Epic Games launches Unreal Engine 5.1

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Epic Games is releasing Unreal Engine 5.1 today as an update to the game engine it hopes will be used to build the metaverse.

The new update aims to make Unreal Engine 5 easier and faster for creating 3D content. The company has added a range of new features and stress-tested improvements in 5.1 to make Unreal more robust, efficient, and versatile for creators across industries.

Epic Games has said that over half of all announced next-gen games are built with the Unreal Engine. And he said that developers can now take advantage of updates to the Lumen dynamic global lighting and reflections system. This is important stuff if you’re a game developer or expect to build the metaverse.

It also made updates to the Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry system and virtual shadow maps that lay the foundation for games and experiences running at 60 frames per second (fps) on capable next-generation consoles and PCs. These improvements will enable fast-paced competition and detailed simulations with no latency, Epic said.

In addition, Nanite has also added a programmable rasterizer to allow for material-driven animation and deformation via world position offset, as well as opacity masks. This development paves the way for artists to use Nanite to program the behavior of specific objects, such as nanite-based foliage with windblown leaves.

UE 5.1 ​​also adds several efficiency-enhancing features for developers of games and other large-scale interactive projects, helping teams be more productive. For example, virtual assets decouple metadata from object data, allowing developers to sync only what they need from source control systems like Perforce, resulting in smaller workspaces and faster syncs for developers which do not need access to the full data of the object. Epic said.

The new automated Pipeline State Object (PSO) caching for DX12 simplifies the process required to prepare a game for shipping in the DirectX 12 API. Finally, on-demand shader compilation compiles only the shaders needed to render what is seen on screen while working in the Unreal Editor, which can result in significant time savings and increased interactivity, Epic said.

For developers creating massive open worlds, this release also offers additional features and improved workflows. World Partition now supports Large World Coordinates, allowing for the creation of huge open worlds without loss of precision. Users can also enjoy accelerated source control workflows with World Partition, resulting in a better user experience for managing, filtering, searching, and viewing files and change lists.

Hierarchical level of detail enhances the appearance of large bodies of water.

It’s also now easier to find content in the world within changelists and vice versa. Additionally, new Hierarchical Level of Detail (HLOD) support for water rendering and streaming allows users to create large bodies of water in open worlds with better performance and a smaller memory footprint. As you can see from the photo, it looks good.

In-camera visual effects

Vcam by Epic in Unreal Engine 5.1.

The Unreal Engine has now been used in over 425 film and television productions and is integrated into over 300 virtual production stages worldwide. With improvements in Unreal Engine 5.1 specifically tailored to virtual production workflows, technicians and artists now have multiple benefits including an in-camera VFX editor, improved Light Card system, improved remote control APIs, correction tools color palettes, initial Lumen support for nDisplay , and more.

First, LED stage operators can now take advantage of a new dedicated in-camera visual effects (ICVFX) editor that supports a range of virtual production workflows. This largely eliminates the need for scene operators to search for specific objects and controls in the Outliner. UE 5.1 ​​also adds UI, UX, and performance improvements for the remote control APIs, allowing users to build powerful browser-based custom remote controls faster and easier.

The ICVFX editor also hosts an interface for an enhanced Light Card system which is displayed as a preview of the nDisplay wall. In addition to making creating, moving and editing light cards, and saving templates intuitive and efficient, new light cards can maintain their shape on the wall, eliminating distortion.

Unreal Engine 5.1 Editor.

Also new in the ICVFX editor are Color Correction Windows (CCW) which allow you to apply color adjustments exclusively to anything behind them (similar to Power Windows in color grading applications), along with the ability to apply per-actor color corrections, which reduces the need for complex masking.

In Unreal Engine 5.1, the new media plate actor enables OpenEXR support, allowing users to simply drag and drop footage from the content browser. Additionally, users can now play uncompressed mipmapped and tiled EXRs in both engine and nDisplay with the appropriate SSD RAID, and now have the ability to convert EXRs to the correct format for optimal playback.

Additionally, Unreal Engine’s virtual camera system has been overhauled with a new underlying framework that uses Epic’s pixel streaming technology to improve responsiveness and reliability, and an updated UI with a modern camera-centric design that will be more familiar to camera operators.

Users now also have the ability to connect hardware devices and will be able to customize the user interface in the future.

Lumen creates accurate light and shadow in Unreal Engine 5.
Lumen creates accurate light and shadow in Unreal Engine 5.

Lumen, the Unreal Engine’s fully dynamic global lighting and reflection system, now delivers
initial support for nDisplay in 5.1, provided the number of lights is modest (about 5-7 lights
total, depending on the graphics card). With Lumen, indirect lighting adapts with changes on the fly
for example, at the angle of the sun, the lights or the position of the bouncing cards. Previously, these changes would have required a cooking stage that could have paused production, disrupting the creative flow.

UE 5.1 ​​also adds improvements to GPU Lightmass, including support for Sky Atmosphere, fixed Sky Lights, lighting features like IES profiles and Rect Light textures, and improved quality and performance across the board.

Animation

The Unreal Engine 5.1 deformer for animations.

The use of Unreal Engine in animation has grown exponentially, from 15 productions between 2015 and 2019 to over 160 productions from 2020 to 2022. For professionals working with animated content, especially characters, Unreal Engine 5.1 offers several notable improvements to the engine’s integrated animation and rigging tools, as well as Sequencer.

Now in beta, Deformer machine learning (ML) generates high-fidelity approximations of nonlinear deformers, complex proprietary rigs, or any arbitrary deformation using a custom Maya plug-in to train a machine learning model, which in turn runs in real time in Unreal Engine.

This allows users to simulate cinematic-quality deformations, such as flexing muscles, bulging veins, and sliding skin. Other character deformation improvements include improvements to the Deformer Graph Editor to make creating and editing your graph easier.

Additionally, the control plant continues to expand towards fully procedural rigging, increasing the impact and scalability of rigging teams. Updates to the core framework include a new build event that allows users to generate rig hierarchies via a graph and custom user events for creating and firing rig events such as “Snap FK to IK”.

With these updates, artists can create a single control rig that can self-build to fit characters that may have different proportions and skeletal properties. For example, the same control rig can fit a three-fingered monster or a five-fingered human. without any modification to the rig asset.

Unreal Engine 5.1 also adds support for constraints in Sequencer, the engine’s multitrack non-linear animation editor, including position, rotation, and Look-at.

Users can leverage them to quickly and easily create and animate relationships between any control rigs or actors, such as making a camera always follow a character, holding a character’s hands on a steering wheel, animating a clown playing with balls or forcing a cowboy’s hips so that the character sits naturally in the saddle as the horse moves, while his hands hold the reins.

The Sequencer also sees additional functionality exposed via Blueprint and Python scripting, and a refactored UI/UX for greater stability and extensibility, and to improve animation creation and editing workflows.

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