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BryceBlog updated to WordPress 2.7

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The upgrade went very smoothly with all but 2 plugins working with the new version!

The 2008 Golden Tori Awards nominations…

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Once again, as for the last ten years, the Bryce users community wish to recognize the excellent artistic and technical merits of our beloved program called Bryce. We are accepting nominations in various categories. Go to the Golden Tori Award site for more information…

Infinite Slabs – The Bryce-killers

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You have a fairly decent computer, with a 3GHz CPU and you have plenty of RAM – 2Gb, and you would like a plane of fluffy looking clouds in a Bryce scene, but you don’t want the two dimensional stuff that Bryce tends to produce ad nauseum. Solution – according to the Bryce manual is an infinite slab. Essentially an infinite slab is a plane object that has depth. An Infinite Slab can affect objects within it. Anything you place within the slab’s depth will be affected by the slab’s volume color.

Infinite Slabs are usually used to create water but are also suggested for creating 3D clouds, but when you make use of volumetrics in an infinite slab it will kill Bryce. A render that took a couple of minutes without the slab will now take hours and you will suffer the "hospital waiting room blues".

You lovely powerful computer doesn’t amount to much and tweaking materials and lighting to get the look you want will be virtually impossible as you will have to wait hours before you can see if your minor tweak has the desired effect.

I rediscovered a method I used for my "Ocean Gypsy" image, using stacked cloud planes to give the impression of 3D clouds, and have refined it a little bit more. It will certainly cut down on your render time and as you will see is quite acceptable visually.

To compare the speed differences I created a scene Bryce and applied the "Bryce Shortcut #2" under the Daytime library. Select SkyLab preset

I then created an infinite slab. (by holding down the left mouse button when selecting the Cloud plane creation gadget and selecting the "Volume" option.)Select Volume option

I applied a volumetric preset I had in my library called "Cloud Puffy Frac Stone", which I thought would give me a good puffy cloud.Select a volumetric preset

A quick glance at the Material settings showed me that this was not "Bryce-killer" as the quality settings in most cases were not set too high.Not too CPU-intensive

Back to the main Bryce Editor window told me a different story. The nano-Preview rendered very slowly and I could see already that I was in for a long wait. So I hit the Render button and went to bed!

The following morning the following results told their own story – a 4 hour 45 minute render!Slow Render

Back to the drawing board! This time I created the same scene with the same sky preset and selected a infinite cloud plane this time. Cloud Plane

I chose the "Cotton Ball Storm" Clouds-Surface Preset in the Atmospherics library of Bryce 6.1. It seemed a bit dark and flat so I tweaked the material settings in the Material editor raising the Ambient and Specular settings:Preset Library

...and my tweaks...

Still nothing spectacular…yet…but now comes the fun part.

Selecting the cloud plane I pressed Shift-Alt-D (Multi-Replicate) and set the requester to 10 copies offset on the Y axis by 0.2 Bryce units.Multi-Replicate

Immediately the nano-Preview updated a lot faster and the results looked good, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating…so I pressed the Render button.Turboboost!

As you can see the render is a lot quicker. 3 minutes compared to over 4 hours. The results are similar and with a little bit of tweaking in the Material Editor, very similar results can be obtained at a fraction of the rendering time!

Keep on Brycin’

Bryce Optics can be your friend – mini-tutorial

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A scripture in the Bible quotes an well-known saying "One sows and another reaps". This mini-tutorial is the result of someone else sowing and me reaping the benefit. If it wasn’t for a question posed by "Ludwigs" in the BryceTalk forum of the DAZ3D community, and Horo’s answer that mentioned the use of Bryce optics to solve the question, this mini-tutorial might never have been blogged at all. My thanks to Horo for his idea, and full credit goes to him. I just tweaked and refined the idea and made it pretty. Of course if anyone out there can add to this idea and improve on it please feel free to contact us at the BryceBlog.

The original question was why the horizon (either the water or land plane) in Bryce was always flat and not curved like a planet should be in real life. The reason is simple: The Bryce "world" is essentially a flat surface that goes off to infinity in all directions and thus will not show a natural curvature. Horo’s suggestion was to use a glass sphere as a "lens" near the camera to distort the image to give a natural curve. I took it a bit further and placed the camera inside the glass sphere and let the glass refraction bend the sky into a planetary curve. There’s how I did it:

Create a new Bryce scene and choose a sky that will suit a planet’s atmosphere
Something like Brinnen’s "Gritty Turbulent Sky" is ideal for this sort of scene with enough haze and fog to give a nice atmospheric layer.
Then select the ground plane and set its material to black (in Bryce 6.1 it is under the "Misc" material library) also set the Diffusion and Ambience channels to 0. This will create lovely velvety space above the planet.
Now for the magic. Create a Bryce primitive sphere and move and scale it so the camera object fits within it.
The apply the "Glass, Standard" material found in the default materials library of Bryce 6.1. (it is also in earlier versions) The natural refractive qualities of the glass wil act as a "lens" to distort the sky.

