And yet, it’s still more real than Tucker Carlson’s workshop
Could’ve fooled me.
Reminds me of this, still the best CG I’ve ever seen, many years later: The Third & The Seventh on Vimeo
I’m amazed at what an enormous difference the improvement in lighting has had on video game engine realism. You could have had some highly detailed and carefully textured models before this point, but scenes were inevitably let down by the lighting. (And I have to say, Unreal appear to really be ahead of everyone else in this. Unity is the obvious competitor, striving for the same kind of realism, but they’ve largely left light rendering tools to third party developers who apparently, reading their complaints on Twitter, struggle with poor documentation and support.)
Also, I continue to be amazed by how fast everything is - when I first played with 3D graphics in the '90s, it took an absurd amount of time to render a single frame of ray-traced scenery. (Or even non-ray-traced scenery.) Now it’s real-time. You can have interactive, moving objects in there, and the light still looks just as real. Granted, some “tricks” are involved to make it faster, so it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but what matters is the outcome and that’s also a hell of a lot better quality, too.
And the really amazing bit is that was pre-rendered, taking who knows how long to produce each frame, all of which went through probably significant post-processing to look like that, and now it can pretty much be done in real-time.
The reflections of light on the worn, shiny surfaces of that jack plane were especially beautiful.
Thanks for posting this. Lovely bit of filmmaking. Apart from the obviously impossible shots, I would have sworn it was all practical.
Yah, lighting was the last thing to get better by leaps and bounds, because it’s by far the most expensive, and GPUs haven’t been much help. For the first two decades, we had to get by with vertex lighting and static light maps for the most part. With pixel shaders we got ambient occlusion and dynamic speculars, among other things. Now with hardware accelerated ray tracing though, the game (pardon the pun) is changing completely. Light is by nature dynamic, and until now GPUs have derived all their speed by having aggressively precalculated one-way pipelines. You can’t sample the scene, only push to it. There’s where all the speed came from. So unless you want to compute dynamic lighting on the CPU in system RAM (both slow and expensive), there wasn’t much you could do. GPUs have been necessarily “fire and forget” architectures (because they are DSPs at their core) but that is finally changing.
Every time I see a plane like that I have the urge to turn it on its side. The threats made by my woodwork teacher must have stuck.
But this time no tools were harmed. Yay!
It’s amazing even just to see the leaps just in the current gen of game engines to Unreal 5. Current GPU lightmap generation is pretty fast and pretty good, but the systems in the next version of Unreal are insane. You can just start throwing some things together and boom, instant gorgeous volumetric lightmaps. I was already blown away by the improvements to rendering and light mapping before this point - I recollect how long it took to render the light map for early 3D games that only had a few thousand polys in a level (and how chunky and basic the results were) - but this is a leap even beyond that.
I don’t remotely possess the math and programming knowledge to understand it all on a technical level, but in between Unreal’s Lumen and Nanite polygon wrangling tech, I can’t even grasp a general overview of how they work.
I can see why a lot of studios are dropping even their home-brew game engines in favor of Unreal 5. (E.g. CD Projekt with REDengine, even after all the effort and resources they just put into it. And I got the impression that at one point their volumetric light map tech was fairly cutting edge.)
The tech is definitely part of it, but it’s mostly cost. For 20 years, every AAA game has reinvented the wheel from scratch for virtually every game. It was viewed as competitive advantage, and also just because engineers like to build things from scratch. However that means development times were getting longer and longer, while teams got bigger and bigger, all while prices remain flat. That’s not sustainable. When you have to pay 40 engineers and 150 artists for five years to mostly build the same shooter you did five years ago, something like Unreal starts to look pretty good.
Well that’s certainly been the driver for licensing engines since the '90s - but what I’m seeing right now is studios dropping their existing engines (either other licenses or in-house engines that they just spent a lot of money upgrading) specifically in favor of Unreal because the “Lumen” and “Nanite” tech are such game-changers. (And yeah, part of that is not wanting to spend more money to further modernize their engines for the next generation of games,* but part is the inability to match the specific feature set with existing engines, too. Unreal’s approach to polygon wrangling with “Nanite,” if it plays out as promised, looks to greatly simplify the static mesh art pipeline, which should also decrease costs while looking amazing. There’s nothing else remotely like it, at the moment.)
*Helped by Epic’s increasingly generous terms for licensing Unreal - it’s infinitely more accessible than it was 15 years ago.
Check out Tucker Carlson’s filthy, dusty skull full of unused brain matter.
Good discussions of the state of gaming and the use of lighting, particularly ray tracing in real time. This video is just a gorgeous example of what can be done. Like a few others, I played around with ray tracing software back in the early 90’s, and one image using the tech took hours (days, depending on complexity) to generate. But it was clear that was the direction graphics would eventually go, once the horsepower in computers caught up.
It’s caught up. I’m out of date on my tech knowledge so can’t really contribute on what’s happening in the industry these days, but I’m blown away by the realization of what we dreamed about only thirty years ago. Can’t wait to see what comes next.
This runs both ways – the other day I saw a beautifully rendered picture of a lake with light raindrops, and I was marvelling at the detail in the rain drop effects. Turned out it was a photo. Not sure why my brain went to “rendered” immediately, but that’s going to be happening more often until the distinction isn’t even something that can be learned.
So the creator says in their first YouTube comment that it took them 50 hours to render. Does that mean that despite Unreal Engine being a video game engine this is an entirely static scene or is that some sort of pre-render that could then be used in an interactive video game setting?
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