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Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 5.1

New release increases efficiency and versatility across industries, and includes enhanced world-building tools; animation, rigging, and modeling enhancements; and updates for virtual production, broadcast, live events.

It's big, and it's here... Epic Games has just released a new UE5 update, Unreal Engine 5.1, featuring a slew of new and enhanced features, making it more efficient and versatile across industries and applicable to more sectors.

Check out what’s new:

Lumen, Nanite, and Virtual Shadow Maps updates:

The following new features support games and experiences running at 60 fps on next-gen consoles and capable PCs, enabling fast-paced games and detailed simulations to run without latency.

  • The Lumen dynamic global illumination and reflections system
  • The Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry system. In addition, Nanite’s update includes a Programmable Rasterizer allowing for material-driven animations and deformations via World Position Offset and opacity masks so artists can program specific objects’ behavior, for example, Nanite-based foliage with leaves blowing in the wind.
  • Virtual Shadow Maps (VSM) support games and experiences running at 60 fps on next-gen consoles and capable PCs, enabling fast-paced games and detailed simulations to run without latency.

Increased developer efficiency:

This release adds features to improve efficiency for developers of games and other large-scale interactive projects.

  • Virtual Assets decoupled the metadata from the object data, enabling developers to sync only what is needed from source control systems such as Perforce, resulting in smaller workspaces and faster syncs for developers who don’t need access to the full object data. Initially, this feature will support textures and audio assets, with plans to add more types.
  • Pipeline State Object (PSO) caching for DX12 is now automated, simplifying the process needed to prepare a game for shipping in DX12.
  • On-demand shader compilation will benefit users – where only the shaders needed to render what is seen on screen while working in the Unreal Editor and optionally during platform development iteration—are compiled, yielding time savings and increased interactivity.

Enhanced world-building tools

UE5.1 includes enhanced tools for building open worlds with additional functionality and improved workflows.

  • World Partition now supports Large World Coordinates, enabling the creation of massive open worlds without loss of precision. In addition, with accelerated source control workflows, users will find their experience around managing, filtering, searching, and viewing files, and changelists improved. It is also now easier to find content in the world from within user changelists and vice versa.
  • New HLOD (Hierarchical Level of Detail) support for water rendering and streaming allows for creating large water bodies in open worlds with better performance and a smaller memory footprint.

Updates for virtual production, broadcast, and live events

Unreal Engine 5.1 improves performance and usability for in-camera VFX workflows that apply to broadcast and live event spaces.

Enhancements for stage operators:

  • New dedicated In-Camera VFX Editor that supports a range of workflows tailored to their tasks. The panel features an improved Light Card system that presents a preview of the nDisplay wall and the light cards, enabling operators to create, move, and edit light cards and save templates.
  • Color Correction Windows (CCWs) enable adjustments to be applied exclusively to anything behind them and the ability to apply color corrections per Actor, reducing the need for complex masking.
  • New Media Plate Actor allows users to drag and drop footage from the Content Browser while allowing for playback of uncompressed EXRs both in Engine and with nDisplay with the appropriate SSD RAID.
  • VCam has been overhauled and now utilizes Epic’s Pixel Streaming technology for improved responsiveness, reliability, and an updated UI with a modern camera-focused design.

Animation, rigging, and modeling enhancements:

Unreal Engine’s built-in rigging, animation authoring, and modeling toolsets in this release reduce the need for round-tripping with DCC applications.

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Now in Beta, the Machine Learning (ML) Deformer allows for creating high-fidelity approximations of complex proprietary rigs—or any arbitrary deformation—using a custom Maya plugin to train a machine learning model, which runs in real-time in Unreal Engine. Other character deformation improvements include enhancements to the Deformer Graph Editor for easier graph creation and editing.
  • Control Rig continues to expand toward fully procedural rigging with updates to the core framework, including a new Construction Event that enables users to generate rig hierarchies via a graph and Custom User Events for creating and triggering rig events such as “Snap FK to IK.”  With these updates, users can automate rig creation for characters with different skeletal proportions and properties.
  • Sequencer, Unreal Engine’s multi-track nonlinear animation editor, has been extended with support for constraints and by exposing additional functionality through Blueprint and Python scripting. In addition, UI/UX is refactored for increased stability and extensibility and to improve animation authoring and editing workflows.
  • Geometry tools now include functions for Geometry Scripting, UV Editor improvements to handle more complex assets, and additional mesh editing and creation tools.

Audio system enhancements for professional interactive sound:

  • MetaSounds updates include additional node types, support for various multichannel output formats, and the new ability to show feedback on real-time node connections.
  • The New Soundscape plugin is for procedural ambient sound generation.

AI toolset:

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools introduced in UE 5.0 move from Experimental status: Smart Objects and State Tree to Production-Ready, and MassEntity to Beta.

  • MassEntity, a gameplay-focused framework for data-oriented calculations, enables users to efficiently populate large-scale worlds and create crowds with tens of thousands of believable AI agents. This release delivers UX improvements, CPU performance gains, and memory usage optimizations. In addition, the MassEntity processors are now automatically multithreaded.
  • Smart Objects has received general stability and workflow improvements, making it more convenient to set up Smart Object Definitions. Additionally, these objects are placed in a level that AI Agents and Players can interact with - these objects contain all the information needed for those interactions.
  • State Tree is a general-purpose hierarchical state machine that combines the Selectors from behavior trees with States and Transitions from state machines, enabling the creation of highly performant logic that stays flexible and organized.
  • Actor and Blueprint-centric workflows have improved for increased flexibility, modularity, and memory optimizations.

More information is available here.

Source: Epic Games

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.