How the engine is being used to create photorealistic scenes

Unreal Diaries: How real is Unreal?

What colour is a given pixel? The more accurately this is solved, photorealism in real-time environments becomes increasingly plausible.

Thanks to physically-based rendering (PBR), Unreal Engine technology accurately simulates materials and lights better than ever before, enabling artists and designers to focus on gorgeous visuals rather than rendering intricacies.

For this reason, Unreal Engine 4 has drawn particular interest from the architectural visualisation community.

Making it Unreal

One of the first works to go viral was an interior scene from Koola, a brilliant but modest environment artist who prefers to remain anonymous.

Koola helped the community learn his process for setting up scenes by answering questions in the Unreal Engine forums and then releasing Lightroom: Interior Day Light for free through the Marketplace.

Aside from optimising the static global illumination calculation, utilising post-processing features such as colour correction, depth of field, bloom, scene fringe and tone mapping are key to building a convincing representation of the real world.

A central element to Koola’s workflow is a custom lookup table (LUT) made in Photoshop. UE4’s colour correction is implemented through LUTs, and Epic’s documentation explains how to create LUT textures step-by-step.

Another lauded piece of work is the Berlin Flat by Lasse Rode, a co-founder of architecture and product visualisation firm Xoio. Lasse published an article detailing the making of the Berlin Flat on not only the Unreal Engine blog but also that of arch viz heavyweight Ronen Bekerman. And then, like Koola, Xoio graciously released the project for free on the Marketplace.

In January came another surprise, this time from France. Self-described computer graphics generalist Benoît Dereau released Unreal Paris, a virtual luxury flat (above). The video of the scene eclipsed two million views within just a week, and the community hacked it to run on Oculus DK2 within hours of the project’s release.

ArchViz evolved

It’s not Unreal Engine’s first trip to the arch viz rodeo. Global architectural firm HKS used Unreal Engine 3 to pre-visualise the Dallas Cowboys stadium in 2007, and followed it up with numerous large-scale commercial projects using the engine.

High-fidelity environments are in demand more than ever with VR barrelling its way into mainstream entertainment. And now, individuals and small teams can produce real-time results rivaling the look and feel of pre-rendered CG using game engine technology like UE4.

Comparing the most successful projects built with UE3 to what is already possible to do in UE4, the pixels of the future are looking quite beautiful.

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