A couple of questions:
What do you mean by an isometric view? I mean I know what an isometric view is architecture, but in virtual photography via Bryce, what are you trying to do?
What things do you not like about the landscape terrains? You mentioned a transition to a seabed I think.
This is good, because it motivated me to go back and refresh my understanding. It had been a couple of years since I last looked into these matters.
I should be using the term parallel projection. In various places, the terms isometric, axonometric, orthogonal etc are used to describe projections in which objects appear the same scale throughout the image. These are all types of parallel projections. By contrast, in a perspective projection, objects' scale decreases as they approach a horizon.
I looked for software that would support parallel projection for its applicability to map-making.
That's important to me. I want my maps to be geometrically accurate. But for this project, it was also important to render nice looking images.
If I wasn't able to produce a nice image in a parallel projection, then, OK. Maps don't have to be geometrically accurate to still be maps. A map can be defined in different ways, and a perspective projection can be one of those ways.
Upthread, I said that Bryce doesn't support isometric views. I was wrong. The top view, side view, etc in Bryce produce orthogonal projections. And in fact the first two Bryce-rendered images that I posted upthread are orthogonal projections.
Rather, the difficulty I encountered - and I ran into this in Bryce and Kerkythea, and others - was that I was unable to render an image using anyones' type of parallel projection that processed certain important effects, such as atmosphere and reflection. As an example, in my orthogonal Bryce-rendered images, there's no haze or fog, even though I set it up to produce some. And, the water is red. It's not supposed to be red. That's the seabed color showing through a water plane. The water plane should be more blue, but it isn't reflecting any light from the virtual sun.
I don't know why it behaves this way, but I don't think it's a bug. I think either it's the intended behavior, or I have failed to figure something out. Both are possible.
My conclusion was a couple years back, and still is, for this project, in order to produce 3D images of a quality that makes me happy, I need to produce perspective projections.
The seabed itself worked out well enough. The thing I am unhappy with has to do with the material properties of the water plane in Bryce. In my project I have numerous objects sticking up out of the water. I want the underwater portions of the objects to be visible for a short distance, then dissapear into the murk. I have been unable to achieve that effect. I am able to make the water plane either transparent, or opaque. I suspect the limitation might be the way I set up the project and height mapping, and not the software, but I'm unsure.
What happens if you move the camera very far away and use a very small opening angle? The differences to a real orthographic projection should become small enough to not be noticed and the render engine should still show "normal" behaviour.
If scetchup had an option to export to OBJ (or a similar, easily convertible format) you could give povray a try. There the orthographic camera works with atmospheric effects and it is quite simple (ish) to get the water effects you are looking for.
cfds might be on to something. Bryce's orthographic (aha! that's the word I would have understood had you used it in the beginning) views are intended mostly for the ease of placing objects in a scene and comparing size without having to deal with perspective. Even so, if you click on "Edit this Camera" in an orthogonal view, you'll see that the field of view is not set to 0 but rather to 10, so technically there is still some perspective being calculated.
But you can edit all the cameras if I remember correctly. Thus, as cfds suggested, you might try editing the director's camera or the perspective camera and experimenting with lowering the field of view to a very low amount. Bryce's default field of view is 60 degrees because it is assumed that you will be rendering wide angle shots of landscapes. However, I have both my director's camera and perspective camera set to 30 degrees because I often render interior shots or even portraits of human figures. A sixty degree field of view in those circumstances yields a distinct "fish-eye" view.
Regarding terrains...might I suggest making multiple terrains instead of trying to get intricate detail out of one terrain. I made a very complicated mountain shape in a fantasy image, but trying to paint the greyscale image using Bryce's terrain editor was futile. Instead, I made the mountain out of several mountains, so to speak. It worked beautifully. A lot can be done by using landscapes as components of an object. I've seen some people make building fronts and furniture out of Bryce landscapes.
Regarding the water...are you using a volumetric slab of water? There are two choices when you create water. One is a surface plane. The other is a volumetric slab that stretches out to infinity just like the plane. With the volumetric slab, you can assign changes in the material according to depth. Thus, you can have an object immersed in the water with part or all of it visible below the surface, and the deeper it goes, the more it disappears into the murk.
All of this is covered in the Bryce 5 manual, and probably Susan Kitchen's Bryce 4 software book that is still available through Amazon I think. But if you're a newer user of Bryce, how would you know as they stopped including actual manuals after Bryce 5? An excellent resource is the Bryce forum at Renderosity and the Bryce forum at DAZ 3D.
Love the city and your renders of it. Have some Rep for such an awesome project.
You are amazing! I love using SketchUp but I haven't gotten very good at it yet. I wish I could learn some of your magic. You have worked incredibly hard on this project and I admire it greatly.
Tom Patterson has a very nice explanation of Plan Oblique Relief here. Best of all, he has the setup files for Bryce(Bryce 5, but I know they worked in Bryce 6). The effect is very similar to isometric, although less pronounced.
The most important thing to remember is to set the camera very far above the terrain with a very narrow field of view. This is similar to the old Wenschow shading method. Basically, they used to build a plaster model of a terrain, carefully light it and take a photograph of it with what amounted to a telephoto lens from a great distance. One problem with this method was that important relief features that were inadvantageously oriented with respect to the overall lighting sometimes disappeared. When I was doing this with Bryce 6(what are they up to 9 by now?), I experimented with spotlights to bring out more advantageous shadowing.
Since your city seems to have very tall even lanky buildings, I don't think you would need much or any vertical exaggeration, but I think you could just about substitute your model into Patterson's scene definition with little alteration and good results. From there, you could just jigger things about to taste.
BTW: To make your water a bit less troublesome, try reducing the transparency of the material considerably and possibly bump up the diffuse value. You could try upping the reflection strength, but that might just give you an annoyingly perfect reflection of the sky. Combining moderate reflection, moderate transparency and fairly high diffuse might give good results. I've been wrestling with Blender lately so my Bryce Fu is weak...
Does Bryce have volumetric materials? For your water, you essentially want a volume fog rather than an ordinary shader. You could combine the two, getting your reflection from the transparent water surface and your detail attenuation from a volumetric object that lives right under the water plane.
Thanks everyone for the feedback and advice!
I have been offline for the last couple weeks, digesting the advice that's been offered here, studying up some documentation and incorporating all that into a render.
I don't know what Bryce can do in the area of volumetric water - I haven't yet delved into volumetric materials, for example, clouds - I told myself I wuld bite into that subject area for a future project - but a water that acts like a volume fog is *precisely* what I had been imagining, without being previously aware that such a thing exists :) would work well here. I will certainly investigate that for the future.
Here's the result of my activites the past couple of weeks. It is a perspective view, with the virtual camera rotated about 89 degrees down, field of view 30 degrees, zoomed out.
I think that worked well: you see a little of the structures' facades, and I wanted a little of that, and the image looks natural. So! Good advice, thanks!!!
I retextured some elements within the model to attempt to ameliorate some of the overly red composition that the model had, and balance out the colors a little better. That was kinda an 11th hour decision, and I think that it worked out well.
I reduced the water plane transparency and upped the reflectivity a tad and that did help quite a bit! You can see some underwater details but they aren't nearly as prominent.
I used a combination of image based lighting and global sun to light the scene. Most of the light comes from an hdr that I built from the sky. The global sun was added pretty much just as a specular element to achieve the reflection on the water.
I began work on this project over two years ago. I had wanted to post here at Cartographer's Guild earlier in the process, but to be honest, I wasn't sure until pretty recently that I would actually complete it.
And I'm glad that I did, because you guys have helped me make my project better.