Just a quick render will already show you the magic starting to happen. I left the grid lines in the screen capture so you can see where the ground plane is and where the glass sphere is in relation to the camera viewpoint.
Now you can add your own extra magic. I browsed the Internet and downloaded a free 3d mesh of the "Orion" shuttle from the science fiction classic movie "2001 – A Space Odyssey". It can be found at the 2001: A Space Odyssey 3D Modelling Archive . I imported the model into Bryce 6.1 and added a couple of lights. (set with a zero falloff to give a harsher outer space lighting effect)
Now the render is almost complete except for one thing. I prefer the planet to be below but it cannot be because the sky is above and the sky is the "planet".The Banking Camera gadget comes to the rescue. It is off to the left just above the Trackball control. Just drag this gadget to the left or right to bank the camera.tutcurve08
Bank the camera 180 degrees…
…and render your final image. Very simple to do, but very impressive results! The positioning of the glass sphere is quite tricky, and lots of glances at the Nano Preview window will be required, and there will be some distortion of any objects like spaceships especially if there are lots of straight lines and geometric elements with straight edges
Save the image (and the scene file!) and import it into your favourite image editing program and add any special effects – like stars, nebulas, laser beams etc.

Here is the final result. From beginning to end this scene took 35 minutes to set up , tweak and render!
I am sure there are many more uses for Bryce Optics. Be sure to let us know if you have discovered something. Horo said himself "Bryce can do everything!"

“Zero” Files

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Why have a single Default file when you can have as many as you like?
As you just learned from the "D’ fault with the default!" post you can save a new default file by overwriting the standard Bryce default .br6 file with new settings…but that’s just one file. Do you "always" want to start at the same place? What if you want to do a "Tall Abstract" image? Your new .br6 file won’t be of any help unless you change your .br6 file to the new settings…then every time you open Bryce those will be your new default settings. So how do you get around this?

Create some "Zero Files"…

You want to do an Abstract?

Set up the scene and cameras and everything the way you want then save it as – 0Abstract.br6.
You could have multiple Abstract defaults…such as – 0AbstractTall.br6 – 0AbstractWide.br6 …you get the picture.
Do the same for other scene layouts…Model building…Terrain creator…Seamless Tile maker…Whatever.
Give them a name and slap a "0" (zero) in front of the name.

Why add the zero?

The zero will move all those special default files you create to the beginning of the list of files when you click "open" on the Bryce interface. So now when you open Bryce it will still open the "Default.br6" file…but now all you have to do is click "open" and you will have a list of all your special defaults…easy to find and ready to go.


Commenting on the Blog…

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webguyOn the Internet, I am a reclusive hobbit called Hamfast, who likes potatoes, all green growing things and playing with Bryce, Hexagon and who has a consuming passion for JRR Tolkien. In reality I am a retired medical illustrator who has drifted into the dubious job of manager/network guru/computer security advisor and general IT "expert" of the Faulty of Health Sciences for a local university. I am reclusive in nature – like my Internet alter-ego, and prefer spending time in my garden, with my wife and our only child, Christopher, who is almost 11 years old. Playing with computers is a hobby, as is my artwork, but that is all laid out in detail on my website on Bryce-Alive.org.

So forgive my paranoid nature by enforcing registration before you can comment on the BryceBlog. With the latest update to WordPress, I have a lot more protection from spammer comments and thus I have elected for now to reduce the security level for the blog to allow you all to comment. Let us keep an eye on it and see what transpires. At the first sign of the Blog becoming a comment spam target, I will put other measures in place.

On a more exciting note, if you would like to become a "real" contributor to the Blog and post you own articles on our beloved software – Bryce – then please contact me and we can set up something. We already have the famous Bryce enthusiast – Rosemary Regan – and I have had some interesting mail from others with all sorts of comments and suggestions. These will be integrated into the blog as soon as I have obtained permission to post them.

D’ fault with the default!

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I always liked the default scene that Bryce 4 and Bryce 5 loaded when you started the program. It got you into the scene and allowed your to start creating immediately. Then some programmer at DAZ (or perhaps it was a marketing person) decided that the boring old grey infinite plane and the standard clouds wasn’t exciting enough and set the material of the default infinite plane to something that looked more attractive. The problem was that this particular material setting for the ground was rather processor intensive and would take a while to render – a full 2 minutes on my old 3.0GHz Pentium 4!

With Bryce 6.1, when I fired up the program, I got into the habit of immediately going into the Material editor of the ground plane, and selecting the old Bryce Default Material under the Misc…Basic… library. (it is called "Flat Grey") and then beginning my work in Bryce. The resultant render was a lot faster – only 7 seconds from beginning to end!


