e-on Vue 7 Infinite review

£693
Price when reviewed

Producing realistic 3D models involving thousands of polygons and naturalistic scenes which often involve billions – are fundamentally different tasks. And, where most 3D software focuses on the production of items such as buildings, products or characters, e-On’s Vue 7 Infinite specialises in the production of natural environments.

Each Vue scene is built from the ground up – quite literally as you start by adding a terrain. Here, the quality and handling of procedural terrains, which reveal ever more detail as you zoom in on them, has been improved and you can also now choose from a range of pseudo-infinite procedural presets that extend right the way to the horizon complete with associated materials. Alternatively, you can base your terrains on DEM data or on bitmaps and, for both, Vue 7 now supports 16-bit height field data for improved quality and accuracy.

Vue’s terrain handling has always been excellent, but producing and customising realistic water has always proved much more challenging. In this version, though, things have been vastly improved. If you double-click on a water plane a new Water Surface Editor appears. By default you are presented with a single global wave control ranging between calm and storm but, where necessary, you can dig down to change wind intensity, wave height, choppiness, foam handling and so on. More importantly, you can click the Displaced Water Surface option to convert your bump-mapped plane into a pseudo-infinite procedural terrain with true wave geometry. Don’t expect close-up crashing rollers, but Vue 7’s realistic water handling can quickly transform a scene.

Vue’s handling of vegetation is equally impressive. To add a unique and astonishingly realistic 3D plant or tree all you need to do is click on Vue’s Plant tool icon. Vue 7 Infinite adds another twenty species to the pot, making a total of over 70 to choose from. They’re organized into categories such as grass, shrubs, trees and underwater plants, and if these aren’t enough Vue 7 also now provides integrated access to dozens more via e-on’s Cornucopia website. You might well be able to create the effect you are after for free, however, by customising an existing species in the dedicated Plant Editor.

Adding the odd tree or bush is one thing, but plants don’t usually come along singly, which is where Vue’s extraordinary EcoSystem technology comes in. This lets you load up mixes of plants – plus rocks and other objects – and then apply them more liberally to scenes via special EcoSystem materials that respond intelligently to the underlying terrain or by direct painting. New in Vue 7 is the ability to paint instances at any angle, which is useful for adding plants under overhanging rocks, and new dynamic handling which only populates areas of your scene as they become visible to the camera. The latter is crucial if you are intending to animate a fly through over an extensive forest where the number of trees required would otherwise be near-infinite.

Once your underlying scene is set up, you control its lighting by loading and customising one of Vue’s preset atmospheres. Believable realism is clearly the aim and the spectral option which mimics real-world atmospheres by modelling light dispersion through volumetric clouds now offers more detail in both cloud layers and individual ‘metaclouds’. In addition, the quality of the most realistic lighting model, radiosity, has been improved especially when it comes to interior and mixed interior/exterior shots.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/design software

Requirements

Processor requirement 2GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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