Dax Pandhi is a CG environment specialist and co-founder of QuadSpinner. He has contributed to a variety of AAA titles for film and games, including the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. He is also a teacher and author with 18 years of experience in CGI. Read more ...

Realism in Vue is out


I’ve been so busy with things – mostly things related to the book itself – that I haven’t been able to blog about it yet! :)

You can read more about the book here. In a nutshell, if you are using Vue and are looking for realism, this is the standard. And those aren’t my biased words. :)


Vue in large-scale productions

Think I’m a masochist for choosing to invest the majority of my waking hours into optimizing Vue for big productions like TV shows and movies? You’re probably right, but the results I’ve been getting have been worth the blood and sweat.

This frame (shown at actual size) is grabbed from the middle of an animation. The per-frame render time averaged to about 2m 35s on a Core i7 980X with 16GB of RAM. Your average render farm uses more power. At 720p these increase somewhat exponentially, but still stay under 6 to 7 minutes per frame.

Vue is a completely different kind of animal. Familiarizing myself with its quirks and quirky under-the-hood processing have helped identify certain areas – especially for animation – where a lot of unnecessary baggage can be removed to drastically increase render time.

The process needs to be kept in mind while designing the scene itself. A large part of what Vue does is geared towards still images. The amount of detail it can create can be staggering. But animation works differently. Additionally, combining some tricks learned from the game industry can help improve performance too.

I’m currently still locking down some parts of this process, but hopefully over the next few weeks the complete concept will be ready. It is going to be one of the primary focuses in QuadSpinner’s live workshop in Los Angeles.

Aerial Terrain Design

Last week I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark. The route my flight took covered a giant chunk of the US Southwest – a place where we spent a month in 2009 covering the unique land formations and other geological phenomenon of the area. It was a great opportunity to get an aerial view (live, not via a satellite map – makes a huge difference) of the places we photographed profusely from the ground level.

I’ve always said this – if you design half the things you see out there in nature, and recreate them exactly in 3D, people would say it looks fake. Take Bryce Canyon for example. It wouldn’t be exactly the most believable of places if you made it in 3D.

In any case, seeing the combined references of both aerial and ground level shots, I made this terrain in World Machine 2.2 and wanted to share some things I tried that you might want to take a shot at.


One thing that often seems to get missed when people design mesa or canyon style terrains is that it all appears uniform. Large mesa formations often end up having some sort of land formation on the flat part. This terrain uses the dune-style formation on top of a Terrace-filtered Advanced Perlin Fractal.


By using a Select Height node, the dune formation was combined to the top flat area of the terraced perlin. For some extra realism, a VoroNoise macro was blended with the top 25% of the dunes before they were added to the perlin. This added some granularity to the otherwise smooth dunes. The dunes were created with the Dunefield macro.


When viewed from up high, the dunes look a little strange, but when you switch to a lower angle (like below) you can see the nice overlap those mountains create. This is kind of like what Zion National Park is like if you look at it from a satellite map. But again on the ground level it creates beautiful overlapping mountains.


Finally, the entire output was passed through an Erosion node that used Standard (not Channeled) Erosion. By strategically placing Bias/Gain filters between most major generator nodes (and the Erosion node as well) the mountains were brought up and the lowlands were deepened.


As the terracing was overridden by the dunes/mountains, only the lower parts get the mesa/canyon style while the rest is more mountainous.

By exporting a Deposit map from the Erosion node, and using multiple layers locked to various altitudes as well as the Deposit map, Vue can create some great materials for a terrain like this.

Material Development Kit 1.0

After a long wait, the groundbreaking Vue Material Development Kit 1.0 from QuadSpinner is finally available.

From the official page:

QuadSpinner's Material Development Kit is a comprehensive set of proto-tools that enables artists to quickly create powerful fractal materials without having to concoct complex fractal functions. The MDK extends several features that are not native to Vue.

The first generation MDK consists of -
Tincture: a color production system
LightBender: an anisotropic and rim-lighting hybrid
Supernoi: a hybrid Voronoi fractal generator
CrackMaker: a complex rock distress pattern generator
RockBreaker: a powerful rock displacement generator

For more information please see the MDK page: http://www.QuadSpinner.com/MDK.aspx


We are also providing, on request, a special unlocked/source version of the MDK for professionals and studios who wish to expand the MDK components or integrate them into their own technologies. More info on the link above.