U&I Software’s ArtMatic Voyager is a keenly priced, dedicated 3D landscape generator for Mac OS 9 and OS X that can produce scenes of stunning realism or worlds of fantastic imagination.

U&I Software’s ArtMatic Voyager is a keenly priced, dedicated 3D landscape generator for Mac OS 9 and OS X that can produce scenes of stunning realism or worlds of fantastic imagination.

Eric Wenger, who founded U&I Software in 1997, is the French artist and mathematical programmer whose original work underpinned the seminal Bryce landscape generator when it was released in 1994. Voyager works with complete ‘planets’, so it’s actually more like Pandromeda’s MojoWorld 2.0 than Bryce, which has limited areas and infinite planes. Voyager planets aren’t spheres, but flat planes up to 60,000-x-60,000 km.

Voyager uses band-limited adaptive fractal functions, to create high detail in foregrounds, without wasting processing power on far-off details. Procedural maths, rather than greyscale maps, calculate heights, which keeps file sizes very small.

You can navigate around Voyager planets and discover views that can be rendered into still image files or QuickTime movies. Four standard planets are supplied, each with a full range of features such as mountains, deserts, and seas, but with different complexities and scales. You can edit settings to get a huge variety of scenes, but you’ll probably want to create your own planets and textures.

Voyager has tools to do this, but you’ll get more features if you use U&I’s ArtMatic Pro 3.5 fractal-imaging program to create planets, local landscapes, texture maps and sky backdrops. ArtMatic Pro and Voyager can be bought together as a bundle for $299 (about £185).

Learning how to create new textures and landscapes is time consuming despite good tutorials. Fortunately, a number of pre-set scenes are provided.

Voyager’s user interface contains a live preview with the major controls grouped around it. To create a new view you first choose a planet surface, texture, and a sky, and then the sun colour and angle, ambient light, sea and snow settings, haze and humidity, and cloud coverage.

You navigate around a planet using a zoomable map on the main window for large distances, plus drag-&-slider controls for short distances in the preview. If you want an animated render, a single click creates keyframes after each significant change, and you can play previews of animations so far. A separate window lets you edit the camera track. Planet surfaces, skies, and environments can all be animated.

You can render any size and aspect ratio up to 4,048-x-4,048 pixels. The ray-tracing is fast even on an old 733MHz Mac G4. The images are saved as Macintosh PICT formats or QuickTime movies.

Voyager produces exceedingly pretty pictures and movies, but they are virtually lifeless. You can simulate distant vegetation with green colours but there’s no facility for close-up trees and you can’t create detailed buildings.
Unlike Bryce or Mojoworld, you can’t import conventional 3D models from elsewhere. Voyager landscapes cannot
be exported to other 3D modellers. If you need to mix landscapes with other models, Bryce is more versatile for import/export but less realistic, while Mojoworld has similar realism to Voyager but is harder to learn.