E-on Software Vue 8 (Complete and Infinite)
The Vue line of products has long been considered the premiere tool for creating incredibly realistic 3D enviroments. E-on Software, the creator of Vue, recognizes that there is a wide range of consumers attracted to this product, and they've released a comparably wide-range of Vue editions. These editions range from the Pioneer edition (which, as hard as it is to believe, is entirely free) to the ultra high-end xStream edition priced at approximately $1,500. However, considering the kind of capablilities this product delivers, even if your needs require the most expensive edition, you'll be entirely amazed at what you get for your money.
New in Vue 8
One of the areas where Vue significantly improved in version 8 is the terrain editor. Brush modes are now broken into 3D and 2D modes, and the new brushes make it quite intuitive to mold your terrain exactly as you wish. You can create features such as caves, rock overhangs, interesting outcroppings and much more. When working with the Terrain Editor in Vue 8, I definitely felt as though I was working in an advanced modeling tool instead of a scaled-down editor.
One cool feature in the new Terrain Editor (and there are many) is the ability to define zones in your terrain. Suppose you're editing a large terrain or an infinite terrain and you want to add detail to an area close to your main camera. By separating a small portion of your terrain into its own zone, you can easily add detail as needed to only that area. You can define as many zones as you want, and you can even nest zones if required.
Vue 8 allows you to edit your terrain while viewing it in the entire scene. This may seems trivial at first glance, but as you work with it, you'll quickly realize how wonderful this capability really is. By viewing your edits within the context of other scene elements, you can achieve exactly the effect a scene needs without having to exit and re-enter the Terrain Editor. This feature is made even better by Vue 8's ability to sculpt the features of your terrain in context with the scene. In other words, you can use the Terrain Editor to add landscape reliefs to objects in a scene (the example that E-on uses for this feature), but you can also achieve stunningly realistic terrain reliefs in many other scenarios as well.
Also new in Vue 8 are new displacement features that add powerful and flexible capabilities to material editing. Bump channels and displacement channels are now separate, and you can add displacement in any direction. (Magnitude in each direction can be controlled as well.) During our review, we were able to obtain remarkable results with terrains using Vue 8's displacement features and QuadSpinner's tutorials on creating HyperTerrains, a concept developed by Dax Pandhi of QuadSpinner.
Incidentally, Pandhi has spent years using Vue, and his tutorial videos give you direct access to his remarkable insight into this product. If you're going to get the most out of Vue, we highly recommend that you check out QuadSpinner's tutorials. Quite simply, there are many aspects to developing realistic scenes that you cannot acquire by intuition. Some techniques require teaching, and Pandhi's approach is pleasant, interesting and enlightening.
We were absolutely blown away at the quality that the new Spectral 3 atmospheric features bring to Vue.
E-on has also improved Vue in the area of clouds and atmospheres with Spectral 3 technology. Spectral 3 is a technology that dramatically improves the interaction of light with water vapor found in atmospheres and clouds. The result is improved light quality and cloud structures. The result is evident in the render below of a sample scene created by Dax Pandhi.
Spectral 3 atmospheric features don't consist of user interface elements. In other words, if you've created a scene in a previous version of Vue, all you need to do to take advantage of Spectral 3 atmospheres is open the file in Vue 8 and render it. We were absolutely blown away at the quality that the new Spectral 3 atmospheric features bring to Vue.
Vue 8 also adds the ability to view EcoSystems directly within the preview windows while working with your scene, provided your graphics card supports the new OpenGL 2.1 shader in Vue 8. You'll need a high end card to support this functionality, but that's not surprising in this category of software applications. It should be noted that Vue 8 offers a few OpenGL options, and even with boards that don't support the enhanced shader, user should be able to find an OpenGL option that provides good performance.
Vue 8 also adds some impressive features in the area of planetary rendering. Infinite procedural terrains provide a real-world environment unmatched in previous versions, and by using the planetary terrain type, rendering entire planets is made easy. You can even have Vue render real-world cloud density maps directly onto your planet surface.
As mentioned previous, there is a wide array of Vue 8 versions, and one is sure to suit your needs and your budget. We reviewed both the Complete version and the Infinite version, and the differences between the two aren't as major as you might first imagine. (For a full list of differences between Vue 8 Complete and Vue 8 Infinite editions, see the E-on product comparison page.)
The differences between editions all seem legitimate and fit in perfectly with the target audience of each edition. However, one difference that we found peculiar was the ability to customize interface colors. Only Infinite and xStream (the two professional-level offerings) provided that ability. We'd love to see E-on incorporate this functionality into lower level editions.
Vue 8 adds significant functionality to an already mature application. If you download the free Vue 8.4 update, you'll find a large number of new features included with it as well, and if you have purchased E-on's maintenance plan for Vue, you'll also be able to upgrade to the newly released Vue 8.5 at no charge.
Vue 8 is a powerful and capable application for anyone who needs to create realistic computer-generated environments, and we highly recommend it.