Easy DXF Type

Easy DXF Type—3D Font Collection

home | download | why | faq | email | everywhere
Easy DXF Type


Bryce users have had the ability to "extrude" 3D text for a long while now, in the form of "height maps." That's how a terrain is made. In other words—in Bryce, extruded text is just a specialized mountain.

Say what?

Let's go by example. See the image below? It's a "height map" for some simple text. It's 128x128 pixels, and for each pixel, the darkness determines the height: the lighter the shade of gray, the higher Bryce makes the corresponding lump on the terrain. For the image below, "hmm!" will stick up (high, because it's white), and the dark background will remain low (because it's black).

A simple Bryce height map
Click for a close-up, if you wanna see where the trouble comes from. It's them thar big ugly squares that does it. Have a gander, I'll wait.

By the way, the checkboard pattern at the top of the "hmm!" map—those alternating white and black pixels—that pattern gives you a very dense "bed of nails". you'll see it below in a moment: check out the shadow from that area, and you can see there's nasty spikes in that cluster. Try it yourself sometime and zoom in to render it... it's a good way to see the triangles that Bryce uses to generate its terrains. Ouch!


Using that very exact same height map ("hmm!" above) to generate extruded text you get something like this, which is really cool no matter how you look at it:

3d 'extrusion' from the above height map
Cool, yes—but look at all those jagged edges! Surely I musta forgotten to anti-alias this render...

Nope. I didn't forget to anti-alias, at all. In fact, you can see the soft anti-aliasing in the diagonal shadows, if you're not convinced.

But... What's not so cool is that you can anti-alias this puppy to hell and back, and you've still got those grid-born triangulations that mess with the fine beauty of your scene. You can reduce the effect somewhat by using a fine-mesh grid (up to 1024x1024) instead of the coarse 128x128, but that soaks up what's left of your memory (and patience) and even then it just buries the problem a bit deeper into your scene. The triangles and grid will be much finer, but they're still gonna be there, messing with your art.


Gladly, the Bryce folks had their heads on straight, nonetheless. They allow you to import non-Bryce-native objects and incorporate them into your scene. DXF-format objects, for example. If you've ever tinkered with the plop-up menu next to the "Create" tag (the little triangle right by the word "Create") then you had to wonder how those spirals and wormy things and rounded blocks and octahedrons were possible in Bryce, because you certainly can't create them there.

Other 3D programs allow you to lathe or extrude or spiral-ify or twist or what-have-you, and then export the results to some formats that Bryce can import—and one of those is the DXF format.

Here's the results of exporting a bevelled "Cool!" from Ray Dream Designer (also a MetaCreations product).

No jaggies with Easy DXF Type
Click to see the smoothness up close.

The jaggies are gone! Ding, dong, the jags are dead...

As you can see from the construction-wire view, these items are true 3D objects, not extruded grids.

The imported mesh objects

Of course, there's new problems to supplant the old, and we're working on finding the best solution... For example: DXF objects are all straight-line descriptions of the extruded shapes, and there's a lot of shortcut-like laziness going on here. Instead of a smooth contour inside each curve, as you'd expect from a Postscript Bezier curve, there are a few points on the curve, with chunky straight-line segments between them.

One of the things you can do, is try the old "Edit This Puppy" trick (click on the "E" tag hanging down from the selected object to edit it—see above screen shot—just as you would for tori and terrains). Any such imported object (including Bryce's own handy rock generator items) can be "edited" with this dialog box.

Edit the mesh object

You drag the thermometer up and down the degree scale, (get it? thermometer? degree? thermometer? ha, ha!) at the left of the window, and when it's where you want it, click on the smooth ball to "activate" your setting. Bryce will go through a two-pass machination where it finds all adjacent faces that are less than X degrees different (as you specified), and applies the smoothing algorithm there, as specified by Mr. Phong. (If you just drag the degree scale and forget to click the smoother ball, you'll be pulling your hair out, wondering why nothing changed. Clicking the "unsmooth" ball removes all rounding from your item, and clicking the "smooth" ball actually enacts your degree setting. The thermometer is where you tell it how much, but you gotta activate your setting by clicking the smooth ball!)

Also, if you're gonna do some boolean tricks (such as knocking your name out of a brass block) make sure you turn on the "Solid when boolean rendering" option. Like this...

Easy DXF Type

So those are some of the tricks and traps we've discovered in bringing these "Easy DXF Type" collections to you... If you have any questions, by all means drop us a line.


*   Your Feedback is encouraged.   *Mac Made —by— Serensoft