By Michael Burns | on January 14, 2010
Price When Reviewed: 59 . 120 . 240 . 360
Pros: Pros: Enhanced terrain editor with 3D sculpting, zones and brush effects; display enhancements; Spectral 3 clouds; separate displacement channel.
Cons: xStream unstable with Softimage 2010; Poser 8 import isn’t great; some EcoSystem limitations with xStream in Maya.
With the eighth version of E-on’s 3D landscape creation software comes the ability to create more terrains and more realistic clouds and skies.
It’s easy to create a landscape using the one-click fractal-generated terrains, water planes and soft skies, but fine-tuning can involve tweaking function curves, as well as a deep level of control over materials and object behaviours.
The latter elements add a skill layer that is clearly aimed at the studio workflow, but might also put off less skilled . On the other hand, there are aids such as an animation wizard and the powerful EcoSystem vegetation generator, which can quickly paint a scene with plants, rocks and assorted objects.
Vue is available in a wealth of different versions, from the low-cost Frontier to the all-singing, all-dancing Infinite (which confusingly has more features than Complete). The sheer number of versions can be overwhelming, but we appreciate E-on’s desire to cater as much for Photoshop artists as Maya users.
We’re looking here at the flagship Vue 8 Infinite and also Vue 8 xStream, a version of the software that can run as a plug-in for any of the major 3D suites, such as Maya, 3ds Max or Lightwave.
The main improvements in both versions of Vue 8 centre on the Terrain Editor. This displays a 3D map of your selected terrain object, activated by double-clicking on the landscape.
A direct modifier brush joins the menu of predefined terrain styles. This allows you to create landscape features such as caves or terrain relief by using brush strokes, though getting the best effects from this requires some skill.
Brush behaviours cover sculpting and inflating the polygons, and extruding, inverting and smoothing terrain. You can also apply bitmap images to customise the effect of the sculpting brush – a workflow that’s already familiar from tools such as Mudbox.
Vue 8 allows you to set zones on procedural terrains, so that you can isolate areas of the terrain to sculpt in fine detail without affecting surrounding areas. Zones can also be nested to create iterated areas of higher resolution sculpting.
When sculpting, Vue’s 3D brush subdivides the terrain geometry, but in such a way that you’re hardly aware of it. It adds new polygons dynamically as you paint, automatically matching the level of detail (LOD) you’re working at.
The material editor gains a Displacement channel, now separated from the Bump channel and thus offering finer control. You can adjust the displacement depth and scale directly within the editor, and use any procedural or texture map function as input (Vue offers fine-tuning via node-based scene graphs). You can also now bake the displacement mapping into the polygon geometry.