Unreal designs

Epic Games' Unreal Engine gives Twinmotion its ability to handle rendering on the fly

Instead of berating your children about the amount of time they spend playing Fortnite and other games with awesome animations and rendering, consider how much the software used to create them is transforming our own industry. It's no coincidence either, as this summer Twinmotion became part of Epic Games, well known as the developer of both Fortnite and the real-time creation tool Unreal Engine. Twinmotion is already powered by Unreal Engine and was the subject of a recent Epic Games webinar called Fast architectural visualisation.

Real-time rendering allows architects to create their designs and view them instantly fully rendered, and then to edit the design and see the changes updated in real-time. It also enables animations and panoramas to be created in minutes instead of days, and plays a crucial role in creating virtual reality immersive experiences. Twinmotion is already regarded as one the better visualisation and rendering tools for architects and designers because of its simplicity of use, which doesn't compromise on its quality of output. It runs on both PCs and Macs and allows users to create stills, animations and immersive media experiences from CAD models.

Once you have created your design -either in ARCHICAD, Revit, SketchUp Pro, or RIKCAD - you can import it and synchronise it with Twinmotion, which enables any changes made to the original model to be instantly updated in your visualisations. Twinmotion comes with a large library of materials and other assets. Selecting one of the PBR (physically based rendering) materials or lights and dragging and dropping them into the model, together with their attributes - for example, the reflective characteristics of different materials or the luminescence of a light - adds veracity to the model. The Twinmotion library includes animated characters and vehicles, enabling you to populate scenes with moving characters, or to describe a path for a vehicle to follow in an animated scene.

Once the date and time of the original scene is set, you can change the seasons, and go from daytime to nighttime using a slider bar. Additional slider bars give you control over the weather, wind and precipitation, including leaf fall in the autumn and snow in winter. Pinning the model's location and orientation will also provide an accurate representation of shadows throughout the day.

The main advantage of Twinmotion, though, is the speed of Unreal Engine; its powerful processing capabilities lie behind its ability to produce rendering in real-time, and not just for the photorealistic rendering of preset scenes, but also its ability to provide immersive experiences, where users are able to navigate through buildings using Twinmotion, or the virtual reality capabilities in BIMmotion, which give users the ability to run Twinmotion visualisations without having to install it on their system, and to create 360 degree videos and panoramas.

In fact, the speed of Unreal Engine enables users to achieve great results in timescales that would simply not be possible using other tools. This includes adding animated people to a scene in just a couple of clicks or populating an entire forest of different tree species, randomly positioned using painting and sculpting tools.

In the same way that rendering used to be left to dedicated and powerful workstations, some architects used to specialise in the technology using complex software which both tested their skills and took time to learn. Twinmotion on the other hand is extremely easy to use, with architects claiming they are able to start producing professional results within a few days of practice with the software. This means that instead of using it merely to create renderings of the finished product, it can become part of the creative process.

Even at the earliest stages of a project Twinmotion can be used to stimulate ideas, switching from the very first flush of a 3D architectural concept to a rendered model with a few clicks, regardless of the size and complexity of the project, the materials, the user's IT knowledge or their preferred BIM modeler. Direct synchronisation with ARCHICAD allows users to move from the BIM model to a VR experience in just three clicks.

Its ease of use has no doubt help it gain an enthusiastic community of users, which has developed into some helpful YouTube training series-context-appropriate videos that show you how to develop visualisations without having to pore through lengthy user manuals.

Graphisoft has had a long association with Twinmotion, with the result that its prime architectural application, ARCHICAD, works seamlessly with the software. To celebrate the acquisition of Twinmotion by Epic Games, Graphisoft is providing users of the latest release of the software, ARCHICAD 23, with free access to Twinmotion and its state of the art rendering technology. As part of the agreement all qualifying ARCHICAD 23 license holders, having purchased their licenses anew or upgraded from earlier versions of ARCHICAD, are entitled to a matching number of fully functional licenses of Twinmotion free of charge. The offer coincides with the first release of Epic's upgraded software (due out round about now) and runs until the end of ARCHICAD 23's release cycle. Existing ARCHICAD customers are able to experiment with the currently free version of Twinmotion at www.unrealengine.com/twinmotion.

For users of other AEC applications, Epic Games has released another free update for Twinmotion which includes the new direct link with SketchUp Pro, together with an expanded pack of grass and flower assets.

Architectural Designer David Rieser at Scenario Architecture, who are ARCHICAD users and now also committed users of Twinmotion, says that "Being able to give the client a sense earlier on how the finished project will look has made a huge difference when it comes to getting the green light on designs. The fact that you're able to walk around a 3D environment that has all the materials and all the lighting effects means that sign off for the client is a lot easier.

"It's a very useful tool," he added, "even very early on when we just show everything in white. When you're just looking at the light and spatial quality, when no materials are in play, it's still a very useful."

The decision to adopt Twinmotion for visualisation is also having an effect on the number of clients coming through Scenario's doors. "It's hard to quantify because it's such an integral, organic part of our process, but we can say that it helps us bring in more clients with better projects," says Ran Ankory, Founder and Managing Director at Scenario. "We can no longer imagine working without it."

Cementing the new relationship between Epic Games and Twinmotion, Marc Petit, General Manager, Unreal Engine, Epic Games, said "The same Unreal Engine that powers the world's most popular video game, Fortnite, has been part of Twinmotion for years. We are now very excited to work with Graphisoft to promote the use of real-time visualisation solutions to help architects and designers visually communicate. The simplicity of the Twinmotion user interface and the power of Unreal Engine to deliver real-time effects is unmatched in the industry."

This was endorsed by Huw Roberts, Graphisoft's CEO: "Real-time rendering is indeed the next big thing in photorealistic visualisation. To bring this cutting-edge technology to the AEC space, we couldn't find a better partner than Epic Games! ARCHICAD 23 customers will benefit from an unparalleled immersive experience when creating and sharing their architectural designs."