The Unreal Engine platform from Epic has powered countless games over the last few years, as well as helped content creators shape their imagination on the digital canvas. The company recently released an updated version of the platform, called Unreal Engine 4.26. On paper, the update engine offers several benefits for both creators as well as game development studios. Additionally, automotive brands are using the latest engine to power their in-car infotainment systems.

To learn more about the advancements in the latest version of Unreal Engine, especially after Epic’s demonstration at the CES 2021, we got in touch with Sameer Pitalwalla, Business Director of Epic, India/ SEA. If you rely on Unreal Engine for your work, you should give this a read.

BGR India: What’s new with Unreal Engine 4.26 and who is it going to benefit the most?

Answer: Unreal Engine 4.26 continues to extend your ability to create believable real-time worlds and characters with production-ready strand-based Hair and Fur, new Volumetric Clouds— for a realistic sky, cloud, and environment lighting— and an experimental new Water system. There are also enhancements to the Movie Render Queue and Collab Viewer template, animation blending in Sequencer, and much more. And with robust cross-platform support, Unreal Engine offers frequent updates for the rapidly evolving ecosystem of extended reality hardware and software. It’s intended to help facilitate a diverse range of content creation across architecture, automotive & transportation, broadcast & live Events, film & television, games, and an array of other exciting industries!

BGR India: The automotive sector recently showed a lot of promise with an in-car infotainment systems and automation systems using Unreal Engine at the CES 2021. Please shed some light on this. How is Epic working with manufacturers to improve in-car experiences?

Answer: For automotive design and visualization, Unreal Engine offers the tools you need to create human-scale interactive and immersive experiences that shorten the design cycle and win over customers and stakeholders. Unreal Engine’s Blueprint visual scripting, for example, helps designers create best-in-class automotive HMI, infotainment, and digital cockpit experiences without the need for programming assistance.

In addition, Unreal Engine’s interactive hybrid ray tracer features true reflections, dynamic soft shadows, global illumination, and HDR image-based lighting—along with automotive-specific material libraries—to provide the fidelity, flexibility, and efficiency you need to create awe-inspiring digital showrooms, configurators, sales tools, and promotional videos.

BGR India: Is Epic working on a generic smart car platform with support for next-gen smart features and automation relying on Unreal Engine?

Answer: We support all industries through focused initiatives that all fall under the Unreal Engine umbrella. In October we announced our HMI initiative, which we’ve mentioned here already, and for the last four years our automotive team has been dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect digital twin – whether it’s visualizing a vehicle down to the finest detail in the carbon fiber or using Unreal Engine to streamline the manufacturing process. They also support our customers in autonomous driving, for example, in collaboration with our simulations team.

BGR India: Lots of games rely on Unreal Engine. Does the new version promise improvements to the end-users i.e. gamers?

Answers: Yes, indeed. The updated version will bring forth more convincing animated characters.

If you’re looking to create believable humans or animals, being able to simulate and render true strand-based hair, fur, and feathers are a must. In Unreal Engine 4.26, Hair and Fur is production-ready, featuring a new Asset Groom Editor for setting up properties and compatibility with features such as DOF and Fog. LOD generation is built-in, and we’ve also added the ability to generate cards and meshes for lower-end hardware in the engine as an experimental feature.

Unreal Engine in action

Created with Unreal Engine 4.26

Unreal Engine 4.26 also helps you create more immersive, natural worlds and environments. Whether you’re creating an open world for your players to explore, a realistic terrain for training personnel, or an outdoor setting to show off your latest automotive or architectural masterpiece, the ability to create detailed natural environments that engage your audience is critical.

Enhanced high-quality media output, introduced in Unreal Engine 4.25, includes the Movie Render Queue that enables you to create high-quality frames with accumulated anti-aliasing and motion blur. This is useful for film and television, cinematic content, marketing stills, extremely high-resolution images for print and more.

BGR India: How can content creators (movie makers and animators) use Unreal Engine to improve general entertainment?

Answer: With the release of Unreal Engine 4.26, you can create environments, characters, and creatures of unparalleled realism, with the freedom to design your entire production pipeline around Unreal Engine. One of the core features we have worked on that creators will enjoy using is the new Hair and Fur rendering system. Over the last several releases, we’ve continued to improve hair rendering with visual improvements that are both performant and scalable across mid to high-end devices supporting a wider range of features across Unreal Engine.

The new Groom Asset Editor replaces the properties editor with a fully-featured editor where you can manage and edit your imported grooms with visual representation in its viewport.

Sky, Cloud, and Environmental Lighting is the culmination of work to bring dynamic time-of-day lighting for large worlds from sky, atmosphere, and cloud systems. We’ve also added a unified window to create and edit these environment and lighting components in a single place.

We have a new, fully-featured water rendering and meshing system that supports large, open worlds enabling you to quickly create rivers, lakes, and oceans using spline-based workflows. The water system also offers a unified shading and rendering pipeline integration along with surface meshing that supports physics interactions and fluid simulation with gameplay.

These are just a handful of the many newly added tools for production.

BGR India: What role is Unreal Engine playing in the fields of AR and VR?

Answer: With augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies evolving rapidly and becoming more powerful by the day, you need a creation tool that can keep up. Unreal Engine empowers you to build your team, your assets, and your workflow with tools that can deliver on your creative vision and quality bar—now and in the future.

To create immersive experiences that are believable to the human mind, AR, VR, and MR—collectively known as extended reality or XR—requires complex scenes rendered in exceptional quality at very high frame rates. There are no shortcuts. Powerful and production-proven, Unreal Engine is designed for demanding applications such as AAA games, filmmaking, and photoreal visualization, making it ideally suited to these challenging requirements.

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