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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!"
On 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.