Using Unreal Engine for video animation

Hello, I’m an independent animator starting a new project, and because of the expense of using a ray-tracing renderer, I have decided to use a game engine instead. It will just be outputted in a video codec, which means I don’t need any interactivity with the viewer.

So before I start committing a lot more time to learning Unreal Engine, I just have a few basic questions about what will be involved when using it for animation purposes:

  1. So far I am under the impression that all the animation and modelling, except from the camera and terrain respectively, would need to be done in a third-party application. Am I correct in thinking that?

  2. If the answer to the first question is ‘yes’, then:
    a. Can camera animation be imported?
    b. Can simulated smoke particles be imported, and if so, does it look good?
    c. Is it practically possible to animate a character in a third-party application if the environment only exists in Unreal Engine due memory limitations of the third-party application?

  3. Would I be better doing all the animation, including physics simulation and set-building, in a third-party application and then importing it just for the purposes of rendering?

  4. Can 3D sound occlusion, reverberation, etc. be simulated well, or would it be better to use a third-party application?

0. What is the best workflow for animating movies in Unreal Engine?

1: not particularly, modelling is usually not done in UE, yet can be done with great difficulty. the animation part can be done in UE4 if it is a skeletal mesh (which it usually is)
2: a. i dont think a camera animation can be imported.
b. they can be imported. but you can also use the infinity blade effects content pack which has a lot of particle systems included. see: Infinity Blade: Effects in Epic Content - UE Marketplace (its free)
c. it is possible to animate a character in a third-party application and later import it. but file type needs to be correct and it will be easier to use the built in animation tool from UE4
3: i dont think so
4: yes it can be simulated, yet i dont see how you want to use a third party application anyways.
5: sequencer, see: Cinematics and Sequencer | Unreal Engine Documentation

Wait, it is possible to animate armatures within Unreal, and I mean individual bones? Everything about animations I’ve seen so far has involved importing them.

I was thinking about 3Dception, but I haven’t looked into it much.

yes, there is a built in animation editor in UE, if i am not much mistaken this is the documentation for it: Skeletal Mesh Animation System | Unreal Engine Documentation

and for the sound, i still dont get how you want to import it. because you will have to export the map, import it into that particular program. and then import the sound. but im not even sure if you can import such sound, on the site it doesnt say it is compatible with UE4, and if you were to import sounds, you will have to place the origin (where the sound comes from) yourself anyways. i think it will be easier to just use several sound actors? not sure how they are called but they just play a sound, for example an ambient sound that gets played. all you will have to import then is the sound itself (mp3, wav, etc.)

Unreal will probably be my new 3D editor then. Had someone tell me animation is done in third-party programmes, but I didn’t think Unreal wouldn’t be able to animate bones. Saying that, I can’t tell whether the character is isolated from the environment while in the animation editor, is it?

I’ll stick to Unreal for sound if it can simulate reverberation etc.

If you want to do character animations in the editor, I’d highly recommend checking this out Allright Rig – alexallright

Saved. Thanks for the link.

Still want to know whether you can animate a character within the level or scene, it’s not entirely obvious from what I’ve seen so far.

i dont think you can animate the character within the scene itself. it is mostly an animation on it self which keeps looping. maybe there are things in sequencer that let you do so but i cant say for certain. and about the reverberation. i cant say anything about that. i have mainly used outside environments and therefore have no experience with how sound is handled (echo and such). and then i dont even always use sound in my environments because they are made for a picture or static camera. so in those cases i dont go into depth of the landscape itself.

Both of those things might be a problem, I’ll have to find out.

1 - Yes all animation modeling etc… need to be done outside Unreal.

2 - Yes camera animations can be imported from 3d packages via sequencer.

  • Simulated particles as they are cannot be imported, you have to create a flipbook or texture sheet for those.

  • I’m not sure what you mean by memory limitations. But the engine definitely has those and you have to be careful and optimize scenes even for a non interactive movie.

3 - For your purposes you would be better off doing pre-made physics simulations outside of UE, Simple reasons: control, more complicated physics sims can be possible, and above all expectations to be the same every time.

4 - I’m not sure why you want to go through the trouble of using 3d sound in unreal if its an offline video, You can have more freedom with this the traditional way, but its possible.

Having said the above, unless you are doing something very simple. You would find working in UE for these sort of things far more time consuming (expensive) and frustrating than waiting on longer renders for an offline rendered from a 3d software like blender, Max or Maya. The constant import export, the lighting setup and bakes, making sure UVs are correct on everything down to an inch, material shader limitations and feel, constant cheats to go about making simplest of things found in a raytrace engine such as reflections, retractions, look believable in the engine, lots more work to get lighting setups looking correct + more cheats etc…

So good luck.

The problem with ray-tracers is that 10 minute episodes take so long to render it becomes impractical. Let’s say 1 hour per frame, 30FPS is 18,000 frame and the same number of hours, which is over 2 years of render time. That’s very expensive and makes dealing with a game engine worth it. If this is possible in Unreal Engine, then I am very interested using it for the same thing. It’s a matter of workflow and the only limitations I can see that Unreal has are maybe physics simulation and not being able to animate characters within the environment.

As for 3D sound, I want it for headphones, to sound as if you are there. It’s very hard to do that without sound sources actually being in 3D space. Occlusion and reverberation etc. simulation based on 3D objects would be even better.

In the end it’s what you are looking for, so fair enough, good luck then.