UE4 – my first attempt at realtime archviz

A while ago there were some pretty cool arch viz videos floating around that were made in Unreal Engine 4. I looked at them and thought, “OK – looks nice, but it’s just an empty room with a bunch of chairs or some concrete walls that move slowly along with some piano music in the background”. At the time, I dismissed the idea as being something not worth the effort yet.

But then I got an itch.
What if the engine could handle somthing more like a real project? I just had to try it out myself :)
I spent some of my hard earned cash for a shiny new gtx980 video card, bought an UE4 subscription and started working my way through tutorials, forums, blogs, etc.
Obviously, I wanted to jump in the deep end and start with a somewhat complex project, something that could pass for a real arch viz job.

Here are my initial results. I think it’s pretty nice for a complete beginner!
Since a basic fps walk-around is boring if you’re not the one controlling the movements, I made a short animation (it even has some piano music) and a bunch screenshots.

Obviously there are some issues here and there, maybe the scene could use more accessories, etc. I also have to figure out the best AA method to keep away the jittering/jaggies in reflections and some edges. Overall I didn’t hold back and threw polygons and high quality shaders at the scene, just to see what the engine could handle with my gtx 980.

So here is my experience so far:

+ very nice physically-based shader system, I love the way it works. The node based system with some math/programming style functions is a-m-a-z-i-n-g
I can make a custom master material and adding things like fuzz, global distortions, scaling for all textures at the same time is a piece of cake!
+ making shaders is quick
+ the new 4.5 engine makes automatic lightmaps, so there’s no hassle with UV unwrapping anymore
+ the tutorials are pretty nice and help a lot with getting started
+ built-in cutscene editor (matinee) is fantastic. Very easy to set up multiple cameras, fading, slo-mo, etc. Everything can be animated as well.
+ great interactivity features (although I’m just starting to work with them, nothing to show yet)
+ it’s fun to walk around the scene you’ve created with all lights and shaders working in realtime

– sometimes crashes at the most unfortunate time (thankfully there is an autosave function)
– some weird animation glitches from time to time
– fbx import is ‘unfriendly’ (seriously, every object has it’s pivot reset to 0;0;0 ???)
– shaders lack some important features, the weak point at this moment is translucent/transparent objects with reflections
– you have to learn a whole new workflow if you are not used to game dev
– days go by too fast, I sit down at the computer in the morning, work a little bit on a scene, look up, and it’s already night outside :)

Overall, I definitely like the results and will be spending more time on developing my UE skills.

So is this the future? Will realtime game engines like UE, cryengine, unity, etc push the conventional methods off their throne?
Probably not. At least for high quality stills and high-end animation.
They will, however, most likely make up a new niche of realtime arch viz and quick, low budget animations.
The 1 minute animation I posted was rendered out in about 4 minutes at 2560×1440 resolution with quality bumped up all the way. Lower resolution and quality settings can be rendered realtime.
I’m guessing the workflow will become faster as I gain more experience (although it’s not that bad even now).

Now the only thing left is to convince the clients that they want or rather need this new fancy real-time interactivity. :)

Do you have any experience with realtime in UE4 or other engines? Please share in the comments – the good, bad and ugly!

My next test project will be an animated exterior scene. Not sure when I’ll find the time though, other ‘paid’ work takes priority at the moment.






Mastering Hard Surface by Grant Warwick – my initial review


(get a discount coupon at the end!)

A few people asked me what I think of Grant’s new course… So here goes :)

If you’ve been following my site, you know that I’m a pretty decent modeller.
I’ve been doing it day-in and day-out for years.
However, for some reason I do not like to teach poly modeling. I think I lack the meticulous attention to detail and patience for thorough explanation of why I’m doing everything I’m doing.
That’s why I prefer to focus on advanced techniques/tricks/unorthodox methods in my tuts.

However, I can only do those things because I have a solid understanding of fundamental old-school poly modeling. I mean that I can see the damn wireframe on every object as I look around the room :) And I can figure out a way to model it in the quickest way possible.

When someone asks me to teach them poly modeling, I usually send them a link to this video – Hard Surface Essentials
For years now, this 1.5 hour short video has been the best reference for getting started with poly modeling on the web.
The author of that video is Grant Warwick.
So as you can see, his modeling style has had my stamp of approval long before this course.

However, that short video is old, too compact and it explains only some basics, and that’s too bad… (but hey, free is free!)

Fortunately for you, Grant has taken up teaching full-time recently and has launched a new course:

Mastering Hard Surface

The course has only recently started, so there’s still a lot of new content to come.
I’ll share my impressions about it so far.

He starts out with the basics, keyboard shortcuts, workspace setup, etc. Although it might not seem like a big thing, he also gives some tips on how to avoid wrist pain (RSI, a source of countless hours of suffering for myself). So listen to his advice and you will be thankful after a few years of intense modeling.

The main modeling method he uses is ‘edge extrusion’ – a 3ds max specific subdivision modeling approach.
Coincidentally, it is also the method that I use the most.
It’s simply the fastest, most efficient way to make a high quality 3d object… of any shape. And this is coming from someone that has *tried them all*, seriously, I’ve tried spline modeling in max, nurbs in rhino and alias, subdivision modeling in wings, maya, softimage, lightwave, and even frickin mirai (no holes in the mesh allowed, really?), and so on…

Grant does a pretty good job of explaining how’s and why’s of this method, and he does so by explaining everything he does as he does it. There’s no awkward silences for minutes and a little comment at the end “OK, i just modeled the large hadron collider” (I must admit, I’m sometimes guilty of this).

Next up he shows how to work with blueprints. Don’t be misled by the name of the lesson, it also contains valuable info on how to simplify objects and visualize the main edgeflow of the mesh.
Remember what i said about *seeing the wireframe even before starting the model? Well this is the first step.

And that’s where we are at the moment, as the course progresses I’ll update this post with my impressions of the lessons.

So far I’m pretty impressed and like the logical progression he is taking from simple to more and more complex concepts, I’m really looking forward to how this turns out.

Should you enroll in this course?

– If you are not an experienced ‘old-school’ modeller, I believe this course has a lot to offer. Even if you think you are an ok modeller, there’s always room for improvement. The price is steep, but the value for a beginner-intermediate level 3d artist is HUGE. No more hunting around for hours/days on 3d model sites to find that ‘specific’ piece of furniture or whatever. I see this quite often on forums, people desperately looking for some model that I would just whip up in 30 minutes or so.

I believe that in the arch-viz industry there is a huge amount of artists lacking solid knowledge of modeling. Sure, many have a good eye for color/composition/light/etc. But you will not be always able to put together a scene with models from turbosquid, evermotion or designconected. Inevitably there will be a time when the client wants a specific model that is difficult to model, and at that time, you will shell out the big bucks for some freelancer, who can model. I bet that after one or two times like that the course would seem pretty cheap in comparison.

And guess what, once again I’ve managed to negotiate a special discount for you guys! Just use a coupon code VISCORBEL50 to get 50$ off the price. The coupon is only valid for 48 hours and 50 customers, so act fast if you want to save a few bucks!

– If you do have a very good and solid knowledge of poly modeling, feel free to skip the course, but check out the free video as a refresher.