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Forest with 2D trees

Author: Omid

Tools Needed

  • Bryce 5 or Bryce 5.5

Support Files


As you may probably know, adding many Bryce tree objects (3D objects) to the scene can significantly increase the redrawing and rendering time. These trees need lots of processing by CPU, make your PC slow, and lead to long delays when following your orders.

If you are familiar with the use of 2D objects in Bryce (known as “Pict Objects”), you know how to solve this problem by getting the most out of the 2D object capabilities. Yet there are few tricks that can help you fulfill this task professionally.


Step 1 - Preparing the terrains


Create a new document, leave the settings to default.

Chose the “Director's View” from the view list by clicking on the small triangle at the right side of the view icon. Then double click on the “Camera Trackball” in the “Camera Control” area. Input the values according to the following picture to set your “Director's View”.

Create three terrains, send them to far background. You can use the Right and Up arrow keys to move terrains in X and Z axis, respectively. Each time you want to make the terrains bigger, you can do this either by dragging one of the corner points of the selection box (by default is red), or simply hit the * key on the keyboard several times. Each time you press the * key, it doubles the terrain scale.

Do not forget to click the small arrow at the bottom of series of icons at the right of the selected terrain (it brings the terrain at the ground level).


Do some minor changes to the terrains by editing theme in the “Terrain Lab” (press the little “E” icon at the right side of the selected terrain), such as smoothing, making erodes, etc.


Step 2 - Assign Material to the terrains


While pressing the “Shift” key on your keyboard, click on all the terrains and also the “Ground Plane” to select theme (Their wireframe turn to red).


Now click the little triangular icon at the right side of the “Edit” on the top palette. Form the material list that appears, “Planes and Terrains” category, chose “Whole Mountain” (5th column 5th row, in Bryce 5).


Step 3 - Sky and Atmosphere Settings


Now click the little triangle at the right of “Sky and Fog” at the top palette to call the sky and fog presets. From here chose “Low Ceiling” and then click the OK icon.


Then you can arrange the terrains by changing the View to the top view.


In order to have a better control on adjusting the positions, click the little triangle at the bottom of “Nano Preview” and chose the “Director View”. This way you can do the adjustment from the top view while take and eye on the overall look of the scene in the Nano preview.

Do a quick render to check your scene. If necessary, do some minor changes to in the scene and test render again to achieve you desire look and feel.

Step 4 - 2D Tree Object


Now you can create the first tree. In this tutorial we use only a single type of tree for our 2D object, but remember that you can use several different type of trees, plants, even stone or other 2D objects.

Click on the “Create 2D Picture Object” icon on the create palette. The “Pictures” window appears. From here you can select the picture of the tree (and other plants) that you want to use. Just click either on one of the empty squares, or on the “load” icon at top left corner of the main image box.

From the “Open” dialogue that appears chose the address and file name of the tree or plant picture, do not forget to “load” its ALPHA file in the middle main image box (the file in this tutorial is “QuebecJPG” and its mask “Queb_AlphaJPG”).


Click the OK icon at the bottom right side of the window to close it and bring the 2D tree object in the scene. By default, the director's view is oriented in -45 degree horizontally. In other word, director's view looks at the scene with a -45 degree horizontal angle. Thus, although everything you create in the scene, come exactly in front of director, but it does not align to director's view. That is why at the moment, the 2D object looks to be turned 45 degree to the left and it is not perpendicular to your view. To align the tree object to director's view, call the “Object Attribute” by pressing the little “A” icon at the right side of the selected object.

Here enter -45 for “Rotate” of axis “y”. Now that you have the “Object Attribute” open, chose a name for your 2D tree, for example “Tree”. Click OK.


Step 5 - Populate the scene with 2D trees


So far, we have the scene ready, but only with only a single tree. If you select this 2D tree and then look at the text area at the bottom left of the working area, you see that this tree consists of only one polygon! If you like you can temporary create a tree object and check how many polygons you bring to the scene that way. You can imagine if you want to have 300 tree objects (and not 2D objects) in your scene, how heavy would be the scene file and how slow your computer would work. I tried this comparison myself and find out that the total polygons of such a heavy scene would be around 646000 to 690000 polygons! But 300 of the simple 2D objects will only add 300 polygons to the scene that is even less than single tree object. When you're done with this comparison, delete that temporary tree object to turn back to tutorial.

