Notes on the pictures

General Notes: These pictures were made with Metacreations "Bryce", a 3D rendering program that specializes in outdoor scenes and landscapes and stuff (but can be twisted in various other directions).

I have many virtues, including laziness, arrogance, and stinginess.   *8)  

Because I'm lazy, my images tend to be simple. At least at this point in my creative history, I'm not willing to work for days on an image, getting every blade of grass perfect, and adding layers and layers of essential mountain ranges fading into the background.

I like very much the adage (who said it?) that perfection comes not when no more can be added, but when no more can be removed. It's hard to make a complex picture in which every blade of grass and every fold of the elf-maiden's diaphanous gown is actually essential. So being lazy I tend not to do that; my pictures express whatever strange thing I want to express with a minimum of stuff. And because I'm arrogant I presume that my pictures are worth looking at anyway!

Because I'm stingy, I don't buy very many programs. The couple of hundred bucks for Bryce was quite a stretch! So (at least so far) my images have no Photoshop postprocessing, no lens flare, and so on. I use Paint or Perl scripts to make basic bitmaps, sPatch for simple modeling when I want something that I can't do (yet!) in the Bryce Terrain Editor, and I use an old version of GJC's EZViewer to do simple format conversions and jpeg compression and stuff, and that's about it.

Note that I have nothing against people who are less lazy, less arrogant, or less stingy, and do lovely complex pictures with lots and lots of elements and fancy post-production work! Sometimes I even envy them.

Air Raid Warden (April 2000): One of the first Bryce images I made after buying the real live non-demo version of the program. Yes, it's blatantly silly! The title is a joke which is no doubt completely unfunny once explained, but just in case anyone didn't get it: one of the duties of an Air Raid Warden is to enforce blackouts, going from house to house making sure that no light shows for the enemy to target. This here eye (one of the cheesier of the standard Bryce materials) is obviously coming over to see who's violating the blackout by showing a light on the island in the foreground there. See?

"Air Raid Warden" was done entirely with Bryce (converted to jpeg and compressed slightly for the Web with EZViewer97).

Comedy and Tragedy (April 2000): If you're wondering "which is which?" you've gotten, or perhaps completely missed, the point of the picture.

The two models were done in sPatch; the one on the left was produced by taking the one on the right, applying the random-jitter function in sPatch, and then adding some "bump" to the material in Bryce.

Annunciation (April 2000): I didn't mean to produce an explicitly Christian or religious image here, and I'm still not sure whether or not I have. But I'm quite fond of it whatever it is! What would a deity have to say to an odd piece of stone?

This looks best on a big screen with 32-bit color; otherwise there may be some strange distracting color-contour artifacts in the sky. The image was done entirely with Bryce, by throwing together some simple shapes in the obvious way, adding just a little bump to one of the standard marble textures, and positioning a yellow spotlight with the "volume-visible" bit turned on. I realize that the cloud layer on the bottom isn't really supposed to be used this way, and doesn't really look like a proper cloud layer, but that's OK. The oddness adds to the ambiance somehow.

The Seeley Stone (April 2000): Pammon Landless came across this odd artifact on his second voyage in the Desert Ocean. The locals (what few there are) do not know what the writing says, who wrote it, when it was written, how it was written (the block in which it is apparently carved is harder than adamant), or how the block came to be embedded in this boulder. But they do aver that sleeping beside it under a full moon will often cure a toothache.

I scrawled the "writing" with a mouse in Paint, blurred it slightly in EZViewer, loaded it into a symmetrical lattice in Bryce, sank it as a negative boolean object into the block, and put a yellow-gold 2D sheet just below the block's surface. Jpeg compression via EZViewer (I really ought to try Bryce's own "render as HTML"). I like the way the three miniature terrains positioned around the outside of the image help the eye relax into the center, and avoid having a distractingly-artificial perfectly flat grass plain around the boulder. I'm not perfectly satisfied with the image (it's a bit too straightforward), but it's not bad.

I admit I'm a little distressed that I've given in so early to the temptation to set an image in a sort of Tolkein/LeGuin "folks with funny names and no telephones" world; if I ever do the whole "unicorn and naked elf-woman" thing, you can just shoot me! Unless of course it's funny...

