WCS 6 or VNS 3.
Which is the right tool for you?
We have many people ask us what the differences are between World Construction Set and Visual Nature Studio. This page is designed to help you decide which product would be more suitable for the type of visualization work that you do. We also have a chart-style Feature Set Comparison Page that you may find helpful.
World Construction Set, currently on version 6, was the first terrain visualization product from 3D Nature. Because of this, many design bureaus have used WCS for many years to do visualization for all sorts of projects. Civil Engineering, Land Planning, Resource Management, Impact Assessment, Architecture, Video Game Development and Forestry are all areas in which our clients have used WCS to produce high quality rendered output.
For many years, WCS was the only terrain visualization tool that supported the sort of datasets produced by some of the more expensive and GIS-oriented software tools (such as those from ESRI and ERDAS).
Visual Nature Studio, now on version 3, was developed to address a number of issues raised by the "power users" mentioned above. A desire for tighter integration between WCS and GIS products had been requested, along with support for more data formats, and the ability to use data in different projections and coordinate systems to those supported by WCS.
Many of these features require that the user at least has a basic understanding of Geodesy and other complex sciences, so it was felt that it would be unwise to complicate WCS by adding features that many of our user base (especially those who use WCS purely as an artistic tool) would never use.
Helping you decide which product is right for you:
We are continuing to develop both WCS and VNS - neither product is to be discontinued as in our minds, their feature sets address different areas of the visualization market.
By answering the following series of 10 questions, you should be able to quickly determine if you require WCS or VNS.
1) Do you regularly work with data in projections or coordinate systems other than Arbitrary (Site-surveyed Cartesian), UTM or Geographic (Lat/Lon)?
If so, then WCS will not be suitable for your purposes unless you have the required tools to reproject your data before loading it into WCS. VNS supports a wide range of coordinate systems and projection types, and custom creation of the same is possible.
2) Do you regularly grid your own very complex terrain models from XYZ ACSII files, contours or similar? Does that data contain NULL data?
If so, then unless you own a third-party gridding product, WCS is not recommended and you should be considering VNS. Although the gridder in WCS 6 is considerably faster than in previous versions, it is not as fast as the one in VNS, as it gets progressively slower, the more datapoints are required to be gridded into a terrain mesh. The gridders are the same speed up to 6000 input points, but WCS' gridder becomes progressively slower beyond that point. If your datasets are close to or less than 6000 input points, then you can consider WCS for your gridding, otherwise, it would be recommended that you purchase VNS.
VNS also has the ability, where WCS does not, to detect and remove NULL data at import, so if your data contains those sorts of entries, and you do not wish to do pre- or post-processing in order to import it, then VNS is the product you should be considering.
3) Do you regularly use images that are "draped" onto terrain models?
If so, VNS has the ability to read georeferencing information from filetypes that include this information (eg: GeoTIFF, ECW) and can georeference these files correctly without any user input.
4) Do you need to visualize urban or semi-urban areas with many buildings, the footprints of which are available to you in shapefile format or similar?
If so, you should consider purchasing VNS. WCS does not have the capability to create walls with roofs, and the walls are limited to 5m in height. Wall heights are not limited in VNS and roofs can be added to buildings.
5) Do you often work with huge numbers of coverage polygons that have to be associated with ecosystem data?
If so, VNS is really your best choice, allowing as it does, the definition of Search Queries to allow dynamic associations to be created between data of these sorts. If you try and achieve the same thing in WCS, you must manually attach each vector to the ecosystem of the correct type. VNS also supports the loading of multiple shapefile attributes for each entity, which can be used to drive the Search Query selection filters and dynamic linkage features.
6) Do you have source data that regularly changes or is updated during the lifetime of a particular visualization project?
If so, then you should consider purchasing VNS, which allows auto-reimport of data each time a project is loaded.
7) Do you have multiple users who share the use of one license of a 3D Nature product?
If so, and they would find it helpful to be able to preserve their own "Resume" project file, preferences and so forth, then VNS has a multi-user mode which will allow you to achieve this.
8) Do you have the sort of workflow environment where data management and processing can be delegated amongst the users in a department?
If so, VNS has a Template feature which will facilitate this process in large organizations. For example, by using Templates, you can delegate ecosystem creation to one user, data import to another and so forth. The final project file references these templates and reflects any changes made in those template files, allowing you to concentrate on the main project, whilst members of your team concentrate on parts of it that are relevant to their own expertise.
9) Do you use large numbers of Terraffectors (Terrain alterations that allow for digging of lakes, building dams, flattening of terrain for road etc.) in your projects?
If so, and if it would be of use to see the effect of those Terraffectors in realtime OpenGL views, then VNS is the product for you. WCS will not display the effect of Terraffectors in Realitime views.
10) Do your datasets contain extensive metadata that could be used to facilitate visualization?
If your datasets contain attributes that define, for example, foliage type, foliage min and max density, foliage min and max height etc, then you can use these attributes in VNS to drive Thematic Mapping where these attribute values dynamically drive certain parameters in the program.
WCS and VNS are very different tools with different user bases. One could say that WCS is aimed more strongly at the artistic market and VNS at the GIS market, but this would be a gross generalization. Like all software tools, they are designed to provide users with the ability to do a particular job more easily than by other methods.
Many users find that the $1500 price difference in VNS is worth it for their gridding needs alone, others would gladly pay that much solely for the multiple Coordinate Systems and GeoTIFF support. At the same time, many budget-minded users find that while they would find the VNS feature set very useful, their requirements can still be met by using the less expensive WCS product. 3D Nature offers very reasonable upgrade pricing from WCS to VNS, so you will not be penalized for getting started with WCS and moving to VNS as if and when needs and budget dictate. Many users have related to us that VNS paid for itself on the first project they used it for.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, and must be based on what features you require to get the job done in the most expedient fashion.
If you want to discuss your specific needs, our Sales Office would be happy to speak with you. Please call us at (303) 659-4028 or send an e-mail.