With its new V-Ray for Unreal plug-in, Chaos Group is looking to give traditional design viz artists – those skilled in the production of stills and animations – an easy route into real time visualisation and fully interactive VR.
“We heard from customers that they had this burning desire to get their projects into a real time scenario for a variety of different things, but they were frustrated in having to sort of go through two pipelines,” explains Chaos Group CCO Lon Grohs.
The new plug-in, which came out of beta earlier this month, is designed to combine real-time and ray tracing in a single pipeline. It allows users to build a V-Ray scene in their familiar DCC / CAD tool, then import every part of that scene file into Unreal Editor. The idea is that viz artists can quickly create a simple real time environment in Unreal without having to learn everything about popular game engine.
V-Ray lights and materials are automatically converted into their real-time equivalents so viz artists don’t have to manually re-apply them inside Unreal. “We’ve gone to great lengths to try and map those as close as we can,” explains Grohs, who also admits that there is always going to be a little bit of a difference between what you can get in a ray traced environment versus what you can achieve in a real time environment.
Once the scene is inside Unreal, users can still generate stills or animations in ray-traced quality, direct from the Unreal Editor. “When you actually go to render the scene, it will pull up the full ray traced shader,” explains Grohs. “It keeps a smart connection to the original ray traced shader.”
Unreal has its own light baking tools called Lightmaps, but with V-Ray for Unreal, users can now use V-Ray’s own light baking. Chaos describes this as a powerful feature that lets users bake V-Ray lights (including IES) directly into Unreal with full GPU acceleration.
“You get the realism that you’re used to seeing rendered with V-Ray with Global Illumination and ray traced lighting and so on,” says Grohs “You can get all of that baked so that it looks like a render and it’s pretty amazing.”
By using V-Ray Light Baking users can also tap into the network rendering, distributed rendering or cloud rendering capabilities of the core software. V-Ray for Unreal is also based on a hybrid rendering system, so users can use GPUs or CPUs.
For now, V-Ray for Unreal only takes care of lighting and materials. Geometry optimisation, which can be important for delivering high frame rates in a real time environment, especially VR, is going to be up to the user, explains Grohs. Some users may choose to use a toolkit like Datasmith [part of Unreal Studio from Epic Games Enterprise] for geometry optimisation, then hook into V-Ray for Unreal for rendering and light baking and so on. Both workflows could be used in parallel quite seamlessly, he adds.
Grohs told DEVELOP3D that Chaos Group has a rapid development plan in place for V-Ray for Unreal and intends to push out new features quickly. It is currently working on an experimental feature that will allow users to render Unreal materials alongside V-Ray materials. This, says Grohs, could be useful for someone who is not using V-Ray for 3ds Max or SketchUp or might have imported a model from SolidWorks or another application that doesn’t have a V-Ray connection.
In the future it will also be possible to render materials with textures from Substance Designer and render directly in the Unreal viewport.
Finally, Chaos Group is working on a solution that allow uses to bake out an Unreal executable – a run time. Currently, V-Ray for Unreal only works in the Unreal Editor.
V-Ray for Unreal is available now and compatible with V-Ray for 3ds Max, Maya, Rhino and SketchUp [compatibility with Revit is on the roadmap]. V-Ray for Unreal currently supports Unreal Engine 4.19 – 4.20 with support for 4.21 coming soon.
The software will be sold through a subscription. The monthly rate will be $80, while the annual rate will be $470.