Unreal Engine 5.4: 5 key options for CG artists

Epic Video games has launched Unreal Engine 5.4, the newest model of the sport engine.

It’s one other big replace, including an entire new Movement Graphics Mode for movement design work, a brand new modular character rigging system, and automated animation retargeting.

There are additionally updates to the digital manufacturing instruments, to offline rendering workflows for visible results and animation, to Nanite geometry streaming, and to Unreal Engine’s physics toolsets.

Beneath, you’ll be able to learn our decide of the 5 major new options in Unreal Engine 5.4 for CG artists, versus programmers, together with a abstract of the opposite key adjustments.

1. Movement design: an entire new Movement Graphics Mode
By far the biggest new toolset in Unreal Engine 5.4 is the brand new Motion Graphics Mode.

It supplies a reasonably comprehensive-looking set of options aimed toward one of many few sectors of the CG business that Epic Video games hasn’t focused to date, Unreal Engine having now been broadly adopted for animation, VFX, digital manufacturing and visualization in addition to recreation growth.

Described as having been developed “at the side of main broadcasters”, Movement Graphics Mode combines options that will probably be acquainted to movement designers used to offline instruments like Cinema 4D’s MoGraph toolset with options focused at real-time broadcast graphics.

Within the first class, artists get entry to a variety of 2D and 3D primitives, a SVG importer for importing vector artwork, and Geometry Modifiers for modifying geometry procedurally.

For duplicating property, there are a set of Cloners constructed on prime of Unreal Engine’s Niagara particle system, and units of Effectors and Effector Forces to animate the clones.

There are additionally numerous supporting options like viewport rulers and guides, object aligment tools, a layer-based material system, and updates to current options like 3D text and the World Outliner to make them simpler to make use of in movement graphics workflows.

Within the second class, there are a selection of options for controlling the playout of on-air graphics, together with a brand new Broadcast Rundown software and a Transition Logic system.

2. Character rigging: new modular management rig (Experimental)
Character artists get an experimental new Modular Control Rig system.

It’s meant to make character rigging extra intuitive, making it attainable to create customized animation rigs immediately within the viewport by linking collectively a set of modular parts.

Customers can create their very own customized modules, however Unreal Engine 5.4 ships with its personal library of readymade modules, accessible through a brand new Management Rig Modules plugin.

The web documentation reveals modules for creating robotic and natural characters – each humanoids and creatures – together with heads, spines, limbs, arms, ft, tentacles and tails.

Modules are linked through a system of Connectors and Sockets, and may be mirrored.

The workflow can be utilized on any Skeletal Mesh, and modular rigs work in the identical means as common management rigs within the viewport and Unreal Engine’s Sequencer animation editor.

There are additionally updates to current rigging options, together with better direct manipulation of management rigs within the viewport, and the Skeletal Editor getting better snapping for bones.

3. Animation: automated animation retargeting for biped characters
Animators get plenty of adjustments to Unreal Engine’s IK retargeting toolset, for transferring current animations to characters with completely different bodily proportions.

The largest is the brand new Auto Retargeting system, meant to make retargeting “widespread bipedal skeletons” extra “accessible and constant”.

It features a new Auto Retarget Chains software, which mechanically generates retarget chains for a Skeletal Mesh character, and Auto Align, which aligns character poses primarily based on the chains.

There are additionally numerous workflow improvements to current animation options, together with redesigns of each the viewport animation gizmos and Unreal Engine’s Constraints system.

4. Rendering: new render graph and render layers system within the Film Render Queue
For offline rendering, Unreal Engine’s Movie Render Queue will get a new node-based architecture.

The Film Render Graph ought to make it simpler to scale render settings from particular person pictures to total sequences or reveals, and supplies new “developer-friendly entry factors” for scripting.

There’s additionally a brand new system of Render Layers along with the present Render Passes.

Render Layers are meant to be used with pass-based compositing workflows in VFX, animation and visualization, and are supported in each the Path Tracer and Deferred Renderer.

