Far from just Video Games, Unreal Engine 5 looks to be a major player for Feature Films, Twitch, and Motion Design
Whether you're a filmmaker, game designer, or Motion Graphics artist, you've likely heard of Unreal Engine. Even if you're new to the industry, you've probably seen the buzz around the latest tech demo for Unreal Engine 5. It's a very exciting time to work in visual entertainment, as everyone from Twitch streamers to Hollywood directors are getting busy with the latest and greatest rendering engines.
Maybe you've dabbled with game design, or you want to make your indie movies stand out, or perhaps you just want to wow that next client. No matter who you are, it's time for you to learn What the Unreal Engine actually is...and why you should care.
What is the Unreal Engine?
In the late 90s, the First-Person Shooter (FPS) ruled the PC Gaming scene. Doom and Duke Nukem 3D engaged gamers with hallways of sprite-based enemies, using over-the-top violence and heavy metal scores to maximum effect.
Then came Quake, a true 3D shooter based on John Romero's Quake Engine. It was quickly apparent to developers large and small that the FPS genre was an arms race, and the best engine would win out.
Enter Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games. He was a self-taught developer, tooling around with the engine for a new IP. With the help of a few legends in the field (James Schmalz and Cliff Bleszinski), he developed Unreal, based on the very first Unreal Engine. While the IP only netted a few titles, Tim recognized that the real beauty was in the rendering software.
While the new engine was created to develop video games, nowadays virtually everyone in the media industry uses it for pre-visual mock-ups, virtual sets and even motion graphics. Even more exciting is the recent announcement of Lumen, Nanite, and Chaos destruction systems.
What started as a Quake/Doom challenger with Tim Sweeney crushing out some code is now a multi-platform/multimedia powerhouse!
Who Uses Unreal Engine?
In a nutshell, Unreal Engine can be used in almost any visual production or post-production environment. Those include and are not limited to:
- Motion Graphics
- Virtual Sets
- Virtual & Augmented Reality
- Video Games
- Sports Broadcasting
- Live Concert Visuals
Unreal Engine influences production in major ways, and it's only just begun. From concerts to news broadcasts, everyone is excited to bring in this versatile program. With nearly unmatched real-time rendering ability, reality is now limited only by your imagination.
Making Film and Television Unreal
The number one benefit for all artists wanting to get into Unreal Engine is that it’s 100% free for broadcast and film!
As Motion Graphics artist, you can use Unreal Engine for just about anything.
More than likely, you've already seen Unreal Engine in action and haven’t even realized it! From the apocalyptic Weather Channel explainers, the Rocket League Championship broadcast package, and even the live Childish Gambino dome concert performance, Unreal Engine has been used in a wide array of applications. One of the most notable integrations of Unreal Engine and full-swing production is its seamless use in creating virtual sets for The Mandalorian on Disney+.
Unreal Engine isn't just for the small screen, either. Industry powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic utilized UE4 when designing the Oscar-winning sequences for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Using StageCraft VR, the team was able to enter their digital environment and plan out the action, leading to a truly breathtaking sequence.
Given the power of Unreal Engine, the possibilities for film and television are limited only by your ingenuity.
Unreal Gaming, Twitch, and More
As the gaming industry grows ever larger, and gaming technology expands to new media, the gap between disciplines gets a little blurry.
As a Twitch streamer, you can create a sleek broadcast package using pre-built gaming elements in Unreal Engine. If you want to take it to the next level—if we use our skill sets as mograph artists—we can even start to create our own interactive experiences.
We can create Choose-Your-Own-Adventure web series, interactive movies, or even our own video games.
To really push the power, speed, and flexibility of Unreal Engine a little further, I’d like to point you to the recent Xbox Series X event. One of the upcoming games showcased, called Bright Memory, looks like it was built by a fully funded AAA studio. In reality, this incredible demo was made by one person using the Unreal Engine.
For music fans, Unreal Engine created a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the 2018 Pharos Show by Childish Gambino. Using an enormous half-dome projector, smoke, and pyrotechnics, the artist delivered an award-winning experience powered by the Unreal Engine.
Unreal Motion Design
During the NAB 2020 Cinema 4D Live series, I showed how powerful Unreal Engine could be when combined with Cinema 4D. The tutorial recreates a futuristic title sequence using the useful modeling features in Cinema 4D and the polishing power of real-time creation inside of Unreal Engine—all on a single GPU. The speed of your work, even when adding atmosphere and complex lighting, is astonishing.
If you're like me, you’ve been spending the past few years creating in awesome offline render engines such as Redshift and Octane. But, as awesome as they are, they come at a cost.
Right now in my home studio, I have several computers, each with several GPUs just for rendering. Hardware on its own can get fairly expensive, but then we start tacking on monstrous electric bills, subscriptions, costs of assets, and maintenance. On top of that, the power required to run these monsters means by electric bill eats up a sizable chunk of my disposable income.
I don’t want to say Unreal Engine is the end-all-be-all solution to all of these problems. However, for one of my recent projects, I was able to render my project in real-time with just one machine with single high-end GPU. That sure beats using team render across my network.
The Unreal Price Tag
With tech this impressive, you'd expect a price tag to match. As I said earlier, Unreal Engine is 100% free to download and learn and use. The only time you’d have to pay is if you create a game that reaches 1 million dollars in revenue, and even then Epic will only take a certain percentage after you hit that threshold.
Unreal Engine is an incredible powerhouse. You can create virtual environments, craft incredible interactive media, and even take your scenes directly from Cinema 4D and bring them into UE to take advantage of real-time rendering.
As another bonus, you gain access to the complete Megascans library to use, as long as your final output is from Unreal. Megascans is a whole other article, but here's a sweet look at what you can do with it and Unreal Engine.
I started my journey into Unreal Engine just last year when Maxon announced the C4D to Unreal Engine exporter, and from there I’ve been hooked. There’s no better time to add UE to your workflow than now, and this price what do you have to lose? We couldn't hold off any longer, we want to start talking about Unreal Engine. The engine is getting more and more powerful, and it's starting to bleed into film and animation. So, here's a breakdown by me getting you up to speed. If you need a boost getting started, I also have several C4D to UE4 tutorial on my Youtube channel, and I’ll be creating many more with School of Motion as well.
Give Unreal Engine a look and get creative today!
Unreal Engine for 3D Artists
In this course with UE master Jonathan Winbush, you will learn how to import assets, world build, animate, and create cinematic sequences all in real-time. You'll also learn how to work with materials, lights, and cameras so you'll be able to create amazing 3D renders in no time.