Twinmotion breaks out of the box with a bridge to UE4

For more than a decade, Twinmotion has been offering an easy-to-learn and use solution for real-time architectural visualization. Two years ago, they switched their underlying engine to Unreal Engine. “When we decided to change our engine, we quickly saw that Unreal Engine was the most suitable solution on the market,” Twinmotion Product Manager Martin Krasemann tells us. 

“Unreal Engine is the most popular real-time engine in non-gaming industries, from car manufacturing to technology innovation in movies. It’s an amazing tool, capable of handling huge datasets and offering users unlimited possibilities, high-quality rendering, and—especially—a real-time environment,” he explains.

Lead Developer Manuel Veit agrees: “The Unreal Engine is a game changer,” he says. “With the engine, we have access to all the cutting-edge rendering technologies alongside a very solid development framework. Now we can bring Twinmotion to a higher level both in terms of performance and image quality.”

“Unreal also introduced us to a PBR (physically-based rendering) workflow which considerably enhanced the quality of our materials,” adds Lead Artist Fabrice Picou. “It’s the first time that I can work with a real-time gaming engine and produce photorealistic renders or real-time immersive VR experiences for architecture.”

Twinmotion leverages the power of Unreal Engine while adding a user-friendly UI, an integrated library containing thousands of assets, and specially designed architecture-related features—such as a weather system that lets you switch from a beautiful summer day to a winter snowstorm in two clicks, and the ability to easily add digital humans that will travel along specified paths.

A dynamic link with Revit and ARCHICAD drastically simplifies the architect’s workflow by retrieving all of the BIM information from the source software, and automatically replacing the basic billboards with Twinmotion 3D animated objects. Users can make changes to the model or materials in the source software, and see those changes immediately in Twinmotion.

The simplicity of the interface means that architects can get high-quality results very quickly, and with a low investment in learning. However, if they want to take their designs further into more complex simulations and visualizations, they were previously stuck.

At this year’s Autodesk University held in Las Vegas (November 19–21, 2018), Twinmotion demonstrated a technology preview of a bridge to UE4, an initiative they’d first announced at SIGGRAPH 2017. The bridge will enable architects to use Twinmotion as a quick prototyping tool, and then continue working on their designs in Unreal Engine or Unreal Studio, moving beyond the limits of Twinmotion. 

Unique in Twinmotion’s market space, this feature removes the frustrating “black-box” nature of competitive solutions, which blocks users from moving beyond the restricted range of features provided in the software. With the whole universe of possibilities of Unreal Engine to explore, Twinmotion customers can now truly differentiate their interactive or VR experience.

“Having Unreal running on the back is an amazing plus,” says Krasemann. “Users will have access to options that Twinmotion doesn’t have, such as baking lights or adding interactions, such as an opening door,” says Krasemann. “They can tell a different story inside Unreal.”

When asked about availability, Twinmotion told us that the feature is still under development and is planned to be released next summer. We look forward to it!

Want to see where your Twinmotion projects could end up after they cross the bridge? Find out about the free beta of Unreal Studio, our suite of tools and services packaged around Unreal Engine with a focus on non-games industries like architecture, product design, manufacturing, and film and video.

Optim leverages the power of Datasmith to take the pain out of data-prep

As a company that has been using Unreal Engine to create AR, VR, and mobile experiences for a wide variety of clients for over four years, Theia Interactive knows a thing or two about data import and preparation.

“We’ve struggled through all the basic optimization challenges that we know our fellow enterprise customers share.” says CTO and Co-founder Stephen Phillips. “Bringing in huge datasets, getting rid of the junk, merging objects that don’t need to be exploded, instancing repeated meshes, creating LODs for high-poly assets, replacing materials, reorganizing a scene—the list goes on.”

With the advent of Unreal Studio and Datasmith in March 2018, the gap between CAD packages and Unreal Engine was effectively bridged, but there remains a significant amount of work to get architectural and engineering data to be as performant and clean as possible. Fortunately, much of that work is repeatable, lending itself to automation. 

“In the last year, Epic has really opened up the potential of the editor by making it 100% scriptable in Python,” say Phillips. “That means that people like us can start to write simple code to automate things like an import process, or common tasks like generating and deleting UVs.” 

