Software review: Vue 10 Infinite
Novices will discover perhaps the most flexible and powerful natural design software available in the industry, while long-term users will find a new set of tools that will greatly improve their work, says Dax Pandhi
PRICE: $995, Upgrade from $295
Other editions: xStream: $1,495, Complete: $599, Studio: $399, Esprit: $199, Enthusiast editions also available
Windows / Mac
- Terrain generation
- EcoSystem scene population engine
- Atmosphere with presets
- Vegetation editor
- Materials with presets
The end of 2011 saw the release of the 10th major version of e-on software’s flagship product, Vue. Over the last five years, as the software started getting more pro features, each major release had a distinct feature that became the icon for that version: Vue 6 introduced new lighting; Vue 7 brought realistic clouds, and so on.
Vue 10’s iconic feature is a little harder to decide; this release contains some very attractive detailing tools that may look like frosting on a cake, but could be more than they seem initially. At the same time, it also contains some powerful modelling and pro tools that can change the landscape – pardon the pun – of your scene.
A close-up images of a Dynamic Rock EcoSystem stacked on a terrain with Global Radiosity
Right off the bat, the sneakily diminutive feature of Dynamic Rocks will win the hearts of environment artists who’ve been waiting for a method to add proper rocks to their landscapes. Dynamic Rocks are mathematically generated, just like Vue’s SolidGrowth plants, so every rock is unique. Users are no longer restricted to the same drab type of rocks, as Vue 10 ships with a rich library of low-resolution and highly detailed standalone rocks that can stand up to a close-up render. Dynamic Rocks are EcoSystem-friendly and will generate unique instances when added to an EcoSystem.
This addition to Vue allows for far more realistic environment creation, as most places in the world have a high number of rocks and stones. e-on has done a good job of creating new materials for these rocks that make them versatile when merging them into an environment. After 30 minutes of using them for the first time, I can honestly say I won’t go back to the rocks of previous versions.
One of the much-touted new features of Vue 10 is splines. Having used splines in both 2D and 3D packages since DOS, my first reaction to this was a disdainful scoff. However, I’m happy to say I was mistaken: I discovered their versatility within a few moments of creating my first Vue spline. These splines don’t do something fantastic for the world of splines, but they do a remarkable job of both creation and control for the world of Vue.
The most obvious use is to create roads – and Vue 10 provides specific Road tools for that very task. However, these splines can also provide a wonderful way to quietly controls terrains and EcoSystems.
Splines can be used to create a solid path on a terrain where specific EcoSystems can be grown, or to flatten and control specific regions of a terrain. They can also be used to create rivers that carve out the terrain as they flow, or walls or other extrusions that follow the curve of the land.
For many years leading up to Vue 7, God rays were artistic features that were quite difficult to achieve and were a sore point with many users. Vue 7 changed all of that. Vue 10 does the same thing with how Vue handles water, introducing a new Physical Water model that changes the way waterscapes are created – both over and under the surface.
Physical Water enables exact control over how light penetrates the surface of the water and how indirect illumination works beneath the surface. The new material options for water allow the user to define a very realistic underwater look for their scenes, including realistic light beams from above-surface lights.
The physical light refraction in the new model also makes waves and water turbulence look dramatically more real, but the indirect lighting underwater can become quite slow to render when dealing with complex scenes. Displaced Water surfaces can create physical caustics as well as new superficial caustics with the Caustics option for Water Surfaces.
Apart from the major new features, Vue 10 includes several smaller enhancements. The first of these is a crowd-pleaser called the Render Stack: all renders are now collected in the Render dialog box, which allows for easy reference and comparison without having to manually store each render. This can make a major difference when trying out several experiments in a scene. The second ‘by popular demand’ feature is the Render Comparison tool, which enables you to compare two renders in the Render Stack.
The Render Stack, with two images being compared using the Render Comparison tool
Several new Terrain Editor enhancements are also introduced in this release. The minor features include a preview of environment constraints and terrain brush improvements, while major features include advance layering of materials and a new Strata3D node, which allows for stratification of rock formations in terrains, materials and HyperTerrains along all three axes, as opposed to the simple stratification present in previous versions of Vue.
Vue 10 also introduces two new improvements in EcoSystems. The Lean‑Out Control allows instances at the edge of an EcoSystem population to realistically lean out – a simple but useful new addition for creating minutely detailed flora. The EcoSystem Phase Control provides direct control over the offset of animation of animated elements inside EcoSystems. By attaching this property to a Function, the user can control both SolidGrowth and preanimated meshes. This aids the creation of timed animations to help them coincide with other animated elements in the scene, such as wind over a grassy field.
A new set of Cyclic Noises and Fractals are introduced in the Function Editor. They enable the user to create patterns that repeat either visually or during an animation. This cycling can be controlled individually for each axis, and can be used for precisely defined looping.
Lastly, e-on claims that scenes can now render up to 30 per cent faster thanks to internal changes to the way Vue’s render engine works. During tests for this review, the best comparison I came across was in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent – not as high as the claimed 30 per cent, but still a useful increase.
Vue 10 is a must-have for natural environment designers. Those new to Vue will discover perhaps the most flexible and powerful natural design software available in the industry; for long-term users, Vue 10 delivers a new set of tools that will greatly improve their work. The Dynamic Rock and Splines features add a new dimension to ‘nature management’ in Vue that’s been sorely lacking for a while, especially as hardware capacities have been increasing. Ironically, Vue 10’s new rocks and water make some of its older trees look less than realistic. Like many other users, I hope e-on will announce some tweaks to those in the next release.
Subtler features such as EcoSystem and Terrain Editor enhancements will save many hours of work for all users. New features such as Physical Water and the Render Stack/Compare tool go a long way towards proving that e-on is committed to expanding Vue in both visual results and pro features. Taken together, these new features ensure that Vue 10 is a worthwhile upgrade.
- Solid new features
- Productivity enhancements
- Faster renders
- Old plant system
- Physical Water can be slow
Vue 10 brings solid new tools that open up new areas in environment design, as well as improvements in pro features
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dax Pandi is the author of Realism in Vue. He recently released a limited-edition DVD of his environment design masterclass in Los Angeles
on Monday, March 19th, 2012 at 3:26 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: e-on software, landscape generation, new software, Vue 10, Vue 10 review