Product Review: Page (1) of 8 - 02/11/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

E-on Software Vue d'Esprit 4.11

3D landscape and atmospheric effects suite By Dave Nagel
We've examined several dedicated software packages for creating scenery--from atmospheric effects to landscapes to seascapes. They're all over the place, as plugins for for applications like Adobe Photoshop and Discreet Combustion and as standalone applications. And they offer several different approaches to the problem of creating photographic scenery, some 2D, some 3D, some specific to sky or water effects, some attempting to incorporate all into a single package. But what makes any one of these packages stand out?

In my experience, I suppose it comes down to one factor: how many times the software in question makes me curse at my screen. And believe me, in this software category, that's a big factor. But I suppose it's also a bit too subjective for our purpose here. So let's break it down. Does the software give me, the user, enough depth and versatility to be able to generate a wide variety of scenery (or would I be better off just buying a cheap clipart or stock footage library rather than wasting my time rendering)? Is the software intuitive? Does it fit neatly into my workflow? Is the software responsive (or am I going to be staring at a spinning cursor anytime I make the slightest change to my scene)? Can I get a good preview render before I retire? And, when I go for a final render, am I going to be impressed with the results?

To date, I have not reviewed a scenery package that answers "yes" to all of these questions. Oh, I've liked a few of them all right: Corel's Bryce 5, a standalone 3D scenery generation package; Flaming Pear's Flood, a Photoshop plugin for creating water effects; and Digital Anarchy's Aurora, an After Effects plugin for creating sky effects. They all have their strengths, but they don't satisfy all of my demands.

But now I think I've found an application that does satisfy my requirements for versatility, quality, ease of use, performance and workflow. The package is Vue d'Esprit 4 from E-on Software.

What it does and how well it does it
Vue d'Esprit 4 is an extremely easy, yet versatile program for generating scenery in a 3D environment. I was able to start generating scenery literally within seconds of launching the program just by clicking likely buttons. I was also able to get into some of the program's more advanced features right away either by double-clicking objects I had created or by accessing some of the options through the program's intuitive--yet un-Adobe-like--interface.

Ease of use this program has in abundance. Want to make a mountain? Click the "Terrain" button. A default mountain is dropped into your scene. Want to add water plains? Add ground plains? Clouds? Rocks? Planets? Click a button, and it's there.

Similarly, buildings, primitives, trees and other object types can be created with the click of a button. Holding down a button for a long time (or right-clicking a button) calls up options for the creation of the object, either with flyaway buttons or dialogs for selecting specific objects or features. (For further ease of use, when mousing over a button, a graphical display shows the available options.) For example, clicking the "Vegetation" button inserts the default (or last-used) plant into your scene, while right-clicking this button calls up the Load Vegetation dialog.

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