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.
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.