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AJ Young

Unreal Engine 5 Announced

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Epic Games revealed today a first look at their new real time rendering engine, Unreal Engine 5. Their first look shows a real-time demo of "Lumen in the Land of Nanite" running on a Playstation 5:

Unreal Engine is quickly becoming the go to real time software for pre-vis and actual use on set. Matt Workman has been at the forefront with Unreal Engine at an indie scale. This new engine incorporates a lot more rendered animation quality that more accurately represents real world lighting. Shows like The Mandalorian utilize real time rendering, but this technology is actually accessible to even low budget projects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciZauvY8UHY


Personally, I've been diving into virtual production because of the potential possibilities of its use for indie narrative productions. Unreal Engine 4 is fantastic, but doesn't quite have the real world accurate bounce lighting that ray traced renders have (ie animated films). However, Unreal 5 looks like it provides that and in real time.

Needless to say, this is quite exciting. Now, if only I had a GPU that can handle the engine.


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Funny, I've been thinking the exact same thing.  Blender or Unreal, Faceware tech, Rokoku suits and using lyrebird A.I. to change voices in post.  Never seen this done on a small scale character driven indie film.  That might be interesting.  I'm starting with a small webseries in Blender.  Finishing up the scripts now and learning the software.

A feature film in Unreal or Blender might be tough for one person to manage.   Have you asked anyone about the timeline of creating and rendering photorealistic characters and worlds for narrative production?   I'm very curious about how long that might take.

Also, the overall cost of buying objects and sets from those marketplaces vs scanning 2D photos of locations and making virtual sets out of them.  I've seen people doing this in Blender.  I can imagine the cost would add up.  110 scenes and 300 shots?  That could become expensive if you have to buy all the assets in each shot. If you have to make it all from scratch it might take forever.   

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Under taking animation solo is incredibly challenging, so I wouldn't expect anyone to produce an animated feature of Pixar/WAB scale by themselves anytime soon. I will say, Unreal Engine does get you there faster.

Buying 3D assets/textures/etc can be costly, but Unreal does come with a lot of free assets that are photorealistic (Quixel). However, the only downside to using UE4/5 are hardware requirements; to fully utilize the lighting engine requires powerful GPU's and even then the lighting isn't 100% true to life like ray tracing is (ie, lack of dynamic bounce)*. It looks like UE5 does a lot more, but again it's running on the PS5 which is incredibly powerful.

Blender, on the other hand, is more accessible to slower hardware; it just means longer render times. However, you lose the real time rendering that UE has and UE's free assets.

Needless to say, UE5 looks incredible and definitely bridges the gap between real time rendering and traditional animation. I would suspect new studios to open up that offer a volume like the one The Mandalorian used, but at an affordable rate with a library of assets to build with or the ability to use your own UE5 project. It's just like any other studio that can provide pre-made sets in real life, but now it's virtual.


*Some of the highest end graphics cards from Nvidia can do ray tracing in real time, but: $$$

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Yeah but the money for a topshelf graphics card or entire mocap system is nothing compared to what it would cost to shoot it live.

I took a look at a complete package from Iclone and it was under $30k.  Not too bad.  Matt Workman took an interesting approach to capture and is using an HTC Vive.  Which is cool cause at least you can play games on it.

I haven't upgraded my post system in about 10 years so I'm probably gonna go all in on something that can do this.  The time to learn it well enough to work proficiently is probably 3 years at a minimum.  By then the processing power and software abilities and cost to build worlds, characters etc will probably come down in price and take less and less time.  I see this whole effort as getting exponentially cheaper and faster for everyone and soon it will be a much more common mode of commercial and narrative production.

I have several feature scripts for indies that cost too much to get a greenlight as a live action film nowadays anyway but they'd make great animated films.  It's definitely worth looking into.  The virtual camera unit system is awesome.  Where you can use a tablet as a camera and handhold shots.  I love that feature.

I like Blender for now cause as you said it runs on older hardware and while I'm learning, it's perfect.  Plenty of tutorials and the interfaces are similar anyway.  


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I completely agree. UE4/5 democratizes a lot of assets filmmakers can use and Blender is incredibly accessible. In a few short years, this technology will be even easier to use and implement on a small indie scale. Hell, everyone is getting a large 4K TV now! 🙂

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