I tend to agree with Headwax. Bryce is much slower than it should be. These statements are not meant to bash Bryce in any way, but rather to show a different view of the situation.
Keep in mind that a fast render is not necessarily a good one, especially if it causes us to water down our choices in favor of greater speed.
Bryce is “fast” if you adhere to the following restrictions:
1. Avoid all lights other than the Default Sun. Every additional point light slows rendering. IBL and Light Domes are not ideal because they are constructed of numerous virtual point lights.
2. Avoid Soft Shadows at all costs
3. Avoid Transparencies of all kinds including Translucency and SSS
4. Avoid Reflections of all kinds including Internal Reflections
5. Avoid Bump Mapping
6. Avoid Specularity (this goes along with avoiding reflection, but since they are separate channels I mention it separately)
7. Avoid geometrically complex scenes with lots of polygons!!!!
8. Avoid all materials which are Volumetric
People sometimes state that Howie’s Carrara landscape scenes are slow to render. And on the surface this is true. But this is an unfair statement to my view. Lets consider some of the characteristics of a Howie Farkes scene:
1. Howie uses numerous point lights arranged in somewhat of a dome for indirect lighting. Each of the individual lights has soft shadows enabled.
2. Howie uses the Sun for direct light, with Soft shadows also enabled.
3. Howie’s scenes are extremely complex geometrically. A single frame can show tens of thousands of individual leaves. A single scene can have many billions in polygons due to Carrara’s surface replication system.
4. Howie employs translucency for all of the millions of leaves in each of his scenes.
5. Howie uses Specularity on the leaves in his scenes
6. Howie often includes Cumulus Clouds overhead as well which cast shadows onto the landscape below.
Now let’s be honest? When is the last time you created a scene in Bryce that was even remotely as complex geometrically as a Howie Farkes scene? Answer for most is never. But I’m different. I personally have wrestled Bryce into Howie Farkes levels of complexity and I’ve learned that Bryce is eternally slow. I will explain. Though a few of us have worked with translucency on a single tree or two, few of us have employed translucency in a Bryce scene that features thousands of trees all with translucent leaves, as well as ground level vegetation that is also featuring translucent leaves. What you discover in complex scenes is that the light rays cast by the lights must travel through many layers of transparent leaves on the way back to the camera’s eye, creating a compounding slowing effect a lot like compound interest rates at the bank. Before you know it, a single frame containing truly complex geometry, translucent leaves, and decent quality lighting can cost a week in render time…and that is on my 8 core Dual Xeon monster workstation that most Bryce users dont have access to. If the render on my machine is a week, then expect the time to be at least triple that for the average user.
In my Volcanic Archipelago scene, I’ve had to do away entirely with translucency on the leaves, which makes me extremely sad. At last count Volcanic Archipelago had over 13.5 BILLION polygons….roughly a polygon for each year the Universe itself has existed. If I had lit the scene using only the sun, render time would not be bad but it would look like crap. I didnt use TA because we all know it isnt faster than conventional lighting. Fake GI is the only option. I have had to use a Light Dome arrangement. There are two domes, and each carries only 49 virtual points totaling less than 100 total points when combined. At such low quality, the shadows cast by the domes are highly banded and not smooth. Attempting to enable soft shadows for these Domes is like applying soft shadows to 100 radial lights….eternally slow. We already know how one soft shadow light source adds to render time, imagine 100 of them. And forget the idea of simply lowering the Dome to a minimum quality of 16, and applying soft shadows. What you will find is that the lack of points means the light doesn’t distribute as it should on the models, and worse, the shadows dont soften nearly as much as they should so in truly large landscapes you end up with banded shadows even still. The reality for me is, that even with fully opaque leaves with no transparency of any kind, these frames still take around 17 hours to render at a modest 1280x900 pixel resolution. This is far from true HD. And as stated above, when I take the same lighting and then apply translucency to the leaves, the render time jumps to over a week.
I’ve never heard anyone say it took them a week to render a Howie Farkes scene, regardless of the complexity of geometry or lighting! What Carrara users consider a “long render” is nothing but the “standard” for Bryce users. But what we Bryce users fail to realize is how the slow rendering in Bryce can often cause us to avoid applying the effects we need for greater realism such as reflections and transparencies. I’ve had to do away with translucency on leaves so that I can use more lights than just the sun on a landscape that relies heavily on translucency. This is a problem.
The initial problem with Bryce’s render speeds is that the engine has never been optimized to handle geometric complexity to the level we can throw at it now with the Instancing Lab. It wasnt designed to handle the lighting complexity we have access to nowadays with Domes and IBL either. Bryce was always assumed to only be useful for very low impact projects, simple shots, with default sunlight and some skydome glow and material ambience glow, not sprawling shots of vistas that example grass as far as the eye can see in all directions lit with well executed fake GI rigs.
Once you take Bryce outside the safety zone and really start to push the limits, you realize how stifling the slow rendering can be.
I believe there are ways to make these calculations faster, as other engines do it much faster than Bryce. I look at Vue landscapes all the time that feature fully translucent leaves and are rendered with Global Radiance which is full GI. These renders do not take a week per frame, that’s why Vue gets used in Hollywood pipelines.
Bryce takes too long doing the things it does, no excuses to my mind, the engine must get faster. Even from a “green” standpoint, isnt it environmentally irresponsible to spend a week rendering a single frame in Bryce when Carrara or Vue could get the job done using much less fossil fuel?
All that said, I still work almost exclusively with Bryce because it is the one I love for all sorts of non logical reasons. My love of Bryce doesn’t blind me of the shortcomings.