e-on Vue 5 Esprit review
One of the key attractions of 3D is the promise it holds for imagining and creating your own believable worlds. In practice, however, this proves surprisingly difficult, even in the most advanced and expensive 3D-modelling apps. The solution is to turn to Vue 5 Esprit (note the rename from ‘Vue d’Esprit’), which offers amazing creative power at an affordable price.
What sets Vue 5 Esprit apart is its fantastic ease of use. The interface is built on a typical four-windowed environment, but compared to the complexities of most 3D-modellers, it’s a real breath of fresh air. The multithreaded OpenGL-based screen handling is amazingly fast and it’s been further optimised to enable dual-quality, real-time textured previewing. Vue’s simple layer system for handling its objects is just as impressive, and this approach follows through to the rest of the program, while still making it easy to drill down to power when required.
The first step is to set up the atmosphere, and Vue provides more than 160 presets from which to choose from. It also now offers three different systems – the existing Standard and Volumetric models plus a new Environment Mapping option. This lets you load bitmaps including HDRIs (high dynamic range images) to use as a background and lighting source. You can even integrate this with Vue’s own customisable atmospheric features such as fog, haze and lens flares.
Even more impressive is the new support for global illumination, which recognises that in real life light doesn’t only come direct from light sources but is reflected indirectly. Obviously, this seriously adds to the processing required (especially when dealing with infinite outdoor scenes) so e-on has come up with three different global illumination models – global ambience, global illumination and global radiosity – each with its own trade-off between end-quality and render time. To help keep things manageable, Vue 5 Esprit also offers a simple EasyGI slider for controlling a whole number of advanced parameters as a single setting.
After choosing and customising your atmosphere, the next job is to set up the terrain. The millions of polygons necessary to create realistic landscapes grind most modellers to a halt, but this isn’t the case with Vue 5 Esprit. In fact, Vue’s standard handling, based on an underlying greyscale bitmap, even lets you interactively ‘paint’ the terrain to raise or lower the surface, or to apply effects such as fluvial erosion or craters. The trouble with this approach is that the resolution is fixed so that if you produce large renders, or look at the terrain close-up, you’ll see undesirable polygonal edges. Vue 5 Esprit solves the problem with its new procedural terrains, which add detail as needed in exchange for a greater rendering overhead. You can even edit these fractally based terrains with the same simple interactive editing tools.
You’re now ready to add the objects that bring a scene to life. You can add infinite ground, cloud and water planes, realistic planets and individual rocks, but where Vue really impresses is with its handling of vegetation. The program comes with 50 preset species, ranging from seaweed to blossoming cherry, and they’re all stunningly realistic. There’s no direct editing control (for that you need Vue Professional), but each time you add a plant a unique version is generated. The Scatter and Replicate dialog has also now been tweaked to let you automatically create new variations so that, for example, you can produce a realistic forest in seconds.