Bryce 7 Pro review

Bryce has a long history on the Mac, gaining recognition for creating beautiful, abstract landscapes using an outlandish interface, designed to hide complexity and encourage experimentation. Over the years it has suffered from inattention but DAZ 3D, the US company that bought it in 2004 and which has now released Bryce 7, wisely kept the essence of the interface. Since 2004 DAZ has effectively released a series of maintenance updates with minor new features.

This time it is different. DAZ has given Bryce aficionados something they have been wanting for a long time: the ability to populate terrains with trees and vegetation. This is accomplished using the Instance Brush, which can be edited to hold several objects all randomly varied to make them appear as different as possible in the scene. Also there are whole new libraries of preset materials to explore, as well as new volumetric lights and more controls in the Sky Lab for using HDR images for Image Based Lighting. A primitive particle generator is well hidden. It only generates spheres but hopefully this will be developed – perhaps for Bryce volcanoes in version 8?

New too is the ability to import models from Google SketchUp and Electronic Arts Creature Creator. In the Materials Lab, a Displacement setting has been added which allows for a fantastic new field of experimentation in creating textures from the realistic to the weird. DAZ has also provided a series of video tutorials on its site.

However, the program is woefully buggy. Populating a terrain with lots of trees will make the program hang. Most maddeningly there is a bug that kills the program during a save. On older Macs – early Intels and PowerPC – the movement tools can take on a life of their own. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in a point upgrade.

OUR VERDICT

DAZ is to be lauded for keeping Bryce alive, and especially for releasing a free PLE version that will hopefully enchant a new audience. Even the upgrade price for the Pro Version is wonderfully cheap, which makes it worth it for the Instance Brush alone.

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