Note: I haven't used Bryce in years; so these tutorials are archived "as is." I can't accept questions, because I don't remember the answers.

About the Course

Beginning Bryce 5

Intermediate Bryce 5

Beginning Bryce 5 - Lesson Three, Somewhere to Put It: Page One

In this lesson, we are going to be learning about the things on the Procedural section of the Create palette; Terrains, Trees, Metaballs, Symmetrical Lattices, and Rocks. If you want to follow along, you will need to download the Lesson3.sit or file, which contains the various files called for in the lesson.

Shall we begin?

Please open Bryce to a new document if you haven't already done so.

The Terrain Editor, with all the parts labeled

You already know how to create terrains. Now we are going to explore editing and texturing them, so they look like what you envision.

Begin by creating one. (The mountain on the Create palette.) When it's there, click the E on the Icon Column. This will take you into the Terrain Editor.

The Terrain Editor has several parts. Some can be resized, and everything but the Accept and Cancel buttons can be moved around, so you can set this area up in any configuration that is comfortable for you. This is how I have mine set up.

The Timeline is for animations. We won't be using it in this course, so you can just ignore it for now.

The Terrain Canvas is the surface you will draw your terrains on. Because you will be actually drawing there, I've found that it makes sense to have it as large as your screen will allow. In the upper right hand corner of it, there is a flippy triangle. If you click it, you will see a pop-out menu that gives you several choices. The first one is "Set Preview Size." Several sizes are listed. Choose the one that is most comfortable for you.

Remember the bump map from the last lesson? Well, terrains are like bump maps, but they actually change the geometry of an object. The lighter each pixel on this map, the higher the elevation of that tiny portion of the terrain. the darker the pixel, the lower the elevation.

When you paint on this canvas, you will literally be painting elevation, height and depth, onto the square that defines your terrain.

Tool visibility toggle, in the top right corner of the Terrain CanvasIn order to help you do this, there is a section with Terrain Canvas Tools that is hidden in the default view. In the upper right corner of the Terrain Canvas, there is a little icon that looks like a tiny computer menu, next to a slightly larger one. This toggles between the minimum window, and the window with the Tools. Click to see the tools, if they aren't already visible.

Those tools are so valuable that I just leave them on all the time. (They are shown enabled in the graphic that opens this page.) We'll get back to them in a moment, after you know how to use the 3D Preview, so you can see exactly what you can do with them.

The preview menu, top right of the Preview palette, under the flippy, showing a rendered preview behind itThe 3D Preview allows you to see what your terrain will look like as you construct and edit it. Click the flippy triangle in the corner of the Preview window to see the choices available.

First on the list are the choices for the size of this palette. It's not as important to me as the canvas, so I would rather have the maximum Canvas size and make this one a bit smaller if necessary; but that's me. Feel free to set them up the way that is most comfortable for you.

Next is View Mode. You can choose to see the thumbnail in either Flat Preview (the default), or as it actually appears in your scene using the Rendered Preview. This can be very handy, but it also takes longer to redraw. Once again, it's a trade off; and which you choose is up to you. Toggle between them now, to get an idea of how they look.

Switch to Rendered Preview, if you aren't already there. Now, remember the keyboard controls you used to look at the Preview in the Materials Lab? Well, they are all here, too, and they work exactly the same way. Check them out.

Once again, if you put your mouse anywhere on the preview picture, you can move around it as if it were at the center of a virtual trackball. If you hold down the spacebar, you can pan horizontally and vertically. If you hold down the Control/Ctrl key, you can zoom in and out. If you hold down Option/Alt and click, it will return to the default position.

It won't show you anything else in your scene; but if you have resized your terrain in any direction, this preview will accurately show you that. So it is very valuable to have.

The preview menu, with a flat preview, and Auto Rotate highlightedOkay. Now return to the Flat Preview for a moment.

The controls here, for some reason, don't work exactly the same way. But you can still see any part of your terrain. The trackball is the same, and works without any modifier keys.

