Unreal Engine, here I come!
Hello, this is a sorry display of my first attempt at Unreal Engine. I couldn't build the light, as the error messages kept saying instanced meshes ain't gonna work with static lights, so I had to make the sun movable and export a frame in game mode. My bad.
As a 3D Visualizer, I've been using 3Ds Max for 3 years now and I mostly do architectural visualizations. What this means is that—clients come to me with their layout of a building, a diagram or blueprint, and I take that, make imaginary structures based on the plan with 3D furniture, props, trees in it, render out photorealistic scenes and hand them off to the client. They are used to this workflow, and I didn't have to make long archviz animations. Until now.
A client wanted a few minutes long walkthrough inside their home and working on this project, I realized, unless I make use of render farms, no matter how powerful my computer is, I can't keep up! 3Ds Max animation procedure renders each frame at a time and you have to compile the frames to make a footage. The problem is, each frame takes a considerable amount of time, even in a lower settings and the rendering time became so huge, that I literally had to keep the pc running for days this time! Days! And the computer is not a trash either.
So I was thinking about how can I cut the render time significantly. This is when I thought of Unreal Engine. I saw some really photorealistic shots made in Unreal Engine a couple of years back and I thought, what about Architectural visualization in UE? Turned out, you can very well use UE to do Archviz. And a lot of people are doing it. In fact, looking through UE tutorials, I noticed many youtubers who used to do 3ds max + v-ray tutorials before are doing unreal now.
And they had all the good reasons!
Unreal Engine is a game engine, and unlike traditional 3D softwares, it can do real time rendering. All you have to do is to build your lights once and then you can render out as many movies as you like!
Moreover, unless you're making a game for commercial purposes, Unreal Engine is totally free to use. On top of that, Quixel megascans, the biggest online library for photorealistic photoscans and assets are totally free for UE users! I couldn't believe my eyes! I have had my eyes on them for a while and even though you can use them in other 3D programs, they do come with limitations and hefty pricing. So having their entire library at my disposal at a cost of nothing was like stumbling onto a gold mine!
So I've been tinkering with UE for the last few days and it is quite different from 3Ds Max and the interface seems really messy (meh, you're a max user dude, don't you have no shame?!) and scary, however, the fundamentals are not all that different. The same object manipulation, PBR materials are there as well. Their material editors is similar to Max's slate material editor and one look at them, I could see what is meant to be what.
But UE lacks modeling tools (there are some but not extensive), so I'll still have to use 3Ds Max for the modeling phase, but everything else can be done in UE.
I've already tested a basic interior scene with some default models that came with UE starter pack and oh my, it is so fast! Rendered out a 5secs of 4K animation just to see how long it would take (I wouldn't dare 4K with 3ds Max), it went blazing fast! The only time that took was to build the lighting, which still took way less time than a single frame would in 3ds Max. In Max, in each frame, the lighting has to be built and then it would render out, but in UE, after you build the lighting once, it retains all the properties the whole time, unless you move something.
This is the fundamental distinctive feature for me and it makes all the difference!
I still think the quality 3ds Max and V-ray produce is unmatched, but UE can be quite photorealistic too. Plus, the time it will cut down is too enormous to brush aside. I'm pretty sure the clients won't be able to notice any difference at all.
Unreal Engine does have a steep learning curve as I've felt that already but it is so much fun doing things in real time and I've been enjoying the experience like a kid with a new toy. And thinking about the possibilities it can bring to me, not as an archviz artist, rather as a filmmaker, I feel hope!
You can read my film and literature related articles on my hive blog page.