Unreal Engine 4.16 Released
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by richard@volcanicgames.com
3 hours ago

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Unreal Engine 4.16 Released
24 May, 2017
News
The new version of the engine gives access to new rendering and animation features, lightweight rigid body and low level cloth simulation. Plus it supports Nintendo Switch & lets you play with Volumetric Fog. Let’s go over the biggest features.

Volumetric Fog

Create incredible ambience and mood in your environments using the new Volumetric Fog! Varying densities are supported so you can simulate clouds of dust or smoke flowing through light shafts, and any number of lights can affect the Volumetric Fog.

Volumetric Fog supports lighting from:

  • A single Directional Light, with shadowing from Cascaded Shadow Maps or static shadowing, with a Light Function
  • Any number of point and spot lights, with dynamic or static shadowing if ‘Cast Volumetric Shadow’ is enabled
  • A single Skylight, with shadowing from Distance Field Ambient Occlusion if enabled
  • Particle Lights, if ‘Volumetric Scattering Intensity’ is greater than 0

You can use Materials applied to Particle Systems to control Volumetric Fog with the new Volume Domain setting. A single particle with a Volume Material causes a sphere of density to be added to the Volumetric Fog. The effect is fully 3D with no billboards involved. Multiple spherical fog particles with noise from textures can be used to limit fog to a certain area.

More info on this feature can be found here.

Opacity and Opacity Mask for Material Flattening

We have added support for baking out opacity (mask) values when using the Actor Merge Tool or Hierarchical LOD system. The resulting (instanced) material uses your configured blend mode to ensure it follows the correct render path.

Improved Mesh Paint Tool

The mesh painting system has been overhauled to improve usability and clarity, and to allow for reusing the functionality in other parts of the Editor.

Detect Material on Mesh Surfaces

We’ve added a new ‘Get Material From Face Index’ function for Components which enables you to retrieve the Material applied to a Component after performing a (complex) Line Trace. This is supported for Static Meshes, Procedural Mesh Components, and BSP.

Improved Color Grading Tool

The Color Grading user interface is improved to make it easier to use!

  • A new HSV mode was added.
  • You can now dynamically change the min/max value of the sliders depending on their type using Ctrl+Slider Drag.
  • A new reset button was added to reset a whole color grading category. (i.e Global, Shadows, Midtones, Highlights)

Image-Based (FFT) Convolution for Bloom

Create physically-realistic bloom post-process effects using the new image-based (FFT) convolution feature! Unreal Engine 4.16 ships with a FFT Bloom that empowers artists to use custom bloom kernel shapes, with total control over the intensity in order to match the results they imagine.

 By using a mathematical convolution of the source image with a kernel image, this bloom technique can produce a continuum of responses ranging from star-like bursts to diffuse glowing regions. The additional realism generated by the image-based convolution is the result of its ability to use visually interesting, non-symmetric kernel images. It generally looks like a star-burst with radial streaks, but could include eyelash silhouettes, bokeh or other artifacts.

Create physically-realistic bloom post-process effects using the new image-based (FFT) convolution feature! Unreal Engine 4.16 ships with a FFT Bloom that empowers artists to use custom bloom kernel shapes, with total control over the intensity in order to match the results they imagine.

By using a mathematical convolution of the source image with a kernel image, this bloom technique can produce a continuum of responses ranging from star-like bursts to diffuse glowing regions. The additional realism generated by the image-based convolution is the result of its ability to use visually interesting, non-symmetric kernel images. It generally looks like a star-burst with radial streaks, but could include eyelash silhouettes, bokeh or other artifacts.

Distance Field Lighting Optimizations

Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and Ray Traced Distance Field Shadows are now 30-50% faster on current generation consoles and mid-spec PC! These features allow for more realistic ambient lighting and area shadows on dynamic meshes in your scene.

 In addition, static mesh Distance Field Generation is 2.5 times faster, thanks to acceleration from Intel’s Embree ray tracing library. Memory usage is also significantly reduced when enabling the Eight Bit Mesh Distance Fields and Compress Mesh Distance Fields project settings.

Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and Ray Traced Distance Field Shadows are now 30-50% faster on current generation consoles and mid-spec PC! These features allow for more realistic ambient lighting and area shadows on dynamic meshes in your scene.

In addition, static mesh Distance Field Generation is 2.5 times faster, thanks to acceleration from Intel’s Embree ray tracing library. Memory usage is also significantly reduced when enabling the Eight Bit Mesh Distance Fields and Compress Mesh Distance Fields project settings.

Lightweight Rigid Body Simulation

Create hordes of physically-simulated characters with the new lightweight rigid body character simulation! You can now simulate a Physics Asset inside your Animation Blueprint using a new high-performance immediate mode PhysX API. Characters using this simulation can also generate collision with static geometry in the world.

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Low-level Clothing Simulation

Gain more control over clothing simulations using the new low-level NVIDIA NvCloth clothing solver! The APEX clothing solver was replaced with a lower level solution called NvCloth from NVIDIA. The new solver is similar to the core solver of the previous APEX solution with few slight behavior changes, and it provides better access to the simulation data and extra exposed parameters for inertia settings.

HTML5 Support for WebAssembly and WebGL 2

Unreal Engine 4 now supports the new WebAssembly standard (also known as WASM) for HTML5, the fastest and most efficient way to compile and run C++ for the web! We are using Mozilla’s latest Emscripten toolchain (v1.37.9). This is a new technology and not supported on all browsers, so it is considered an Early Access feature, and requires GitHub access.

WASM is a new JavaScript code-to-binary format for Web apps that reduces app download size, startup times, memory consumption, and provides a big performance boost. For more details on WASM and browser support, head over to http://webassembly.org/.

UE 4.16 also adds support for WebGL 2.0 which is based on OpenGL ES 3.0 and provides more optimal rendering performance, increased visual fidelity, and support for more rendering features, including:

  • Most features of UE4’s high-end mobile feature level
  • Instanced Geometry Drawing for particles and foliage
  • Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
  • Texture features such as 3D or volume textures, 2D array textures, and no more non-power-of-two texture restrictions

WASM and WebGL 2.0 are supported by Firefox 52 and Chrome 57 or later (64-bit recommended). Note there appears to be a bug in Chrome 58 on Windows that is causing out-of-memory errors in some cases. We are working with Google to get this issue resolved. Please see UE-44727 for the latest status on this issue.

You can enable WASM and WebGL 2.0 in the Emscripten section of the HTML5 Project Settings. If you require the broadest browser support possible, continue to use ASM.js and WebGL 1. Support for ASM.js and WebGL 1 will be deprecated in an upcoming engine release, and then removed afterwards (exact timing is dependent on additional browser support).

Try out Zen Garden on HTML5 to see these benefits first-hand in your own Firefox or Chrome browser (supported versions listed above).

It’s just the tip of the iceberg. As usual, Unreal Engine 4 release notes are huge. Check them all out over here and share your favorite bits in the comments.

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