Review e-on Software's Vue 5 Esprit

Vue 5 Esprit is the next generation of Vue d'Esprit 4. It is not the follow up to Vue 4 Professional. Vue 5 professional is expected hopefully at the end of 2004. Vue 5 Esprit (Vue 5) is "especially designed for casual and advanced digital artists." I will review this from the perspective of a new user or one who has used Vue 4 but not extensively. When I review a product, I look at the whole package, namely: the program, manual, tutorials, etc. I look at how the program functions as well as how easy it is for a novice to learn.

Since my reviews tend to be long, I'll say up front that I definately recommend Vue 5 Esprit. Once said, I hope you will read on..............

*The requirements are:System Requirements:
Mac OS X v10.2+,
1.25GHz G4+ processor or faster,
256 MB of free RAM (512MB recommended),
100 MB of free Hard Disk space,
1024x768 in 65K colors/16 bits (24+ bits recommended).
Windows 2000/XP (Pro and Family),
1GHz Pentium III or better processor,
256 MB of free RAM (512MB recommended),
100 MB of free Hard Disk space,
1024x768 in 65K colors/16 bits (24+ bits recommended).
An OpenGL accelerated video board is not required, but is a big plus.
Multi-processor rendering is only available on all multiprocessor OS X, 2000 and XP Pro systems.

Supported Video Boards
Windows 2000/XP (Professional & Family):
All boards with NVidia Quadro and GeForce chips.
All boards with ATI Radeon 9x00 chips.

Macintosh OSX:
All boards with NVidia GeForce chips.
All boards with ATI Radeon 9x00 and Rage 128 chips.

Boards that are not on this list may still work with Vue, but they haven't been tested.

*Availability and Pricing
Vue 5 Esprit is available in English. German, French and Japanese versions will be available soon.

US prices:
Vue 5 Esprit - Complete Product US$249
Upgrade from Vue d'Esprit 4 to Vue 5 Esprit US$149
Sidegrade from Vue 4 Professional to Vue 5 Esprit US$99
Upgrade from Vue d'Esprit 4 (Late Buyer) US$129

(* The starred sections above are from the e-on software website.)

I have noted the requirements at the front of this review because Vue 5 has added a special Fault Protection and Compatibility Check each time you open the program. (It can be turned off.) I will discuss this later. First I want to describe Vue 5 Esprit for those not familiar with any of the proceeding Vue's.

Vue is an inexpensive, but very powerful 3D environmental building and animation program. Vue 5 comes with many new features as well as many optimized features. I have used the lists from e-on software's website to point out some of the major features of the program. When using these lists, I have referenced them as coming from the website. Primarily, however, I have used Vue 5 and commented on those areas that I felt were important and informative to new users and novice-intermediate users of the Vue series.

Vue 5 comes with a new and improved Atmosphere Creation system.

Vue 5 Esprit
Vue d'Esprit 4

For those familiar with Vue 4, one can see the additions and changes made to Vue 5. For those not familiar, as can be seen, there are many approaches in Vue 5 to create a scene. The complexity and realism is up to the artist. All the tools are there. The following is a list from e-on software's website of Lighting and Atmosphere Creation tools:

"Ultra-Realistic Volumetric Atmosphere Model
100 predefined atmospheres
70 predefined shapes of clouds, unlimited layers of clouds
Volumetric clouds; volumetric lights (visible rays, with optional dust). Point light, Quadratic point light, Spotlight, Quadratic spotlight, Directional light
Complete lens flare system with global/local settings.
Light gels with realistic projection modes.
Stars, rainbows and ice rings.
Caustics in the shadows of transparent materials. Caustics realistically depend on the Index of Refraction.
Adjustable light shadow density, negative lights.
Soft shadows, blurred reflections and transparencies, depth of field.
New! Shadow and volumetric light optimization for dramatic increase in rendering speed.
New! Image based lighting
New! HDRI (high dynamic range image)
New! Global Illumination
New! EasyGI global illumination adjustment.
New! Global Radiosity
New! Adjustment of global light intensity"

Vue 5 introduces Imaged Based lighting using HDRI images. These can be found in Vue 5 as well as imported from other sources found on the web such as from Light Works.

Above is an example of how to use an HDRI image map. There is a tutorial on page 293 of the Vue 5 manual that gives a brief introduction to Image Based Lighting.

Another aspect of lighting is using outside (non atmosphere generic) lights. These can be found in Vue 5 by accessing Object>Add Lights. These are the same steps as used in Vue 4.

