Edge of Innovation

From 3D games to 3D buildings: Spectacular architectural visualization with Unreal Engine 4


Epic’s Unreal Engine software has enabled game developers to create rich and detailed worlds — forthcoming titles like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, ADR1FT, Dreadnought and RIME all use it to build their 3D environments, and to spectacular effect.

Yet while Unreal Engine is described as a “complete suite of game development tools made by game developers, for game developers”, it has uses beyond video game creation. The powerful software (now free to use) can be used for art and animation projects, virtual reality applications, even architecture.

Or rather architectural visualization.

Rendering photorealistic images of a proposed building before it is built enables architects to experiment with colours, textures, light and shadow in their designs and to show prospective clients what the interiors will look like when they are finished. Like the Mountain Hostel by AESDE and Interior in Berlin by Scenected below, two of the best visualizations of 2014 as judged by ronenbekerman.com.

Mountain Hostel by AESDE
Mountain Hostel by AESDE. One of the 52 best visualizations of 2014 on ronenbekerman.com.
Interior in Berlin by Scenected
Interior in Berlin by Scenected. One of the 52 best visualizations of 2014 on ronenbekerman.com.

Architectural visualization, whether it’s a real time 3D rendering or a series of photorealistic stills, helps to communicate the essence of a space.

With the addition of simulated wear and tear, you’ll often be hard pressed to spot the difference between some of today’s best high-resolution 3D renders and a photograph of the real thing.

Epic believes that Unreal Engine is ideal for 3D architectural visualization projects. Which is why it has sponsored 2015’s “The Vineyard” Challenge on ronenbekerman.com, a $60,000 competition to create a modern winery setting.

“Our focus on building not just great game development tools — but great tools, period — is what makes this challenge possible,” said Epic Games Lead Technical Artist, Wyeth Johnson.

Exterior architectural visualization
This Unreal Engine architectural visualization enables viewers to pan around the building and change the time of day, instantly adjusting light and shadow.

“[The challenge] also highlights a unique aspect of our real-time rendering technology,” said Johnson, “in that architectural scenes that used to be relegated to the still image are now capable of coming to life in ways that are interactive and responsive to the viewer.”

The competition runs from June 15 until September 15 and winners will be judged on a range of categories, such as best lighting, best 3D modelling, best design and best interactivity. Previous challenges on ronenbekerman.com have included designing a private house and showcasing the New National Gallery and its surroundings.

You can already see what Unreal Engine 4 is capable of on the website UE4ARCH, where you’ll find extraordinary videos like the one below.

Note how the UE4 technology allows a level of interactivity beyond what is currently available in virtual tours and static renderings — the ability to open doors, to change the colour (or type) of furniture, even adjust the texture and finish of a floor.

“We can’t wait to see what people in the community do with that extra layer of capability beyond just a beautifully rendered static scene,” added Johnson. Nor can we. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)


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