Review: Vue Infinite 10

Vue is the 3D application that has been used for box office successes such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar. Vue 10 is the latest version and it includes new features such as stackable render screens, edge-based anti-aliasing, more natural ecosystem animations, etc.

For 3D artists who want to create the most natural looking environments, including whole planets, cities, woodlands, countrysides, etc. Vue is the 3D animation app of choice. In the past years, Vue Infinite and Vue xStream have been used with much success to create complete natural as well as impossible worlds. Creating unnatural worlds is probably the easiest there is in the universe of design, but to make an impossible world believable not only requires incredible talent, but also a tool that literally enables such environments.

Vue 10 is such a tool. In the past I’ve tested Vue Infinite several times, up to version 9. I skipped version 9.5 and even that pause was enough to force me to go through a brief learning curve again — due to how much has been added in that short time span. After half a day of plodding about I was back up to speed with Vue 10. That’s actually quite amazing, because other 3D apps I’ve reviewed in the past were much more difficult to pick up after a pause of more than half a year.

In this time span, e-on Software, the developers of Vue, have launched a range of new products all based on the features in Vue. For example, LumenRT is designed to provide high fidelity visualization with accurately simulated lighting including Global Illumination, shadows and reflections. Carbon Scatter allows creating complex and detailed populations using the native instancing technologies of 3ds Max, Maya or Cinema4D. It integrates e-on’s patented EcoSystem algorithms directly inside leading CG applications. Finally, the Ozone 5 plug-in lets you create and render realistic skies and atmospheres in 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, Lightwave and Cinema4D.

Back to Vue 10, which is all about new and even more accurate rendering, more accurate transparency, more natural EcoSystems and one new object type: splines.

New in Vue 10 Infinite

Splines are 2D objects that you can turn into 3D in most 3D apps. In Vue 10, splines serve a very specific purpose: you can build roads with them, and you can quickly turn them into 3D objects that form an integral part of a landscape, such as tubes, tunnels, and pipelines.

I tried splines by creating one and turning it into a fence with plants growing on both sides. It took me about 30 seconds.

Vue 10 comes with an innovative new rendering system I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s a rendering window that opens when you choose to render to screen. It looks like Aperture’s hybrid view, with the current rendered image large at the top, and previous renders in a filmstrip at the bottom. You can easily switch between different renders this way, which makes comparing them a breeze.

You can also select to render an area, which you can show at the size you first selected in the Render dialogue. Every render job can be saved as an image as well. Needless to say, this makes Vue 10 one of the most flexible 3D apps available.

In the rendering department, or more specifically in the materials department, Vue 10 has a new physical transparency ‘engine’. This allows for much more realistic effects from materials like glass, crystal, etc. You could achieve the same level of realism before version 10, but only through using a workaround that would never be physically accurate. The new transparency mode also works wonders for water. I could achieve effects that are almost identical to photos of water.

A large, massive, solid block of glass rendered with physical transparency. This is indeed how it would look.

The Alpha channel in mixed materials can now be accessed and edited in Vue 10. I’ve not tried that one out, so can’t tell what its results are. Noise and fractals are now cyclical, meaning they can repeat without seams. This adds to the realism of the material. There’s also an image combiner node, which in combination with the image sampler, allows you to create different effects by combining projected textures.

To make it easier for artists, Vue’s EcoPainter screen can fold out of the way when painting. The screen then minimizes to a narrow bar.

When you animate, Vue until now would animate all your EcoSystem instances simultaneously. This looked unrealistic — more or less like a military parade — so there is now an EcoInstance Phasing capability that prevents this, allowing for more realistic animations where parts of the landscape behave different from others. All you need to do for this to happen is check the Phasing or Random button in the EcoSystems materials window and the object is ready to randomly behave.

However, the animation of the whole thing remains more complicated — in my opinion, animation still is more complicated in Vue than it’s supposed to be. That’s not due to the Animation Timeline or Animation Wizard, which are all very helpful, but to the many different places where you can set materials and objects to animate.

The Terrain Editor has been improved. You can now set the editor to reflect Environment constraints set when brushing, layers under a new layer remain untouched, and there is a new brush with a custom displacement direction. Personally, I think the Terrain Editor is one of the most powerful features of Vue Infinite, but it’s also one of the least forgiving. The improvements make the system somewhat more forgiving.

Other improvements include underwater caustics, and aspect ratio settings per camera. For workgroups there’s also support for Collada morph targets.

Throughout my tests with Vue 10, the app displayed the same problem as it always has: it crashed regularly, offering me to restart with a large number of the more interesting settings turned off. That is odd, because the iMac i5 has a standard graphics card which Vue should work with without a glitch.

E-on Software meanwhile sent me a patch and the crashes have now all disappeared; I can now work for hours on end with no problems.

Vue 10 Infinite is a wonderful 3D app. It’s always been much easier to use than any other 3D app that I know. Its terrain building and rendering systems are world class and continue to be made more powerful with every upgrade.

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