Daz|Bryce 5.5 full review

Bryce is the virtual-environment-building application acquired and relaunched byDaz Productions, a company best known for its vast range of figure models for Poser.

This explains why Bryce 5.5 now ships and integrates fully with the totally free Daz|Studio, an excellent Poser-rival.
If you are coming cold to the application, or from Maya or a similar package you’ll need a bit of time to read the manual to get up to speed: there are a lot of proprietary procedures in the workflow and interface.

If you don’t have Daz|Studio already installed, its installer will launch automatically. This results in the addition of the Daz|Studio logo to the Create menu, the most obvious of the interface changes in Bryce. Clicking on the logo opens up DAZ|Studio. You can then load the company’s Poser-compatible figures (or indeed figures from Poser), adjust their poses, add textures, clothing and hair, then click on the ‘Return to Bryce’ button to load the scene into the host application exactly as it looked in DAZ| Studio, à la Photoshop and ImageReady.

However when we first tried this with a DAZ Victoria 3 model, Bryce crashed. The problem didn’t seem to be code-related, however. Due to space limitations we hadn’t installed Bryce and Studio in the default Applications folder but this was rectified and thelatest Studio update installed at the same time.

Once reinstalled, things really took a great jump in speed where application launching and switching was concerned. However, DAZ has bet its money on improving the Bryce rendering engine as well. The company claims that you can render scenes over 30per cent faster on average and there has certainly been a noticeable increase in some places. It’s notthe case completely across the board though, sosome tweaks still need applied in this department.

CPU usage has also been streamlined so that when you hide or minimize Bryce 5.5, the load on your Mac’s processor drops to let other programs run without degrading performance. To achieve the best render times, though, it’s wise not to minimize Bryce at all - our renders actually froze a couple of times doing this.

If you have a graphics card that supports it, there is also enhanced OpenGL support in Bryce 5.5, which combined with the faster rendering gives you a far more realistic and creative modelling environment.

OpenGL display modes can be accessed via the Display Mode tool, which let you view the texture maps applied to objects in a scene in real-time. You can pan, zoom, and rotate around objects in the scene as before, but now with full-resolution textures in place, including ground and water planes. The optimized display styles include texture shaded, wireframe, lit wireframe, hidden line, wire shaded, smooth shaded and wire textured shaded. The latter allows combined wireframe and full colour previews of scenes. It enhances other parts of the workflow too, such as the Realtime Linking function. Activated when editing materials for terrains, this enables every change you make to be applied simultaneously to the Terrain Canvas and the 3D Preview, so with the faster redraw you can seeeffects of erosion or smoothing instantly.

Bryce Lightning is a network rendering application that ships with Bryce, so this has also received an update. Lightning uses advanced image compression for improved rendering over either a Local or Wide Area Network. The setup is fairly simple and results were good even shared on just two machines. A networked studio of Macs chugging away would really make a difference to render times. The interface has been improved here to make networking more straightforward.

A couple of enhancements added in version 5.0 are also being promoted: the Tree Lab and Metaballs. The latter are spheres for sculpting organic objects. Working on a principle of attraction, you can throw them together like clay, adjusting how much they blend. The Tree Labis a bit more self-explanatory, allowing you to create and edit a wide variety of tree types, including textures, trunk size, colour, material and number of leaves.

Bryce isn’t the only world creator: there are a number of others including the big rival Vue d’Esprit. You have to buy a separate application (Mover) to import animated Poser/DAZ figures into Vue, but version 5.5 has OpenGL previews, features organic modelling in the form of Metablobs and creates trees using its Solid Growth technology. Vue’s Terrain modelling features are also a match for Bryce, though the latter is more popular with users of other 3D apps and Photoshop for import/export and editing of terrain height maps. The latest round of enhancements puts Vue ahead with lighting but Bryce is still cheaper and still the better modeller.

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