Unreal Engine 4

As an animator, I often look at games graphics and feel jealous. The core software – the game engine –  and GPU work together to produce marvellous realtime effects that once set mostly take care of themselves. Shadows, reflections, refractions, particles, gas effects. All kinds of CPU-intensive processes are optimised to look good and run smoothly.

This isn’t the case when you’re working with animation software such as 3ds Max. Almost everything has to be built from basics and endlessly tweaked to get good results. And you can forget about realtime rendering. I work with 4k dome renders for planetariums. One frame can take as much as thirty minutes, and that’s a limit imposed by my puny render farm. Games can pump out beautiful images at a ridiculously high rate. One frame every thirty minutes? In the world of games, thirty frames a second is routine.

That is why I was excited to hear about the release of Unreal Engine 4 as a free tool and the plans of an acquaintance to create a plugin for directly exporting fisheye image sequences. If this happens, it means I’ll at last have a second, and probably more efficient option for creating dome animations.

I’ve installed the software and started on the tutorials. I’ll use this blog to relate the results.