Very frustrating and a pain in the butt!

Then I remembered something that I had seen on a website somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind from the time of Bryce 4. Somebody had made a comment about a file called default.br4 in the root directory of of the Bryce folder (where the Bryce*.exe is found) and how it saved the defaults of the Bryce start appearence.

So I fiddled around and found out that if you create a scene with your preferred settings (camera angle, default material etc.) and save it as "default.br6" in the root folder of your Bryce installation, Bryce will start every time with this setting. A neat little trick. No doubt others have discovered it, but I wonder if it is common knowledge or documented in the DAZ manual?

Another setting that might be useful is the Edit…Preferences requester in Bryce 6, is the "Launch to previous state" option. Switching it on will set your interface, the size and orientation of the main editing window to the setting you had with the last document you worked on. (I find this useful as I mostly prefer to work in a portrait format window and not landscape.)

Here are two screen grabs comparing the default scenes rendering time as opposed to my optimised version.


Missing images in HDRI mini-tutorial

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I have been informed that there are pictures missing from one of the postings (mini-tutorials) made by one of our authors. It seems that the links are pointing to an old host and the files are now missing. I will sort it out with the author and fix the post as soon as possible. Thanks to those who pointed it out!

Getting to grips with the nano-preview

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The Nano Preview is perhaps one of the most frustrating features (or bugs) in Bryce ever since Bryce 2.0 – and it hasn't changed much since then! It can’t be resized or moved and the detail it displays is pathetic, especially on today’s high resolution monitors. While I won’t spend too much time on this "feature" in the main Bryce window, I have found some rather interesting and useful features in the Nano Preview’s siblings in the Materials Editor, the SkyLab and the Lighting Lab…

Main Nano PreviewMaterial Nano PreviewSky Nano PreviewLighting Nano Preview

In each of these Previews there is an interesting and useful feature – the option to render the preview as it is in the actual scene you are creating.

In the Materials "Nano" Preview disable the "Render With Neutral Sky" and "Render With Neutral Ground" (why, for crying out loud, do these Americans insist on capitalising every word in a sentence or in this case a phrase – Do You See How Ridiculous It Looks When You Read It?) and then enable – by ensuring there is a check mark next to the item – Actual Selection. Now the Material Nano Preview will display a more accurate version of the object whose material you are working with.

Materials Preview Settings

In the Sky Lab Nano Preview, the option is different again (consistency throughout the Bryce interface was not high on the list of priorities for the Bryce programmers.) Enable "Render in Scene" which will disable "Render in Neutral". (you can also opt to select "Full Rendering" to make the Nano Preview more realistic but this can slow your computer down with complicated scenes.) This will display the preview more realistically so you can tweak settings and see what its final results will be on the Main Bryce window.

Sky Lab Preview settings

In the Light Lab Nano Preview, the options are the same as the Sky Lab for rendering and should be set to the same.

OK nothing to spectacular yet, but what I did discover is the each of these Preview acts like a independent camera that you can move around in the Bryce World. Pressing and holding down your left mouse button while it is on the Nano Preview and dragging the mouse around will rotate the scene around a central point in Bryce space. When you have got the right angle let go of the mouse and the Nano Preview will update, but if you return to the Main Bryce Window your current camera view has not changed. Very useful! Now what really comes in useful is using the 3 modifying keys when you click and drag your mouse in the Preview window:

  • The Ctrl key allows you to zoom in and out of the object and to rotate your camera at a fixed height around the the object.
  • The Space bar allows you to pan around the X and Y axis of the preview window. You cannot zoom or rotate the camera around the object.
  • The Alt key is very useful when you get yourself totally lost in the Bryce world and resets the rotate, zoom and pan to the default settings.

Click and drag modifiers

I find this hidden feature very useful especially if I want to get to look at what is going on behind an object, to see how a particular light is interacting with objects in a scene, and look at other parts of the scene without returning back to the main Bryce window and using the Director Camera. With only the Camera View and Director’s View, you are limited to 2 cameras that give you 3-dimensional viewpoints. You cannot add cameras and even the memory dots for cameras are limited in how many you can have.

I also find the Sky Lab Nano Preview and the Light Lab Nano Preview useful as "extra" camera views as the preview window is larger and you can see more detail, compared to the postage stamp Nano preview in the main Bryce window.

If you have other uses for this feature or any other tips around this aspect of Bryce, be sure to let us know!

Happy Brycin’

BryceBlog upgrade

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24 April 2008 [19h35] I have just upgraded the Bryceblog to the latest version of WordPress 2.5. Pretty easy to do if you follow the instructions. The upgrade went smoothly and there were no hiccups at all.