Looking for a good place to start Graphics Development

I just grabbed a UE4 license for personal use, and I am looking to improve my graphics skills by implementing or improving some physically based rendering algorithms. I have little interest in making a full game at this time. I am not familiar with Unreal, but it seems like a good place to start would be to use one of the pre-existing projects and start getting my hands dirty. Does anyone have any recommendations on which project to start with? I was thinking of kicking off with shooter game.

Any other tips or advice would be appreciated :).

If your going to change the render you need to download the source from GitHub and work with that. For a project start, if your working on the renderer just start with a sphere. That’s pretty advanced stuff though, and I really question that someone who understands the engineering would all ready not know where to start.

If you are talking about making materials. I’d still suggest starting with a sphere and putting the material on it but you probably don’t need to build from source. There is a material Editor with a graph that you can work with visually.

Once I finish doing my profiling and some optimization work I will focus on rendering as well, and for that I’m waiting for the Realistic Rendering project to be released by Epic on the marketplace. I seems like it will be a nice data set to work on realistic rendering. Hopefully it won’t take that long for Epic to release it. For now I would use the Reflections Subway scene. You may want to try to import some external data (perhaps something from http://graphics.cs.williams.edu/data/meshes.xml) but you will probably have to create all the maps for the materials yourself.

Thanks for the help guys! The thing is that I don’t understand all of the engineering, and I figure the best way to learn is to start doing it in a modern engine.

Then that’s not the way to go. Starting to learn graphics with Unreal Engine 4 as the starting point is like trying to learn something from a book just by reading the last ten pages. You need to start from the first page. I highly recommend Real-Time Rendering which is book written by an ex-coworker of mine, Eric Haines and others.