Why You Need to Pay Attention to Unreal Engine 5

[Updated July 21, 2021]

Cave in Unreal Engine 5.

If you’re not familiar with developer Epic Games, you probably should be. Founded by Tim Sweeney in 1991, Epic Games has sold millions of copies of their extremely popular Gears of War and Infinity Blade series. In 2017, Epic Games famously retooled their underperforming title Fortnite with a free-to-play “battle royale” game mode, creating one of the world’s most popular online games seemingly overnight. As a result, they’ve become one of the most recognizable video game developers in recent years.

Epic Games’ own Unreal Engine—the foundation of some of the most innovative and successful games of the past 15 years—is a popular choice for video game studios and filmmakers alike. With the impressive announcement of the new Unreal Engine 5 and its groundbreaking light and texture systems, the gaming community is keen to see what game developers can create. Similarly, filmmakers are eager to experiment with the game engine’s cinematography capabilities. But where does this excitement come from?

Ancient gate in Unreal Engine 5.
The tech demo “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” wowed gamers and developers alike with beautiful lighting effects and cinema-quality textures.

Graphical Power for Game Studios

Simply put, Unreal Engine 5 looks… unreal. Epic Games’ tech demo Lumen in the Land of Nanite demonstrates two new visual systems available in the new engine.

“Lumen” is a system of algorithms that control lighting placement in scenes, creating the beautiful shadows and rays of sunshine that paint every frame of the tech demo in photorealistic light.

“Nanite” is a system that allows developers to quickly and efficiently import high-quality 3D models into the engine from any number of sources, including CAD, ZBrush, and Photogrammetry.

With these two tools, high-quality visuals are easier to achieve for Unreal Engine developers with tighter deadlines. Time that may have previously been allocated to the recreation and optimization of in-game objects may now be spent improving other aspects of the game.

3D artist working at a desk.
Using Unreal Engine 5’s “lumen” and “nanite” features, game development teams can create photorealistic graphics for their games faster and easier than before.

New Benefits for Unreal Engine Developers

For developers creating vast open-world environments, UE5 is implementing new tools to improve collaboration and performance. To improve performance with so much geometric detail, the new “World Partition” system renders sections of the game map only when they’re in use. The new “One File Per Actor” system lets developers work on the same sections of the game world simultaneously without overwriting each other’s progress, similar to EVO’s project locking features.

These are just some of the many workflow improvements Epic Games has included in Unreal Engine 5. It also comes with an updated user interface, more intuitive menus, and quality-of-life updates that are sure to improve productivity for game development teams.

Unreal Engine 5 will follow a new licensing model for game studios using the engine. Growing game developers won’t be required to pay any licensing fees at all until their product makes USD$1 million in revenue, with added bonuses for using Epic Games’ own marketplace. This undoubtedly makes the engine more financially accessible for small game designers and game industry outsiders looking to experiment and use the technology for other media.

New animation tools help simplify workflows in Unreal Engine 5.

Adaptability for Unreal Engine Filmmaking

As we’ve seen in award-winning shows like The Mandalorian and Westworld, Unreal Engine 4 is a powerful tool for filmmakers creating realistic landscapes in fictional worlds. With the new lighting and texture updates in Unreal Engine 5, the technology will be even more accessible for digital filmmaking teams of all sizes.

What once required an entire team of 3D modelers, digital lighting designers, and animators may soon be accomplished by a couple rigging artists using pre-purchased assets. There is already a large and vibrant community creating assets for Unreal Engine filmmaking. Since the engine can utilize assets from CAD, ZBrush, and Photogrammetry, there are plenty of options to find the right asset for your project.

Once your high-quality 3D assets are on your shared storage server and imported into Unreal Engine, lighting can be designed to match live-action footage captured during production. These scenes can be created before or after principal photography, depending on the needs of each project.

Unreal Engine's page in a web browser.
As creative software goes, Unreal Engine is incredibly accessible and friendly to experimentation and idea-sharing.

For example, The Mandalorian used large projectors and screens behind their sets to create in-camera visual effects that can be edited as needed. This helps actors react to changes in the digital environment and deliver authentic performances easier than if they were on a sound stage surrounded by green screens.

Unreal Engine is already a platform for ambitious filmmakers making animated projects from the comfort of their home. Much like other animation platforms, investing enough time and creativity can bring to life nearly any story one can think of. With the tools game developers use now in the hands of the film industry, creating impressive animated sequences may be easier for your animation team than using purpose-built animation software.

In other words, Unreal Engine filmmaking is a viable option that is already being used by production teams all over the world. And Unreal Engine 5 will make the platform even more enticing for film and television production.

Video game level up screen.

Get Ready to Level Up with Unreal Engine 5

Unreal Engine 5 is sparking a new era of game development, digital animation, and virtual production. Whether you’re a major game developer, a growing animation team, or a filmmaker looking to utilize the new features in your next production, Unreal Engine 5 is a landmark new technology that shouldn’t be ignored.

Luckily for you (and all of us), the engine is now available in early access, so you can already begin exploring the evolving platform. We can’t wait to see what you develop with this breakthrough technology!

To get the most from your Unreal Engine 5 workflow, check out EVO shared storage solutions and remote workflow servers purpose-built for video game development and digital film animation.