E-on Vue 4 Professional

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Improved productivity, vegetation handling, rendering and especially new integration with larger workflows takes Vue to a new level.

Professional 3D modelling apps are great for producing 3D objects and even realistic characters, but producing realistic landscapes in which to set them is another matter entirely. That's where dedicated 3D world builders such as Vue come in. The previous release Vue d'Esprit 4 won a recommended award (issue ) for its excellent combination of power, usability and value. Now e-on is trying to reposition the program as the professional's choice and with a price hike to match. So what's involved and is it worth it?

What set Vue d'Esprit 4 apart was the way that it made its power so accessible with features such as its simple viewport layout with customisable OpenGL-based previews, always-on mini scene preview and excellent layer-based handling of objects. Vue 4 Pro sees all these features tweaked to make the program even more productive. Your system's OpenGL-compatibility is now tested on start-up (don't worry if it fails as Vue's in-built previewing is no slouch), and you can now maximize and resize your viewports and individually set their  pan and zoom settings. The previous limit of eight layers is now lifted and you can choose to organize your objects by name, type and size.

Vue 4 Pro also adds new modelling power. Realistic terrain creation is an essential strength for a landscape generator and Vue 4 Pro now supports pressure-sensitive real-time editing. Just as important is the handling of realistic vegetation. Vue 4 Pro provides 31 preset plant species ranging from grass and sea weed through to maple trees and coconut palms. Now it also provides an individual Plant Editor which lets you control everything from the level of gnarl and droop of the trunk through to the colour and curl of the leaves. Even better, if you make major changes, you can save your plant as a new species. Also new is the way that vegetation now reacts to wind. The implementation of this is typically efficient: simply drag the control arrow to interactively set direction and strength while a new tab in the Atmosphere Editor provides fine control over features such as breeze pulsation and turbulence.

Vue 4 Pro provides excellent control over individual plants.

So far so good, but you might have hoped for features like these in a Vue d'Esprit 5 so what justifies the leap to Vue "Pro" and the corresponding price rise? The answer is integration. Vue 4 Pro has been completely redesigned to work hand-in-hand with other high-end applications. To begin with, this now means that you can export any native object, including plants, to 3DS, OBJ, LWO, C4D, COB and DXF formats. Even more impressive is the ability to export entire scenes to 3DS and LWS file standards including lights, cameras, texture and bump maps, animation information and even atmospheres as sky domes. The promise is awesome - simply design your 3D world in Vue Pro and then import it and populate it within your favourite modeling application.

Unfortunately it's not quite that simple. A single realistic tree or terrain can be made up of hundreds of thousands of polygons and whole scenes can easily involve millions. No 3D modeller is happy handling such vast amounts of data which is why landscape generators came into being in the first place. Vue 4 Pro provides an ingenious solution with its ability to lower the resolution of the output mesh to make things more manageable but inevitably this lowers quality. The same is true of the need to convert procedural materials to texture maps, while advanced features such as water-based reflections and volumetric clouds get lost entirely.

Rather than exporting your landscapes, it's often better to import your models. Vue 4 Pro supports all the most common 3D standards and throws in Poser PZ3 support for good measure. Unfortunately dealing with external objects cuts down on Vue's efficiency but again e-on has come up with practical workarounds. In particular you can now choose to "decimate" your models which cuts down on their complexity while you work on your scene. You can then use the new Replace By commands to reload the full model just before rendering.

Vue 4 Pro brings together 3D model and 3D world.

When it comes to rendering, quality is crucial if Vue is to live up to its professional aspirations and with new features such as improved control over anti-aliasing, super-sampling, motion blur and lights, its ray-traced results are even more realistic - and beautiful - than ever. Within a professional environment productivity is just as important and rendering speed can be seriously boosted by switching to effective simulations of ray-traced shadows, reflections, motion blur and depth of field.

Even with these tweaks rendering remains a time-consuming process which is why Vue 4 Pro's multi-processor support is so valuable. Even better is the new HyperVue system which lets you share the rendering burden across your network. Five render nodes are included ready-to-go with further low-cost expansion kits available. And again e-on has taken the opportunity to boost integration with other high-end applications. You can now include industry-standard G-Buffer information, such as Z Depth and Material ID layers, in your renders and these can be exported to RLA or RPF file formats for advanced compositing in applications such as Combustion and After Effects. And Vue 4 Pro also provides plug-ins to work with recent versions of 3DS Max, Cinema4D XL, LightWave, Maya and SoftImage XSI to enable camera and light-based animations to be synchronized ready for later compositing.

Where integration with larger workflows is not important Vue 4 d'Esprit remains a more attractive proposition while the target professional market will want to wait until a service patch irons out the bugs. That said, this is another impressive release as Vue 4 Pro moves heaven and earth to bridge the gap between 3D model and 3D world.

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

System requirements Pentium III, 512MB of RAM, 250MB of hard disk space, Windows NT4, 2000 and XP, 1024x768 display, CD-ROM.

Tom Arah

Jan 2004

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