Over the past several years, Unreal Engine has become a big name in the interactive and immersive industry. Although originally developed for creating video games, it’s now seeing adoption in fields like broadcast, live events, and virtual production for its high quality real-time rendering capabilities, flexibility, and low barrier to entry (among other features). This has led to a surge in interest from the interactive and immersive industry, where more people are beginning to learn and adopt the software into their own workflow. In this article, we’ll take a look at some awesome Unreal Engine resources that immersive developers and artists interested in the software should check out.
Epic Games, the creators of Unreal Engine, have done a fantastic job creating a very thorough set of resources for the platform, ranging from traditional documentation to tutorials and online courses. There are a number of pages within the Unreal Engine website where you can find these resources, and we’ll start off with the most familiar: the official documentation page!
A Resource You’ll Visit Often: The Unreal Engine Docs
What better place to look for information about any and all topics related to Unreal than the official documentation? Thankfully, for such a complex piece of software, the Unreal Engine documentation is a fantastic and thorough resource. Far from just a collection of technical information, the documentation is also a learning tool, including articles covering the basics of using the software to more advanced techniques. Along with the learning content, the Unreal documentation still includes the reference information you’d expect — there are full references for the C++, Blueprint, and Python APIs. In the next few sections, we’ll take a look at some resources from the Docs that might be useful for Immersive Developers.
Note: at the time of writing, the most current release of Unreal Engine is 5.2, so all links to documentation will be for that version. That said, the documentation has a dropdown menu for easily switching between versions of the docs, so in the future, you’ll be able to see the updated versions of these pages for 5.3 and beyond.
From the Unreal Engine Docs: Testing and Optimizing Your Content
If you’ve ever worked on an interactive installation before (regardless of whether it was a commercial project or personal project), you’ll know all about how important testing and optimization is to delivering a successful project. Within the Unreal documentation is not just a page on testing and optimization, but an entire section! You’ll find all kinds of useful info that can help you get your project running efficiently. From debugging tools, commands for viewing statistics, to tracking down timing issues at a granular level, this section gives a great overview to the testing and optimization tools you’ll have at your disposal.
From the Unreal Engine Docs: Engine Feature Examples – DMX Previs
This next resource comes from the Engine Feature Examples, found within the Samples and Tutorials section of the documentation. As described on the page, “Engine Feature Examples are projects and asset packs that illustrate different engine feature sets. They may be small stand-alone examples, like in the Content Examples project, or larger showcases for a particular visual style or scene”.
The DMX Previs sample may be of particular interest to interactive and immersive artists and developers. It was created in collaboration with famed immersive studio Moment Factory (https://momentfactory.com/) and features a fully animated light show situated in a stadium-like environment, complete with a complex lighting rig modeled after real-world setups. The sample was built in part to showcase the possibilities of the DMX Plugin, which was added in December 2020 with version 4.26. You can read more about the development in this spotlight from the Unreal website (highly recommended!): https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/spotlights/moment-factory-collaborates-with-epic-on-live-event-previs-dmx-sample-project-available-now
The article and sample point to a future where Unreal Engine may itself be used as a control source for lighting systems during live events. Since the article’s publishing in 2021, the team have continued to expand the feature set of the DMX plugin. Very exciting stuff!
Cutting Edge Research and Field Guides: Guides and White Papers
At first glance, you might think you’ve landed on the wrong page — compared to the other pages on the website, there’s not an image or video to be seen. Not to worry, though! Despite its spartan appearance the Guides & White Papers page contains some very interesting resources. Here you can find the latest information about research being conducted with Unreal, as well as the very useful Field Guides, which are a book-like collection of resources for specific industries. The Broadcast & Live Events Field Guide (https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/broadcast-live-events-field-guide) may be of particular interest to immersive developers as it goes into detail about how real-time workflows with Unreal are being implemented for live events (concerts, installations, and more) and broadcasts (sports, esports, weather reports, and more).
In-Depth Tutorials and Courses: Learning Library for Unreal Engine
Along with the documentation, Epic also provides another very useful resource within their own site called the Learning Library. The Learning Library is where you can find tutorials and online courses about Unreal Engine, made both by Epic Games themselves and Unreal community members. A wide variety of content has been catalogued and can be easily filtered based on type, industry, category and even language! Types of content include tutorials, courses, talks & demos, livestreams, and learning paths. And it’s not just limited to game-focused content either, Epic has released many high quality courses covering everything from photogrammetry to using Unreal for architecture.
Previews of Latest Updates and More: Unreal YouTube Channel
The Unreal Engine YouTube channel is another great place for keeping up with the latest goings on with the software. Much of the channel’s content focuses on highlighting new additions to Unreal Engine as well as real-world applications of the tool. You’ll find great and inspiring examples of impressive final projects, demonstrations of new features to the software, as well as talks and lectures from industry events like GDC or SIGGRAPH. It’s worth noting that some of the content found on the YouTube page is cross-posted to the learning library, but you may that the playlists found on the YouTube page make certain content easier to find. For example, you can view a playlist of all content from the GDC conference this year on the Unreal Engine account page, whereas it’s a little more difficult to do so in the learning library.
If you’re reading this article at time of release, a number of Unreal-focused talks were given at SIGGRAPH ’23 which concluded on 10 August. It’s likely that the recordings will be released to the YouTube page at some point in the near future, so it’s worth checking back soon!
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Have Questions? Check the Unreal Engine Forum
Have a question that you can’t find the answer to? With its large user base, it’s likely that either someone has asked a similar question or knows the answer! The forum is a great place to research and ask more specific questions that you may not be able to solve via the documentation or other resources we’ve looked at. Whether you’ve got questions about the industry as a whole or specific technical issues that you’re trying to solve, there’s likely a relevant category to post in.
Along with all of the above resources, the News & Events page on the Unreal website (https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/feed) is another great place to check out all of the latest happenings in the Unreal extended universe. It’s also another place where immersive developers and artists will find inspirational content, especially the Spotlight and Interview articles. For example, a recent article titled Immersive storytelling: empowering the next generation of XR entrepreneurs (https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/spotlights/immersive-storytelling-empowering-the-next-generation-of-xr-entrepreneurs) showcases the introduction of a series of courses focused on teaching Virtual Production in conjunction with foundational Unreal Engine knowledge and integration of VR technology.
Learning Unreal Engine is no small task, but thankfully Epic Games have put in some serious effort in trying to make the platform accessible, creating a wide variety of resources that provide new and seasoned users alike with a solid knowledge base. We hope you’ll find this resource guide helpful as you begin navigating your own learning journey of the Unreal Engine platform!