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Vue Infinite 2014

3D Landscape software - review
Sunday 5 January 2014.
 

Vue Infinite 2014 $1,495
(upgrades from $359)
e-On Software http://www.e-onsoftware.com

If you want to create photo-realistic digital worlds complete with mountains, rivers, canyons and forests, Vue Infinite 2014 will probably do everything you need and a great deal more besides…

Even if you’ve never used Vue, you will no doubt have seen landscapes which it has been created many times on TV and in films. It’s been used in Hollywood blockbusters such as Hugo, The Hunger Games and Thor as well as innumerable TV shows including Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Boardwalk Empire and Heroes. To get an idea of its capabilities, you may want to take a look at this short video showing how Vue was used to create complex locations for the TV series Spartacus

I’ve used many previous versions of Vue and for a guide to its essential features and capabilities, I recommend that you read my reviews of Vue 11 Infinite, Vue 10.5 Infinite and Vue 9 Infinite.

Is it Real Or is it Vue?

In its early days, each new release of Vue introduced substantial new features such as automatically deforming paths that allowed you to embed roads and rivers that followed the contours of mountains and valleys; and tools for populating landscapes with huge numbers of trees and plants. In more recent releases the new features have been less obvious. The plain truth of the matter is that Vue is now such a powerful and mature product that it already provides pretty much all the tools that most digital artists need for designing, exporting, rendering or animating scenery. The new features in this release generally represent improvements to existing features – better tonal reproduction and accurate lighting effects, a way to mimic the natural ‘clumping’ of plant populations and so on. The ultimate aim is to create environments of such hyper reality that it will be almost impossible for the viewer to distinguish the digital divide. You can find the list of principal additions in Vue Infinite 2014 below.

Some elements of the user interface have also been redesigned. The function editor which lets you fine-tune materials and colours, has been significantly changed. This editor, which is, admittedly, one of Vue’s more esoteric tools, now includes a pane of collapsible nodes at the left of its interface. The atmosphere editor has also gained new features, notably the ability to select sunlight effects based on a specific global latitude and longitude.

In the quest for ever more reality, Vue 2014’s atmosphere editor now includes a ‘real world’ option that tries to simulate sunlight illumination according to a user-selected geographical location and time (it even has the ability to ‘correct’ for daylight saving!)

Note that there are also other editions of Vue including a number of low-cost packages aimed at amateur and enthusiast users rather than professional digital artists. These include editions for the creation of fantasy worlds, science fiction landscapes and fairy-tale worlds. For more details of those editions see here: http://www.e-onsoftware.com/products/vue/#Enthusiasts.

There is even a free edition, called Vue 2014 Personal Learning Edition. For more on that version, see here: http://www.e-onsoftware.com/try/vue_2014_ple/.

I would have to admit that I am more than slightly baffled by the complexities of the new function editor. I guess if you understand all that stuff, you might welcome this new improved version of this editor. If you find it all too much there is an option to switch back to the old-style Vue 11 function editor.

There are lots of online learning materials to help you get the most of out Vue. The best place to start is the e-On Software YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/eonsoftware.

In brief, Vue Infinite 2014 builds upon the features of previous releases to retain its position as a hugely powerful product for professional digital artists. The cost clearly puts it out of range of most amateur artists and small companies on a tight budget. However, for those users the lower-cost editions may be a good choice.

The Vue interface is divided into multiple configurable views (here I am rendering the scene in the ‘main camera’ pane at the bottom right)
Alternatives to Vue
While Vue may be an ‘industry standard’ for digital world creation, it isn’t the only landscape generator around. Many ‘all-in-one’ 3D animation products such as Maya and Cinema 4D have built-in terrain modelling capabilities of varying levels of sophistication. There are several commercial terrain-creation applications such as World Machine, GeoControl and the innovative (but, for many years now, languishing and undeveloped) MojoWorld. The venerable Bryce, which used to be one of the most famous 3D landscape products is now available for less than $20. And there are also some free or open source 3D products the most famous of which is probably Blender. Blender is a respected and powerful general-purpose modelling, rendering and animation suite which includes terrain-creation tools. Terragen Classic is a ‘free for non-commercial use’ terrain generator available for Windows and Mac. Note, however, that the latest release of Terragen 3 is a commercial product which more directly rivals Vue and has been used in many well-known games as well as in movies such as Man Of Steel, Elysium and The Hunger Games. A limited-feature version of Terragen 3 is available free. The full commercial edition costs $699 with other lower cost editions available from $199.

Principal New Features

This is a partial list of the new features in this release of Vue Infinite 2014
-  World Point Position (or XYZ) Pass: Vue 2014 adds a WPP pass to the extensive list of rendering components, masks and information passes that can be generated for added compositing flexibility.
-  Physically Accurate Sunlight Model and Photometric Lights: The new scientifically accurate photometric sunlight model uses a real-world, physical simulation of sun and atmospheric light intensities. Users can assign physically accurate values to all light properties, such as colour temperature, light intensity (Lumens or Candelas) and IES Profiles.
-  Tone Mapping: Vue 2014 lets users select different tone mapping filters to control how raw HDR colours are transformed into the final picture. These filters typically simulate the response of the human eye or chemical photographic film.
-  Natural Grain: This new mode produces natural colour variations particularly well suited for terrains, ground, or any natural element. Ideal for quick results, the Natural Grain option provides high level access to settings such as contrast, balance and roughness, directly in the Material Editor.
-  EcoSystem improvements: EcoSystem Clumping replicates the natural phenomenon whereby plants tend to grow in close patches rather than evenly distributed. Vue 2014 features highly optimized algorithms to accelerate the rendering of EcoSystems containing many small items, such as gravel or grass blades.
-  Improved Plant Factory compatibility: Health, Seasonality or any other published plant parameter can be animated directly inside the Vue timeline. When using Plant Factory plants in EcoSystems, a new Quality setting is available in the Population list to define the amount of detail of the plant instances, thus saving memory and reducing render times.
-  Interface improvements: The Vue 2014 Function Editor was redesigned for improved performance on modern computer displays. A new option is available that protects the render camera from any unwanted modifications and automatically switches to perspective view whenever the viewport is modified. Vue 2014 can position the sun exactly as it would be in real-life, based on time of day, date and location on Earth.

System Requirements

Macintosh
-  Mac OS X v10.6+ 32/64
-  2GHz Intel processor or faster
-  1GB of free RAM
-  200 MB of free Hard Disk space
-  1200x768 in 65K colours/16 bits (24+ bits recommended).
- 

Windows
-  Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 32/64
-  2GHz Pentium IV or better processor
-  1GB of free RAM
-  200 MB of free Hard Disk space
-  1200x768 in 65K colours/16 bits (24+ bits recommended).

For more information on requirements and supported graphics cards see HERE. For pricelist of Vue Infinite, including upgrade prices and also other editions of Vue, see HERE.

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