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What I am wanting to do: Create a planetary map that I can zoom into locations and render
Is that possible with Bryce?
@KLForbes - I believe it's not only possible, but Bryce already comes with materials that, when applied to a sphere, match planets in our solar system. If you're talking about a planetary system other than the one we float around in, then it's even more possible, because Bryce is so good at letting you use your imagination. Check out the work of Horo. He's good at space ... entire galaxies and nebulae all using Bryce.
Also, check out this post about making asteroid belts:
The Celestia 3D space simulator also has a big collection of freebie planet textures at The Celestia Motherlode. Use the floating menu on the left side to navigate: the sections you might be interested in are Solar System (for RL local planets and moons), and most of the categories under Fictional have at least a few non-RL planet textures. ("Most" except the Babylon 5 one, that seems to be just spaceship models.) As far as I can tell, all of these planet textures should be easily mapped to a plain sphere object, and some of them are very high-res. There are also a few textures for ringed planets, but I think these are dependent on the way Celestia handles object geometry for the rings; I can't figure out yet how to map them properly.
I'm not exactly sure how close you plan to zoom in. For example, I doubt andybody has any maps sized sufficiently to give a planet-wide view, but to allow you, say, draw a city with individiual buildings as viewed from the air that one could zoom in to and see during an animation or anything. I expect a map of that detail and size would be beyond Bryce's memory limitations even if you could create one. Hopefully that is not what you were planning to do?
I got a huge one off Blue Marble
@KLForbes - what you need are images in the spherical projection, double as wide than high, and map it either spherical or parametric on the sphere. How much you can zoom in depends on the resolution of the spherical map and the size of you render - or the diameter of the planetary sphere will have in the final image.
The FOV (field of view) angle for the Bryce camera is not the Angle of view. I have a calculator on my website (see sig, go to Raytracing > Knowledge > FOV calculator; or find it in the table Raytracing > Hints > Camera).
Let's assume the planet will cover 1000 px of the final render.
If the true angle of view of the camera is 120° (FOV 150° at scale 100%, or FOV 120° at Scale 64%), then the camera sees a third of the map. Your map needs to be at least 3000 x 1500 px, double that is better. If you zoom in to 36° (FOV 45° at Scale 100%), the camera sees a tenth of the map and hence the image on the sphere should be at least 10,000 x 5,000 px.
Of course, the above is only an approximation, just assuming the sphere is just a strip the size of 360° but it suffices to get the idea about map size, zoom and render size.
What Sean said. You cannot infinitely zoom into a 2D picture.
There are two general solutions animators use.
1) create several 'worlds' at differing proximities and wipe between them (easiest)
You create, say, 3 views of your planet: one from space down to about atmospheric level. Make a satellite cross your line of view, and use that as a cut point to your next, closer resolution image. Then wipe with a plane or cloud to your next closest resolution image, etc, etc.
2) create several 'worlds' at differing proximities and dissolve/morph between them (most awesome)
This is a bit like the way Google Earth works, and is way more painstaking. Start from space view, and get as close as you think you can to your planet without getting too blurry (tip: fill the frame with the planet). Then render that final image out, enlarge it in Photoshop or GIMP (whatever), and then re-create the scene by drawing in more detail. Once done, wrap it to a plane and track into that.
Now you have two separate pieces of footage, one ending where roughly the other begins. Bring them into an editing program and dissolve/morph between the two at the transition point.
The movie 'Gravity' is an amazingly rich, visual spectacle. It features a planetary model of Earth that would melt any 5 modern, domestic computers to render out and composite. And you never track into it. It's all cut to different views.
Is it that you want to 'create' actual planetary maps in Bryce, or simply use existing ones - I've never done the former, but have extensive use in the latter. All the videos here were done with Bryce 6.0.
The problem with Bryce is that while you can use existing planetary maps, say, global maps with their relevant bump-maps (16-bit) applied whose bumpiness can be changed in Bryce to produce the illusion of a bumpy world (e.g. craters, mountains etc.,), it's only when you go closer to the above setup that the illusion disappears (this also means that the edge of the worlds don't show profile bumpiness). Yes, displacement in Bryce (particularly in Bryce 7.0) could be applied, but it's been mentioned before that it doesn't quite work well at higher values.
As Oroboros suggests, a 'switch' then has to be done where you cut scenes - each scene going to higher resolution maps (and 16-bit bumps) that you may have (see this ani., or this one for examples - again, done in Bryce - that started off with a general planetary map of the Moon, and then to the high-rez bump map terrain).
Note, the above inviolve a lot of work, so I won't go into the how-to's, however, they will give you an idea as to how Bryce can be used to create, somewhat, believable planetary ani's.,.
The only commercial program that could do this, that I'm aware of, was the wonderful and lamented Mojoworld.
Mojoworld used fractal procedural materials to create entire spherical worlds that you could "fly" into and render scenes with details down to the sand on a beach. Move anywhere on the planet and "land" into similarly detailed locations. You could also share the planets (quite small files) with anyone who owned the viewer, and they could also explore your world - including visiting the same places you did with all the details the same.
It was amazing tech (too complicated for me) but, sadly, development stopped at version 3. There are plenty of images online showing the possibilities.
The program developer was Prof. Ken Musgrave, who also did some important work on Bryce.
(I think David would have been in seventh heaven with Mojoworld, and created more heavens still...)
OK the really huge image is here
Is very big I warn you
Nice detail on those maps.
I cannot try this now on android