But the zoom is controlled by Option/Alt. Try it out.

Also, the Control/Ctrl key determines the height of the terrain in the preview. (This has no effect on the height of the actual terrain in the picture.) Hold the key down, click and drag up and down to increase and decrease the height.

There is also a pop-out menu choice that is not available in the Rendered Preview. That is Auto Rotate. It's under the flippy triangle, naturally. Turn it on for a moment, to see how it works. This can let you see your terrain from all sides as you work. (It can also make you a trifle dizzy.)

Looking at the menu again, the next choice is Realtime Linking. If it's checked, the preview (either one) will change as you draw on the Canvas. (The Rendered Preview draws on a wireframe.) This can be wonderful, as it lets you see what is happening as it happens. But it can also slow your machine. If you don't have this choice enabled, the entire change will appear as soon as you stop working. Try it out now, with both previews. (Just click and draw on the canvas. Unless you have changed something, you should be drawing with the highest elevation. Undo as soon as you've seen what happens.)

Rip to Screen gives you a full size screen shot of whatever the preview shows. This is especially valuable, I think, when you are using the rendered preview, because it lets you see what the terrain looks like, in detail, before you commit to those changes. Just click anywhere on the screen to return to the Editor. It's not as impressive in Flat Preview.

The Colored/Grayscale toggle, bottom left of the Terrain CanvasOkay. Back to the extras on the Terrain Canvas.

In the bottom right corner, you will see a tiny rainbow, and a yin/yang symbol. Those toggle between colored previews and the default grayscale. Sometimes it's difficult to accurately visualize the elevation you are working with in grayscale. For those times, there are color previews available. Click and hold on the rainbow now. (If you don't see one, you need to enable the Terrain Canvas tools. The toggle for that is in the upper right hand corner of the Terrain Canvas, as explained above.)

The color variations menu, for the Terrain Canvas, showing stripes of color. The lower elevations at the bottom, higher at the topA menu will fly out, with a number of color variations. Select one (they are outlined in white when selected) and release the mouse button to color your terrain. These colors do not affect the actual terrain, by the way. They are just to help you visualize what you are doing.

If you think it really looks great, though, and you want to keep it for the image you are working on, you can. Under the flippy triangle at the top of the Terrain Canvas is a choice called Keep Gradient. If you check it, then the gradient is used as the Diffuse Color map on your actual terrain. Try it out, if you like. You can always undo.

The yin/yang symbol will take you back to grayscale.

The Zoom Area button, to the left of the color toggleMoving to the left, the Zoom Area works with the Flat Preview. If you click on it to enable it, it will turn white, and a marquee will appear somewhere on the canvas. That portion of the canvas will also zoom to fill the entire preview window, where you can see the 3D representation of your terrain.

If you position your cursor over the boundary of the marquee, it will change to a hand. As usual, that means you have a pan tool, and you can now drag the marquee to any area of the Canvas.

If you position your cursor over a corner, it will change to a four headed arrow, which allows you to resize the marquee.

If you click on Crop, below the Zoom Area toggle, it will crop your terrain so that the portion within the boundary of the zoom fills the whole canvas, and becomes your new terrain. If you click Fit, the whole terrain will shrink into the area encompassed by the marquee. The rest will be set to the bottom elevation.

Go ahead and try it out. Remember, you only have one undo in here, though. You can, however, always return your terrain to the way it was when you first entered the Editor. Just hold down the Control/Ctrl key, and click on the New button on the Elevation tab of the Editing Tools palette.

If, on the other hand, you wind up with something that you really like, you might want to exit the editor by clicking the checkmark, and then reenter it. That way you will be returning to that terrain when you hold down Control/Ctrl and click New, not the raw one that Bryce first generated.

At the bottom left is the pop-up for Brush Behavior. We will get to that soon.

