January 11, 2019

Optim leverages the power of Datasmith to take the pain out of data-prep

By Sebastien Miglio

As a company that has been using Unreal Engine to create AR, VR, and mobile experiences for a wide variety of clients for over four years, Theia Interactive knows a thing or two about data import and preparation.

“We've struggled through all the basic optimization challenges that we know our fellow enterprise customers share.” says CTO and Co-founder Stephen Phillips. “Bringing in huge datasets, getting rid of the junk, merging objects that don't need to be exploded, instancing repeated meshes, creating LODs for high-poly assets, replacing materials, reorganizing a scene—the list goes on.”
With the advent of Datasmith in March 2018, the gap between CAD packages and Unreal Engine was effectively bridged, but there remains a significant amount of work to get architectural and engineering data to be as performant and clean as possible. Fortunately, much of that work is repeatable, lending itself to automation. 

“In the last year, Epic has really opened up the potential of the editor by making it 100% scriptable in Python,” say Phillips. “That means that people like us can start to write simple code to automate things like an import process, or common tasks like generating and deleting UVs.” 

The technical crew at Theia began compiling the company’s most common optimization workflows into repeatable scripts. But in order to make them more accessible to the artists and generalists that made up most of their team members, they decided to create a graphical interface that made it easy to assemble these automated tasks based on rules and parameters for any new project—with no coding required. 

“It very soon became clear that this was a product we could develop and license to other teams like ours” says Phillips. “And Optim was born. The number of hours saved has already stacked up internally, and we know it will be a game-changer for so many customers.” 

Optim uses Datasmith’s 20+ format support to get high-fidelity data out of those core applications. Epic has focused their technical skills on accurately bringing over metadata, converting materials to Unreal Engine, and dealing with a wide range of data-prep issues. Optim builds on that base to simplify the optimization process. 

With Optim, you can analyze your Datasmith and CAD files before you import them into Unreal Engine, saving you from having to load the full, heavy level and then hunt through bloated lists of content or complicated 3D scenes for items that require optimizations or edits. You can see the actor list, sort by triangle counts and other metadata, and set up optimization rules based on all these factors.

Some examples of things that you could automate with Optim are:
  • Skip the import of any meshes with names containing a certain string
  • Create LODs for any mesh larger than a given number of triangles
  • Instance any mesh with a particular name
  • Merge everything with a particular property under a single group
  • Replace all materials by name with existing materials from the Content Browser
“Optim demonstrates what anyone can do with the building blocks we’ve created with Datasmith and our work integrating Python in Unreal Engine,” says Ken Pimentel, Sr. Product Manager at Epic Games. “Theia has been quick to take advantage of these new capabilities in order to create highly simplified interfaces to manage a process. We have built this incredible platform and now we’re seeing the first fruit of how third-parties are taking advantage of it.”

Because Optim is developed in lock-step with Unreal Engine, it can immediately take advantage of new features as they are released. “When Epic solves hard problems like defeaturing and jacketing for complicated CAD models, or supporting new file formats, we are there to make a useful GUI and give you powerful controls for how to apply those optimizations and features to your whole project.” says Phillips. “We're leveraging the power of Python and Unreal's growing set of capabilities to automate existing workflows and save teams a lot of headaches in terms of time and skill wasted.” 

Theia intends to start selling Optim as a subscription in early 2019. But for those who can’t wait to get their hands on it, they’re currently accepting applications for alpha testers at theia.io/optim

If you’re not already enjoying the advantages of Unreal Engine’s connected workflows and the open platform on which its built, download it today.

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