots as little more than a procedural terrain generator Bryce hit the market back in 1994 and quickly became the killer app of landscape rendering with a hefty price tag to match. Fast forward to 2013 the program is now at version 7.1 and available for $19.95 (prior to which it was free for over a year). Many say that the program has had its day and now the program will go quietly into the digital oblivion that has claimed so many other 3D applications. But the end of Bryce has been called before and subsequently proven wrong.

Five years and a move from Corel to DAZ 3D passed before Bryce 6 emerged in 2006, and then another four years to 7, but does DAZ 3D have the will and resources to release the Bryce 8 that the community desperately wants? What about a 7 point something with 64-bit support? Debatable, but not without hope. DAZ have shown some aptitude for software development with their updates to Bryce and Carrara, but particularly with the development of their flagship program DAZ Studio, which is evolving rapidly to compete with the Poser line of programs. Often it is uttered with a certain amount of despair that DAZ Studio’s development comes at the cost of its other acquisitions.

3d render by david brinnen

Sodium Lighting – David Brinnen

But even if Bryce (to come back to the topic) is slipping into the dark, there is still a vibrant and dedicated group of enthusiasts that show us that the software is capable of producing breathtaking results, and that this need not be the exception. This program has more than its fair share of bad press when it comes to producing quality work. Let the naysayers have their fun – haters got to hate and all the rest – but for all the mediocre Bryce images floating around out there, produced by hacks and noobs (those guys that just refuse to learn and evolve), there is a great wealth of wonder created by those that have embraced the software and learnt its secrets.

In putting this article together I corresponded with a number of Bryce’s most innovative and dedicated artists. All agree that Bryce is a good place to start for artists new to 3D. Not only is the software easy to learn with a strange and endearing interface, but there is a strong community on the forums at DAZ 3D and deviantArt (with several groups) which is enthusiastic about the program and happy to help out new adopters. There is also a vast collection of tutorials, both free and commercial. David Brinnen and Horo, both of whom I spoke with have produced some of the best quality instructional Bryce material to date, much of which can be discovered at Bryce-Tutorials.

This is but the beginning of the Bryce story. Coming soon will be at least four artist features, so say tuned.

Bryce - The First Name in 3D Landscapes

Reality Killer?

luxus promo image

LuxRender is nothing new to unbiased rendering enthusiasts using DAZ Studio, but with the recent and rather stealthy release of Luxus there is now an alternative to Reality. The release of such an exciting new product as this is usually preceded with a certain level of marketing hype, but with the community in the throes of March Madness Luxus seems to have slipped in almost under the radar. The first I saw of it was today when an email titled “Rendering Just Got Better with Luxus” popped up. Going by the title alone I admit to a certain amount of excitedness even though I wasn’t certain Luxus was a LuxRender plugin. Following to the product page I find that not only is it indeed a DAZ/Lux bridge, but that it retails at a third of the price of Reality 2.5 – snap! Though Reality has a good established user base and a history of consistent updates, I doubt the older program will be able to afford not to drop its price in the near future.

Early comments by users on the DAZ forums are generally positive, and give a good over view of some of the program’s features, which are not thoroughly outlined on the products store page. Reportedly, Luxus exposes more of Lux’s features to the Studio user, and thus negates at least some of the manual text editing hardcore Reality/Lux users performed on their scene exports. Luxus also uses DAZ Studio’s native interface for configuring Lux scenes, so I imagine using the surface selector and surface tab could be a huge time saver over the somewhat clunky Reality surface editing workflow. Also a very handy feature is the ability, not only to perform Lux renders in DAZ Studio’s interface, but perhaps even better, perform area renders. Using Lux’s native interface for final renders is suggested as it allows for the alteration of some functions (including lighting) in real-time.

Well, I have to say I’m tempted. I haven’t done a Lux render in a couple of months and I was only just noticing the itch. At just $14 bucks (special price) it is hard to say no.

luxrender image

One of the first scenes I rendered with Lux via Reality 2

It is also worth mentioning that Reality 3 for Poser has just gone into closed beta [link dead – rip RDNA].

Poser Pro and 9 on Sale

Poser Pro Poser Pro 2012 and Poser 9 have just gone on sale for INSANE PRICES!!! $149.99 for Pro ($499.99 normally) and just $64.99 for 9 (Usually $299.99). That’s pretty good, right? I can’t really say a great deal about Poser from experience, as I’ve spent only a little time experimenting in the program, but I have found it tends to produce better render results than DAZ’s version of 3delight. Poser’s render engine (FireFly) is faster and natively supports indirect lighting, ambient occlusion and IBL. While all of these things are achievable with DAZ Studio via UberEnvironment 2 the implementation is very slow and can be glitchy (since last update of DAZ Studio I can’t use UE2’s IBL features at all).

Although my experience with Poser Pro is admittedly limited I can say with some certainty after converting several lots of materials from Poser to DAZ Studio (with both programs running simultaneously), that the program’s node based material system, while perhaps a little scary at first, is much more flexible and powerful than DAZ’s system. I also found Poser’s interface and figure posing tools, though somewhat oldskool, were surprisingly intuitive and quick to work with.

At the current price Poser Pro or 9 are certainly worth picking up for anyone interested in peeking into the exciting world of CG, or for those DAZ user that want to see how the other half live. Those that are considering producing consumer content for the DAZ market should also think about picking up Poser, as both communities are fond of Victoria and Michael four, and with the recent release of DSON, Poser users are beginning to take up Genesis. As someone who is planning to break into the content creation market at some point this was a huge selling point.

Here is a little concept piece I put together with Poser Pro and PS after a couple of hours spent playing around with Poser.

3D character render Tyler

March Madness

DAZ3D is once again in the throes of March Madness. I for one am very happy I am not mired in content addiction. My bank is very sore but I doubt that would stand up against the content mania I suffered last year. Every day was a new battle not to pick up something that might have some use in the vague and distant future.

The best thing I did end up purchasing last year was Carrara Pro. Unfortunately the program has been little more than a white elephant, which is strange as the program has some amazing features such as IES support, terrain, sky and vegetation generation tools, a reasonable modeller, and a fantastic render engine (which is much more powerful than the cut-down version of 3delight Studio comes with).

I think the biggest reasons I never got stuck into Carrara was that for all its instability, Hexagon was my modeller of choice and Carrara wasn’t yet Genesis friendly. If the chance to get LightWave hadn’t popped up I would probably now be a Carrarist as I was on the verge of grabbing Infinite Skills’ Carrara training packages (fantastic project based course).

robot gir 3d model

Invader Zim’s Gir modelled in Hexagon – rigged and rendered in Carrara 8 pro

Carrara is a great place for the hobbyist and upstart professional to cut their teeth on a budget 3D package. With the platinum discount included the
standard version is shipping for $105, while Pro is going for $171. Of course this is still rather expensive when you consider Blender, which is going from strength to strength, but still a very complex program that only the most dedicated beginner could come to reasonable grips within a short time frame.

Check out the Carrara 8 Promo Reel.

DAZ Studio 4 - Create 3D Art for Free