The Clipping Tool, on the right side of the Terrain CanvasAt the top right is the Clipping Tool. It shows the height scale, using whatever gradient you are using, with a gray bracket to the right of it. Anything outside the bracket is not rendered in your image. In other words, it's clipped. You can change either end of the bracket by clicking and dragging on it. Make sure the Zoom tool is disabled, then go ahead and try. (It's more impressive to watch in the Rendered Preview.) Clipped low areas show as dark red on the preview. Clipped high areas show as yellow. Move the bracket ends to see them both.

A render of the terrain with the top removed, showing that's there's nothing inside it. (You can see the gray default ground where the top is missing.)If you look at the Rendered Preview, you can see the terrain is really just an empty shell. When the top is clipped, there's nothing inside.

The flippy for the Terrain menu, on the top right of the Terrain CanvasYou can make it into a solid, though. You do that by going to the Canvas pop-up, under the triangle in the top right-hand corner, and choosing "Solid."

Another render of the same terrain; this time, it's simply a mountain with a flat topNow look at the Preview. (Click on it to force a render, if you don't see any change right away.) See the difference? The top is flat, as if you took the top off a real mountain. You will also want to render your terrain as a solid if you are planning to use a transparent material on it, or if you are having problems using Boolean functions with terrains.

You can move the entire bracket by grabbing the middle, and dragging it up or down.

When you have experimented enough to get familiar with it, please reset it to the entire range. We are going to need it.

A circle with a cross hair inside it. This is your brush!There are a couple of other things in that pop-up menu.

The first choice is Visible Brush. Drag your cursor over the Canvas. See the circle? That shows you your brush size. (We will be getting to the brushes, and how to use them, soon.) If you uncheck Visible Brush, that circle will disappear. I'm not really sure why you would want that, but if you do, there it is.

A monutain wiht the surface smoothedThe third choice down is Smooth. When this is checked, Bryce renders your terrains with the same kind of smoothing we talked about in the last lesson.

A mountain looking faceted, with all the polys showing.If it's unchecked, you can see the sides of every polygon. Try unchecking it now, and taking a look. (Zoom in so you can really see it. If you don't see any change, click anywhere on the preview to force a redraw.)

The last choice is Export. This allows you to export your terrain in a number of different formats, which can be used by other software programs. This is wonderful, since it allows the terrain generating capabilities of Bryce to be used in any program that imports one of those formats. You can also use this when you really like the terrain you have made, but it's not what you need for this picture. Just export, and save it for another one. Bryce can import those formats, too.

Moving right along.

The Paintbrush palette, with the grid at the bottom circledThe Paintbrush Palette is the little one without a name. It controls the size, softness, flow, and elevation of the paintbrushes you use on the Terrain Canvas. (In that order, from top to bottom.)

At the bottom of the palette is a grid. That controls the resolution of the terrain; from 16x16 pixels, which is very coarse, all the way to 4096x4096 pixels, with several stops in between.

Smooth mountain, without much detail Mountain showing some detail Highly detailed, realistic mountain
32 - Coarse Terrain 128 - Normal Terrain (Default) 1024 - Massive Resolution Terrain

Of course, the higher the resolution of your terrain, the more realistic it will look. But also the more time it will take to render, and the more memory it will take to store. Once again, it's a tradeoff. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to use coarser terrains in the background of your picture, with finer ones as you move into the foreground.

The default, 128x128 pixels, works fine for most terrains in the middle distance. Change the resolution a few times now, to see what it does. Remember, you can undo! If you loose your terrain shape, Control/Ctrl click on New in the Editing Tools Palette. (I know we haven't quite gotten there, but it's the only thing that says "new" in here.)

I suggest that you look at some of the high resolution terrains in Rendered Preview, to get an idea of the cost. Also, remember that right now there is only the default material on that terrain, which is cheap to render. When you are looking at a complex texture (and they do show up on this preview) it takes even longer.

The Editing Tools palette, showing the Elevation tab, with the Master, General, and Special controls sections labeledAlright. Now that you know how the Grid Size works, we are going to look at the last Palette; the Editing Tools. This is where the real fun is. (We'll get back to painting in a moment.)