Accessing Lights Modifying Lights

To demonstrate how one scene can be changed with lighting, I created a simple scene and lit it in a straight forward manner using Standard lighting. Then, I took the same scene, and keeping the parameters somewhat similar, I lit it using the Environmental Lighting choice and the HDRI for the sky that is included with Vue 5 even though I know that HDRI is not normally used to its best advantage on outdoor scenes. For the last picture, I added a directional light toward the pine trees. I liked best the effect with the directional light added.

Standard Environmental
Environmental with One Directional Light
Environmental Mapping World Browser

The following is a list of different features pertaining to Materials from e-on's website:

"Luminous and glowing materials.
Volumetric materials
Anti-aliasing can be disabled for given materials.
Receive shadows material option.
Backlight option (for one-sided materials only) for realistic backlighting of opaque materials.
New! Previewing of materials can be limited to the active window.
Optimized! Direct access to all materials inside multi-material objects.
Optimized! Basic material editor
New! Advanced material editors, New SmartGraph™ function editor, Advanced procedural texturing engine
Optimized! 2 Material mapping modes (world and objects) with 4 parameters each: standard, cylindrical, spherical and parametric (New!)
Summary of materials to quickly get access to all materials in the scene"

The Material Editor was easy to use in Vue 4 and it is also easy to use in Vue 5. However, it has also been augmented in Vue 5. It has expanded since Vue 4 with an Advanced Material Editor and a SmartGraph™ Function Editor. The function editor in Vue 5 allows for incredible refinements.

Basic Material Editor Vue 4
Basic Material Editor Vue 5
Advanced Editor Vue 5
Function Editor Vue 4
Function Editor Vue 5

The following images show how a changes using the Function Editor can create changes in an image. The changes below were made in the noise node: from Perlin Noise/Gradient to Math Pattern/Water Wave. Notice the different pattern in the water. While the graph might look intimidating, with practice it can be used very creatively and without difficulty. I found I relied on it a lot.

Image and Corresponding Water Function Image and Corresponding Water Function

Environmental Modeling has also been empowered as well as new functions added such as true Metablobs, Background and Environmental Mapping, and the ability to weld together several Meshes into one Mesh.

The following is a list of Environmental Modeling features from e-on's website:

"8 preset terrain styles, 4 types of erosion and 12 geological algorithms
Real-Time Terrain Modeling Technology
Skin terrains.
New! Procedural Terrains with the ability to switch from one form of terrain to another easily
New! Pressure sensitive tablet terrain editing.
Symmetrical terrains.
Random rock generator.
Planets (Moon and other planets of the solar system).
Primitive and Boolean modeling with OpenGL previewing
Complete set of import filters that import fully textured models from other 3D applications.
Textured terrain exports.
Static Poser 4 & 5 scene import
Import fully textured models from other 3D applications.
New! 50+ Ultra-Realistic SolidGrowth™ 3 Plant Species (compatible with Vue Professional plant Editor)
Optimized! Instantly create variations of existing plants.
New! Several meshes can be welded together into a single, more complex one.
New! True Metablob objects from all Vue Boolean primitives (cube, cone, torus, cylinder, sphere...)
New! Text edition tool with Bevel, Extrusion... effects
New! Background and environment mapping "

In addiction, the Plants shipped with Vue 5 are from the Ultra-Realistic SolidGrowth™ 3 Plant Species. These are compatible with Vue 4 professional plant Editor. However, they cannot be changed by adding leaves, Etc. Plants can be grown at random with no two even of the same species alike.

Randomly Generated Plants of the Same Species

Vue 5 has added Terrain Creation to include Skin Terrains and Procedural Terrains. Skin Only Terrains don't have edges or flat bottoms. Procedural Terrains can adapt their level of detail dynamically although they are slower to render than Standard Terrains.

Vue 5 has added to its primitives the ability to create true Metablobs.

Another new addition to Vue 5 is the Text Tool. This tool can be used for creating 3 Dimensional text. There is a fairly long section in the manual illustrating how to use the text tool.

