September 13, 2016

Enlighten: Real-Time Global Illumination in Unreal Engine 4

By Ellie Stone, Marketing Manager, ARM

Capcom, Square Enix and Microsoft are all getting behind Enlighten, an advanced global illumination middleware from ARM that delivers powerful, dynamic lighting solutions to Unreal Engine developers. Why?

Enlighten computes the effect of bounced lighting in real-time both in Unreal Engine and in the final application, allowing developers to forego overnight bakes and static light sources in favor of stunning dynamic lighting.

Capcom's Street Fighter V


Beautiful Visual Output

Enlighten is kept at the cutting edge of real-time rendering techniques. It fully supports physically based rendering to ensure a consistently accurate response across any material or lighting condition, no matter what artistic style it is being employed for. It is just as effective for cartoon style rendering as it is for photorealism and provides a wide array of controls so artists can achieve precisely the look they are aiming for.  

Enlighten’s multiple bounce technology ensures realistic graduation between light and dark areas and brings a sense of depth to its scenes by continuously updating the effect of additional light bounces until further calculations have minimal visual impact and convergence has been reached. 

Seastack Bay demo showcasing Enlighten and Unreal Engine 4.


Interactive Lighting Workflow

By producing global illumination information at runtime, Enlighten considerably accelerates the artist workflow when compared to baked or art-based global illumination solutions. Artists are able to add light sources, move them, change their colour, intensity or other properties, update material information and move dynamic objects, all the while seeing global illumination respond instantly in the Unreal Editor.

Lighting-Based Gameplay

Enlighten works with Unreal Engine’s graphical features and Blueprints to add more gameplay elements to lighting while maintaining a believable look and feel. Materials or lights can easily change without any fear of disturbing the visual fidelity of the scene. It becomes a trivial matter to update the colour of walls or floors and see a physically correct response in an architectural visualization application. It becomes possible to open doors or destroy walls in a game and have the light from the new room immediately flood into the old. When players run through a tunnel with a torch, developers are able to bounce the beam around the entire scene rather than simply add the direct light effect to an isolated area. Time of day and weather effects in large, open world games are computed efficiently and, thanks to Enlighten’s multiple bounce technique, to high quality even in highly vertical or occluded areas.

Enlighten sample scene in Unreal Engine 4


Cross-Platform Scalability

Lighting a scene to high quality is computationally complex and baking the result offline is time consuming. Calculating the effects in real-time also consumes so much runtime processing capacity that it has traditionally only really been possible on the highest end platforms.

Enlighten is able to scale effectively across all of today’s gaming platforms: PC, console, VR and mobile – even mobile VR! After a short precompute at the start of the editing process, the runtime data is calculated on the CPU, asynchronously to and independently of the main rendering on the GPU. Enlighten does not impact the render frame rate. Its calculation can be spread across multiple frames depending on the budget assigned for indirect lighting and because the effect is low frequency, the end user experience is not impacted if global illumination is not updated every render frame – 10 to 15 Enlighten updates per second is sufficient for high quality graphics.

Geomeric's real-time GI in the UE4 Realistic Rendering content example


Cross-Market Applicability

Enlighten’s real-time global illumination effects are applicable to any market looking to include interactive lighting as part of their application. As more and more industries turn to Unreal Engine to improve the graphical experience of product design or sales, Enlighten can add depth and realism to interactive visuals by accurately simulating the play of light at runtime. This feature is critical to delivering the photorealistic graphics that clients require and has wide applicability across architecture, broadcasting, film, automotive and many other industries.


Enlighten’s premier integration is trusted by Epic Games to support high quality development in Unreal Engine 4. If you have a project that could benefit from Enlighten you can request an evaluation via the contact form on  Enlighten is only licensable to legal corporate entities. There is not currently a per-seat model available.