Unreal Islands (April 2000): This is the first Bryce image my daughter did; after watching Daddy fritter away all that time with the demo version and then the real thing, she wanted to try it herself. One of the great things about kids is that they have so few preconceptions, so their stuff can have a kind of freshness that grownups have to work really hard to get near.

"Unreal Islands" was done entirely in Bryce, with jpeg compression in EZViewer.

Athens, 1954 (April 2000): I've been playing around with some interior scenes in Bryce, and although (because?) it's very simple, the forms and colors of this one strike me as Just Right. M also says nice things about it.

The meaning of the title is, I trust, obvious.   *8)  

The image was done entirely in Bryce, with jpeg compression and a touch of gamma in EZViewer. The materials of the floor, walls, and table are from the brilliantly great Content CD-ROM that comes with Bryce 4, and the table model is just a stretched version of one of the "imported" object presets. The creative inspiration, of course, is all my own.   *8)

The "room" here actually has no ceiling. To get interior lighting, I turned off the atmosphere and set the ambient and sun colors to black (always alt-click on color swatches, to get the real color-chooser), and then put a radial light, tinged just slightly yellow, up about where a ceiling light would be, and turned down shadow sharpness a bit. Alternately, I could probably have left shadows sharp and turned up the ambient light color a bit instead; there's always more than one way to do it in Bryce...

Flashlight (April 2000): Just a fun object, suitable for exploring ancient Dwarven caves or the haunted ruins of evil laboratories. I'm not sure what its power source is; I'm considering adding some subtle little gold contacts near the base of the handle, for plugging it into the battery-charger!

There's also a crystal version, which I thought was a bit too "naked Elf maiden" to put in the primary rotation.

The image was done entirely in Bryce, with jpeg compression in EZViewer. The object is made up entirely of Bryce primitives: three orthogonal toruses surrounding a crystal ellipsoid with a radial light inside it, mounted on a cylinder with a spherical end-cap, and five evenly-spaced (via "multireplicate") negative toruses to make the handle grooves. The crystal version is exactly the same, but with all the materials changed to the standard Bryce crystal preset.

Bryce users can download the object as an OBP file here (23K ZIP file), and import it into Bryce to play with. This is the steel version; converting it to crystal is of course simple. (I hope everyone can handle the ZIP file; I'm told Stuffit Expander on the Mac should be able to. Drop me a line if you want the model but can't unZIP it.)

Christmas on the Rock (September 2000): Having not done much with Bryce for a few months besides make casual landscapes for desktop backgrounds, I thought I'd upload one. Here it is! The title is out of the blue. Note that the ground isn't water; more like metal. Or something.

Entirely in Bryce, with compression by EZViewer as usual. The islands are the obvious Bryce symmetrical lattices, in built-in materials, and the thing in the air is a bumpy glass sphere with a radial light inside it. The ground is white metal, with a little extra bump added. I like how the sun shines through the big glass ball onto one of the islands. This took about ten minutes to set up in Bryce, and an hour or so to render at 1024x768 with "fine art" anti-aliasing for the desktop. The enormous one (450K JPG) is here. (If anyone wants/needs the BMP, just write and ask.)

Snips and Snails (February 2001): I had a sudden urge to make some random objects and put them on a table. So here we are! This is probably the contents of some little kid's pockets after a long day exploring the ruins of the sorceror's castle on the hill.

Entirely in Bryce (I even let it do the compression). The table is a flat walnut block floating in the air, with a conical spotlight floating above it (offscreen). Atmosphere, ambient light, and sun/moon are all turned off. The only object that is more than one piece is the box; it has a negative torus sunk into the top. I wish Bryce knew a little more about physics, so I could easily have one end of one stick propped up on another stick (rather than having to spend hours fiddling to get it right). What appears to be a flat-bottomed rock resting on the table is actually a bumpy rock set into the table; again because neither Bryce nor I was willing to figure out the bumpy rock's actual resting position.

Making objects is fun; I may do another one of these sometime. And maybe I'll even have the energy to fake some more complex physics!

Pictures page

David M. Chess
last updated February 24, 2001.
Email most welcome.