Epic Games, ILMxLAB, NVIDIA Demonstrate New Real-Time Ray Tracing In Unreal Engine 4

Interactive demo makes use of ARKit as a virtual camera.

During today’s “State of Unreal” session at the Game Developers Conference, Epic Games took to the stage to demonstrate a new real-time ray tracing feature in the Unreal Engine.

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In what is a collaboration between Epic Games, Nvidia and ILMxLAB, the Unreal Engine and the new real-time ray tracing feature allowed for the creation of an experimental cinematic demo using Star Wars characters and a range of hardware including Apple’s ARKit. The demo is powered by Nvidia’s RTX technology for Volta GPUs, available via Microsoft’s DirectX Ray Tracing API (DXR) with an iPad running ARKit to act as a virtual camera and draw focus to the fine details in up-close views. All of this is possible thanks to the collaboration between the three companies, with breath taking results.

With real-time interaction included in the demo, the lighting is able to be moved around the scene with the real-time ray tracing working out the shadows and photorealistic reflections in real-time as well. The result is a stunning image quality with highly reflective surfaces and soft shadows, never before seen at such a high level of fidelity in the Unreal Engine let alone in real-time.

Epic Games Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney commented on the collaboration by saying: “Ray tracing is a rendering process typically only associated with high-end offline renderers and hours and hours of computer processing time, film-quality ray tracing in real time is an Unreal Engine first. This is an exciting new development for the media and entertainment linear content worlds—and any markets that require photorealistic visualization.”

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Epic Games dedicated graphics and engine team have worked with Nvidia’s world-class ray tracing experts and the technical ingenuity and creative of ILMxLAB to bring this solution to life. By using Nvidia’s RTX technology along with the DXR API, running on a Nvidia DGX Station, the real-time and interactive demonstration was made a reality. The full set of next-generation rendering features shown in the demo include:

  • Textured area lights
  • Ray-traced area light shadows
  • Ray-traced reflections
  • Ray-traced ambient occlusion
  • Cinematic depth of field (DOF)
  • NVIDIA GameWorks ray tracing denoising

Mohen Leo, ILMxLAB Director of Content and Platform Strategy, added: “At ILMxLAB, our mission is to create real-time rendered immersive experiences that let audiences step into our stories and connect with cinematic universes that look and feel as real as the ones on the movie screen. With the real-time ray-tracing technology that Epic and Nvidia are pioneering, we are a pivotal step closer to that goal,”

Considered to be the holy grail for high-end cinematic imagery, real-time ray tracing is a big leap forward for the Unreal Engine and for content creators, foreshadowing a shift in film making. Epic Games plan to make the support for NVIDIA RTX technology using the DXR API available to Unreal Engine developers later this year, opening the doors to real-time ray tracing for all.

Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at NVIDIA also commented on the project by saying: “Real-time ray tracing has been a dream of the graphics and visualization industry for years.  It’s been thrilling to work with the talented teams at Epic and ILMxLAB on this stunning real-time ray tracing demonstration, with the use of NVIDIA RTX technology, Volta GPUs and the new DXR API from Microsoft, the teams have been able to develop something truly amazing, that shows that the era of real-time ray tracing is finally here.”

ILMxLAB have of course being working closely with Epic Games for some time now having used the Unreal Engine 4 to power the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire which was created in partnership with The Void. Unreal Engine 4 also revealed it is now supporting the Magic Leap then the developer SDK was announced this week at the Game Developer Conference.

VRFocus will be bringing you all the latest from the Game Developer Conference throughout the week so stay tuned for more.

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