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How to Get Started in Unreal Engine 5

By Jonathan Winbush
Unreal Engine

If you're ready to launch a new project in Unreal Engine 5, UE Master Jonathan Winbush is here to show you how

Unreal Engine 5 is officially here, and it’s pretty fantastic. With incredible power, a bevvy of features, and the intuitive controls you’ve come to expect, this free 3D tool is the killer app you need to see to believe.
I’ve had a chance to work with Unreal Engine 5 for some time, and now that it’s in Beta for anyone to download and enjoy, I figured you could use a guided tour to get you started. Now this isn’t going to be everything you can do, but I’ll walk you through the basics so you have a strong foundation. After that, it’s between you and your imagination. 
In this video, I’ll show you:

Project Files

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How to Get Started in Unreal Engine 5

How to download Unreal Engine 5

Getting started is fairly simple. First, you want to head to your browser of choice and navigate to The new home page shows off the demo from their latest showcase, which helps keep you hyped while you get started. Click on the DOWNLOAD button in the top right corner to get started.
Remember, Unreal Engine is completely free. If you are creating a product to sell, you only have to pay a 5% commission when you surpass $1 Million in revenue. Since we're primarily focused on motion graphics, we get to use the program for free.
On the license page, scroll down and click the Download button. You might see this page.
If you don't have an account with Epic Games, you can create one here. If you already have an account, go to Log In and enter your information. You can create a solo Epic Games account, or log in using your Google, Apple, Facebook, or game console IDs. That takes you to the launcher.
At the top of the page, you'll see a tab marked UE5. Click on that to head to the download page. Here you'll see that Unreal Engine 5 is marked as Early Access. UE5 is still in Beta, which means some functionality might be limited, and the optimization could be a little less polished than you're used to. We saw a similar phase with the UE4 launch, and Epic Games is well known for putting in the hours to deliver a final, finished product.
If you scroll down this page, you'll see a sample project that shows off all the new features in UE5. I'd set aside some time for this one, as it is a 100 GB download. However, if you want a crash course in everything new, this is a fantastic free sample.
Once you had UE 5 downloaded, head to the top right for the launcher.
You'll notice that you have options of which version to launch. This is a great feature if you're working on a long-term project in a specific version and are worried about messing things up by updating the file. For now, UE5 only has the Early Access option.

How to navigate the Unreal Engine 5 menu

Welcome to the new Unreal Engine Project Browser. If you're familiar with UE4, this should all look familiar. It's a new skin, but the same functionality.
If you're looking to make a new video game, you'll see the templates for building a first-person shooter, top down, puzzle game, or even virtual reality.
With Unreal Engine 5, you can use the program for automotive or product design, and even construction and engineering projects. If that's what brought you to this page...hello, welcome to School of Motion. We don't really build buildings that often, but we're happy you stopped by.
Today, I'm going to head over to Film / Video & Live Events. You can see a number of helpful templates, but I like to start with a blank canvas. At the bottom of the browser, select a location to save your project, give it a classy name (FunReel in Unreal, for example), and click CREATE.
Welcome to Unreal Engine 5.
Navigating around the workspace will be easy for anyone familiar with first-person-shooter games. Just make sure you are holding down the Right Mouse Button to move around.
Watch me build the rest of this scene in the video above, then let's get started with some cinematic lighting!

How to quickly create using MegaScans, Lumin, and other assets in Unreal Engine 5

Now it's time to really get started and build a new scene. With Unreal Engine 5, creating a new landscape is incredibly simple. Not easy, at least not for everyone, but the toolset is designed to be intuitive. Best of all, you have access to MegaScans to create rapidly.
If you have 3D assets you want to bring in, Unreal Engine 5's Nanite tech makes the process even easier. Even if you have a model from ZBrush rocking a million pixels, Nanite optimizes the render for the pixels that can be seen...and nothing more. This helps even massively detailed scenes run smooth. We won't need any normal maps or displacement maps.
Since we want to create fast, let's navigate to Content > Quixel Bridge.
This is access to all of the assets you'll have for free using MegaScans. This is objects, landscapes, textures, foliage, and a metric ton more. In the past, you had to download Quixel Bridge separate from Unreal Engine. The integration of these platforms is a HUGE improvement to your workflow.
If it's your first time navigating Quixel Bridge, I would recommend starting with Collections. It is a curated list of the favored assets by a community of designers. For this example, I'll use the Arctic Ice and Snow. Before you go to download, make sure you are signed in (with the same ID as you used earlier) in the top right corner.
Some of these models can be exceptionally large, as much as 500 MB for a single asset. Make sure you set a save location with plenty of space under Preferences.
Back in Unreal Engine, go to the bottom where it says Content Drawer. You'll find all the assets you've downloaded, together and ready for use. Best of all, using these assets is a simple drag and drop.
Check out the video above to watch me quickly build out this scene!

How to build and light your scene using the new interface in Unreal Engine 5

Lighting in Unreal Engine 5 offers a unique advantage over some other 3D design software. With the powerful real-time rendering, you are able to see each change the moment you make it. This allows you to experiment with different looks, implement volumetrics, and position directional lighting to take advantage of the scenery.
Since this is a DEEP topic, I'd recommend you watch the video above to really see how I craft my scene. If you want to learn more of the specifics of lighting in 3D, I can also recommend the excellent video David Ariew put together on lighting beyond HDRIs.
As you can see, Unreal Engine 5 is already showcasing some incredible power, even in Beta. As Epic Games continues to refine the engine over the next few months, you’ll see the speed increase and new tools come online. Still, if you’re ready to jump into the next generation of 3D design, the barrier to entry is literally a few clicks of a mouse. 

Want to Break into 3D Motion Design?

If you’re new to 3D motion design and want to learn the right way, check out School of Motion’s courses below. In Cinema 4D Basecamp, you’ll learn how to build and animate in 3D using Cinema 4D, one of the most popular programs in the industry. 
And if you want a real challenge, look at Lights, Camera, Render for an advanced course in cinematic animation.