By Michael Burns | on January 29, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 577 . 771
Pros: New attributes for EcoSystem generation technology; enhancements to Spectral Engine II clouds, Water and import options; improved xStream integration.
Cons: More expensive; powerful system required; some features of xStream not consistent across all applications and platforms; steep learning curve for some workflows.
Another timesaving feature is EcoSystem, now updated to Generation III. This is a tool for rapidly applying instances (copies) of rock, plant and object ‘EcoSystems’ to any surface, automatically placed according to the relief of the terrain. Applying an EcoSystem realistically is tricky at first, and it’s essential that you follow the user guide – otherwise you’ll just end up with a mess.
Two new general attributes for applying EcoSystems are rotation and direction from the surface. Rotation is more or less self-explanatory, whereas direction from the surface allows you to apply the EcoSystem objects either purely vertically or perpendicular to the surface, with a sliding scale for iterations in between. Instances aren’t grouped with the base objects, so if you want to plaster a pyramid with instances of vultures and then move the pyramid to a better location, you’ll leave the EcoSystem hanging in mid-air.
However, as you have access to the same EcoSystem tool settings and the new attributes in the material editor, you can just create the EcoSystem as a normal material and apply it to the base object. EcoSystems can also support layers, allowing you to apply effects and mix or layer any two or more EcoSystems, with new affinity and repulsion parameters on hand to determine how they interact.
Using another algorithm called Dynamic Population Technology, Vue can apply instances to populate terrains in the far distance and also dynamically fill nearer areas of the scene as they become visible to the camera. In probably the most impressive feature, you can select a SolidGrowth plant as the basis for an EcoSystem and then have Vue populate the terrain with variations of the plant, complete with animations.
Another new feature is Spectral II clouds, which gives access to two new Sharpness and Feathers attributes in the Atmosphere Editor. The former determines how smooth the edges of the clouds are, while the later controls the amount of cloud filaments present.