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What does Unreal Engine 5 mean for filmmakers?

Virtual production is here to stay and it’s building up steam.

After the release of Unreal Engine 5 (Early Access) and two of its main functions, Nanite and Lumen, the tool continues to grow.

Over the past year or so, a term that was once elusive has almost become part of the filmmaker’s folk, virtual production. This is due to the work on the Unreal Engine 5 (which has now been released in Early Access).

As someone to whom standard filmmaking is very sacred, there has been a brief period when this shift caused me some slight mental friction, and it took me some time to understand what it meant. Then I saw what they achieved The Mandalorian, and as probably most of them, I’ve changed my tune. Over the past year, the prospects of virtual production and its impact on the film production process have become increasingly clear.

It’s here to stay and almost everyone I know is talking about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZAAMPyTH_Y

What is special about Unreal Engine 5 and what does it mean for filmmakers like you and me?

Lumens

In the video above, pay attention to what happens to the lighting in the scene as various pieces of furniture are deleted. The reflected light changes, it becomes softer and the colors change.

This is the new lumen system at work. Lumen is a dynamic real-time global lighting system introduced in UE5.

Previously, most of the lighting in Unreal was done with baked static lightmaps. This meant that without some advanced tricks, the lighting couldn’t really change from scene to scene, and reflected light was faked or amplified and wasn’t very realistic.

Now imagine what that could mean for placing virtual bounce materials or using virtual flags for negative fill. Not to mention, it just looks a hundred times better.

Nanites

Nanite is an entirely new geometry system (virtualized micropolygon geometry) that lets you use essentially any model or level of detail (LOD) you want without getting bogged down your scene – and, for the most part, your computer.

This is awesome, of course, as you can load basically any CG asset you want without worrying about poly-count budgets and maximizing your VRAM. Nanite only uses the geometry necessary to achieve the desired effect at all times. It’s super impressive.

These new things coupled with Metahuman (Epic Games Photoreal Human Character Creator) make Unreal 5 kind of a “must-learning” tool as far as I can tell, even if you only want to use it for pre-vis purposes. I know I’m sure to check out all the tutorials I can get my hands on.

What are you most looking forward to in Unreal? Tell us in the comments.

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