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Unreal Engine and NVIDIA: from one generation to another

Square/Enix presents the fictional city of Midgar in Final Fantasy VII Remake at a cinematic level of detail. Epic fortnite bathes its surroundings in ray-traced sunlight, simulating the way light bounces around in the real world. And Lucasfilm artists have revolutionized virtual production techniques in The Mandalorian, using synchronized NVIDIA RTX GPUs to drive pixels on LED walls that act as photorealistic backdrops.

In the eight years since Epic Games launched Unreal Engine 4, graphics have evolved at an unprecedented rate. UE4’s advancements in worldbuilding, animation, lighting, and simulation have allowed creators to bring to life environments only hinted at in the past.

At the same time, NVIDIA produced the optimal GPUs, libraries, and APIs to support the new features introduced by the engine. Tens of thousands of developers have experienced the benefits of combining Unreal Engine with NVIDIA technology. This support continues with the debut of Unreal Engine 5 today.

Epic and NVIDIA: Building the Future of Graphics

From the launch of the GeForce GTX 680 in 2012 to the recent release of the RTX 30 series, NVIDIA has supported UE4 developers in their quest to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

At the 2013 Game Developers Conference, Epic showed what Unreal Engine 4 could do on a single GTX 680 with its “Infiltrator” demo. This would be one of the many times Unreal Engine and NVIDIA have raised the bar.

In 2015, NVIDIA Founder and CEO Jensen Huang appeared as a surprise guest at an Epic Games event to announce the GTX TITAN X. On stage, Tim Sweeney received the first-ever GTX TITAN X release from the production line. It’s a moment in the history of technology that is still talked about today.

At GDC 2018, the developer community got their first taste of real-time ray tracing running in UE4 with the reveal of “Reflections,” a short Star Wars video. The results were so compelling, you would have been forgiven for thinking the clip was ripped straight from a JJ Abrams movie.

Textured area lights, ray-traced area light shadows, reflections, and cinematic depth of field all combined to create a sequence that redefined what was possible with real-time graphics. It was presented on an NVIDIA DGX workstation powered by four Volta architecture GPUs.

Later that year at GamesCom, that same demo was shown running on a consumer-grade GeForce RTX graphics card, thanks to the Turing architecture’s RT cores, which dramatically accelerate ray-tracing performance.

In 2019, Unreal Engine released a short film called “Troll” (by Goodbye Kansas and Deep Forest Films), running on a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. It showed what could be done with soft shadows and complex highlights. The short broke ground by rendering compelling human faces in real time, capturing a wide range of emotional states.

Epic and NVIDIA sponsored three episodes of the DXR Spotlight contest, which showed that even one-person teams can achieve remarkable results with DXR, Unreal Engine 4, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX.

One of the standouts was “Attack from Outer Space,” a video demo developed solely by artist Christian Hecht.

Today, Epic is launching Unreal Engine 5. This launch introduces Nanite and Lumen, which allow developers to create games and applications containing massive amounts of geometric detail with fully dynamic global illumination.

Nanite allows cinematic-quality source art consisting of billions of polygons to be imported directly into the Unreal Engine, while maintaining a real-time frame rate and without sacrificing fidelity.

With Lumen, developers can create more dynamic scenes where indirect lighting adapts on the fly, like changing the angle of the sun with the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or opening an exterior door. Lumen removes the need to create lightmap UVs, wait for lightmaps to bake, or place reflection captures, resulting in crucial time savings in the development process.

NVIDIA supports Unreal Engine 5 with plug-ins for key technologies including Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), NVIDIA Reflex, and RTX Global Illumination.

DLSS harnesses the power of a deep learning neural network to increase frame rates and generate beautiful, crisp images. Reflex aligns the CPU’s work so that it completes just in time for the GPU to begin processing, minimizing latency and improving system responsiveness. RTX Global illumination calculates multi-bounce indirect illumination without baking time, light leaks, or high costs per frame.

You can see DLSS and Reflex in action on Unreal Engine 5 while playing Epic’s Fortnite on an NVIDIA GeForce RTX powered PC.

NVIDIA Ominiverse is the perfect companion to the next generation Unreal Engine. The platform allows artists and developers to connect their 3D design tools for more collaborative workflows, create their own tools for 3D worlds, and use NVIDIA AI technologies. The Unreal Engine connector allows creators and developers to perform live synchronization workflows between Omniverse and Unreal Engine. This connector will energize the art pipeline of any game developer.

Learn more about NVIDIA technologies for Unreal Engine 5.