Rough Guide to the Atmopshere Editor – Part 1 – Model Types

This is a continuation of my Rough Guide series which proved to be very popular for the water editor to Vue 7. This series will focus on the atmosphere editor of Vue 7 Complete in a similar style (If anyone wants to buy me Vue 8, please, feel free :D) I make the assumption that you own vue/have the ple and have a rough knowledge of how it works. Although some of it may seem patronising or obvious, this is not my intention. I just want to write down how it works and what it does.

This series is being completed for the purpose of me learning the atmosphere editor and in the hope that while doing so, others can learn from what I write. At present i feel that one of my weakest parts of using vue is the atmospheres I use.

If you notice any mistakes or omissions please let me know and I will amend them!

The first part of this series will be on the model types that are allowed with vue, although this will probably not be the most scientific of tutorials I aim to show working examples of how the different settings alter the scene.

So firstly lets get acquainted with the Atmosphere Editor.

There are two ways to open the atmosphere editor, pressing F4 or by going to the menu option “Atmosphere” and selecting “Atmosphere Editor”. You are presented with the following menu.

There are 4 models presented. The default “spectral model”, the “Standard Model”, “Volumetric Model” and “Environment Mapping”. These models are also described on the E-on Website

All renders will be “Broadcast quality at 800×600” – click on them to see them full size.

Each model has different characteristics that they exhibit and require different types of clouds in order to look their best. In each of the sections below I will try my best, using the manual as a guide, to describe and demonstrate what each model type is capable of and best used for.

Standard Model
The manual describes the standard model as…

Standard atmosphere model: this is Vue’s traditional “workhorse” model. It has been widely used for a multitude of stills and animation projects. This model lets you control sky appearance through the use of color gradients. You can create an unlimited number of fully editable cloud layers, control fog and haze densities, or add special effects like twinkling stars, rainbows and ice rings. All atmospheric elements can be fully animated. The standard model’s main advantages are ease of use and fast rendering.

To me, the standard model seems somewhat outdated compared to the spectral models, but for the sake of completeness it will also be covered. A typical example of a basic standard model atmosphere looks as follows.

The clouds look hard and unrealistic in this basic scene taken from the atmosphere presets. I would suggest that standard mapping is best used for scenes which do not require clouds, but rely soley on having a gradient sky map. In this basic scene, we can see however that haze and fog can be controlled quite easilly and renders suprisingly quickly. The following scene rendered in 2 seconds.

The same scene, but with a spectral model (there is a major jump in settings) took 8 seconds to render.

Bruno Memain – Of Renderosity fame – points out that…

you can combine spectral and standard clouds in the spectral model. Standard clouds can look good enough when some spectral layers are in front of them, so you don’t need to fill the sky with spectral only when you need an overcast sky, but still get shadows from the spectral clouds.

Volumetric Model
The manual describes the volumetric model as…

this model offers a good compromise between the standard and spectral models, giving you a higher level of realism, yet rendering faster than spectral atmospheres. Unlike the standard atmosphere, the appearance of the sky and sun is not defined by color gradients. It’s directly affected by haze and fog settings and by the sun’s position, much like in a real atmosphere. The volumetric model is especially suited for animations: simply moving the sun around produces beautiful color and lighting shifts.

In the past I have used various volumetric materials to emulate smoke and the such, so this is how I concieve volumetric environments, better for things like fog and haze becuase it feels like the materials have a volume.

This example was set up very quickly with two cloud layers and some haze and fog, it rendered in 42 seconds, but looks a lot better then the standard atmosphere, although still not very exotic 😀 – the same atmosphere rendered in “spectral model” was quicker, but this was becuase of the difference in the cloud types that where used. Volumetric models require that you use volumetric clouds as otherwise you will end up with horrible looking smears across the sky as demonstrated below.

Volumetric clouds are fairly limited in their number, there are only 22 of them, but with a little bit of tinkering with the function editor you should be able to get good results. It should be noted that volumetric clouds do not look very good in other types of atmosphere models.

Spectral Model
The manual describes the spectral model as…

Vue 7’s new hyper-realistic model that accurately imulates the behavior of real-world atmosphere and lighting according to weather conditions. The appearance of sky, sun and clouds (both standard and spectral), as well as the character of direct and ambient light are all affected by the delicate balance between the elements that constitute the atmosphere: air, dust and water particles. The Spectral model provides its own set of controls that let you adjust each element’s density and height and rendering quality. Using the Spectral model ensures a complete coherence of all the elements of a scene.

Spectral models are in my opinion the best looking of the four atmosphere types, and therefore the most used. Probably 90% of the pictures you will see created in vue
use the spectral model. This is because of the cloud types that have been created by e-on – the spectral 2 clouds. Although they take a lot longer to render, the overall end image is vastly improved over the other types (depending on what you want them for…)

Most of the atmospheres that come with vue 7, at least, are spectral environments. The example below is the “bisibee” atmosphere preset.

The disadvantage of using spectral models is the time that they take to render, for example the above image took 1 minute and 18 seconds to render, a lot longer than the examples in the volumetric and standard models, but in the long run the clouds look better.

Spectral clouds allow you greater control over the shape and definition of the clouds themselves, the number of options in the cloud control is vastly increased in this field over the standard and volumetric models (all of which will be explored in later episodes).

Most of the examples used in this series will probably be spectral atmospheres as this is what I percieve to the be the most conclusive model.

Environment mapping
The manual describes the environmental mapping as…

Especially suited for architectural visualization, this model lets you easily set up an environment based on panoramic photographs. By using Vue’s Image Based Lighting, HDRI support and global reflection mapping you can create a seamless integration between your scene and the background plates.

Environment mapping allows you to use HDRI images to create a matched lightsource for your scene as to that in the photograph that is added in the effects section of the atmosphere editor.

As the manual mentions this is probably most suited for images/scenes where you are tryign to integrate a model of a house or a car or something into a street scene. It has similar settings as the spectral, volumetric and standard models except the sunlight settings cannot be altered as this is determined by data from the HDRI imagery.

Artur Rosa adds that Environment mapping…

Regarding environment mapping, it’s not only useful for models and street scenes, it can also be useful for some types of nature scenes.

and gives the following example of his stunning work

This will not be extensively covered in the series as I have little to no use to it at present, anyone willing to contribute to this section is more than welcome to!

Have I missed something obvious? or have I made a dopey mistake? Please let me know using the form below and ill add it.

Part 2 is availiable