The Personal Learning Edition of Vue 6 Infinite makes it easy to create underwater 3D scenes.

Undersea lighting

While many landscape tools such as E-on Software’s Vue are primarily focused on dry landscape creation, Vue is equally at home submerged in underwater scenes.

The trick for any underwater scene is to understand atmosphere and lighting – this tutorial will guide you through what you need to know. Light and atmosphere work differently underwater.

Water is denser than air, and a wave ceiling in motion creates a unique lighting pattern – a dabbling of light – that creates exciting, murky landscapes that can then be populated with undersea life.

For this tutorial, we’ll be using a caustics light gel to generate shafts of light penetrating the depths, as well as Vue’s excellent EcoSystem to rapidly populate it with aquatic creatures.

Everything you need is included on this issue’s Digital Arts cover CD, so jump right in!

01 Install Vue 6 Infinite PLE from this month’s cover CD, then start Vue. Click the New… icon (or choose File>New) and choose an underwater atmospheric by navigating the Collections>Effects>Others library that pops up and choosing Underwater. This provides a great starting point for the scene.

02 Next, create a sphere object by choosing Object>Create>Sphere (or by choosing it from the toolbar on the left) and drop it into the scene.

With Vue in fourpane view, resize the sphere using the Scale tool – which is activated by clicking the sphere in any window – and choosing the small Scale icon from the floating list of icons.

Next, use the Move tool in the same way to position this just above the ground plane.

03 Next, we’ll add a water plane by choosing Object>Create>Add Water. Using the side view, move the water plane up above both the camera and the sphere object. Ensure the water plane is EcoSystem safe by clicking the tiny leaf icon located under the sphere in the upper-right ‘Water’ Aspect panel.

04 Create a Quadratic spotlight by choosing Object>Add Light> Quadratic Spot light. In the upper-right Aspect box, remove the lens flare, and make the spotlight volumetric.

Beef up the power to 150 per cent and the spread to 27.5- degrees and falloff to 20.

05 We’ll now add a light gel to our quadratic spotlight. To do this, click the light gel icon in the upper right Aspect box (it looks like a chequered lightbulb) and choose the Caustics 2 gel from the Light Gels options in the materials box that pops up.

06 Double-click the square pattern preview in the Light Editor box that is currently showing. In the Gel Editor window, change the colouring mode to Mapped Picture (under the Color & Alpha tab), and double-click the black box under the Picture File section.

Navigate to the cover CD, where you’ll find the caustics.jpg file. Load this, and click OK.

07 Now, we’ll create some dramatic light effects. Choose Edit volumetric settings from the Aspect box, and ensure that the ‘Show smoke or dust in light beam’ is ticked. Increase the Intensity setting as well to 2.0 using the slider.

08 The sun light object, which is present in the scene by default, needs some tweaking. Using the top, front, and side views, move the sunlight so its position matches that of the quadratic spot.

You’ll also need to rotate it so it shines in the same direction. In the Aspect box, ensure that lens flare is set to ‘off’, and untick the ‘Point at camera’ box.

09 With the sun light object still selected, click the Shadow icon in the Aspect box, and select Edit shadow and lighting.

In the pop-up box, tweak the shadow density to downplay the shadows, and select the ‘Soft shadows map – no hard shadows’ option. Ensure that the Quality option is set to Auto.

10 We’re almost there... Delete the sphere object as it was just for shadow and placement needs, then choose Create>Terrain>Standard Terrain. Double-click the terrain mesh that appears, and in the Terrain Editor that pops up, click Reset, followed by Dunes.

You can add some erosion under the Erode tab (try Dissolve…) and then hit OK.

11 Double-click the sphere in the upper-right box labelled Terrain, and in the Advanced Material Editor box that appears, double-click the sphere.

From the material library that appears, select EcoSystems from the Collections list, and choose Fish Schools. Choose ‘Yes’ to Vue’s request to auto populate. Hit the Render icon (right on the top tool bar), and you’re done.

Who: James Nolan is creative director of the Singing Bird Creative, and has over ten years of experience. He is also running a design collective producing exciting new projects for a varied client list.
Software: Vue 6 Infinite PLE
Time to complete: One hour
On the CD: You’ll find the full Vue 6 Infinite PLE software on our cover disc!