Dissecting Koola’s UE4 Archviz Magic

If you’re into Archviz stuff, it’s likely you did not get around seeing some of Koola’s recent work in Unreal Engine 4, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Realtime Architectural Visualization – some of it heavily inspired by Alex Roman’s outstanding The Third & The Seventh (rendered with V-Ray) from 2009.

 

After attracting quite some attention in his WIP thread, Koola prepared a little interior Demo Scene (inspired by the Chiyodanomori Dental Clinic by Hironaka Ogawa) for the Community to peek into his way of setting up a 3D Scene. The Environment was finally released yesterday on the Engine’s own Marketplace and is availiable for free – I highly recommend checking it out if you’re using UE4.

So I didn’t have too much time yet to take a look at every little detail, but a thing that immediately caught my eye was the way Koola used the Postprocessing Capabilites of UE4 to polish the overall look of the Scene – obviously, besides optimizing the static GI calculation, a good Postprocessing is key to achieving good results.

This is also one of the core strenghts of UE4, which allows in-depth realtime Postproduction work like Color Correction (LUT import), Bloom, CA Fringing, Vignette, Motion Blur, Depth of Field and more. Sidenote: As Mike Fricker, TD of Epic just announced in the weekly twitch Broadcast, OpenEXR support will be introduced with the upcoming Release of Unreal Engine 4.5 to offer VFX pipeline support for working in Nuke etc.

To give an impression of how much Post Effects are part of a good result, I made a little .GIF with a breakdown of Koola’s Demo Scene (Click to view full size):

Koola Breakdown 01

I think it’s striking how big the impact of the last two Postproduction Steps are to the perceived quality. Koola states that he uses a custom LUT he made in Photoshop, which is the central element of his Post-Work on his scenes. A breakdown of the way LUTs work in UE4 and how to set them up in Photoshop can be found here.

Additionally, here’s the way he sets up indirect lighting with up to 7 manually placed bounce lights & cards:

Koola_Breakdown_Indirect_Lighting_01

Here are some of the changes he did for another of his Testcenes in the BaseLightmass.ini – also make sure to set the Light Build Quality inside the Editor to “Production” and set the Engine Scalability Settings to maximum Quality :

[DevOptions.StaticLightingProductionQuality]
NumShadowRaysScale=32
NumPenumbraShadowRaysScale=64
ApproximateHighResTexelsPerMaxTransitionDistanceScale=9
MinDistanceFieldUpsampleFactor=7
NumHemisphereSamplesScale=64
NumImportanceSearchPhotonsScale=6
NumDirectPhotonsScale=32
DirectPhotonSearchDistanceScale=.5
NumIndirectPhotonPathsScale=32
NumIndirectPhotonsScale=64
NumIndirectIrradiancePhotonsScale=32
RecordRadiusScaleScale=.45
InterpolationMaxAngleScale=.75
IrradianceCacheSmoothFactor=.75
NumAdaptiveRefinementLevels=3
AdaptiveBrightnessThresholdScale=.25
AdaptiveFirstBouncePhotonConeAngleScale=2.5

Takeaway

So the condensed takeway so far for me is:

  • From a technical standpoint, the final perceived quality heavily depends on
    • Quality of Model/Architecture, Textures & Materials
    • Quality of Lighting / Global Illumination
    • Quality of Perspective (Chosen Viewing Angle) & Postprocessing

I’m looking forward into getting my head more into UE4, soon 🙂

//Update: Until then, here’s some more inspirational UE4 Work by other very talented people:

Benoît Dereau

Alden Filion, Former Level Artist at DICE, LA

Rafael Reis, Minas 3D, UE4arch.com

Alexis De Bosscher aka dbalex, BOCO Studio

//Update, January 2016: Here’s also a helpful article describing the technique to fake area lights with bouncecards like Koola does: https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/simulating-area-lights-in-ue4

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25 thoughts on “Dissecting Koola’s UE4 Archviz Magic

    • Thanks, Joshua! The OpenEXR feature was just announced for UE 4.5 and is not availiable yet – I used the built-in Screenshot functionality of the UE4 Editor wich allows supersampling the Editor’s viewport Resolution, allowing 4K Resolution and higher – I then put together the animated GIF in Photoshop and saved it in a web-friendly resolution 😉

      Like

  1. Hey Moritz,
    Great article, well analyzed. I´ve following Koola´s thread and inspired me to get into Unreal 4. Using his tweaks and methods, this are my results, please check it out and share your opinion with me:

    It´s not ArchViz, mora a game scenario, but it´s funny as hell to work on Unreal!

