e-on software's Vue 8 Frontier in Review
A fascinating trend over the last several years of software development in Computer Graphics has been the widening of an application's target audience. With the huge rise of amateur CG creation via the internet, software companies have realized that if they create an affordable entry-level version of their best software that is cost-effective and yet provides a good bargain, they will not only sell more copies, but will create an entirely new user group. e-on software is one such company.
e-on released Vue, their premiere 3D nature creation software, over 10 years ago to immediate acclaim. They have been developing and refining Vue to such a degree that it is a standard program in many Hollywood studios. Weta Digital, ILM, Disney and a host of top companies use Vue to create matte paintings, landscape visualizations and many other high-end computer graphics.
With the recent November 2009 release of Vue 8, e-on hasn't only provided the best possible version of their program yet, but they offer several different versions of Vue which are designed specifically for the enthusiast, the artist and the professional user groups. What's amazing is that e-on has managed to put just the right amount of development into each version so that they stand on their own. It's quite an accomplishment to satisfy three entirely different user profiles. Even the free version (Pioneer) has a lot to offer.
Today, I'll be reviewing e-on's new entry level “Frontier” version of Vue 8 which costs $99 (USD).
Vue 8 Frontier contains the full core application along with a free version of SkinVue 8 which allows for refined creation of human skin, and the ability to import static Poser models (including the new Poser 8). And while there are a few hidden limitations in the program that I wish hadn't been left out, I think this version of Vue is not only only an excellent program for environmental world-building, but it's a great introduction to 3D creation for the beginner. Some of this is due to the absolutely spot-on design of the interface, but it's also that Vue 8 is simply a lot of fun to use. When as a beginner you find that you've been working for hours trying to create that perfect sunset and you just don't want to stop, then you know that Vue will be a program you'll be using for a long time.
Since Vue 8 has only just recently been released, let's go over some of the new additions to this version:
And those are only the highlights...for a full list you can check the e-on site here.
Vue 8 Frontier interface
Installation of the program is simple and painless. e-on has created a website at Cornucopia3d.com where you'll be required to register in order to activate your copy of Vue 8 Frontier. This is a content-based site for Vue with the content there locked to Vue only. Once activated, your copy of Vue is free of watermarks and logos. The site is well-designed and interesting. Be sure to check out the free tutorials.
The basic Vue 8 interface is very simple to understand: everything is laid out in a clear and intuitive fashion. e-on's focus on design is toward “ease of use, work-flow and clarity”. They certainly have achieved those goals as this is the easiest program I've ever used. Broken into the classic 4-panel center arrangement where you see the top, side, front and camera view of the scene you are working on, you also have material controls, camera layout and object/layer panel. The main windows-style drop-down controls are to the top and the left of the main working area. Very easy to create a basic atmosphere (Frontier comes with a lot of content), then a terrain and maybe some vegetation. Water is a click away. Everything is adjustable inside any of the main windows.
Materials are in the upper right corner and are very simple to apply and adjust. You can have highly realistic rock and wood textures in seconds. That's one of the things that is very appealing to the beginner in 3D design; the interface of the Vue 8 Frontier edition doesn't get in your way. Instead, you can quickly find what you are looking for without having to pull up the huge 600-page manual (which is great by the way; very well-written) and figure out what you want to do.
UP by thd777
Something else that is exciting about Vue 8 Frontier is the depth of the program. You can work on simple scenes until you are proficient enough to move to maybe key-framing a few camera moves or creating a more complex lighting scheme. Since Vue has a huge following, simply going to the excellent Vue Community at Renderosity will pull up a ton of great tuts; or use Google to find all kinds of video/written tutorials on every aspect of this great program. Renderosity has a huge collection of free Vue content, along with many artists who have created amazing imagery in Vue, such as the work of thd777 and AboranTouristCouncil that you see pictured here.
Saira and the Castle by AboranTouristCouncil
While I'm very enthusiastic about Vue 8 Frontier, there are a few niggling issues that I wish e-on would address. Since the Frontier edition is entry-level (like the Pioneer edition), e-on has 12 additional “modules” which add additional functionality in areas like animation, rendering and import/export. This is actually a pretty neat idea since you can choose what area you want to develop and buy only those modules that work for you. They are fairly cheap ($39, $69, $99) except for the import and export modules which are $129 and $149 respectively.
Still, I wish e-on would be a little less stingy on some aspects of the Frontier edition. Want to enlarge the area to the right of the main window so you can see a larger camera render? Well, you have to buy the DeepAccess scene module. Seems like being able to expand the windows of your program interface should be included as part of the basic functionality. Also, if you own a nice quad-core CPU, you'll only be able to use 2 of those cores in the Frontier edition of Vue. But, you can buy the RenderUp module which allows you to add all 4 cores.
I do see e-on's idea here though: offer an inexpensive entry-level application which can be built up according to the user's needs. And then each module adds a lot of new functionality to the Vue core that comes with the Frontier edition. You certainly get your money's worth for each of the modules. I'm thinking of picking up the KronosFx module (for advanced animation), RenderUp (advanced rendering) and 3D Export, so I can move my environments over to CINEMA 4D.
The ability to import Poser figures into the Frontier edition is very nice. I was able to import characters with ease. Rendering is as you designed it in Poser, too. With additional modules (or by purchasing a higher version of Vue 8) you can bring in animations as well.
Documentation for Vue 8 Frontier is excellent, as is the support sections of the e-on website where you'll find a nice set of tutorials. I wish there was a way to get the manual in a published form, as it's cumbersome to switch back and forth from the PDF to the Vue screen. I've always preferred a manual in book form.
Vue 8 Frontier (like Pioneer) is the entry-level version of the program. There are three very good content packs for the Frontier (and for the free Pioneer version) built around the Fantasy, Science Fiction and Fairy Tale themes. They come with tons of content and presets. The next level of Vue is targeted for Artists and includes Vue 8 Espirit, Vue 8 Studio and Vue 8 Complete versions. Top-level for professional nature building is Vue 8 Infinite and Vue 8 xStream, which is designed specifically for the highest level of artistic and commercial work. It's a jaw-dropping program.
I'm very impressed with Vue 8 Frontier, and despite a quibble here or there, this program is going to become a permanent part of my workflow in creating 3D animated films and still images. And while I'm not designing the mattes for the next Batman, I am enjoying the fun and creative possibilities of this excellent and well-designed application. And I'm particularly happy that e-on recognizes that there are hundreds of enthusiasts and small-scale artists like me. That e-on makes the Frontier edition affordable and packed with features is a testament to why they are such a successful and popular company.
My thanks to e-on, and to Matt Riveccie in particular, for making Vue 8 Frontier available for review.
System Requirements for Vue 8 Frontier
Vue 8 Frontier is optimized for 32 bit and 64 bit Windows systems. On the Macintosh platform, it is optimized for Power PC and Intel processors.
An OpenGL accelerated video board is not required, but is a big plus. Internet access is required to use this software.
My system set-up:
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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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