Wednesday, June 12th, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

Dash 1.7 lets you grow plants on any 3D model in Unreal Engine

Polygonflow has updated Dash, its world building toolset for Unreal Engine 5.

Dash 1.7 is a major release, adding a new vines tool for growing vegetation procedurally across any 3D model, a new Blend material and an instant color grading system.

The update also makes it possible to tag assets automatically using the GPT-4 AI model, and extends Dash’s object scattering toolset.

A new name for Polygonflow’s GraphN Library, minus GraphN itself
Released in 2023, Dash is a rebranded version of the library of Unreal Engine 5 tools that used to accompany GraphN, Polygonflow’s now-discontinued node-based programming environment for Maya and Unreal Engine.

It is intended to let artists to build complex environments without having to navigate the Unreal Editor’s interface, working primarily in fullscreen mode in the viewport.

It provides readymade behaviours – accessible by typing natural-language search terms into a floating prompt bar – for common scene-building tasks like ‘create terrain’ and ‘apply water’, plus scattering tools for dressing environments.

As well as game development, Dash can be used for offline work: for example to create animations, visual effects projects or architectural visualizations in Unreal Engine.

Dash 1.7: new vines tool generates procedural vegetation across any 3D model
Dash 1.7 adds a lot of new features to the software, but the most eye-catching is Create Vines on Selection, for growing 3D vegetation procedurally across any surface.

Despite the name, it isn’t confined to growing vines, since you can use texture atlases from the Megascans asset library – free for use in UE5 – to customize the leaf type.

The basic workflow will be familiar to anyone who has used an ivy generator such as the ones available for 3ds Max and Blender, with users able to control the form of the vegetation by adjusting parameters for growth, surface adhesion and gravity.

New Blend material and automatic color grading system
Other new features include the Blend material, which makes it possible to create custom ground surfaces by blending from three source surfaces.

Polygonflow describes is as being a ‘lite’ version of Quixel Mixer, blending the surface color, height map and noise settings from the sources.

There is also a new Image to Grading system, which makes it possible to color grade the viewport display to match a reference image: either a local file, or a URL.

In addition, Dash now includes a library of IES profiles for recreating real-world lights in architectural visualizations, based on free online libraries like IES Library.

Updates to the scattering tools, including support for 3D scattering
The scattering toolset has also been expanded, with the new Volume Scatter tool making it possible to scatter objects in 3D, as well as over surfaces.

It is possible to use any mesh as the scatter volume, as shown in the video above, where a blobby mesh is used as a volume within which to distribute a flock of birds.

The 2D scattering tools get the option to use any landscape paint layer as a mask, and the randomize the colors of the scattered objects.

Automatic AI-based object tagging
In addition, Dash 1.7 makes it possible to tag assets within a user’s Asset Library automatically using Open AI’s GPT-4 AI model.

AI tagging was originally introduced in Dash 1.5, but Polygonflow describes the original open-source AI model it was using as “fairly limited in quality and speed”.

The new GPT-based system uses a ChatGPT Enterprise plan, so OpenAI cannot use Dash users’ data for training its AI models.

When tagging assets manually, it is now possible to multi-select objects.

Other workflow improvements
Workflow improvements include a new Reference system, which supersedes the old Variables system for controlling shared properties used by Dash tools.

It is also now possible to export assets and all of their dependencies from an Unreal Engine project as .zip archives.

Other key changes since we last wrote about Dash include the option to use assets from multiple UE5 projects in an environment, which was added in Dash 1.6.

Price and system requirements
Dash is compatible with Unreal Engine 5+ on Windows only.

Perpetual licenses cost $230, and are available to artists earning under $250,000/year.

Freelance subscriptions, for artists and studios with revenue under $250,000/year, cost $20/month or $190/year. Enterprise plans now cost $89/month or $850/year.

Read a full list of new features in Dash 1.7 in the online release notes

Read more about Dash on Polygonflow’s website

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