The technical crew at Theia began compiling the company’s most common optimization workflows into repeatable scripts. But in order to make them more accessible to the artists and generalists that made up most of their team members, they decided to create a graphical interface that made it easy to assemble these automated tasks based on rules and parameters for any new project—with no coding required. 

“It very soon became clear that this was a product we could develop and license to other teams like ours” says Phillips. “And Optim was born. The number of hours saved has already stacked up internally, and we know it will be a game-changer for so many customers.” 
 

Optim uses Datasmith’s 20+ format support to get high-fidelity data out of those core applications. Epic has focused their technical skills on accurately bringing over metadata, converting materials to Unreal Engine, and dealing with a wide range of data-prep issues. Optim builds on that base to simplify the optimization process. 

With Optim, you can analyze your Datasmith and CAD files before you import them into Unreal Engine, saving you from having to load the full, heavy level and then hunt through bloated lists of content or complicated 3D scenes for items that require optimizations or edits. You can see the actor list, sort by triangle counts and other metadata, and set up optimization rules based on all these factors.

Some examples of things that you could automate with Optim are:

  • Skip the import of any meshes with names containing a certain string
  • Create LODs for any mesh larger than a given number of triangles
  • Instance any mesh with a particular name
  • Merge everything with a particular property under a single group
  • Replace all materials by name with existing materials from the Content Browser

“Optim demonstrates what anyone can do with the building blocks we’ve created with Datasmith and our work integrating Python in Unreal Engine,” says Ken Pimentel, Sr. Product Manager at Epic Games. “Theia has been quick to take advantage of these new capabilities in order to create highly simplified interfaces to manage a process. We have built this incredible platform and now we’re seeing the first fruit of how third-parties are taking advantage of it.”

Because Optim is developed in lock-step with Unreal Studio, it can immediately take advantage of new features as they are released. “When Epic solves hard problems like defeaturing and jacketing for complicated CAD models, or supporting new file formats, we are there to make a useful GUI and give you powerful controls for how to apply those optimizations and features to your whole project.” says Phillips. “We’re leveraging the power of Python and Unreal’s growing set of capabilities to automate existing workflows and save teams a lot of headaches in terms of time and skill wasted.” 

Theia intends to start selling Optim as a subscription in early 2019. But for those who can’t wait to get their hands on it, they’re currently accepting applications for alpha testers at theia.io/optim

If you’re not already enjoying the advantages of Unreal Studio’s connected workflows and the open platform on which its built, join the free beta today.

Featured Free Marketplace Content – January 2019

In partnership with Unreal Engine Marketplace creators, each month select content will be available for free to the UE4 community to give artists, designers and programmers even more resources at no additional cost.

Check out the new content available this month!

January’s Featured Free Content:

Autumn Audio Bundle – Hutvarev

A collection of 236 SFX, including footsteps, rain, lockpicking and more

Interactive Open World Foliage – Project Nature

Dynamic foliage to fill your environmental scenes, with minimal performance impact

Small Animal Behavior Pack: Rabbit, Squirrel, Rat – Living Systems

Drag and drop, interactive animals with enemy avoidance

SDF Robo Progress Bars – Krystian Komisarek

An advanced master material for creating customized progress bars

Stylized Desert Environment – Bad Rhino Games

A collection of over 46 stylized desert plants and props

New Permanently Free Content:

Ancient Treasures – Dekogon Studios 

A collection of ancient gold, treasures and relics

FX Variety Pack – Kakky

A variety of more than 20 unique magic FX

Industry Props Pack 06 – SilverTM

A collection of props to decorate industrial environments

Download this round of free assets before they’re gone! More free content will be available in February, so be sure to check back.

Are you a Marketplace creator interested in having your content featured for free to the community? Visit unrealengine.com/uesponsoredcontent.
 

Enterprise sizzle reel highlights projects across automotive, aviation, architecture, film, and television

As the year comes to a close, Epic Games is happy to showcase the Enterprise Winter 2018 Sizzle Reel, a montage of some of the best Unreal Engine projects across automotive, aviation, architecture, film, and television. 
 

The reel includes popular h…