Digital Elements Inc. - WorldBuilder 4

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What's in the box

Digital Elements Inc.'s WorldBuilder 4 comes with a 2 disk DVD case(an installation disk and a library disk), a paper manual a tutorial disk and a reference sheet. [I think the spring bound manual is not the best choice because mine is already starting to fall apart].

Installation goes smoothly without problems, and be sure to download the The Poser plugin.

New Features in WB 4

  • New Verdant Plant Mechanic plants support
  • 3ds max 7 support
  • Verdant Plants
  • Redesigned and improved libraries
  • New Material Editor
  • New Grayscale Editor
  • New Interface
  • Improved Light and Shadow
  • Better clouds, grass, plants
  • Improved road wizards
  • Full documentation and tutorials

    The Interface

    WorldBuilder 4 has a new improved interface; the toolbar button can be resized, the major toolbars can be undocked and repositioned. You can also save screen space by using the toggle buttons on the bottom of the screen, these open or close some of the editors and toolbars of WorldBuilder.



    In the above screen grab you can see the location of some of the most important WorldBuilder menus and toolbars.

    The scene tree gives an overview of all the objects, which are in the scene. In the properties tree you can see all the properties of that specific object, and in the properties panel you can adjust the values of that specific property.

    The library window from the previous version is gone. It's now accessible from the menu toolbar or can be opened/closed with the toggle button on the bottom of the screen.

    There's a perspective view where once the library window was, and this makes the layout look more like the 3DS Max interface.

    There are also toggle buttons for a new landscape painter, material editor and curve editor.

    Landscapes and areas

    WorldBuilder 4 has a great way to shape landscapes exactly the way you want them, using skeleton lines. Just draw the shapes in one of the viewport windows, hit the "make skin" button, and WorldBuilder produces a mesh surface for the landscape by draping a flexible skin over the skeleton lines.

    You can also use the new landscape painter to draw your own custom landscape and/or use procedural landscape deformations like footprints and erosion models. DEM files can also be used to create landscapes by importing them. The possibility of using areas on landscapes is a very powerful feature of WorldBuilder, just draw an area in one of the viewports and fill it with grass, trees, stones, or flipboards from the library.



    Materials and Water

    There's a new material editor included in WorldBuilder 4, although this editor doesn't add much to the old way of using materials in WB, it's handy to have it all in one window though.

    There are a lot of possibilities to use with materials like textures, bumping, different photometry options, displacement, use of fractal textures, masks and compound materials.



    “Material in area,” is a very nice feature to create patches or paths on your landscape, just draw the area on the landscape and use "material in area" to fill the area with your own custom material or one from the library.

    WorldBuilder has many advanced features for the use of water; you can create lakes, oceans, rivers and waterfalls and use waves, surfs or ripples. There are also advanced materials or dynamics like "wake trace" or "surf on sea".

    Light and shadows

    Good lighting is very important in every 3D scene, in WorldBuilder 4 you can choose between parallel lights, spot lights or point lights. Every light can have more shadowmaps with adjustable size, range or bias. You can open up a shadowview in the perspective viewport of every light and zoom in on the area where you want detailed shadows to appear.

    The volume light filter can be used with the different lights to create light beams(There are a lot of great examples of this feature ine Renderosity WorldBuilder gallery, or the Digital Element site).

    Skies and Clouds

    You can create compound skies with altostratus or separate cumulonimbus clouds in any shape and with lots of different settings. WorldBuilder worlds can have rain, snow and rainbows in them.

    I think the sky system of WorldBuilder is one of the things that can be approved, other landcape packages can do better more realistic skies then WorldBuilder.

    Advanced features

    The professional version of WorldBuilder 4 has communication plugins for well known packages like 3DS Max, Maya and Lightwave. Using these communicators gives you the advantage to render the landscape in WorldBuilder and other objects in a different package, this way you can use all the features of both packages without losing any detail. WorldBuilder connects with the other package and both render their own scene, WorldBuilder uses buffers to compose both images together.

    Incremental design is a very powerful feature of WorldBuilder, which can be used to create a complicated scene step by step. Parts of the scene can be saved to the z-buffer, and more renderings of these complicated parts can be prevented by using incremental design. This way you can try different settings with other objects without having to render the complicated part over and over again.

    Almost any setting of objects or materials can be animated in WorldBuilder. You can have drifting clouds, trees and grass blowing in the wind, objects floating in the river, waves, ripples, growing landscapes and animated cameras and lights.

    Poser Pro Pack objects can be imported directly (including animation) in WorldBuilder using the poser plugin.

    WorldBuilder 4.1 has support for verdant plants, the new verdant plants are very detailed and can have many adjustable parameters like variation, wind animation and other programmed settings. Take a look on the Digital Elements Inc. site for more information on Verdant plant mechanic and new verdant plants.

    Libraries

    WorldBuilder 4 comes with many libraries like; plants, grass, stones, skeletonlines, materials, skies, clouds, flipboards, and architecture. You can drag and drop a library item in your scene, or create your own library with plants or objects.

    WorldBuilder Knowledge Module Volume One

    There's also a knowledge module available for WorldBuilder 4, this module consists of 9 lessons (in avi format), 5 projects and 2 new verdant plants.

    The first 8 lessons of the module covers all basic information like; interface, cameras, terrains, lights, areas, materials, water and skies you need to start with WorldBuilder 4. Lesson 9 called "project notes" covers the making of a complex WorldBuilder scene, and the use of incremental design, lighting, importing models, skies and use of materials.

    The lessons are in windows avi format with narration, which is clearly spoken. The information provided in the knowledge module is basic information for the new WorldBuilder user, if you know the basics already, this module won’t teach you new WorldBuilder techniques. More modules with advanced techniques are planned for the future.

    Conclusion

    The Pros

  • WorldBuilder 4 is a very complete software package, with all the tools you need to create a realistic 3D landscape.

  • Working with areas and plants, and/or materials in areas, is one of the best features of WorldBuilder.

  • The new verdant plants look amazing and are a great addition to WorldBuilder

  • There are a lot of extras included like libraries and tutorials.

  • This version seems more stable than the previous versions.

    The Cons

  • I hope they come up with a more advanced material editor next time, because using complex materials in WorldBuilder can be a bit of a pain.

  • If you are going into the more advanced features of WorldBuilder, it will take a lot of time and patience to learn them.

  • The WorldBuilder sky and material system can be approved, if you compare it to other landscape packages on the market.



    Digital Elements Inc.’s WorldBuilder 4

  • WorldBuilder 4 Genesis $179. USD

  • WorldBuilder 4 Pro $699. USDA

  • WorldBuilder 4.1 upgrade (WB 4.1 has verdant support)


    A special "thank you" to
    contributing columnist, artist, Alfons [Alfons Blom],
    for taking time out of his busy schedule
    as Renderosity’s WorldBuilder Moderator.
    We invite you to view Alfons Gallery

    August 1, 2005

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    Member Opinions:
    By: nemirc on 8/2/05
    Thanks for taking the time to make this walk-through. There are so many cool tools in the 3D realm but unfortunately there's too little time :)

    By: deemarie on 8/4/05
    Thanks so much Alfons, your review makes me want to take WorldBuilder out for a test drive :)

    Dee-Marie

    By: mact on 8/7/05
    Thanks for the review. A comparism to well known alternatives like Vue or Bryce would have helped me positioning WB - from the review I guess there's no point in even considering it as a Bryce- or Vue-owner?


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