• Price: 171 . 102 . 68

  • Company: E-on Software

  • Pros: Boasts Global Illumination, Ambience & Radiosity, Easy GI slider, procedural terrains, Metablob engine, Pre-animated meshes, HDRI, OpenGL previews, and 3DText, as well as interface enhancements.

  • Cons: Vue 5 is more expensive than Bryce, and Poser import is restricted to static figures unless Mover is used. OpenGL hardware required for most effective results.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

Vue 5 Esprit is the latest version of E-on Software’s Bryce-baiting scenery-builder. It’s an upgrade to Vue d’Esprit 4, with an upgraded version of Vue Professional 4 due early in 2005.

Always an easy to use and effective landscape- and world-creation tool, Vue 5 wins its first gold stars in the lighting department. Global Illumination supplements the existing ambient and ray tracing lighting models in Vue, acting as though the sky were composed of millions of coloured lights, each casting a shadow on the environment. Very soft shadows appear around closely positioned objects and indirectly lit areas look particularly realistic. However, rendering times are considerably increased and, as only shadows are cast, the effect needs to be used in conjunction with ambient lighting.

The answer to this compromise, if you have the rendering capability, is Global Radiosity. This new lighting model takes into account the light cast on objects by all other objects in the scene, scattering light and coloured highlights all over the environment. Using this setting, Vue can calculate separate values for indirect skylighting and indirect reflections, as well as control the intensity of the light.

It is the slowest of all, due to the increased computing needed, but again Vue 5 has an answer to its problems. The new Easy GI slider offers a simple way to balance the quality of the render against speed. Fast becoming a standard feature of the best rendering applications, High Dynamic Range Images (HDRI) can be used to light the scene in Vue 5. Image Based Lighting (IBL) is another option.

Lay of the land

Vue’s new procedural terrains add detail to landscapes as you zoom in, making use of fractal geometry to give greater definition to terrain altitudes – even during animation. Algorithms have again been developed to balance memory requirements and efficiency. Previously Vue’s standard terrains had a fixed resolution that showed sharp polygonal edges when viewed close up or resized.

Editing the new terrains is simple thanks to a tool that translates standard landscape editing features into modifiers that act on the procedural terrain. You can touch-up the geometry of the procedural terrains using Solid3D (Vue’s real-time 3D terrain modeller) and the brush and erosion tools. If you then switch from a procedural to a standard terrain, the procedural altitudes will be ‘baked’ into the standard terrain altitudes.

A new clipping feature allows you to create natural holes in terrains, so they don’t have square edges. When rendered, all the parts that are under the clipping altitude appear as holes. In practice this is trickier than it sounds, as the terrain-editing controls can be imprecise. Still, it may add to the realism of the stone arches this feature is intended to create.

Although the Esprit line is aimed mainly at non-3D pros, V5 users can still make use of the plant technology contained in Vue Professional. Vue plants are particularly realistic, thanks to SolidGrowth 3, with more than 50 plant presets to create a variety of foliage.

Many of Vue’s features are inspired, and the weighty manual has some useful hints, such as how to create the effect of a distant forest on a hilltop using just Terrain objects and materials.

 align=right border=0 />Object editing and creation has been improved. The new Metablob engine can be used to melt Vue primitives together for some organic modelling. There are no sharp corners – a Metablob cube will have all its edges rounded, for example, and when you reshape the primitives within, the Metablob changes shape to suit. When Metablob components have different materials, these too will be blended together seamlessly.
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Vue can make use of Polygonal mesh modelling for creating objects or working with imported models from other applications, but a new feature in version 5 adds something quite unusual for this type of application. Pre-animated meshes are models imported complete with animation information, which is displayed in the Timeline. With this, you can populate your scene with walking or running characters or animals, and it allows a form of motion retargeting, such as that found in higher-end 3D character animation applications. 
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You can specify any preset pose or action based on imported motion files and map them onto your model as long as the target is compatible. As well as the usual flock of options (including raw geometry files in OBJ, 3DS, LWO and DXF formats), you can import static models from Poser 4 and 5 for use in Vue. You’ll need to buy Mover to import the fully animated Poser figures however, which devalues this feature slightly.
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<b>A world of words</b>
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Another new use for the polygon mesh is 3D text. The text editor is available on the toolbar with the least of Vue’s object editors, comprising of four tabs for entering text then applying various bevels, extrusions and materials. This is a very quick and easy feature, but you can get lost in the bevel and extrusion tabs.
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Vue is a fairly graphics-intensive application, and makes a lot of use of advanced OpenGL features. One of these is the ability to preview scenes in real-time with textures maps applied to objects, as well as plants, atmospheres, planets, Boolean operations, and Metablobs. A maximum of eight user-enabled lights can be used to illuminate the scene during hardware-based OpenGL previews, but obviously the more lights involved the slower the preview. Software-based OpenGL and wireframe modes can also be selected.
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The full version of Vue 5 Esprit ships on two CDs with loads of SolidGrowth trees and plants, over 160 atmospheres, 460 materials, 250 fully textured 3D objects and over 70 example scenes. Vue 5 Esprit has renewed compatibility with Mover 5. As well as allowing you to take advantage of animated Poser content, this offers network rendering and advanced animation effects.
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Vue is one of the best choices for virtual world-builders. However, there are many cheaper alternatives out there for hobbyists, some of which are free. Now that Daz Productions has bought Corel and an upgrade path exists for both Mac and Windows versions of Bryce again, E-on certainly has a renewed fight on its hands. Vue 5 Esprit is a worthy shot <BR>
to begin the battle.
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