There are three tabs on the Editing Tools palette. The first one is the Elevation, and changes the elevation of the terrain according to several algorithms, fractal and otherwise.

It's divided into two sections, with four blue buttons on the top section, and 12 blue buttons, seven green ones, and seven yellow ones on the bottom.

The top section are the Master Terrain controls. The Blue buttons are General controls, the green and yellow ones are special elevation editors. (The colors are left over from earlier versions of Bryce, where you had to toggle between the two sets.)

In general, all of these buttons can be used in two ways. You can click on a button, and the full force of the effect is applied instantly. Or, you can click and drag right and left to gradually change your terrain. Usually, dragging right applies a positive version of the effect, and dragging left applies a negative version. (In some cases, dragging left doesn't do anything; but it's worth trying with all the buttons anyway.)

The New botton, in the Elevation Master ControlsIf you click the New button, it erases your canvas, taking everything down to the lowest elevation, so you can start from the beginning. Dragging melts it all down, aiming for that base. Control/Ctrl - Click reverts the canvas to whatever it was when you entered the Editor. (But you already knew that one.)

The Invert button, next one to the right in the Master controlsInvert swaps the light pixels for dark ones, across the board, but it does it gradually if you drag the mouse. The effect is to slowly turn your terrain inside out. Check it out! Or you can just click on the button, to apply the full effect instantly.

The Undo button, next one alongUndo, of course undoes whatever you did last, but only the very last thing. Clicking it again redoes whatever you just undid.

The Erode button.Erode is the fun one. Click and hold, and tiny little rivulets eat away at your terrain. Try it.

The Fractal button, top left in the General controlsMoving to the second portion of this tab, Fractal is used to generate a new terrain.

Click and hold on the Flippy Triangle, and you will see a whole list of possible Fractal algorithms. Each one makes a different kind of landscape. (The choices at the bottom allow you to set up a series of terrains that fit together like puzzle pieces to make whole landscapes; but that is material for the next course.)

To use them, choose one and click the button to replace what you have with the new terrain, or click and drag to blend it with your current terrain. Try it out. If you want to blend the Fractal with what you have, and you are using a high resolution, it may take a few moments for the computer to generate the new terrain. Wait for it to stop working before you start to drag, or switch to a lower resolution, blend, and then return to the higher one.

The Eroded button, second down on the leftEroded adds large scale erosion, unlike the tiny rivulets of Erode. Click to apply the full force, or click and drag to gradually erode the terrain. Dragging to the right erodes it up (actually adding material, but doing so realistically.) Dragging to the left erodes it down.

The Picture button, third down on the leftPicture allows you to use a picture you made in another program as a terrain. When you click on it, it opens a dialog that lets you browse. We'll get to that later.

Switching Resolution to Create Terrains
showing the effect of moving up, or moving down.
Mountain, showing blurry terrain features Mountain, with sharper, more detailed features
256 From 128 256 From 1024

The rest of them are pretty self-explanatory. Play around with them, and have fun. Remember, to apply the full force, click on the button. To apply an effect gradually, click and drag either left or right.

A few tricks. When you use Eroded, you can quickly reach the limit, where you have flat topped mountains. To avoid that, alternate Eroded with Raise/Lower and keep lowering the terrain so you can Eroded it some more. (Which is odd grammar, but there you go.)

Erode (rivulets,) increase the resolution (the grid on the Paintbrush palette) erode, increase the resolution, and erode some more to get fairly realistic terrains pretty quickly.

Starting with low resolutions and working up can save time. However, starting high and working down to what you need can give you better results. In either case, don't be afraid to switch back and forth to get what you want.

Have a ball. Remember, if it gets too muddled, Control/Crtl click the New button to put it back the way it was when you entered the Editor.

When you are ready, come back, and we'll discuss the other two tabs on Page 2.