The following is a brief listing of the features of the User Interface and Preview:

"Optimized! Efficient, Uncluttered Interface Layout
Optimized! Fast Multi-Threaded Interface for swift response
World Browser for efficient management of complex projects
Objects can be organized in 8 layers
Possibility of doing everything using the main view only.
Objects can be locked/hidden independently.
Object resizing relative to opposite corner (toggle).
Pivot position in object coordinates (toggle). Pivot position can be reset.
Replication tool with given position/size/orientation offset.
Render area can be temporarily disabled.
Mapped pictures can be blended with a solid color (bitmapped materials).
New! Automatic detection and creation of new browser collections.
Panoramic rendering with adjustable rotation angle.
Optimized! Dual-processor rendering.
New! Pictures larger than screen resolution can be rendered to screen.
New! Navigation inside the rendered picture using pan controls.
New! Linear and angular snapping grids when moving and rotating objects
Drop button to easely set your object on the terrain surface
Optimized! Scatter/Replicate tool can automatically generate variations of the replicated objects
Optimized! Rendering Technologies
Render pictures up to 4096 pixels wide!
Automatic software updating (can be disabled)
New! Optimized for G5 & P4 HT.
New! Non-modal terrain editor

Real-time thumbnail render preview
All preview displays are fully anti-aliased
Wireframe preview option
Optimized! Ultra-fast OpenGL preview with instant and detailed feedback.
New! Automatic checking of OpenGL driver compatibility.
Optimized! Realistic plant and planet previews.
New! Texture map preview.
Optimized! Lens flare and atmosphere previews.
New! Automatic selection of preview color based on procedural material color.
New! Automatic mesh decimation to speed-up instant previewing.
Axis preview displayed in viewports
Fully customizable OpenGL previewing options.
Non-OpenGL previewing option"

Many of these options can be controlled from inside Vue 5 by accessing File>Options:

While Vue 5 is easy to work with, I found Vue 5 Esprit, initially, hard to review for a few reasons. There is no doubt that the program is powerful, however, it seems to be more hardware and setup sensitive than many other programs. While much more powerful than Vue d'Esprit 4, the latter was not as hardware sensitive. However, as the patches matured, so did Vue 5 until I almost decided to leave out this statement in my final proofing of the review. I did let it remain for the reason of validity, though. If some of you have followed some of the forums, you will know that people had problems with Vue 5. I do believe the serious problems are a thing of the past.

As you will notice above, Vue 5 was tested with certain types of Video cards. This does not mean that others will not work; what it means is that they might not work with all of the Vue 5 features-mainly background features found in general preferences and display options such as background draw. I do not mean that metablobs or Environmental lighting or such will not work. The lack of compatibility is most pertinent to hardware OpenGL for the previews of scenes. If the card is not on Vue 5's list, a screen suggests that one uses the Program's OpenGL software. While there are visual differences between the two, I found that once I got used to the second option, it was very acceptable. These colors do not represent their skins anyway. The renders of both, of course, look the same.

OpenGL Hardware Accelerated OpenGL Vue Software Option

Also, there is no mention of how Vue 5 works with dual monitors nor are specific cards on a list that are definitely compatible with Vue 5. I have followed threads in various forums to see if I could pick up any patterns as to video cards. Basically, even in the types listed as compatible, some people have had trouble with while others have not.

For this review, I used a Parhelia 128 video card with dual monitors because that is how I always work. I, also, used hardware OpenGL, initially. I did have a few problems, but they didn't form a pattern. I cannot tell whether I would have had them or not had I used another video card and a single monitor; for example, mixing colors in the Terrain Editor suddenly stopped working after many days of use. To correct the problem, I had to reinstall Vue 5. This happened with the first release of Vue 5. I, then, switched to the program's software setting for OpenGL and didn't have any problems. This is basically what the program suggests if one does not have a card on the compatible list.

Vue 5 has a built in monitoring system which tells the user if the program is out of memory. This never came on no matter how long I worked in Vue 5 time wise. However, I did not create any massive scenes. I have a Dual Athlon with 2 GIG of ram. Also, Vue 5 has options that can be turned off should the program behave in an unstable manner.

I like to think of Vue as having two parts, one to create still images which I described above, and one to create animations which I will describe below. Vue 5 also interacts with Poser 4 and 5, dynamically with Poser 5, to produce animations using Poser scenes and figures. For this operation Mover 5 is needed. Also, to use the HyperVue Rendering Manager and the Cow, one must have the appropriate version of Mover installed. The Cow allow rendering of frames over a network.

As some of you might know from my other reviews, I often add how-to's in my reviews. This is a quick How-To set up the HyperVue Rendering Agent. For it to work, one must have at least patch 5.0.2 on the machine.

