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Just Released Unreal Engine 5.1 Update Targets M&E Professionals

Enhancements in the latest version include a host of improvements and additions to toolsets specific to the animation and VFX industries’ needs.

With the recent release of Unreal Engine 5.1 and the explosive growth in adoption of Unreal Engine over the last two years by media and entertainment professionals, Epic continues to expand its efforts to make its toolset more extensive, robust, and accessible.

With the release this week of UE5.1, here are some updates and enhancements particularly relevant to the media and entertainment space:

Enhanced support for stage operations

Stage operators working in the fast-paced environment of an LED stage will appreciate the new dedicated In-Camera VFX Editor that supports a range of workflows specifically tailored to their tasks.

  • New dedicated In-Camera VFX Editor 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. They also retain their shape on the wall, eliminating distortion.
  • 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. CCW is key to blending the LED wall and the physical set and fine-tuning the content on the LED wall.
  • 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.

Improved Media Plate workflows and EXR playback

Unreal Engine 5.1’s new Media Plate Actor enables users to:

  • Drag and drop footage from the Content Browser
  • Play back mipmapped and tiled uncompressed EXRs both in Engine and with nDisplay with the appropriate SSD RAID.
  • The ability to convert EXRs to the correct format for optimum playback.

VCam overhaul

Unreal Engine’s virtual camera system overhaul includes a new underlying framework that utilizes Epic’s Pixel Streaming technology for improved responsiveness and reliability and an updated UI with a modern camera-focused design that will be more familiar to camera operators. In addition, the ability to convert EXRs to the correct format for optimum playback is now available.

Improved DMX workflows

The enhanced integration of Unreal Engine into the larger DMX ecosystem now supports the MVR format, including fixtures, plots, and patches. In addition, Unreal Engine and a lighting console can synchronize when sharing DMX data. Finally, the improved Pixel Mapping system UX supports the increasing complexity of driving DMX lighting fixtures from Unreal Engine content data.

Lighting enhancements - Lumen

  • The Lumen dynamic global illumination and reflections system now offers initial support for nDisplay.
  • Lumen now adapts to indirect lighting when users change the sun’s angle, adjust lights, or position bounce cards. For example, previously, these changes would have required a baking step that could pause production and interrupt the creative flow.
  • GPU Lightmass improvements include support for Sky Atmosphere, stationary Sky Lights, and light features such as IES profiles and Rect Light textures.

Animation and rigging enhancements

Unreal Engine 5.1 has improved the built-in animation authoring toolset for animated content – especially of characters.

  • Now in Beta, the Machine Learning (ML) Deformer generates high-fidelity approximations of nonlinear deformers, complex proprietary rigs, or any arbitrary deformation by using a custom Maya plugin to train a machine learning model, which in turn runs in real-time in Unreal Engine - enabling the simulation of film-quality deformations, such as flexing muscles, bulging veins, and sliding skin.
  • Deformer Graph Editor enhancements offer easier graph creation and editing.
  • Control Rig continues to expand toward fully procedural rigging, increasing the impact and scalability of rigging teams.
  • Core framework updates include 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 including Position, Rotation, and Look-at. As a result, users can create and animate relationships between any Control Rig or Actors. For example, making a camera always follow a character; keeping a character’s hands on a steering wheel; animating a clown juggling balls; or constraining a cowboy’s hips so that he sits naturally in the saddle as the horse moves while his hands hold the reins.
  • Sequencer’s functionality has also 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.

For more information on UE5.1 and updates on new features and enhancements for media and entertainment workflows, check out the release notes here.

Source: Epic Games

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.