As you read this, V-Ray for Unreal has entered public beta, and it’s available on our website for you to try out. We’d like to give you an introduction to its capabilities, what this new product is all about, where it is right now, and what we are working on.
V-Ray for Unreal enables editable, real-time access to some V-Ray features right inside Unreal Editor. These include the standard, flexible V-Ray Material, the domelight, the V-Ray Physical Camera, and V-Ray Proxies.
And what would one do with all of this if not produce a beautiful photorealistic render?
That’s right, V-Ray GPU is integrated as the rendering engine in its hybrid form, ready to unleash your graphic card’s power along with all of your CPU cores on ray tracing jobs, without the limitations of a real-time engine. Your scene will look exactly as it did when rendered in your digital content creation application of choice if you so desire.
Ok, but why?
A few users requested we add features to Unreal Engine to improve their workflows.
There are a few scene translators on the market already. However, none of these offer a two-way data trip. By leveraging the .vrscene format, we allow for a single archive to be used in multiple applications, either with identical results or with the desired changes at each iteration. Unreal Engine now becomes another such option, with the added bonus of very good real-time visualization.
We also have scene baking — another hot user request.
So, what does it do?
In an ideal case, a properly set-up “offline” scene can simply be exported to our .vrscene format and imported into Unreal Engine with our plugin. Materials and nodes are automatically converted for real-time display while the scene setup remains faithful to the original through the .vrscene file. This means shaders not supported for real-time editing will still render as intended. What instead gets properly converted can be edited, the changes incremental to the original exported scene, and set up for real-time visualization. At any time in the editing process, an “offline” hybrid-powered render can be launched right from the Unreal Editor.
Is there anything it doesn’t do?
We’re still working on light baking, which will come in a later beta. It also will not automatically process your DCC scene to get it ready for light baking: you will have to ensure your UV sets are correct for Unreal Engine through the use of other tools, pertaining to your DCC application of choice such as UV-UnWrappers or UV-Channel compactors. It will not render Unreal shaders directly. However we already have our PBR variants available, and you can finesse the look-development within UE, re-assigning V-Ray shaders as you please. Because we can’t exactly translate all shader types from the DCC app into a real-time version, it’s up to the user, following our guidelines, to ensure maximum portability of the DCC scene to the real-time Engine, by choosing which shaders and maps to use, so they can be translated correctly into the Unreal Editor.
There are a few goals we’ve yet to achieve, some will happen sooner than others. We need to optimize the pipeline and functionalities of the two-way communication between .vrscene files and Unreal Editor, and extend features where needed between DCC host, scene file format, and the Unreal Editor Plugin.
The product will provide a viable pathway to real-time content which may need a photoreal render, or high-quality, high-performance light baking. Finessing the paths to these two goals, while maintaining flexibility, lowering manual labor, and reducing the error rate at the time of real-time display should provide us with many a late evening in the coming months.
You are all welcome to join our journey!
Should I try this, then?
Most definitely so!
First and foremost: it’s great fun! Once one gets the transfer and lighting baking done (a couple of clicks and depending on scene type, a wait), navigating the scene is quite literally hilarious: used as I was to long waits for renders, I found myself giggling with excitement as I hid under a chair, or surveyed a kitchen like a cat atop the fridge. I’m sure that even a less silly user than I would find some measure of satisfaction in the exercise.
Unreal Engine is as free as they come, and so is this beta of V-Ray for it: all you need to do is grab both. We’ll also throw in a complimentary DR node, so you can wring the neck of another workstation in your office while rendering.
We need your feedback!
We're eager to hear all you have to say about V-Ray for Unreal. While this requires some effort on your side, one guaranteed return for each of the active participants will be the chance to shape the product towards their specific needs.
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