Jac Grenfell rendered this image, called "Reality Engine" in Bryce 3D by MetaCreations. (The title has no relation to SGI Reality Engine graphics subsystems.) In Jac's words "The image was created as part of a personal, experimental series, to see if Bryce could be pushed beyond the norm, both as far as technique and picture content. The intention was also to expand on the idea of 'human interface': how far we allow ourselves to be enmeshed in our own technology of war and rapid advancement."
Jac has degrees in English Literature and Art History, "and no real artistic training to speak of, although I have worked as a Graphic Artist and Typographer over the years." You can see more of Jac Grenfell's work at his web site, www.iconoptix.co.nz/kano/.
Jac planned and laid out the work by drawing preparatory sketches, because he "finds it much easier to come up with ideas on paper than... from scratch on the computer." In terms of influence from other artists, Jac says "People have compared some of my imagery to Giger, but personally I am more influenced by Hieronymus Bosch, who I believe was one of the first masters of bio/mechanical/organic Surrealist art."
The models were all created entirely in Bryce version 2, using Bryce's Terrain Editor. The Bryce software is primarily known for procedural renderings of landscapes. For designing your own landscapes and mountain ranges, it includes a Terrain Editor, which allows a user to paint a gray scale image, using white and brighter tones where the mountains should be higher, and darker tones where the terrain should be lower.
"It really is a horribly inefficient way to model. The more I try to explain it, the more it seems absurd to [me]. I would think of a nose on a face as being a certain height for example, and the mouth being a different height." Jac then paints brighter shades where he wants a feature to stick up higher, and paints in black to lower features.
Jac does all of the image painting and editing directly in the Terrain Editor, because if he worked in another application, such as Adobe Photoshop, he would lose Bryce's internal 64-bit precision, and also he would not see a realtime preview of the displacement.
In order to use custom-designed terrains as "models" in a scene, it is possible to rotate, scale, and position a terrain within the environment, much as a displacement-mapped plane might be translated in other 3D applications. There is a clipping function that cuts out the terrain you've painted above a certain height, so that a black shade can be used for trimming the shape of the object.
As we can see by Jac's work, a lot can be done with these terrains used as models. Many 3D applications do not support 64-bit displacement mapping, and would have trouble accurately rendering such a heavily displacement mapped image in a reasonable amount of time. From its humble aspiration as a landscape renderer, Bryce has developed a renderer built for displacement mapping. If even a small terrain file, in 512x512 size, were exported as a polygon mesh, it would become a DXF file 35 megabytes in size, difficult to render in most other 3D programs.
Terrain objects do have some limitations, however. If the human figure in this image were viewed from the side, you could see that she is a "symmetrical lattice" - a cheat to make terrains look more like a fully three-dimensional object, which basically displaces the same terrain in both directions, giving her all of the same features on her back as her front. This makes her "next to useless for any kind of animation. From the side, s/he looks more like a crude mountain than anything else!" says Jac.
Jac Grenfell wrote a tutorial for Visual Magic magazine, which covers more aspects of Bryce's Terrain Editor. You can read the article on-line at www.visualmagic.awn.com. The image below is a wireframe view in Bryce of the scene's layout.