Vue 4 d

Vue 4 d’Esprit
(OS X Compatible)

Company: E-on Software
Price: $199

Vue 4 d’Esprit for OS X is a 3D application for creating natural scenery and terrains. It has a short learning curve and clean intuitive interface reminiscent of Apple’s iMovie, It allows beginners to jump right in yet advanced users will find it packed with many powerful features for fine-tuning both still images and animations. It is only available for OS X, one more reason to consider making the switch to Apple’s new operating system if you’re still standing on the fence.

Vue 4 gives you a powerful and easy to use terrain editor, infinitely variable sky and cloud generation with volumetric atmospheres, fog and haze, lens flares, realistic 3D vegetation (with every plant unique), stars, planets, soft shadows, blurred reflections, caustics, motion blur and depth of field. While you can have animated clouds but it does not give the ability to create rain, snow, or wind that interacts with the environment. Perhaps in future releases?

Vue 4 comes with an “Extras” CD that contains many object models that can be imported into your scenes and animated to a small degree. There are some neat features that allow you to create animation paths with specific characteristics, i.e. plane, helicopter, motorcycle, and speedboat to name but a few, and apply them to objects that you import. While they do work I found that even the slightest curves in the paths caused drastic changes in the way objects or the camera would bank. Getting your animation smooth takes a lot of trial and error. More involved animation of imported objects is possible by adding E-on’s Mover 4 plug-in ($89). The Mover 4 plug-in allows you to import animated characters from Poser 4. The Mover 4 plug-in doesn’t, however, support Poser’s new Hair creation capability.

Rendering in any 3D program is often like watching paint dry. Vue 4 is no exception. E-on software claims that under similar conditions and render settings Vue 4 is equal to or better than Bryce, which is Vue 4’s main competition. Anyone who plans to use Vue 4 on a deadline can achieve astonishing images quickly had better save plenty of time for rendering if they use any volumetric atmospheres or are doing animations. A very fast dual processor Mac wouldn’t hurt, as Vue 4’s rendering engine does not really take advantage of today’s fast video cards and instead relies mainly on the processor.

While the visual effects achievable in Vue 4 are remarkable there where several things I found frustrating. It comes with a great user guide that includes a lot of useful tutorials, but I found many instances were it directs you to the wrong location for needed files on the accompanying CD’s. While this may seem like a small gripe, they were numerous enough to be quite frustrating and caused me to waste a good deal of time switching CD’s and searching for the files.

I should comment that E-on software claims that Vue 4 is optimized for OpenGL views but one look at their support page will show you that many customers disagree. My personal experience trying to use it was dismal. The program crashed repeatedly with OpenGL activated. E-on is aware of this and even set up the software with the OpenGL functionality disabled upon installation. You have to turn it on in the preferences to use it. It may work for some setups but don’t hang your hat on it. I tried it on a 933mz G4 at work and on my 433mz G4 at home with similar results. For me, OpenGL was not an option.

The Vue 4 version that shipped to me for review was 4.06, though version 4.1 is a free update available to registered users. It provides Lightwave 6 and Truespace 5 imports, static Poser scene import, Cinema 4D terrain export and promises improved resolution of enlarged materials and better sky rendering. There are also numerous bug fixes in the 4.1 update, so I strongly suggest downloading it if you have version 4.06 or earlier. Still, there are known bugs in 4.1 that have appeared since Apple updated OS X 10.2 (AKA Jaguar). E-on Software is working on another update, v4.11, that they say will be available soon. Until it ships, Vue 4 users who want to be like George Burns and play God will have to put up with a program that is at once both amazing and frustrating due to frequent crashes.

Initially, I was excited by some of the extra materials and vegetations that are available from the user community but that faded quickly when I tried to load them and found that most only work with the PC version of Vue4. However, Vue 4 hasn’t been available for the Mac for long so perhaps there will be more in the future.

Speaking of the future, I have a wish of things that I would like to see in future releases.
2. Better OpenGL support.
3. More vegetation species.
4. Measurement tool. (Determining the distance from the camera to a specific object is largely a matter of guesswork. It is necessary to know this when setting the focus distance for depth of field)
5. Faster rendering
6. Rain, snow, and wind (No small feat for their engineers, I’m sure, but rain, snow, and wind seem like natural extensions to an environment modeler).
7. Wood materials. (It has many rock, water, sky, glass, terrain, glowing materials, etc.; the absence of any wood materials seems odd).
8. Particle effects.

In a nutshell:

I liked:
1. The interface.
2. User guide with good index and great tutorials.
3. Easy to use yet powerful terrain generator.
4. Volumetric atmospheres.
5. Vegetation (with every plant unique).
6. Soft shadows, blurred reflections, caustics, motion blur and depth of field.

I disliked:
1. Prone to crashing. (Primarily with OpenGL active).
2. User guide directs you to the wrong location for tutorial files.
3. Rendering speeds seemed slow when using “Final” setting. They were Interminable when using “Broadcast” setting (Broadcast setting is required to achieve depth of field and motion blur effects).

I’d like to give Vue 4 d’Esprit a MacMice rating of 5 out of 5. Honestly, for under $200 I don’t think you’ll find a program that does as much for less money. But money is not everything as anyone who has worked on a deadline with 3D programs soon learns. In the end the stability of this program forces me to only give it 3 out of a possible 5.

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5

Tad Scheeler

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