5. Digital Manufacturing: new VR scouting toolkit (Experimental)
Unreal Engine 5.4 options plenty of adjustments to the software program’s previs and digital manufacturing instruments, however essentially the most eye-catching is the experimental rework of the virtual scouting tools.

The toolset, which makes it attainable to view, annotate and edit scenes in VR, now includes a extra intuitive UX design primarily based on Unreal Engine 5.4’s new underlying XR Creative Framework.

As well as, Dwell Hyperlink VCAM, Epic’s iOS app for controlling a digital digital camera inside Unreal Engine through a smartphone, has been renamed Unreal VCam, and is now accessible on Android.

A desktop Mac model with native Apple Silicon help is “coming quickly”.

Different adjustments embrace more accurate depth of field for in-camera VFX and multi-GPU support for the interior frustum render of ICVFX cameras.

Updates to Nanite, physics, 3D modeling and viewport rendering

Nanite, the brand new virtualized geometry system launched in Unreal Engine 5.0 will get plenty of new options, together with experimental help for runtime tessellation.

That makes it attainable to switch Nanite meshes at runtime utilizing a displacement map, and have Unreal Engine mechanically tessellate the mesh to match the element within the map.

Niagara, Unreal Engine’s particle-based results system, will get a new Asset Browser, an experimental new set of Lightweight Emitters, and updates to Niagara Fluids.

Chaos Physics will get a brand new Visual Debugger software.

The Panel Fabric Editor rolled out in Unreal Engine 5.3 will get a brand new USD import node, making it attainable to import clothes simulations from Marvelous Designer.

And for character physics, an experimental Physics Based Character Movement system supplies two-way physics-based interplay between a personality and its surroundings.

For creating or modifying 3D property, Unreal Engine’s native 3D modeling tools get new beveling and edge extrusion choices, and the UV editing tools get a brand new texel density software.

There are additionally enhancements to {hardware} ray tracing, with a pace increase of “roughly 15%” within the Path Tracer, and Vulkan now at feature parity with DirectX 12.

Pipeline integration and platform adjustments

Modifications to file import and export embrace new choices to customize FBX import, and full roundtripping of glTF files with different DCC purposes.

Modifications to USD workflow embrace help for UsdVol schema for volumetric property, and help for geometry caches and nested skeletal information when exporting USD information.

Imported MaterialX supplies are actually represented better in Unreal Engine’s new Substrate materials system, and OpenPBR shaders are actually translated mechanically.

Platform updates embrace experimental help for Lumen, Unreal Engine’s real-time GI system, on cell gadgets; experimental help for Apple’s new Imaginative and prescient Professional XR headset; and help for pixel streaming in browser apps operating on macOS in addition to Home windows and Linux.

For recreation designers and builders, there are additionally updates to the world constructing and audio toolsets, and new information caching options. Yow will discover particulars through the hyperlinks beneath.

New pricing mannequin for non-games work

Unreal Engine can be the primary model of the software program to value cash to be used in visible results, animation, previs, digital manufacturing and visualization.

As a part of a sequence of pricing adjustments to Epic Video games’ merchandise introduced final month, studios with gross revenues over $1 million/yr now pay $1,850/seat/yr for non-games work.

Artists with income underneath $1 million/yr can proceed to make use of Unreal Engine totally free.

Pricing for video games work is unaffected, with Epic Video games persevering with to take 5% of the gross royalties after the primary $1 million generated by a recreation.

System necessities and availability
Unreal Engine 5.4 is obtainable now for 64-bit Home windows, macOS and Linux.

For non-interactive content material, the software program is free to customers with income underneath $1 million/yr. For bigger studios, subscriptions value $1,850/seat/yr, together with Twinmotion and RealityCapture.

For video games developed with the engine, Epic takes 5% of the gross royalties after the primary $1 million generated.

Read an overview of the new features in Unreal Engine 5.4 on Epic Games’ blog

Read a full list of new features in Unreal Engine 5.4 in the online release notes

Read Epic Games’ FAQs about the new pricing for Unreal Engine

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