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Create a Meta-Alien Head, Using Negative Metaballs in Bryce

Author: BillMTracer

Tools Needed

  • Bryce 5 or
  • Bryce 5.5


As a dedicated 3D artist, I find software like Bryce a useful tool. Over time, I've learned several interesting techniques. Of the undocumented features I know, one of the most powerful is the use of negative metaballs. While not particularly intuitive, it is, however, incredibly simple to create a negative metaball in Bryce 5 and 5.5.


Step 1 - Set up Work Area


Before we get creative, let's set up our work area.

When I activate Bryce I like to work without the ground plane, and with a simple white background. That way all of my attention is on the model. Test renders go faster with these settings.

To delete the ground plane, click on the ground plane and hit your delete key. Then activate the 'Sky and Fog' palette, seen in Figure 1.

In Figure 1, note the small triangle (circled in red) next to the words 'Sky and Fog. Click it.

This should show you the preset skies. Among the standard preset skies is the 'Simple White Background'. As its name suggest it is simple and white.

Click it to select, and then click the accept check mark in the lower right corner.

The attribute settings used in this tutorial are easiest to set while viewing the model from the Front. You can activate the Front view by using the keyboard View shortcut, then hitting the 4 number key.

Step 2 - Get Creative


Activate the Create Palette by clicking the word Create in the upper left region of your working window, as seen in Figure 2.

From left to right this palette reveals clickable icons for Bryce object creation as follows: Water, Sky, Ground Plane, Terrain, Tree, Rock, Symmetrical Lattice, Metaball, Sphere, Torus, Cylinder, Cube, Tetrahedron, Cone, Disk Flat Plane, 2D Picture Object, Rectangular Flat Plane, various lights, and lastly in version 5.5, the icon for DAZ Studio.

Step 3 - Make a Positive Metaball


The eighth icon from the left is the Metaball icon. It is the left most of the group of blue icons, and can be seen in Figure 2 surrounded by the red line.

To create a normal positive metaball all you have to do is click this knobby icon. A positive metaball will appear in your scene, as in Figure 3. Before moving on, let's adjust its size and shape.

Step 4 - Changing Attributes


Click the A, (Attribute box), circled in Figure 3. Give your metaball these attributes' Position: X=-40.96, Y=30.72, Z=40.96; Rotate: X=0, Y=0, Z=0; Size: X=51.84, Y=69.12, Z=51.84, like you see in Figure 4.

I always like to give objects their own names, for easy identification. Name this one 'AlienHead'.

When finished, click the check mark in the lower right of the attribute box, as shown by the red line in Figure 4.

So far, pretty easy stuff.

(A quick side note about numbers in Bryce. Undoubtedly, you've noticed the oddness of the Bryce numbering system. An entire tutorial could be devoted to explaining how they work for us, but I'll sum it up like this; everything is a power of 0.08, or you might think of it as increments of 0.08, starting with 0. It all has to do with that 8 bits to a byte thing. So if you should take the time to get your calculator out, you'll notice that all of the numbers I use for positions, and sizes are all powers of 0.08, or as I like to call it, 'base Bryce'. Rotations are not in base Bryce in the interest of symmetry to our view.)

Step 5 - Make one Negative

Making a negative metaball is easy.

While clicking the metaball icon we talked about back up in Figure 2, hold down the shift key. That's all there is to it. Give it a try. Simple huh?

Step 6 - Drill a Hole Through

After creating your negative metaball, while it is still selected, click on the A, (attribute box).

Give it these attributes – Name: 'EyeDrillNegator'; Position: X=-40.96, Y=32.48, Z=34.96. Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0. Size: X=32.48, Y=16.16, Z=15.36. As before, click the check mark lower right when complete.

Step 7 - Test Render


Give it a quick render to see a hole drilled through your original metaball. It should look like Figure 5.

Step 8 - Let's Make it a Little More Interesting


While this alone demonstrates how to use negative metaballs, let's add more metaballs, to make our model a little more interesting.

Select the positive metaball, labeled 'AlienHead'. Click on Edit in your Menu Bar, then Duplicate from the pull down menu.

This will create a duplicate of the selected metaball. The duplicate will appear in exactly the same location as the original, and will be the currently selected object.

We must change the position and size attributes of this new positive metaball, so click the A box.

Change its name to Brow, and set its attributes as you see in Figure 6;

Position: X=-40.96, Y=38.88, Z=38.88; Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0; Size: X=46.08, Y=13.12, Z=30.72. Click the lower right check.

While we still have the brow selected, make another duplicate, as before. Give it the following attributes:

Name: 'LeftLobe' Position: X=-48.48, Y=46.08, Z=46.08. Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0. Size: X=28.88, Y=23.04 Z=28.88.

Duplicate this LeftLobe, and give it these attributes:

Name: 'RightLobe' Position: X=-33.44, Y=46.08, Z=46.08. Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0. Size: X=28.88, Y=23.04, Z=28.88

The result should look somewhat like Figure 7.


Step 9 - Add More Character

This time, select the negative metaball, 'EyeDrillNegator', and duplicate it like you did the other duplicates. The difference is that since you are duplicating a negative metaball, the duplicate will also be negative. Give this new negative metaball these attributes:

Name: 'LeftNoseNegator'. Position: X=-42.96, Y=25.92, Z=31.60. Rotation: X=40, Y=0, Z=-20. Size: X=1.92, Y=4.32, Z=10.24. Click the check mark, when complete.

