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| Vue 5 Infinite
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 multi-tasking and OpenGL previewing, is fresh, modern and very friendly.
Unsurprisingly, Infinite also boasts the same advances in functionality that Vue 5 Esprit introduced (see issue ) such as new support for 3D text and metablob objects and 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 so that as the camera moves closer, more detail appears.
Vue 5 Infinite also 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 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.
New illumination models and render controls boost quality and flexibility.
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 that for static objects you only need to calculate the illumination once. Features like this and Infinite's network-based rendering (five multi-processor 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 these 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 Infinite also now offers radically better integration with pixel-based applications thanks to its new multi-pass 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.
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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 - over 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.
The most dramatic new feature in Vue 5 Infinite is also hidden away in the Material Editor - alongside the existing Simple, Mixed and Volumetric material types there's a new option: EcoSystem. Select this, and you can load any combination of native or imported objects - plants, rocks, billboard bitmaps, Poser models and so on - set their overall scale and presence, and then click Populate to automatically cover the current material with hundreds, even thousands of cloned samples! At this point with millions or even billions of polygons to deal with, most modellers would simply grind to a halt but, thanks to patent-pending caching technology, Vue 5 Infinite takes everything in its stride - though of course the more powerful your set-up the better.
Material-based EcoSystems let you realistically and automatically populate your scenes. Most importantly, the results are simply stunning. In particular each plant in your EcoSystem isn't a simple duplication but rather a unique variation, casting and receiving shadows and even blowing in the wind. The EcoSystem objects aren't just randomly scattered either, but intelligently distributed according to the nature of the terrain with more placed on flat areas compared to slopes. And you can use the Material Editor's function-driven Density, Scaling and Orientation and Colour tabs, or even Python-based scripting, to take finer control. Best of all, thanks to e- on's brilliant material-based implementation you can easily combine EcoSystems to produce environments that, for example, move seamlessly from trees to rocks to snow.
It's amazing power but what impresses most is just how simple it proves in practice. But then that's true all round. Vue 5 Infinite takes perhaps the most difficult task in 3D modelling, producing believable and beautiful worlds, and makes it child's play.