The sequence is as follows: Install Vue 5, Install Mover 5 from the Vue 5 disk. This is very important. It must be from the Vue 5 disk. For it to work, one needs the serial number of a previous edition of Mover. One can also purchase Mover 5 if you are a new Vue user and do not have a previous version of Vue. Install the RenderCow from the Vue 5 disk. Install the RenderCow, again from the disk, onto the other machines that you will use to render animations. Then upgrade. Your RenderCow will change builds after the first time it renders.

Open Vue 5 and select an animation to Render. Access Display>TimeLine from the top tool bar.

Notice the circled icon. Click on it to open the Animation Rendering menu.

Click on Use HyperVue Network Rendering. The HyperVue Manager will pop up. Add the Cows to the manager. For my second machine, I needed to remember the name of my machine and type the name in the appropriate space. That's all there is to it!

The following is a list of Animation and Camera Control features, once again, from the eon software website.

Trackball-type camera operations and advanced camera management grouped into a Camera Control Center.
Direct editing of filter key points and tangents.
Animate objects, materials, atmospheres, clouds, waves...
Dynamic Motion Reaction™ and Animation Wizard for easy animation setup.
New! Separate animation channel for camera exposure.
New! Each camera possesses a target object for easier aiming and setting of focus point.
New! Camera targets can be linked to other objects in the scene (e.g. to automatically keep that object in focus)
Broadcast Quality Animations.
Advanced Animation Controls (Keyframing, Timesplines, Forward Dynamics, Spin, Vibration, Motion Blur...).
New! Cameras post processing filters to adjust color, contrast, saturation, gamma...
New! Animatable post processing filters
New! Camera switcher lets you switch cameras during render (ideal for storyboarding).
Compatible with Mover 5 to import animated Poser4 & 5 characters.
Easy setup of cloud movement using direction and speed of movement controls.
New! Blurred reflections and refractions for each material independently
New! Rendering in unlimited color depth
Alpha and Z depth directly calculated during the render
New! Pre-animated Mesh support

The manual could have been better. I would have liked a more detailed index. Also, I found that some of the tutorials should have had more illustrations.Also some of the objects needed were missing from theVue 5 CD. For example, the first animation tutorial called for an object that was on the Vue 4 CD, but it was not on the Vue 5 CD. The tutorials could have been completed by a beginner in half the time had there been more illustrations of the various steps instead of one or two per tutorial. More tutorials, however, can be found at: Perhaps being a former teacher, I am big on learning tools being provided.

The tech support at e-on software seems to follow through and create beta versions of patches often to fix bugs that users have observed in Vue 5. They do not wait to compile one large inclusive patch, but try to fix problems as they occur. Unfortunately, some betas have fixed bugs while creating others. However, the technicians seem to be working overtime to fix them as quickly as possible and to even, on the User Forum, explain how to best use some of the settings in Vue 5. A final 5.02 patch was created in November. As I just mentioned, there is a Registered User forum on the e-on website that I think is excellent. As of this writing, a new 5.03 beta upgrade has been created. It seems to have fixed a number of the problems. As far as I am aware, it has fixed the major ones. But you can see for yourself by downloading the demo of Vue 5 and trying it out with the latest updates.

To round out the review, I spent one evening creating two pictures with Poser 5 figures in them. They imported very easily and I didn't have to play with the lights any more than I did in Poser when trying to get the look I envisioned. I have written a mini tutorial on working with Poser 5's dynamic hair in Vue 5. I found I could get the look I wanted.

At the present time, December of 2004, e-on software has some fabulous discounts on various products. To see them, go to:

To sum up my overall impression of Vue 5. I really love its features and enjoy using it. It has a lot more to offer than did Vue d'Esprit 4. It is a powerful 3D program and yet inexpensive. At present, Vue 5 has some bugs which are becoming more and more minor as each patch is being created by e-on software. While these may affect some users, others don't have problems with them. I have tried to create as many variable scenes as I can and have really enjoyed working with Vue 5 and the last two latest patches. I definately recommend Vue 5.

Now there is an extremely good buy on Vue 4. I'd suggest, if one does not have Vue at all, you purchase it now, and then upgrade to Vue 5. This, at this time, will save you money. In addition, as of december 13, 2004, e-on software announced an addition of new modules for Vue 5 Esprit and a new name for Vue 5 Pro of Vue 5 infinite. The latter should be out in the first part of 2005 according to their press release. More information can be found at:,%202004