Epic Games releases Unreal Studio 4.20
Epic Games has released Unreal Studio 4.20, the latest version of its real-time visualisation platform, adding support for new iterative workflows, and the option to edit geometry directly in the Static Mesh Editor.
The update also makes it possible to import SketchUp scenes and materials in Nvidia’s MDL format. Users with Plus licences get support for DeltaGen and VRED scenes, and for the AxF material format.
A more streamlined way to import CAD data into Unreal Engine for visualisation
Launched earlier this year, and still currently in beta, Unreal Studio is intended to provide architects and designers with a more user-friendly way to import assets into Unreal Engine for visualisation.
As well as Unreal Engine itself, the platform consists of Datasmith, Epic Games’ toolset for importing 3ds Max scenes and CAD data, and a set of readymade materials.
Support for iterative, non-destructive data import and mesh fixes directly inside Datasmith
New features in Unreal Studio 4.20 include new iterative workflows when importing assets via Datasmith.
Changes made to a scene in Unreal Editor are now retained on re-importing data, removing the need to keep making adjustments manually every time an asset is updated externally.
The changes are stored as overrides, and may be rolled back sequentially.
It is also now possible to make minor edits to imported assets inside Datasmith’s Static Mesh Editor, rather than having to go back to an external CAD application.
The toolset is designed for fixing common mesh errors, and is currently very small: at the minute, you can only delete or flip faces, or assign new materials to them.
Import support for SketchUp, VRED and DeltaGen scenes, and MDL and AxF materials
Pipeline changes include a new Datasmith Exporter plugin for SketchUp, which works in the same way as its 3ds Max counterpart, converting a SketchUp scene into a format that can be rendered inside Unreal Engine.
Both the SketchUp and 3ds Max exporters now export per-object metadata, which can be accessed inside Unreal Engine via Blueprints or Python scripts. Some CAD importers also now bring in per-object metadata.
Datasmith Plus licensees also get experimental importers for scenes created in VRED and DeltaGen. You can find a full list of CAD software and file formats supported here.
Workflow improvements and new features from Unreal Engine 4.20
Workflow changes include the ability to drag and drop content imported into a Datasmith Scene Asset directly from the Content Browser into a level inside Unreal Editor.
It is also now possible to create an Unreal Studio Project from any C++ or Blueprint template rather than the presets provided; and to customise the Datasmith import process using Python or Blueprints.
Users can also now reimport static meshes derived from CAD scenes, adjusting tessellation settings on an individual basis; and import geometry elements as custom collision meshes.
There are also a number of new features in Unreal Engine 4.20 itself, released alongside the update to Unreal Studio, that will be relevant to visualisation work.
These include support for rectangular area lights, a new Cinematic DOF mode, updates to ProxyLOD, and the new nDisplay toolset for output to CAVE and PowerWall displays.
Pricing and availability
Unreal Studio is available as a free open beta. The beta is scheduled to run until 1 November 2018, after which it will become a subscription-only service, priced at $49/month, but billed as an annual subscription.
Unlike Unreal Engine itself, the EULA doesn’t require you to give Epic a cut of the revenues of any commercial products you create with it, provided that they’re non-interactive, like rendered animation.
Datasmith runs on Windows 7+ only. The Unreal Engine editor runs on Windows 10, macOS 10.13.5 or Linux.