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    • Thanks, Javier! Koola is my main inspiration for taking a closer look at UE4, too 🙂
      Your scene looks great! I have to contradict though, the way you work with cameras and set up your tracking shots is very filmic and so in my eyes indeed more ArchViz-related than gamelike 😉
      Some small improvements you could make: The front DoF-Blur at 0:23 makes the red blocking things really ugly, first I thought they were really lowres in texture and missing any specular details, but I guess it’s just the DoF which unfortunately doesn’t work too well with front blur in UE4… Also, the Focus pull at 0:40 doesn’t work for me – way to abrupt / glitchy. Some textures at the front of the Airplane (probably Air intakes, also the KLM Logo slightly) could be improved resolutionwise. Other than that, looks really good – keep it up 🙂

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  2. Hi Moritz, thanks for your dissection of this amazing project!

    I have a couple of questions, regarding image 5 and 6, would you please clarify how Basic Tint is applied, and can can you tell me something more about Crush Shadows and CA Fringe?

    Thanks for your time 🙂

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  3. Thanks a lot! You comments are welcome! I agree with Dof problems, seems that near objects over a blurred background find big problems.

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  4. My question is can I download it free? or I have to be a member in the market forum?? is there any direct link to the scene??

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    • Yes, it’s free for UE4 subscribers and no, there’s no direct link because its downloaded via the UE4 launcher in the market place section.

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  5. Hi Thanks for the breakdown;I’m an Arch Viz guy so I know how to achieve all of the effects through MAX / Vray / Photoshop but I’d really like to get into the game/realtime walthrough scene explanation thing ; but have never touched a game engine. Any tips on where to pick up a tutorial for a complete newbie to game engines to create a playable walk-through for arch viz?..(textures and lighting will come later)..
    Any pointers would be gratefully accepted..

    Like

    • Hi Keith,

      I don’t have a recipe and haven’t used UE4 much myself yet, but being a 3D Artist I think it’s not too hard to get first results in UE4.
      Get yourself a subscription (now free as a student via the github student developer pack) or just pay one monthly fee and then stop your subscription – you will be able to continue using the tools)
      Read the WIP threads in the official forum, there’s a lot to take away from, for example Koola’s thread where he explains a lot of techniques he uses. And then learning by doing! Don’t be afraid to just play around. Also, there’s tons of official UE4 tutorials by epic on their Unreal Engine Youtube Channel.

      Like

  6. Hey moritzw
    Thanks for the great tips and tricks.
    I’ve got one question for you. What are render times for the scene on your machine ?

    Like

    • Hi Lucas,

      as you probably know, this is a Unreal Engine 4 realtime Scene, so it instantly renders at a decent framerate, depending on your graphics card.
      If you mean the light building pre-calculation, it took 1m 55s at production quality on my i7 2600k.

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  7. Thank you for the quick answer moritzw. I just started to experiment with it and with 1024×1024 it takes a lot of time to render 🙂 Thats why I wanted to ask you if it is something wrong or does it take this much time.
    Here is a test scene that I’ve done Today. Wanted to test out some soft shadows and ect.
    [IMG]http://i59.tinypic.com/2h54661.jpg[/IMG]

    Like

    • Looking good, though!

      What exactly takes long, and what do you mean with 1024×1024? Lightmap Resolution? I guess you’re talking about the Light Building Time then.

      Maybe consider restudying Koolas comments in his WIP thread linked in the beginning of the article. He also posted his lightmass.ini settings there. Also take a good look at his Lightroom Sample Scene available in the Marketplace. He never uses 1024 as Lightmap size, the maximum value is 512 and this is only the floor – everything else is even way smaller, like 256 or even 128!

      For additional tweaking, also recheck the “Static Lighting Level Scale” in the Lightmass World Settings – you can waste a lot of render time here if you go (I think) too low. Koolas Setting is 1.

      Since I didn’t bake many lightmaps yet myself, these are only my guesses. I don’t think I can give more advice than that right now 😉 Good luck!

      Like

  8. Pingback: Visual Development by Epic Games in UE4 | Moritz Weller CGI & Photography

  9. Hey Moritzw,

    So I’ve made this one. I learned a lot and thanks to your blog it was a bit easier to make 🙂
    Let me know what you think.
    Thanks!
    Lucas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Lucas,

      glad to hear that you could take something away from my thoughts in my blog! I already stumbled upon your video on Facebook. I think you did a great job on the lighting part and the mood! For me personally, the mouse-walktrough alone is not a great way to show off an archmodel via video, because the viewer isn’t controlling the demo himself. I would recommend setting up a “cinematic experience” within matinee and carefully choose angles, tracking shots and focus points. That way you also can output 2k and even 4k video (for youtube and/or still extraction) without the problem of lag while using mouse input.
      Also, I miss some more specular reflections, there are some here and there, but in walkthrough mode, its just too easy to miss them because the viewer doesn’t know where to concentrate his attention (since he is not the one controlling the walkthrough). But either way, this looks like high quality work! 🙂

      Like

  10. Thank you Moritzw,
    I will have to learn to use the matinee. I think I will start right away 😉
    Yes specular is not on the floor or is really small.
    I will let you know when the film is done.
    I hope the next one will be better 😀

    Like

  11. Pingback: Artists at the Forefront: Koola | Sashi G Game Art

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