e-on Vue Esprit 5

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RECOMMENDED

Enhancements to the interface, terrain handling, modeling support and rendering help Vue produce even more realistic and attractive scenes.

For artists perhaps the key attraction of 3D is the promise it holds out of imagining and creating your own believable worlds. However in practice this proves surprisingly difficult even in the most advanced and expensive 3D modeling apps. The solution is to turn to Vue 5 Esprit (note the rename from “ Vue d’Esprit” which was presumably thought too high-falutin and French) which offers amazing creative power at a very affordable price.

What really sets Vue 5 Esprit apart is its excellent usability. The interface is built on a typical four viewport environment but otherwise, compared to the complexities of most 3D modelers, it’s a real breath of fresh air. To begin with, the advanced and multi-threaded OpenGL-based screen handling is amazingly fast and has been further optimized to enable dual-quality real-time textured previewing. Vue’s simple layer system for handling its objects is just as impressive, as is its generally layered approach to functionality which keeps things as simple as possible while making it easy to drill down to power when required.

So how do you go about creating your natural scenes? The first step is to set-up the atmosphere and Vue provides over 160 presets to choose from. It also now offers three totally different systems – the existing Standard and Volumetric models and a new Environment Mapping option that lets you load bitmaps including HDRIs (high dynamic range images) to use as your background and lighting source. You can even integrate this with Vue’s own customizable atmospheric features such as fog and haze and lens flares.

Global illumination-based renders are even more realistic.

Even more impressive is the new support for Global Illumination which recognizes that in real life light doesn’t only come direct from light sources but is reflected indirectly. Obviously this seriously adds to the processing required (especially when dealing with effectively infinite outdoor scenes) so e-on has come up with three different global illumination models – global ambiance, global illumination and global radiosity – each with its own trade-off between end quality and render time. To help keep things manageable Vue 5 Esprit also offers a simple EasyGI slider for controlling a whole number of advanced parameters as a single setting.

After choosing and customizing your atmosphere, the next job is to set up the terrain. The millions of polygons necessary to create realistic landscapes grinds most modelers to a halt but it’s meat and drink to Vue 5 Esprit. In fact Vue’s standard handling, based on an underlying grayscale bitmap, even lets you interactively “paint” the terrain to raise or lower the surface, or to apply effects such as fluvial erosion or craters. The trouble with this approach is that the resolution is fixed so that if you produce large renders, or look at the terrain close-up, you’ll see undesirable polygonal edges. Vue 5 solves the problem with its new procedural terrains which add detail as needed in exchange for a greater rendering overhead. You can even edit these fractally-based terrains with the same simple interactive editing tools.

New procedural terrains are resolution-independent.

You’re now ready to add the objects that bring a scene to life. You can add infinite ground, cloud and water planes, realistic planets and individual rocks, but where Vue really impresses is with its handling of vegetation. The program comes with 50 preset species ranging from sea weed to blossoming cherry, all stunningly realistic. There’s no direct editing control (for that you need Vue Professional) but each time you add a plant a unique version is generated. The Scatter and Replicate dialog has also now been tweaked to let you automatically create new variations so that, for example, you can produce a realistic forest in seconds.

Other options for adding to your scene include seven standard 3D primitives from spheres to planes and new text support complete with control over bevel and extrusion. This might seem strange as text isn’t exactly a natural phenomenon but it can be useful for producing animated titles and, when used with symbol fonts, it effectively opens up the range of primitives available. Sadly these text-based primitives can’t be used with Vue 5 Esprit’s new Metablob modeling system which lets you melt and merge the other primitives to produce more organic shapes.

In combination with the new option of advanced node-based material control, there’s no doubt that Vue 5 Esprit’s internal modeling capabilities are better than they were - but I still can’t see much useful being created with them. Generally speaking you’re much better off bringing in and positioning either 2D bitmaps as alpha planes or preferably externally created 3D models. Especially as Vue 5 Esprit can import files in the standard 3DS, DXF, LWO and OBJ file formats as well as static Poser 4 and 5 models. With the separate Mover 5 module (£75+VAT) you can also import Poser animations, and thanks to the Animation Wizard it’s easy to set up smooth animation paths now including dynamic reaction to motion. Vue 5 Esprit also supports pre-animated Vue meshes though we’ll presumably have to wait for the new Vue Professional to be able to create them.

When you’re happy with your scene or animation it’s time to render. The main Render Settings dialog doesn’t look very different with the most noticeable change being the new Superior preset. Behind the scenes though the new rendering engine now works with full 96-bit colour for increased subtlety and better lighting dynamics and you can also now apply camera-based post-processing effects such as gamma and colour correction and switch between cameras during animations. By far the biggest difference though is the support for outdoor global illumination and radiosity which adds new levels of realism to your work.

If you need maximum editing power and control, and especially if you’re wanting to integrate your work with other 3D workflows, then hold off for the new version of Vue 5 Professional that’s due shortly. Otherwise, assuming you have a system to do it justice, Vue 5 Esprit makes it easy to produce truly beautiful naturalistic scenes and animations. And at a price that makes it possible for everyone to bring their imagined worlds alive.

 

Ease of Use
6
Features
4
Value for Money
6
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

System requirements: Pentium III 1GHz, 256/512MB of RAM , 100MB of hard disk space, Windows 2000 or XP, 1024x768 display, CD-ROM, OpenGL recommended.

Tom Arah

December 2004


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