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Terrains: G2H vs. Object between Bryce and Carrara

Author: evinrude

Tools Needed

  • Bryce
  • Carrara (or any program that uses G2H maps)


Many people weaned on Bryce and who have switched to Carrara, or vice versa, have probably discovered that each program has distinct advantages in the creation of terrains, yet there may be certain features that you like or have grown accustomed to in one program that may be sorely lacking in the other. Say, for instance, you've created a perfectly shaped terrain in Bryce that can't be duplicated in Carrara. The simplest solution is to export the Bryce terrain as a 3D object and then import it into Carrara. However, it remains an object and cannot be influenced by Carrara's nifty terrain filters. You could spend time with the various object modifiers in Carrara's Assembly Room and try to produce approximate effects, but this can be hit or miss, time consuming, or flat out disappointing. As well, these objects, even if smoothed to the maximum extent, can appear ungainly and faceted in close-up shots (see the picture below). A better solution would be to generate a grayscale to height (G2H) map of the terrain in Bryce for use in Carrara's terrain editor. However, unlike Carrara, Bryce has no export function in its terrain editor for G2H maps. There's a work-around solution though.


Step 1: Create your terrain in Bryce

Load a terrain from the Terrain Generator, or you can select one from the Objects Presets menu.


For this, I'm going to use Another Good Clean Spiral, one of the terrains that come with Bryce and which can be found in Object Presets, in the category Mountains.


Once you have the shape of the terrain you want, select the mesh in the window (it will be highlighted in red).


Use the arrow button to snap it to ground if it's not snug on the ground plane already.


Step 2: Setting up the Document Window

Position the cursor near the very top of the interface so that the hidden menu bar appears. Go into file and choose Document Setup (or just hit Ctrl + Alt + N).


In the window that opens, select Square, and in the Document Resolution boxes, type in a custom area of 512 x 512. Click the checkmark.


Now hit the '2' key (the one not on the numbers pad of your keyboard) or choose From Top in the view selector.


Step 3: Adjusting the Top View and Terrain

We want the terrain to fill as much as the square as possible without going beyond the borders. On your keyboard hit the '+' key on the number pad or 'Shift' + '+' on the main keys four times in succession. This action will incrementally move the isometric Top View camera closer. Do a render. This has brought us near to where we want to be, but it's a little too close: The borders will be clipped out when we render the G2H map.


Go into the Edit Room.


Make sure your terrain is selected (the wire mesh will be red), then position your cursor dead smack in the middle of the scaling tool (see above). While the cursor is there, you'll see a white cube flashing small and large. The center of the scaling tool will allow you to scale the terrain evenly along all axes.

Click on the scaling tool and hold the mouse button; tweak left (scale down) or right (scale up) until the terrain fills as much of the window as possible without clipping the borders. Don't worry if the ground plane is somewhat visible: the plane is only 2-dimensional; it has no height, so it will appear as flatland in the G2H map (more on this below).


Step 4: Create the G2H map

In essence, grayscale to height means that black and white values in a grayscale image correspond to altitude in a resultant terrain: full black is zero altitude, whereas full white is the highest altitude; shades of gray correspond to points in between. Bryce offers a function that allows you to take a 2D picture from above, giving you grayscale values for the altitude of objects. We've already set up the area of the picture; now all we have to do is render it.

Go into the Rendering Options menu and choose Altitude Mask.


Hit the Render button. This is a pretty simple image and small at that, so it should be fairly quick. You have a G2H map.


Step 5: Exporting and Importing

Go up into File in the hidden menu at the top of the interface and choose Export Image. Save it under a name you can remember and put it in a place where you can find it. Exit Bryce and open Carrara (or Vue or any other program that can use G2H maps).

In Carrara, open a file and choose to insert a terrain.


You're automatically catapulted into the Modeling Room under the auspices of the Terrain Editor. You should have a basic mountain filter showing. Select Clear, and then Map Import. Load your map. It will appear as an Editable Terrain, and now can be manipulated by any of Carrara's terrain filters.


Compare this rendered version to the imported-object version above. It uses the same texture, but the difference is quite noticeable.


Step 6: Reverse Procedure: Carrara to Bryce

G2H maps from Carrara to Bryce are even easier. In the Carrara Terrain Editor, choose Map Export instead of Map Import. In Bryce, insert a terrain via the Terrain Generator, then hit Ctrl + E to enter the Bryce Terrain Editor.

In the Terrain Editor, on the right side, about mid-screen, is a floating menu called Editing Tools. Under the Elevation Tab, hit New. Choose the Pictures tab.


Click Load over the first picture window, find your G2H map, and load it. Copy and Paste into the next window or load an entirely different G2H image for a mixed effect. Hit Apply.


Go back to the Elevation tab. Now all of Bryce's functions will work on this terrain. Add spikes or cross ridges or blobs - whatever you desire. Back in the main interface, you can treat it as a terrain and an object, instead of just the latter were you to merely export it as a 3D object.

Scale, smash, twist, and texture to your heart's content.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.