2001: A Space Odyssey - Sky Atmosphere, Nanite Moon - progress/issues


I started this project back when Sky Atmosphere was first introduced.
I created Earth and Moon at real scale and real distance from one another. The sun distance is faked.

The camera is behind the moon pointing toward earth. The atmosphere is very noisy.

I put this off for awhile to see if it would be improved in UE5. It seems the atmosphere still breaks up.

As a workaround, I’m attempting to miniaturize the existing work from Maya, and recreate at 0.01 scale of the original in hopes the atmosphere will avoid breaking up and I can maintain proper distance between the Earth/Moon and maintain my focal length.

It seems the miniaturized scale improves in terms of maintaining a cleaner looking atmosphere, although there still subtle pixelated noise:

However, now it seems the values on the atmosphere can’t really get close to the look/feel when the atmosphere is at it’s default 1-to-1 earth scale values.

Full scale atmosphere with default values:

0.01 scale atmosphere, with approximated values (I’m hoping I’m missing something here)…note the edge of the atmosphere being harsh, the color transition/shadowing missing:

It seems the atmosphere height with really small values (in my case, 0.5) completely loses all of it’s inherent beauty that it has at 60.

Same mini scale of earth (0.01 of real world scale) but with atmosphere height at 60. Note the very nice gradient to black as well as the nice color transitions into the shadowed side.

It seems as soon as values less than 60 are used, all the nice gradated elements begin to get harsher/lost.

A few questions to help me determine my best next step:

  1. Are there settings I’m failing to alter to improve the look of the miniature earth? I’m creating an earth that is 0.01 of real world scale in maya, and exporting in CM to Unreal.

  2. Are there suggested min/max scales of planets to not exceed in order to maintain proper atmosphere behavior?

  3. If the answer to the above 2 questions are both “no”, is my best bet to use real world earth/atmosphere and fake the moon scale/distance and camera distance?

I’m really hoping not to do #3 as I had recreated the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and modeled all the text to the focal length of the camera (that took into account the earth/moon distance) as I was aiming to do the intro entirely in viewport with all 3d elements. I have the project basically ready for proper texture/lighting if I can just get the atmosphere working. I even have the music/animation in there and done.

If I had to do #3, the problem is I matched pixel-for-pixel to the original film, every 3d letter and put them in 3D space… so changing focal length would mean the 3D text would no longer match up to the original films pixels.

I suppose I could turn the 3d text into simple 2D graphics and lay them over the scene but I was really set on doing it all “in camera” so to speak in 3D. Plus, getting all those 3d letters done and matching mostly to the original took some time and I’m hoping not to bake them down to 2d elements. I was also intending to do a camera fly through of the letters had it worked…

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


*The project isn’t texture/color correct (colors/textures are all in progress/placeholder… I really got hung up on the atmosphere it seems).

3 topics:
a. Atmosphere related - update on distance/focal length
b. Nanite/Normals - mesh darkens as normal intensity increases from 0
c. Virtual Textures - UDIM crashing on import/crashing on settings adjustments

a. Sky Atmosphere
I found a scale and distance I think I can work with. Half earth scale and atmosphere still looks decent.
Distance to moon is cut down to 1/10th of real distance.

While looking for a working distance and focal length…
It seems the atmosphere while not playing well with long distances in space also gets worse the further up from 35mm focal lengths. I found some distances where the atmosphere didn’t break up until I upped the focal length. Original pass was a focal length of about 180.

New build from scratch is working with 35 mm.

b. Nanite + Normal maps
Not sure if anyone has encountered this with Nanite. Does anyone have any experience with the normal map darkening a mesh?

Nanite mesh looks correctly lit/shadowed without normal map. Once normal map is added, any level of intensity (other than off) begins to shade the nanite mesh incorrectly. See below:
32 million poly moon. I’ve also tested on a 7 million poly moon.

Normal Map OFF - Above

Normal Map ON - Below

And to show it more extreme, below is normal intensity set to 2:

c. Virtual Textures - UDIM
Since I have to rebuild this project from scratch, I’m going ham on most steps over my previous pass. In addition to the nanite moon mesh at 32 million polys, its also got 50 UDIM tiles.

  1. At 50, 8k UDIM Normal maps, it crashes Unreal 9 out of 10 times upon import.
    The few times I’ve managed to get it to import, if I alter any settings like the Compression Settings or Filtering on the texture, it’s an instant crash.
    I’ve gone through trying multiple image formats, png, tga, bmp, psd. All same results or worse.
    I’ll double check if any are greater than 8bit and if so will make them 8bit and try again.

  2. I’ve toned down my normal map to 4k, but even at 4k it seems I can’t alter Compression or Filter settings of my UDIM textures, say even the Diffuse. I went to change the diffuse to sharpen 4 in the Filtering Settings on the diffuse map and it’s an instant crash of the engine, after pausing momentarily. At times the project will even refuse to relaunch without crashing.

Anyone have any experience going this absurd on the UDIM side of things? And know any workarounds potential fixes? If not, I’ll keep dumbing down texture res to see if that bypasses the crashes.


A few things resolved, normal issue and setting filter sharpen on diffuse:

Started from new, empty project.

Nanite moon on previous setup apparently had generate Lightmap UV’s on with previous import.
On new build, imported nanite moon with Generate Lightmap UV’s, ticked OFF.

8K textures converted to 4k
I was able to set diffuse filter to sharpen 4 without crashing.

50 udim textures at 8k seems beyond the point of functionality at the moment. I suppose if I really wanted, I could go back and make my moon 100 udims at 4k, if I really wanted the resolution I have to be kept. I think for now, though, I’ll stick with what I’ve got here with 50, 4k maps.

Normal OFF top, Normal ON bottom
After doing all this, my normal map works now and is not distorting the mesh/darkening it any longer.

Normal OFF top, Normal ON bottom

A new, harmless, problem:
On this new project setup I can’t rename/delete the “lambert1” that came in from the import process. If I try to delete it or rename it, it causes the engine/project to crash. For now, I’m just avoiding the “lambert1” material and making new mats.

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Update: In process of adding on screen text

1. The goal:
I’m attempting to use still images for the on screen credits of the opening.

This seems like it should be pretty straight forward/simple and I’m possibly mucking it up with my lack of blueprint knowledge.

I tried image plane plug-in… didn’t really figure out how to make it work.

Alternatively, I created a widget with animation on the visibility of each image and am attempting to attach it to the viewport camera.

2. The problem:
While the widget has animation, the animation does not play on level play, and instead one image is
stuck on screen the entire time.

  1. Examples

Widget with animation on each image:

Level Blueprint:

*Red arrow points to Widget that has images with animation keyed on visibility of each image

Text stuck on screen/not animated:

  1. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Can anyone possibly point out what I might be doing wrong?

  2. Alternatively, is there a way to show a widget in viewport without having to hit play on the level?


Since I couldn’t figure out how to get the UMG animation to play in viewport, I decided to take the time to complete the Blueprint Ninja challenge to make sure I had a grasp of how BluePrints work.

Even if you missed the challenge, if you’re like me and not very versed in Blueprints I highly recommend the courses in the Blueprint Ninja Challenge.

2001 update:
Upon returning to my 2001 project, it crashes upon a minute of being open during “Preparing Static Meshes”.
This is approximately the moment it crashes:

Unsure of the cause since it used to open fine, but maybe it’s the 30 million poly moon or related to 5 being unstable/beta.
I’ll probably rebuild in 4.27 with the intent to convert to 5 upon a more stable release… maybe.