e-on Vue 5 Infinite review
Whereas most 3D applications concentrate on modelling objects, Vue 5 Infinite (the new name for Vue Professional) tackles the much more difficult job of creating entire naturalistic scenes, complete with realistic atmospheres, terrains and vegetation. As such, you might expect it to be frighteningly complex, but its interface is shared with the consumer-oriented Vue 5 Esprit and, with its improved multitasking and OpenGL previewing, it’s surprisingly fresh, modern and friendly.
Not surprisingly, Infinite boasts the same advances that Vue 5 Esprit introduced in its last release, such as support for 3D text and metablob objects, plus the ability to import pre-animated meshes. Infinite also adds support for Poser 5 animations, complete with dynamic hair. Particularly important for Vue’s core modelling power is the support for new procedural terrains, which are resolution independent – as the camera moves closer, more detail appears.
Vue 5 Infinite shares the three major new illumination models first seen in Esprit. The first, Global Illumination, produces more natural outdoor lighting by treating the entire sky as a huge dome of light. The second, Global Radiosity, calculates accumulated light reflected from object surfaces, which not only makes it ideal for indoor lighting, but also offers added subtlety for outdoor scenes. The third, Image Based Lighting, lets you use bitmaps and HDRIs (high dynamic range images) as illuminating backgrounds, so enabling CGI and real-world photographs to be seamlessly combined.
The rendered results can be stunning, but the processing demands are fierce. While both Esprit and Infinite offer a single EasyGI slider to quickly manage the trade-off between render quality and time, only Infinite lets you take control over the underlying parameters such as bucket sizes and harmonic distances. Crucially, Infinite also lets you control GI/Radiosity on an object-by-object basis and even ‘bake’ indirect lighting into a new texture map, so for static objects you only need to calculate the illumination once. Features such as this, and Infinite’s network-based rendering (five multiprocessor nodes are included), are essential for production environments working to produce high-quality animations to tight deadlines.
Integration with wider workflows is another essential factor for high-end users. Vue Professional shone here with its ability to export objects and entire scenes for import into all the major 3D modelling apps, and this capability has been extended with the ability to output skies as HDRI images. Vue 5 Infinite also now offers radically better integration with pixel-based applications, thanks to its new multipass rendering. This offers support for all industry-standard G-Buffer channels ready for export to RPF and RLA format files for post-processing in compositing applications such as After Effects, Combustion and Flame. Alternatively, all these channels and more – in fact, any element of the render – can be output as layers and masks for export to Photoshop PSD format for in-depth single-image editing.
But the biggest changes to Vue 5 Infinite are found in its material handling. You can now use QuickTime and AVI video files as animated texture maps to create rotoscoping effects such as realistic fire and smoke (also very useful here is the new ‘billboard’ capability, which keeps planes directly facing the camera). And, if you shift to the Advanced Material Editor, you can now drive virtually all parameters with functions to produce procedural shaders where the material is determined by a whole host of interacting factors – more than 100 possible nodes are provided – including environmental influences such as slope, altitude, position, angle of incidence and time. The creative potential of function-based driving is enormous, enabling effects as different as translucency, foamy waves, running lava, cartoon styling and even animated procedural terrains.