Making Real-Time Rendering Less Daunting: Unreal Engine Online Learning

When you see new software that can speed up your workflow, it’s fun to imagine what you can do with it. But in reality, many of us don’t want to be among the first to try it out, especially if documentation is lacking. No one wants to spend countless hours fighting with mysterious features only to go back to the old workflow because you just need to get things done.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying out photoreal real-time rendering for your workflow, but you’re concerned that that on-ramp is too steep. Real-time rendering requires you to import your CAD scene into a game engine, and anytime you import to a new piece of software, there are going to be issues to solve. If you have to figure it out on your own, it’s going to be a long, hard road.

While some companies seem reluctant to spend time on documentation, Epic Games, creators of the real-time rendering tool Unreal Engine, is not one of these companies.

Making the On-Ramp a Joy Ride

Recognizing that real-time rendering is quickly becoming a game-changer for architectural visualization, Epic Games recently launched the Unreal Engine Online Learning platform, a free set of video-based courses on just about every aspect of Unreal Engine. Much of the content is tailored specifically for Enterprise users—architects, designers, engineers, film and video producers—and most of the courses are divided into short, bite-sized videos for easy watching over a coffee break.

The platform isn’t just a bunch of videos slapped together with a pretty label. The courses take particular care to cover common workflows in detail, such as data preparation and the import process itself. For lighting, another vital part of photoreal visualization, there are five complete multi-video courses covering everything from the basics to global illumination, reflection, and ambient occlusion.

“A year ago, we set out to break down all the barriers to using Unreal Engine,” says Ken Pimentel, Senior Product Manager at Epic Games. “We quickly realized that understanding how these revolutionary real-time concepts can change industry required a deep investment in the learning process. The Unreal Engine Online Learning platform represents the beginning of a future learning experience that is structured and personalized.”

Epic Games has taken a lot of care with this offering, organizing courses into tracks based on industries, job roles, workflows, and engine concepts. For those who want to take their presentations a step further, there are courses on how to build a configurator, create a virtual reality walk-through, and add post effects like bloom, depth of field, and fog.

The Road to Unreal Studio

While coming out with a free learning platform might not seem like big news, users of Unreal Studio have embraced the new courses. Unreal Studio, which is currently in a free beta period, is an Enterprise solution that includes access to Unreal Engine in addition to a series of import tools called Datasmith. Datasmith is designed to import CAD, 3ds Max, and SketchUp scenes into Unreal Engine with a minimum of effort.

Anyone can apply for the free Unreal Studio beta and start importing their existing scenes right away. Datasmith is designed to handle scenes from more than 20 CAD programs, so chances are you’re already using one of the formats it supports. With both Unreal Studio and the Unreal Engine Online Learning videos being offered for free, Epic Games has eliminated any cost barrier that might have kept you from trying out real-time rendering.

Just before the new online learning platform was released, Epic Games released Unreal Studio 4.20, the latest beta with improvements based on user feedback. With this new version, the import process can bring in per-object metadata, and complex CAD assemblies can be converted quickly and intelligently to the Unreal Engine format. They’ve even upgraded Unreal Engine itself to include basic mesh editing tools, meaning you can fix the odd overlapping face right there in the software.

Between Unreal Studio 4.20 and the Unreal Engine Online Learning platform, Epic Games is showing its commitment to the field of real-time rendering for Enterprise. "We want to make sure everyone, everywhere, can learn how to harness the rendering revolution that Unreal Engine is driving and take advantage of all it offers,” says Pimentel. “From real-time rendering, to interactive tours and virtual reality—every architect that wants to use these features should be able to learn based on their own needs and timing. That's what the Unreal Engine Online Learning platform is for."

With the release of the new learning tools, Epic Games has made the on-ramp to the future a little less bumpy and provided a passing-lane for those that want to get there first.