E-on Software recently released two new updates. The 7.5 update is subject to pricing depending on prior purchased software plans while the 7.4 update is free. I will be reviewing the 7.5 version of xStream as a standalone application and not discussing its integration with other 3D software. I will, also, list the new features of 7.4. My OS is Vista Ultimate 64-bit.I have 12 gig of ram and am using an Intel Core i7 CPU. I, also use two monitors and since I calibrate each separately I have two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280s.

Originally I posted the new features according to the synopsis from E-on; then, I found that there is a complete list by area in the long 80 page document that can be found at this page. This shows what is new to Vue 7 xStream and what is new now in the 7.5 version. I culled what is new to version 7.5 and have reproduced it by E-on's categorization. I will use this to work with the product for this review. If you want lists of what the new features are to 7.4 in Vue Infinite and xStream, click on the underlined words. Some of the new features of 7.5 and the free 7.4 are the same or similar so the lists can be a useful comparison tool. I have added them as another page. Since I am using the program as a standalone, I will only test those features that pertain to its standalone status.






User Interface

Real-Time Preview


Now that I have set the stage, I will describe some of those new features that apply to the standalone version of Vue 7.5 xStream. I will start off with the new features that I have been playing with since the pre-release. The review is on the full release. The topics are taken from the above lists of what is new to 7.5.

TERRAINS Paint material distributions at the surface of terrains; import, view and edit distribution maps in the Terrain Editor; Terrain effects optionally affect material distribution map.

I love these new features. One can Illustrate them all by the following examples. The painting tool that is used to create distribution maps has already not only saved me hours of work, but has increased the usability of certain terrains without having to place different materials using different altitude distributions, for example. Also, it allows me to be more precise since I can export it into Photoshop and modify the maps as well as create other maps from this one. I will show you the steps involved in creating the distribution maps in Vue xStream 7.5 using two examples. The first involves painting on the terrain in the Terrain Editor

and the second involves choosing the Apply Effects and Erosion.

And I changed the resultant image by choosing an Effect in the Terrain Editor.

TERRAINS Infinite procedural terrains; Planetary terrain rendering; Flat, spherical and planetary procedural terrains; Switch between flat, spherical and planetary terrains (geometry may be affected).

I learnt this feature through a lot of trial and error. I want to thank Rutra (Renderosity Vue Forum) for getting me on the right track. I was creating such large terrains that I couldn't see the curvature and, thus, thought they were not curved. The trick was to evoke "frame all/selected objects" icon on the top tool bar. That made a world of difference. Also, working with smaller terrains than the default gave me the ability to better see what I was doing. This is a really interesting and potentially creative feature and only available in version 7.5. I was intentionally not using anything that resembled real world units because my intent was to show what this function could accomplish.

I started with an infinite terrain and checked the Enable spherical scene before I added to the scene. I, then, changed it to a planetary terrain. Notice how the preview panes are different. The camera was set at 35mm.

Below are the two renders. While at first glance they appear similar, the geometry is actually different.

Next I changed the scene a little and the focal length of the camera to 16 mm. Again, the previews are different.

Here are the rendered versions. With this image, the geometries seem similar, but if you look closely, you can also see a difference.

Notice, also, the spherical cloud layer around the planet. I could adjust the height of the clouds in the Atmosphere Editor for different effects. The Spherical Clouds are, also, a new 7.5 feature.

In addition, when Use planetary terrain is checked, you can access the spherical coordinates.

Lastly, I unchecked the boxes to see what the terrain would look like flat.

ATMOSPHERE Efficient model for cross-shadowing of objects on clouds

The Atmosphere Editor under Sky, Fog, and Haze has a new drop down menu for choosing one of three "effects".

Below over the rocks and water is a metacloud to represent a kind of mist. Notice its color in the two images. This new feature has a lot of power. The color of the mist/water has noticeably darkened because of the selection of "Projected Shadows on Clouds." This is a great tool with a lot of power and potential for creating more realism in scenes.

REAL-TIME PREVIEW Sky preview with clouds: In standalone mode; Realistic MetaCloud preview: In standalone mode; Realistic sun shadows: In standalone mode; Colored EcoSystem instance preview: In standalone mode; Dynamic plant display optimization: In standalone mode.

The OpenGL previews have greatly improved. Images 1-3 show the OpenGL preview in the Main Window while image 4 shows the rendered MetaCloud just using final render. Images 1 and 2 are two different sunsets.

RENDERING Create a separate color and alpha mask of clouds; Hide objects from render and disable lights by clicking their icon in World Browser: Optional.

Now when you select Multipass rendering, you can create cloud masks. This is very useful for working in Photoshop. I use multipass for every last render with only some of the features activated.

When you click the light icon, for example, the following dialog appears.

I came upon the change in how light is reproduced when using sunset atmospheres by accident when I was testing out another function. At that time, I still had not upgraded Vue 7 Infinite to version 7.4 and noticed the difference between the preview render (and also the final render) in Vue 7 Infinite version 39290 and Vue xStream 7.5. I wondered was this unique to Vue xStream 7.5 so I upgraded my Vue 7 Infinite to 7.4. I found that both versions 7.4 and 7.5 handled sunsets in the same manner. I contacted E-on tech support to see if this was a new feature or if possibly I was having problems pertinent to my machine only. They replied very promptly. Below is the final reply.

"The dark version is actually the correct one. Atmosphere behavior has been reworked to properly adapt lighting over areas that are partially or totally within the shadow of the earth.

In the real world, at sunset, sky lighting is generally much stronger than everything else, so it is more realistic to get a quite dark overall lighting over your scene geometry when sky luminosity decreases.

The old Vue 7 render produced an almost equally bright geometry lighting compared with sky, which definitely looked much more artificial." (Issue #1243875340)

Once I got used to the new rendering, I found I liked it a lot better because I could add lights if I wanted to "brighten" the foreground for a specific effect. You can always check this out before upgrading to version 7.5 by upgrading to the free 7.4 update.

Some of the new features couldn't be checked out because they are internal such as increases in speed, etc. Without having the same program in version 7 on my machine, I could not do comparisons.

System Requirements

Macintosh Windows An OpenGL accelerated video board is not required, but is a big plus.
Multi-processor rendering is only available on all multi-processor OS X, 2000, XP Pro and Vista systems.

Supported Applications

 Windows  Macintosh (*) If the host application supports 64bit, you need to launch it in 32bit mode to allow the loading of the xStream integration plug-in.

To decide whether you want to upgrade to Vue 7.5 or get the free upgrade to 7.4, you need to look at the new features you will use as well as the upgrade path for the future. My two favorite new features are the ability to paint on terrains which is also in 7.4 and the creation of spherical worlds which is unique to 7.5. The ability to create cloud shadows is also really great. These are only a few of the features that add to the versatility and creative power of Vue xStream 7.5. The program worked fine for me. As I stated I couldn't check rendering speed between xStream 7 and 7.5. The only problems I had with both Vue xStream 7.5 and Vue 7 Infinite 7.4 is when I closed down the program by the upper x in the top right hand corner of the screen, often I would get Windows error message that the program needed closing. This did not seem to affect anything at all. I just hit close. The program worked very smoothly with all that I tried to accomplish.

For a complete price list including information on maintenance programs click on the underlined word. To see a list of all E-on Software's products go to http://www.e-onsoftware.com.

For those new to Vue 7, you might want to look at my review of it on my website.

Look for reviews of Vue 7: From the Ground Up by Ami and Vladimir Chopine and of Vue 7: Beyond the Basics by Richard Schrand.