Amazing UE4 VFX from China (with Tutorial!)

During a recent binge-watching of Youtube I found a VFX reel that absolutely blew my mind. Far from anything I’ve ever seen in realtime VFX’s I was worried my brain might have short-circuited a fuse in amazement. With the unnamed Chinese artist shrouded in mystery I decided I must look deeper, to my surprise found an amazingly detailed 3 hour video-tutorial, available only for those with a little Chinese know-how.

Since my days of working with Unreal Engine 3, I was blown away when I discovered what an amazing improvement Unreal Engine 4 is. Everything from blueprints, constructor scripts, deferred lighting to PBR workflow made me feel like it was a brand new engine, until I opened up Unreal’s particle editor, Cascade…

Unlike my previous amazement, Cascade was the exact same mess I remembered doing my first Unreal VFX 10 years ago! The new black color-scheme did little to hide the fact that it’s the exact same tool with the same bugs still present. I was considering buying stocks in Apple, until I realized I’ve not traveled back in time, I’m still actually in 2016. Epic just hasn’t made much improvement to their particle editor.

What HAS happened however in the last 10 years is the vast improvement from the artists using the tool. I could show no better example of this than this VFX reel I found on Youtube, demonstrating some of the best realtime VFX’s I’ve ever seen.

Although I can pause this video at any time and reverse-engineer how a particular element was most likely made, if I attempt to do so at full-speed my mind just explodes of over-stimulation. I realized I MUST know more about these effects and its genius artist. With the uploader silent and anonymous I didn’t have my hopes high, but to my surprise my Chinese friend managed to dig up a 3 hour video-tutorial! It’s ridiculously difficult to find and requires a bit of knowledge how to log into Chinese services, hence I decided to share this knowledge for all to enjoy. Click to check it out!

Is UE4 Distributed Rendering Worth It?

There are countless tutorials how to set up UE4 (Unreal Engine 4) to distrubute lightmaps tasks across a network, but I wasn’t interested in the ‘how’. I wanted to know if it’s even worth all the hassles associated with DR (Distributed Rendering). My curiosity got the best of me so I dove in to find out!

After a life of experiments with buggy DR’s my question was “should I even bother?”. The time I’ve previously spent troubleshooting mysteriously idle render machines has by a hundred-fold exceeded the time I’ve gained from its marginally faster renders.

My results have been disappointing regardless of software (primarily I’ve used Mental Ray and V-Ray) yet one little fact made me wish to give UE4’s DR a try. Despite having frequently complained about poor documentation for the Unreal Engine, I must admit I’ve never once been disappointing with the software. Despite DR probably being a low priority feature, I had a feeling Epic might leave me jaw-dropped impressed as usual. I was not wrong.  Click to see the results of my Swarm/Lightmass Distributed Rendering.

High-Res UE4 Screenshots without Crash

One of the great things about GPU rendering is how insanely fast you can render high resolution. While rendering things like lightmaps with GI is still time-consuming and resource-hungry, the actual 3d rendering is near resolution-independent. Do you want to render at 4 times your usual resolution for a print? As long as you have an extra spare couple of seconds, you’re in luck!

Unlike most engines, in UE4 (Unreal Engine 4) taking a high-res screenshots needs neither custom code, plug-ins or even memorizing command-line syntax. Simply use Epic’s provided ‘High Resolution Screenshots Tool’.

There is only one little problem…

Al thought the tool is programmed flawlessly (as is the case with all of Epic’s tools), you may run into a problem from another source. With hardware accelerated 3d being primarily developed for realtime graphics, your graphics card assumes you desire to run a smooth frame-rate. When your ridiculously detailed screenshot is taking forever to render, your graphics card assumes a bug and terminate the process.

Al though 2 seconds may be an eternity in a world of 60 fps gaming, it’s nothing for rendering still images. Coming from CPU offline rendering where a single image render can be an overnight process, 2 or even 100 seconds is less than it takes me to go fill my cup of water.

Luckily I found there is a way to tell your well-meaning computer to take a chill-pill. To bump up its default panic mode threshold of 2 seconds into whatever value you desire. After setting mine to a glorious 40 seconds, I can now save screenshots at an arousing 15360 by 8640 pixels (including buffer visualization targets). I find this to be the ultimate resolution as it down-samples perfectly into 8k (my ideal editing resolution). So what’s the secret to taking high resolution screenshot without crashing? Click to find out!