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Software Review: Vue 8 Infinite from e-On Software

E-On software's Vue 8 is the latest update to the line of Vue solutions for natural 3D environments. There are seven versions of Vue. Pioneer is the entry level version for newcomers to 3D graphics. Frontier is the next level for creating scenes with Poser import. Esprit is designed for artists and illustrators. Studio is geared for the advanced artist, and Complete is for the small studio. Vue Infinite is designed for the professional 3D animator and production studio. Vue xStream is the integrated solution that can work directly in other 3D applications such as Maya, 3ds, Lightwave, Softimage, and Cinema 4D. To see all of the differences, you can check out the different solutions provide.

Vue Infinite contains all of the features that the other product lines contain plus more. The only difference between Vue Infinite and Vue xStream is that Vue Infinite is meant to run as a standalone product and xStream is built to run in other products, other than that difference, the features are the same.

Vue has now become a fixture in Hollywood and has been used to create scenes in such movies as Pirates of the Caribbean II, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Terminator Salvation. It is also finding its way into advertising and the fine art industry.

What do you need to run Vue 8 Infinite?
• Windows (XP or greater), or Mac (OS X 10.4 up to 10.6)
• 2.0 GHz or faster processor.
• 1 GB RAM (3 GB or more recommended)
• OpenGL enabled graphics card is not required but highly recommended
• 1024×768 in 65K colors/16 bits (24+ bits recommended)
• 200 MB free hard-disk space.

The optimal system would be:
• Windows 64-bit (XP, Vista or Windows 7), Mac OS X v10.6
• Multi-core CPU (Intel QuadCore, Core I7, or Mac Pro) 
• 4GB+ of RAM
• 4GB+ of free hard disk space (on the drive hosting the OS)
• An OpenGL accelerated video board (see below for optimal compatibility)

So, what's new with Vue 8 Infinite?

• New Terrain Editor allows for seamless subdivision of terrain geometry. What this means to you is that new polygons are added as you paint without any worry on your part. Also added are powerful 3D sculpting features for carving and molding terrain features and shapes. You now also have the ability to sculpt both on the finite or infinite procedural terrains. This version also supports sculpting in context of the entire scene, allowing terrains to be edited and shaped around scene elements, and zone creation and editing let you create an infinitely detailed terrain and select a specific area that you can modify using the 3D painting tools.

• Large amplitude micro-displacement engine gives you the ability to manipulate displacement independently of the bump channel giving you greater performance and better artistic control. Displacement can be in any direction (X, Y, or Z), and Vue 8 supports the use of RGB normal maps to drive the bump channel. Displacement smoothing lets you remove high frequency artifacts and the level of smoothing is fully range adjustable.

• Spectral 3 cloud processing now extends the realism of clouds and atmospheres improving the quality and realism of interal cloud shadows, shadows projected on clouds, shadows projected onto objects, and Godrays quality. Also, the ability to interact with the water in clouds has been enhanced giving a more realistic impression of what happens in the real world.

• New strata terrain fractals have been added that optimize the creation of richly detailed stratified, terrain features. These fractals are fully user adjustable and can be applied in combination with any Vue noise function to produce a wide variety of appearances.

• Re-pose and animate rigged meshes directly inside Vue 8. You can now create your own custom poses and movements within Vue with meshes that are converted to the Vue Animated Mesh format. Supports for other formats will follow

• Improved OpenGL engine and Viewport display has been added. This OpenGL shader mode takes advantage of higher-end graphics cards to produce better overall visual quality and performance that includes the normal mapped display of EcoSystem instances better specular highlighting and improved camera mapping preview. Renders can now be displayed in the background of all views improving the ability to visualize scenery objects in context.

• EcoSystem display improvements can be seen in previews by setting the number of instances to be displayed near the camera. Shaded Billboards are a new way of displaying EcoSystem instances that use shaders to accurately react to light. As a result, they produce a much more accurate representation of the tree than the standard billboards, which only take ambient light into account. This is available with the enhanced OpenGL shader.

• Other improvements include Poser 8 import support, improved object exports, particularly with SolidGrowth vegetation, 32-bit floating point EXR image format support (import and export), direct access to the alpha channel from the Material Editor, and improved performance.

One thing to keep in mind is that Vue 8 Infinite is really a professional product and as such needs a somewhat professional grade machine to run it reliably. This is especially important with the memory and video card. I had an older card that would run up to a point, but Vue would complain when pushed too hard. I upgraded my card and everything worked great. What you want to check out is the supported video boards to see if you want to upgrade.

What I like about the Vue product line is that not only does it keep developing and growing, but it is really accessible to anyone at any level; from the free Pioneer to the professional Infinite and xStream versions, there is truly something for everyone.

As with the prior version, Vue 8 Infinite is nothing short of incredible! At first blush, one might look at this product and say that this is really only useful for animation and film production, but that would not be taking into account all of the other industries that could benefit from its use.

For example, if you are a builder, architect, landscape designer, or other professional that needs to emulate an environment, Vue 8 is the perfect application to model your design and/or prototype as a proof of concept design. If you are in advertising, what better way to provide backgrounds and other layout art without having to go on location or pay a high-dollar firm to do equivalent work. The uses are endless.

Vue is really very easy to use, and if you are fearful of how hard it is to learn, just Google "Vue Tutorial" and you will find all sorts of cool things that you can do with it. Keep in mind that you do need a modern graphics card and memory, but with that I very highly recommend the Vue 8 product line, and especially Vue Infinite.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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