September 17, 2018

Trends in real-time rendering: Forrester Report

By Ken Pimentel

Here at Epic Games, we’re always looking for insights into how real-time rendering is shaping media, now and in the future. That’s why we asked outside agency Forrester Consulting to conduct an independent survey about real-time rendering across media and entertainment, manufacturing, and architecture.

Their report, Real-Time Rendering Solutions: Unlocking The Power Of Now, confirmed some things we already suspected, but also held a few surprises that will undoubtedly shape the future of how we visually communicate.

Here’s a summary of what we learned, both the expected and unexpected.

Real-time drives change

We weren’t surprised to find that adoption of real-time rendering solutions is expected to increase, with 81% of firms planning to try out real-time rendering overall and 59% planning to put it into production in the next year. We already had early indications of this with the 2018 CGarchitect survey that showed Unreal Engine as leading all rendering solutions (including traditional offline renderers) for future use. Clearly, something was going on. 

What we didn’t realize was that many customers are kept away by unsupported beliefs about software costs—not training costs, not downtime during conversion to a new pipeline, but the actual cost of the software. 

Cost? What cost?

Since 42% of respondents identified software costs as the main challenge inhibiting them from adopting real-time rendering, at Epic Games we want to do our part to change this perception. We launched the free Unreal Studio beta back in March 2018, and since then*, we’ve seen over 370,000 people register. In November 2019*, we announced that we would roll all of Unreal Studio's features in Unreal Engine, for free, to make sure people have the best opportunity to explore this brave new world of real-time.

Considerations about training costs and employee inexperience were cited by around 30% of respondents as an inhibitor to adoption. We had figured this would be a concern, which is why we launched the free Unreal Engine Online Learning platform in August 2018. With an ever-expanding library of online courses offered across a variety of industries, professionals can receive personalized training at their own pace and needs. By making both the software and the courses needed to learn these new technical skills free, we’ve removed the two biggest barriers to adoption.   

Creativity and employee satisfaction

Driving creativity and productivity through real-time rendering will improve their bottom line, say 90% of respondents, and 82% say customers value an interactive experience where they can explore different views and make simple changes. No surprises there!

However, there’s more to it. With so much new technology around design, art, and media, 62% said that employees are becoming more expressive and crave more career satisfaction and interest. It doesn’t take much of a leap to surmise that a talented employee will seek out their best opportunity to be more creative and involved in innovating for the future, rather than building on the past. 

Real-time brings reconsideration of how processes should work, and companies will be relying on their most talented employees for direction. Clearly a lot of companies already understand this and see how real-time can drive creativity and career satisfaction.

We didn’t see that one coming, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. Adopting real-time rendering isn’t just about your customers—it’s also about your staff and their desire to evolve their skills and create beautiful things.
The Weather Channel uses Unreal Engine to forward their goal of keeping people safe from adverse weather, as with this recent video explaining storm surge effects. 

AI and big data

Faster iterations, faster prototyping, real-time feedback, and better graphics were at the top of the list for 60-70% of respondents in all fields surveyed. Since real-time rendering addresses all these needs directly, we expected these kinds of results.


Not so obvious was that 70% of respondents need a way to visualize artificial intelligence (AI) data, analytics, and big data, and that they see real-time rendering as the key. We were excited to see this response, since Unreal Engine has the functionality to process data and convert it directly to visuals in real time using C++ or Blueprints. 

Examples would be the processing of geographical (GIS) data for mapping; a live feed of machinery usage logs for visualization of manufacturing processes; and sales and customer data for multiple locations updating in real time for comparative analysis. Earlier this year, we outlined other examples for AI in Unreal Engine such as the testing of self-driving cars and robots.
National Renal Care uses Unreal Engine to visualize and compare locations, statistics, and financial data across their facilities.

We’ve started seeing innovative uses of Blueprints in Unreal Engine to fetch data and update scenes in real time, making an interactive, visual experience out of a large amount of data. For example, National Renal Care, a kidney care organization with 65 locations throughout South Africa, has started using Unreal Engine to visualize the geographical and financial relationships between their facilities.

The value of real-time rendering for AI and big data is only just being explored, and we look forward to seeing what our customers do in this emerging field.

If you really want to see the myriad ways that companies are innovating with Unreal Engine, you need look no further than the enterprise examples on our blog. Here you’ll find over a hundred examples spread over the many non-game uses of Unreal Engine. It’s proof of the innovation and exploration that we’re seeing, and that the Forrester survey measures.

Check out the full survey results in Real-Time Rendering Solutions: Unlocking The Power Of Now, then download Unreal Engine for free. We can’t wait to see what you create!

*Editor's note: this blog was updated in December 2019 to reflect changes to our product lineup.