Virtual production is here to stay, and it's building steam.
After the release of Unreal Engine 5 (early access) and two of its primary features, Nanite and Lumen, the tool continues to grow.
Over the last year or so, a term that was once elusive has nearly become part of mainstream filmmaking vernacular, virtual production. This is definitely in no short order because of the work being done on Unreal Engine 5 (which has now been released in early access).
As someone who holds the standard practice of filmmaking very sacred, there was a brief period where this shift caused some slight friction for me mentally, and it took me some time to understand what it meant. Then I saw what they achieved on The Mandalorian, and as is probably the case with most, I changed my tune. Over the last year, the prospect of virtual production and the impact it will hold on the filmmaking process has become clearer and clearer.
It's here to stay, and just about everyone I know is talking about it.
So, what is so special about Unreal Engine 5, and what does it mean for filmmakers like you and me?
In the above video, pay attention to what happens to the lighting in the scene when various pieces of furniture are deleted. Bounced light changes, it becomes softer, and colors change.
This is the new Lumen system at work. Lumen is a real-time dynamic global illumination system introduced in UE5.
Previously, most of the lighting done in Unreal was with baked static lightmaps. This meant that the lighting couldn't really change from scene to scene without some more advanced trickery, and bounced light was faked or augmented and wasn't very realistic.
Now, imagine what that could mean for placing virtual bounce materials or using virtual flags for negative fill. Not to mention it just looks a hundred times better.
Nanite is an all-new geometry system (virtualized micropolygon geometry) that allows you to use essentially any model or level-of-detail (LOD) that you want without bogging down your scene—and for the most part, your computer.
This is obviously fantastic as you can load in basically any CG asset you want without worrying about poly-count budgets and maxing out your VRAM. Nanite will only use the geometry it needs to to get your desired effect at any time. It's super impressive.
These new things paired with Metahuman (Epic Games photoreal human character creator) are making Unreal 5 kind of a "must-learn" tool as near as I can tell, even if you just want to use it for pre-vis purposes. I know I'm certainly watching all the tutorials I can get my hands on.
What are you most excited about in Unreal? Tell us in the comments.