Make sure that the 2D object (Tree) is selected. From the “Edit” menu, click on “Multi-Replicate'” or simply press Alt+Shift+D on your keyboard.


The “Multi-Replicate” dialogue appears. Here make all the settings exactly like the following image. The X, Y and Z scale (Size) should be 100% and the “Quantity” should be set to 299 (299 copies + the original 2D copy = 300 2D objects). Click the OK icon.


Now you have 300 2D objects, but they all positioned at the same coordinates. That is why we cannot see them separately at the moment. Remember that they are all selected now, do nothing to deselect theme.

Step 6 - Disperse the 2D trees naturally!


Now is the turn of the fun part, one of the great features of Bryce that makes the scene more natural, at the same time save us our precious time. This feature is called “Randomize” and it consists of two parts, the “Mode Selector” and the “Amount” icons. By clicking on the first icon you can easily chose how you want the selected items to be randomly dispersed and by the second, you adjust the dispersing (or randomization) amount.

Now by clicking on the small triangle at the bottom of “Randomize” icon, chose “2D Disperse”.

This tells Bryce to disperse all the 300 trees (2D objects), in X and Z directions randomly. In other words, Bryce disperses these trees on the Ground Plane.

Now click on the “Amount” icon (a bluish sphere in the upper part of “Randomize” icon) and carefully drag your mouse in right or left. Try not to rush in dispersing the trees in a single step. Just begin this first step of dispersing 2D objects, with small moves. If you want you can repeat this function one more time, again only with slightly movements.

This time click on the small triangle at the bottom of “Randomize” icon, and chose “2D Disperse size”. Now Bryce resizes the trees randomly, while disperses theme on the Ground Plane. Again be very careful with the randomize amount, try to use this tool in several steps, with small changes in each step.


If you have done everything correctly, the scene is filled with trees (2D objects).


Step 7 - Keep the trees on ground level!


If you do a preview render, you see that many of these trees are not placed correctly on the ground, and part of their trunk is under the ground level. To solve this problem change the view to either “From Right” or “From Left” view.

Click the small arrow at the right side of selected 2D Objects. All the trees will come to the ground level.

Now set your view to “Director's View” again and make a preview render.


Your scene is ready. In order to make the trees more vivid, you can add a “Spot Light” to the scene. Then call its attribute and input the following values for this spot light.


Step 8 - The trick limitation


You may think that everything is set and the scene is ready. But what if you turn the camera to shot another angle? Try this, render your scene and you'll be surprised with lots of fake and distorted 2D trees. As soon as you change the angle of your camera, the trick that you have used to populate the scene with 2D trees, will be revealed. In other word, if you move the camera, the 2D nature of the object is very obvious.

Although using a “Pict Object” is a quick way of creating very complex-looking objects, the only limitation is that you can view them from only one angle. So the front of the “Pict Object” must always be facing the camera.

A good way of ensuring that your “2D Pict Object” never appears distorted is to have it “track the camera”. Here you should apply the “Tracking” for all the 2D trees (your scene's Pict Objects).

Remember that if you accidentally deselect 2D planes, you can select theme all again, by clicking the “Select Square” icon on the selection palette.


Then, chose “Select All of Type” from top of the list that appears.


Step 9 - Professional Touch


First click the small triangle at the right side of the camera “Control” area and chose “Camera to Director” from the list.

Then click on the small icon at the top left corner of “Select View” control, which looks like a director's chair, to switch to “Perspective Camera”. If you complete these steps correctly, you see no difference in the scene.


Click the “Select Square” icon on the selection palette, then chose “Select All of Type” from top of the list that appears. Now that all the “2D Pict Objects” are selected, call their attribute settings by clicking on the small “A” icon. Click the “Linking” tab, and then click on the “Object Parent Name” input box. From the list that appears chose “Perspective Camera”. Uncheck all the “Propagate” options except the “Rotation”. Click OK to close the “Object Attributes”.


Step 10 - Feel free to move your camera


Now you can make your final rendering! Now you can change the angle of your camera without being worried about the trick that used in the scene. To check how all the tress adjust their position according to camera's angle, go to the “Top” view, select the camera and turn it based on Y axis and see the results.


Remember that you can only turn your camera based on this (Y) axes. Other rotations will reveal your secret. For complex camera movement you can process several renderings, with different settings; in some, link the 2D objects to camera while in the rest use no link.

Now that you are sure about your scene settings, you may want to change the position of camera and shoot another angle of this scene.