Clients understand images better than architectural plans, so the creation of photo-realistic visualizations has become an integral part of the work of any architectural bureau. At the same time, the number of available tools is constantly growing – you can easily find articles on the Internet with titles like “Seven (twelve, twenty) best programs for architectural visualization”. But of particular interest is the possibility of using the same engines in design that were previously used only for creating video games and visual effects in movies.
The brilliant example is the Unreal 3D engine by Epic Games, the company-creator of the Gears of War and the Unreal Tournament. An Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney calls the Unreal Engine 4 a common language between different areas. For example, architects can teach video game developers to design 3D buildings, and at the same time borrow from them navigation techniques in a virtual environment for more efficient presentation of their objects.
The Advantages of Using UE for Architectural Projects
- Game engines offer completely new opportunities for the presentation of architectural objects. Creating architectural animations using standard software packages takes a lot of time, and they still often look raw and lifeless. And the drawings and static visualizations are not always able to convey the spatial characteristics of the building. But imagine that you can walk through this building and look into any corner of it. Or that the client chooses between interior finishes and can immediately compare several options in real time and under different lighting. It is in such scenarios that game engines can demonstrate their strengths.
- You will get a competitive advantage. Architects work in the world of structures and materials, and computer modelling is perceived as an intermediate link and reluctantly apply new tools. In particular, building information modelling (BIM) allows you to create a digital catalogue of all building elements before construction begins. But, despite the advantages of this approach, many firms still rely mainly on 2D drawings. As can be seen from the examples of works created with the help of the Unreal Engine 3D models, game engines help to reveal the nuances of lighting and movement, significantly improving the architectural “penetrations”. In addition, these three-dimensional spatial models make it possible to demonstrate all the details of the project before it is built.
- Architects now have the opportunity to use game engines for free. As already mentioned, the use of the Unreal Engine 4 game engine is now free – why is it not a good reason to try it out? On the official website and in specialized communities, many lessons and examples are available for working with the Unreal Engine 4. And as more and more architects use the engine, new scenes and objects available for study and use will appear in the network. In addition, Epic Games regularly distributes grants to developers, designers and visualizers who create learning resources for working with the Unreal Engine 4.
Where Can UE Be Used in Architecture and Design Otherwise
It is also not difficult to imagine other related areas that these technologies will be able to influence in the very near future. Here are some of them:
- Demonstration of residential and commercial real estate during the construction phase;
- Virtual showrooms for sellers of furniture and decoration materials;
- Reconstruction of cultural monuments and historical events;
A Little Bit Talk About How to Create 3D Models for Unreal Engine 4
While working on the project, architects and designers resort to such a presentation method as a 3D visualization. Most often, this is a static image obtained with the help of visualizers vRay, MentalRay, Corona and others. Among the best options – the famous Unreal Engine.
You can model and export objects in any 3D editor (3ds Max, Blender, Maya, etc.). It is desirable that the model has a good topology and is polygonised within reasonable limits (if we talk about interiors, the main objects such as a sofa, a bed, etc. should not exceed 100 thousand triangles, as this greatly affects the performance). It is better, of course, to do the re-topology of each model manually, but to achieve an acceptable result you can get by with automatic tools, programs, or plug-ins.
All models must have a scan, the smoother it will be, the better the texture will fall on it and, looking ahead, light with shadows that are previously considered in the Unreal Engine.
How to Use Unreal Engine 4 for Architecture
To build logic in UE4, the Blueprint node system is used. It replaces the need for programming but does not exclude the possibility of writing in C ++. This system allows the use of shaders that resemble the texture of the basic materials used in architecture and design, such as wood, metal, glass.
Another feature of how to use Unreal Engine 4 in architecture is the ability to build an interactive model. In practice, this appears as individual elements of the scene that have the ability to interact with the user. Opening the door in the room, turning on the light and other elements that simplify the interaction with the visualization in the end – all these are interactive parts built on the Unreal engine.
After you have built a 3D Unreal Engine architecture visualization model (be it a layout of a new architectural object or a 3d model of an apartment design), in the UE you can additionally use post-processing tools that are in the Post Process Volume block. There are many of them, and not all of them will be required for processing architectural models, but some may be useful for creating aesthetics and focusing on the specifics of the project. Examples of such tools:
- Vignette – darkening or lightening the edges of the frame
- Depth of Field – everything that is closer or further to the focusing distance gradually loses sharpness and is blurred.
- Bloom (Glow) – light obtained from bright light sources
- Lens Flare – reproduces the effect of the refraction of the sun’s rays in the camera lens
- Film – gives an animated noise, simulating a film camera.
As a result, you get a complete, original and detailed visualization with interactive elements, which is convenient to present to customers.