Bryce Sci-fi Tutorial
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Spacejetters Launch Pad


This tutorial is designed for a beginner to show how easy it is to create an exciting  3D picture. This one was previously used as a background image for one of the Spacejetters ‘Launch Pad’ designs. For this you will need Bryce, the 3D rendering software, and the Spacejetters 3D model collection which is free to download.

Bryce is very intuitive to use but if you’re unfamiliar with the program there are some very good basic tutorials to be found at the Marrutt Software Training site.

Step 1

After starting Bryce a document was set up with the size 975 x 360 which is the size
I use for the ‘Launch Pad’ main picture. You can set the size through the
File> Document Setup in the hidden menu found at the top left corner of the Bryce interface. The Render Resolution was set to 1:1.00 with anti-aliasing left on.

Step 2

Next I imported the 3D building model from my Spacejetters 3D models folder. The building I used was the ‘tapered building’ no.3 which I then copied and pasted and moved into the background using the ‘reposition tool’ found in the ‘edit palette’ (see fig1)

Fig 1


Step 3

Another 3D model was then imported, this time from the Spacecraft folder and positioned between the two buildings. The model I used was the ‘tracker C-class’

This first phase of importing models is simply to get them into the scene. Further adjustments to their position and the overall composition of the scene will be carried out in the later stages.

The background sky is the default setting that Bryce uses, and this will also be adjusted shortly to improve the image, but for now it will suffice. By doing a test render you can see how your picture is beginning to shape up. Simply press the large sphere under the ‘Camera Trackball’ on the left side of the screen and watch your picture come to life..

By highlighting the smaller sphere to the left (in blue) you will get a faster render.

Step 4

At this stage I have added some textures to the buildings and the spacecraft which Bryce refers to as ‘materials’ A library of these materials can be found by selecting a model and clicking on the little triangle at the side of the ‘edit’ palette text. This will bring up a standard choice of materials which you can choose from. However, you also have the option to import your own materials if the standard ones are not to your liking.

I personally prefer to use my own which I designed using the Bryce ‘Materials Lab’
You can dowload these free for Bryce 5 by
clicking here and opening the edit palette, choosing the ‘user’ library and selecting the ‘import’ option to import the file you downloaded. (Make sure you remember where you saved the file).

After applying some suitable materials to the models I then began to experiment a little bit with the composition and the sky palette. In this picture you can see that the buildings appear more at an angle. This is achieved by using the ‘Camera Trackball’ (The sphere with the cross on it) Simply press and drag slowly with the mouse.

Step 5

Be careful when using the ‘Camera Trackball’ It’s very easy to get carried away with it, but it’s also a great tool for creating unusual and dynamic angles to make the viewpoint more interesting. You may also need to move the models around to keep them in view.

As you can see in this picture I have accentuated the angles of the buildings even more, and by playing around with the ’reposition tool’ I have moved the spacecraft around into a different position which brings it more to the foreground, and by doing so creates a stronger composition. I also added a smaller spacecraft into the background to create more depth to the picture. Another way to enhance this is by adjusting the ‘haze’ setting.

Also notice I have changed the sky setting again. Sometimes it’s just a case of trying different skies in the ‘sky palette’ to see which works best. With Bryce you have a lot of control over the way skies are presented, and you can also create and save your own, but as a beginner you probably just want to try different ones to become familiar with them. Notice also that the angle of lighting is also affected by the sky setting.

Step 6

After doing a ‘test render’ you can quickly spot areas within the picture that can be worked on and improved on using a bit of patience and improving your knowledge of the program. Bryce is a wonderful artistic tool but needs time and understanding of all it’s hidden features to get the best out of it. However, sometimes the best results are achieved using the simplest techniques.

Experimenting with the sky presets always brings about the most dramatic changes to the scene. Sometimes it can spoil the picture completely, but sometimes it can make an amazing difference. Getting the color scheme right can make or break your design, so choosing the right sky and materials for your objects or models is important. Also, adjusting the sun color, position and lighting conditions will have an immediate effect on the overall image. This is where the ‘Sky Lab’ becomes useful.

Step 7

A quick way to do a ‘test render’ and save time is to change the size of the document in the ‘document setup’ under the file menu. Using a document setup ratio of 1:0.50 instead of 1:1.00 the test render is completed much quicker and is large enough to see if the changes have worked or not. (Useful if your screen size restricts image visibility)

Once I’m happy with the basic design I then save the document and the image as a bitmap and open it in my favorite graphics program Photoshop. It’s here that I add the finishing touches to the artwork.

In this particular piece I added some some trails to the main spacecraft in the foreground.
I also used the layer function in Photoshop to add some faint mist to the foreground and background which helped create a feeling of more depth. More often than not, the extra details added in the final stage of producing your picture will improve the end result. But sometimes they may not be necessary, and the finished render you output from Bryce may be all that you need to achieve your perfect picture.

For more details of the Bryce rendering program click here

If you would like to read more 3D Bryce tutorials then visit 3D Spacemodels and if you’re stuck for ideas then check out the finding inspiration page.


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