While my focus is in CG Layout in AutoDesk Maya, I am also diversifying my skill set by learning project workflow and cinematography in Unreal Engine. Recently, the industry has been embracing game engines as tools for non-game entertainment because of their versatility and speed. I love to learn new programs and skill sets, so improving my abilities in Unreal Engine has been a great experience.
Real Time Rendering in Unreal Engine 4: Floating Island
This is a short, 3 day long project, I completed over a recent break from school. I had previously created a short game in Unreal Engine 4 as a class project, and I wanted to push myself further to explore the film production side of the engine. I was also excited to work with Quixel's Megascan Library after Epic's recent purchase of it opened the entire collection for use in its engine. This project was a great exercise in set dressing, environment design, and cinematic layout. Additionally, rendering it all natively in UE4 at runtime allowed me to make numerous tweaks to the settings or assets and render it quickly at full production quality. Honestly, I'm amazed by the ease of use and graphical fidelity that UE4's sequencer brings to animation. I can't wait to work with it more.
I started by creating a procedurally generated landscape in WorldMachine. Then I imported it into Maya to improve the topology and UV unwrap it. From there, I imported it into UE4 and placed it in an empty scene. I soon realised that the steep mountains on the top side were too extreame, and reimported a more flattened version from Maya. I then used mesh and foliage assets in the Quixel Megascans library along with a great (and free) tree model pack available here, by artist Lluis Garcia.
I plugged these assets into UE4's foliage painter and quickly added a good amount of variation to the flat landscape. Then, I came back with patches of flowers to add some color variation. Finally, I came in with a thicker layer of grass around the area I planned to have camera shots. I had to be economical with my usage of thicker grass layers in order to keep the viewport at a workable fps. I also employed 3 levels of LODs for each asset to reduce poly count.
Texturing, Trees, Assets
For some final environmental touches, I decided to add falling leaves as a particle system. I found an image of a leaf with transparency and created a particle system which simulated leafs falling slowly in the wind. It's a subtle effect, so not many leaves are produced at once, but it added really nice movement and life to the final render.
To light the scene, I used a strong directional light with a post process volume and supplemental sky light to achieve a nice sunset effect. Finally, I used the sequencer to set up a multi shot scene. This project was made to practice camera features in UE4, so I made sure to make the most of it, and added slight camera shake, DOF shifts, and some simple shot transitions. After rendering a few passes in real time, I took it into Premiere to add some environmental foley.
Overall, I am very happy with how this turned out. I learned a lot about scene creation, set dressing, layout, and realtime rendering. I hope to work on larger scale projects in the future where we can implement real time rendering. I honestly think this workflow will become more mainstream over time as our rendering technology improves.