eon-software's Vue 8 Infinite in Review

Product Review: Vue 8 Infinite

After launching Vue 7 Infinite in November 2008 and Vue 8 just a year later, e-on software keeps delivering new releases at a more rapid pace, now with an update to version 8.4 just released in February 2010. This version builds on the new features introduced in Vue 8 and delivers several improvements to materials, displacements and performance in particular. It is a free update for Vue 8 owners and is currently available as a beta update.

I will focus this review on a few of the major features introduced in Vue 8 Infinite. For a full description of what Vue 8 is capable of, please use the links provided at the end of this article.

If you do not know what Vue Infinite is about, chances are you've already seen Vue in action without knowing about it. Vue is a line of products designed to build, render and animate 3D environments. Vue is available from an entry-level version (Vue Frontier), to a complete professional solution (Vue Infinite), and integration with major 3D tools, such as CINEMA 4D, 3ds Max or Maya (Vue xStream).

With Vue 8, e-on builds on top of fundamental changes introduced in Vue 7 and continues to mature, as demonstrated by a growing list of movies where Vue has been recently used: from "The Wolf Man," "2012," and "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," to TV series' such as "Battlestar Galactica" or "Stargate Atlantis."

Terraforming

While Vue 7 redefined the user interface and introduced new models for atmosphere and water, the focus of Vue 8 is definitely terrains and displacements.

This is immediately visible in the terrain editor. Several new options allow you to control what is displayed on the surface of the terrain, from wireframe to a shiny shaded surface, or even a full view of the scene, including objects and ecosystems placed on the terrain.

While general effects over the terrain remain unchanged (such as Eroded or Canyons), sculpting tools have been replaced by 2D and 3D tools. Terrain sculpting is now more intuitive and closer to virtual clay, especially if you own a graphics tablet.

The new controls allow you to pull and inflate the surface of terrains in any direction, making it finally possible to create caves and overhanging cliffs. Digging holes in the ground is as simple as using the ‘Invert’ option to reverse the effect (no more ‘Dig’ tool).

Vue handles the geometry of the terrain automatically, adding subdivisions as needed while you apply more local effects. This can result in a quick build-up of the number of polygons in the terrain if you are not careful. One way to prevent this is to use the new Zones feature, which allows you to define detailed zones for close up view, while keeping the rest of the terrain less defined. Zones can also be used to define customized areas on infinite terrains.

It is also possible to apply different materials to a terrain, while respecting the 2D effects selected. For example, you can literally paint craters on a ground using a different material for the inside of the craters.

The new controls over terrains are not limited to the Terrain Editor. New fractal filter nodes now allow the creation of stratified terrains. Vue 8 also includes two types of planetary renderings – curved terrains (for high altitude or low orbit shots), and full planetoids (to render whole planets or asteroids).

Finally, the surface of terrains can be dramatically improved thanks to improvements to the Displacement parameter in Vue 8 materials. Not only the quality of large displacements has been improved, but displacements can now happen along any axis, including normals to the surface. Vue also supports normal mapping from software such as ZBrush.

Fortunately, Vue 8 Infinite comes with new content and sample scenes to help you take advantage of new features immediately. However, there is no substitute for reading the manual. Do not overlook the Vue manual. It is well written and full of examples. Locate the PDF file in your installation folder as soon as you install it, it will save you a lot of frustration. Also, don’t forget to download the Extras CD if you purchased the online version.

Other Improvements

Although Vue 8 offers less dramatic changes to the interface as introduced by Vue 7, this new version includes a myriad of changes, large and small, as well as several performance enhancements.

Spectral atmospheres, Ecosystems and Solid Growth plants have been upgraded to their latest versions. Spectral clouds are crisper and produce Godrays more easily. Ecosystems can now be animated, and can be controlled globally using a new Global Ecosystem object in the world view.

Vue 8 really shines in its advanced preview of scenes. New options for video cards supporting OpenGL 2.1 shaders allow more accurate rendering of ecosystem previews. Vue will detect automatically if your video card supports these new options and will let you know if it does not. In addition to these new shaders, the preview scene now accurately displays shadows from the sunlight and spectral clouds in the sky.

On top of a large selection of import and export formats, Vue 8 has been updated to support Poser 8 and now includes its own system of pose for rigged meshes. Simply click on an object and change the pose using the skeleton.

Overall, these continuous improvements make Vue 8 Infinite one of the most advanced and intuitive versions of Vue yet. I did experience an occasional crash or slow-down during this evaluation, but they were usually related to trying to do things too quickly. This is really the only issue I have with Vue in general – by making it so easy to create incredibly complex scenes, it is also easy to lose track of what your system can handle at any given time. Vue behaves a lot better once you learn to ‘listen’ to your system and use the several safeguards provided by Vue to check on your resources usage (my favorite is to switch the bottom right indicator to ‘Available resources’ instead of ‘Polygon count’).


The Monastery by Drea Horvath [00AngelicDevil00]
(be sure to visit the portfolio site of Drea Horvath)

Requirements and Availability

The Vue 8.4 update is initially released as a beta update. It is immediately available at no cost for users of Vue 8 xStream and Vue 8 Infinite through e-on software’s regular update page. The Vue 8.4 update for e-on’s product line for 3D Artists is also now available.

Vue 8 xStream and Vue 8 Infinite are available in English for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, for both 32 and 64-bit, and on Mac OSX 10.5+ as a 32-bit application (Mac Intel only). Vue 8 xStream is compatible with the following renderers: Mental Ray for 3ds Max, Maya and Softimage (integrated and MR satellites), V-Ray for 3ds Max and Maya, Maya Software, as well as the native Cinema 4D and LightWave renderers. Other renderers are under consideration.

Vue 8 Pioneer, the Vue Theme-Packs, Vue 8 Frontier as well as Vue 8 Esprit, Studio and Complete are available in English for Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 as a 32 and 64-bit application, and on Mac OSX 10.4+ as Universal Binary.

Macintosh

  • Mac OS X v10.5 and 10.6,
  • 2GHz Intel processor or faster,
  • 1GB of free RAM,
  • 200 MB of free Hard Disk space,
  • 1024x768 in 65K colors/16 bits (24+ bits recommended)

Windows

  • Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 32/64,
  • 2GHz Pentium IV or better processor,
  • 1GB of free RAM,
  • 200 MB of free Hard Disk space,
  • 1024x768 in 65K colors/16 bits (24+ bits recommended)

An OpenGL accelerated video board is not required, but is a big plus. Note that certain video boards are required to take advantage of the full scope of advanced shared. See details on the requirements list.

For more info, please visit:


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Laurent Alquier (agiel) has been moderator of the Vue Forum at Renderosity from 2004 to 2008. When he is not in the forum or the galleries, he finds himself busy with the balancing act of a day job as a Software Engineer and personal explorations of Information Visualization and Computer Graphics.

March 8, 2010

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