Duplicate again. Click the attribute box of this second duplicate and set its attributes:

Name: 'RightNoseNegator'. Position: X=-38.96, Y=25.92, Z=31.60. Rotation: X=40, Y=0, Z=20. Size: X=1.92, Y=4.32, Z=10.24.

After this you should have two more holes drilled into your original metaball. But before we do another test render, lets' add a few more metaballs to enhance the overall form.

{For ease of reference in the following list, PM represents a positive metaball, and NM a negative metaball. Also note that I like to use the word Negator in the names of all my negative metaballs. This helps keep track of which metaballs are negative, at all times).

PM > Name: 'Nose'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=28.40, Z=30.72

Rotation: X=20, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=6.48, Y=8.64, Z=6.48

PM > Name: 'LeftCheekRidge'

Position: X=-52.48, Y=30.72, Z=38.88

Rotation: X=-20, Y=-20, Z=0

Size: X=8.64, Y=10.24, Z=25.92

PM > Name: 'RightCheekRidge'

Position: X=-29.44, Y=30.72, Z=38.88

Rotation: X=-20, Y=20, Z=0

Size: X=8.64, Y=10.24, Z=25.92

NM > Name: 'LeftTempleNegator'

Position: X=-56.08, Y=32.64, Z=48.48

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=8.64, Y=20.48, Z=30.72

NM > Name: 'RightTempleNegator'

Position: X=-25.84, Y=32.64, Z=48.48

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=8.64, Y=20.48, Z=30.72

NM > Name: 'LeftSideCheekNegator'

Position: X=-54.96, Y=25.52, Z=36.96

Rotation: X=-20, Y=-20, Z=0

Size: X=10.24, Y=15.36, Z=30.72

NM > Name: 'RightSideCheekNegator'

Position: X=-26.96, Y=25.52, Z=36.96

Rotation: X=-20, Y=20, Z=0

Size: X=10.24, Y=15.36, Z=30.72

NM > Name: 'LeftFrontCheekNegator'

Position: X=-52.08, Y=25.52, Z=28.48

Rotation: X=20, Y=-80, Z=40

Size: X=10.24, Y=15.36, Z=30.72

NM > Name: 'RightfrontCheekNegator'

Position: X=-29.84, Y=25.52, Z=28.48

Rotation: X=20, Y=80, Z=-40

Size: X=10.24, Y=15.36, Z=30.72

PM > Name: 'OccipitalLobe'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=34.56, Z=56.56

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=28.88, Y=28.88, Z=28.88

NM > Name:'OccipitalNegator'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=20.48, Z=56.56

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=30.72, Y=30.72, Z=30.72

When all are in place, do that test render. A left view should look somewhat like Figure 8, while the front view like Figure 9.



As you can see, we have the beginnings of our alien head. But wait, where are the eyes? Not to mention, we have no mouth! Don't worry, with just a few more metaballs we'll flesh out these last details.

Step 10 - Refining Our Meta-Model


To refine your Meta-Alien Head further, try creating more metaballs with attributes as listed below:

PM > Name: 'NoseBridge'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=33.44, Z=35.12

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=8.64, Y=15.36, Z=12.96

NM > Name: 'UnderNoseNegator'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=21.12, Z=27.76

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

SIZ X=6.48, Y=17.28, Z=6.48

PM > Name: 'Mouth'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=20, Z=33.36

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=5.12, Y=3.84, Z=5.76

NM > Name: 'MouthNegator1'

Position: X=-41.20, Y=19.60, Z=32.32

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=8

Size: X=2.56, Y=0.96, Z=5.12

NM > Name: 'MouthNegator2'

Position: X=-40.72, Y=19.60, Z=32.32

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=-8

Size: X=2.56, Y=0.96, Z=5.12

NM > Name: 'UnderMouthNegator'

Position: X=-40.96, Y=13.12, Z=33.44

Rotation: X=-40, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=6.48, Y=17.28, Z=7.68

NM > Name: 'LeftLowerCheekNegator'

Position: X=-49.68, Y=17.92, Z=37.76

Rotation: X=-40, Y=0, Z=40

Size: X=10.24, Y=20.48, Z=40.96

NM > Name: 'RightLowerCheekNegator'

Position: X=-32.24, Y=17.92, Z=37.76

Rotation: X=-40, Y=0, Z=-40

Size: X=10.24, Y=20.48, Z=40.96

After adding the above to your creation, group all the metaballs you have thus far.

To do this, simply select all of your metaballs and click the G box. Give this group the name, 'MainHeadGroup'.

Now, with the main head group finished, we have but to fill the eye cavity with eye balls. These are simply 2 spheres, given the following attributes:

Sphere > Name: 'leftEyeBall'

Position: X=-47.12, Y=32.96, Z=35.76

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=10.24, Y=10.24, Z=10.24

Sphere > Name: 'RightEyeBall'

Position: X=-34.80, Y=32.96, Z=35.76

Rotation: X=0, Y=0, Z=0

Size: X=10.24, Y=10.24, Z=10.24

So far as materials go, experiment with different presets, tweaking the colors and other characteristics. When all is done, your rendering should look similar to Figure 10. Don't be afraid to experiment. Use different materials. Play around with sizes and positions and even rotations to see what kind of variations you can come up with.

This meta-alien head is just to get you started on the principles. Add more metaballs in specific places to enhance your realism. Add teeth, if you like. Of course, if you want teeth, you'll probably need to make him a bigger mouth. But above all, have fun creating with both positive and negative metaballs. Who knows, if you keep practicing, you might even come up with a better way to make a metaball slug.

Stay tuned for the future tutorial, 'Attack of the Meta-Slugs'.