Vue 5 Infinite
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 6 (June 2005)

Vue 5 Infinite

I enjoy tools that aid me in creating incredible vistas and unexplored worlds. Having used the majority of programs that offer the opportunity to create breathtaking environments, I recently had the chance to test-drive Vue 5 Infinite. Vue 5, the upgrade to Vue 4 Professional, is promoted as a natural 3D scenery generator.

Designed to interface with major 3D applications for use in film, digital media production, and game development, the program imports and exports from Autodesk Media and Entertainment’s 3ds Max, Alias’s Maya, Softimage’s XSI, NewTek’s LightWave, and Maxon’s Cinema 4D. It also supports industry-standard G-buffer information, together with RPF and RLA file formats, making the rendered scenes compatible with Adobe’s After Effects and Autodesk Media and Entertainment’s Combustion and Flame.

Although the latest version of Vue, Vue 5 Infinite, is ripe with powerful new tools and enhanced functionality, its user interface is clean, intuitive, and uncomplicated.

Vue 5 is a significant upgrade from Vue 4. Some of the most important new features include global illumination and radiosity, HDRI support, shadow and volumetric light optimization for a dramatic increase in rendering speed, procedural terrain, and an improved interface. Although I liked Vue 4, after having spent some time with Vue 5, I know I can never look back.

The program is incredibly user friendly. When you create a new scene, the Atmosphere-selection tool opens. This controls the position of the sun, color of light, shape and size of clouds, and more. There are nine categories of atmospheres, for daytime, bad weather, animated, and so forth, each with at least a dozen preset choices. You can edit presets by adding cloud layers, changing sun color, and adding fog, haze, and other effects. A nice feature of the Atmosphere selection window is that each preset comes with a thumbnail image and, when highlighted, a larger image with a text description. It makes finding the perfect starting point for your project simple.

The interface is a standard four-view window with side, front, top, and main cameras. On the right side of the screen are Camera Controls and a World Browser, which anyone familiar with Adobe Photoshop will recognize as a layers menu, making for efficient organization of the objects in your scene.

Part of the Camera Controls is a small window that shows a rendered preview of your scene, which updates in real time whenever you make adjustments to materials, lights, and objects. You no longer need to wait for rendering to have an idea of how your scene looks. This preview even includes shadows and lens flares.

I found Vue 5 to be easier to work with than other stand-alone landscape and environment generating packages I’ve worked with, and the results are stunning. The Terrain Editor is one of the most intuitive to use, and making modifications to terrain is as easy as painting or sculpting, in real time. Procedural terrains can adapt their level of details dynamically, and editing them is as easy as applying preset functions from Vue’s function library or adjusting Function Curves; the program to does the rest.

After your terrain is built, you can populate your environment with plants and rocks. SolidGrowth 3, Vue’s plant technology, is the easiest method for producing realistic trees that don’t take thousands of hours to render. Vue 5 ships with more than 50 different plants species; all Vue 5 plants are editable from trunk size/gnarl/falloff to leaf material and width. By default, all plants created in Vue automatically animate as if swaying in a breeze; this trait is user-definable by plant.

Each time you create a plant in a scene, it will be unique from previous vegetation. If you need to grow a forest or grove and don’t want to place each tree, Vue 5’s EcoSystem can populate a scene with plants en masse. EcoSystem works with Instances, which allow you to gain great visual complexity without vast computational overhead.

You can use preset quality settings-sketch, preview, broadcast, and ultra-or customize your own. You also can select how much of your scene to render. In fact, I’ve just scratched the surface of what Vue 5 Infinite offers. Game designers, digital matte artists, architects, and digital artists would do well to investigate Vue 5 Infinite.

Doug King, a contributing editor based in Dallas, develops animated projects for his company, Day III Productions.

E-on Software:
Price: $599
Minimum System Requirements: 1 ghz Pentium III or better processor, Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X Version 10.3 or later, 512 mb of RAM, 100 mb hard drive, and a 16-bit, 1024x768 video display.