Image courtesy of @wanimation2910

Twinmotion to Unreal Engine Importer: bridging architectural worlds

Ken Pimentel
Having undergone a digital shift, many architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms are now on a plateau. Using different software across different teams has created a digital Tower of Babel, with few of these tools able to talk effectively to the others. Firms benefit from the fast, iterative workflows that digital tools provide, but often experience challenges moving data along the pipeline from one to the next.

At Epic Games, we believe the next phase of digital transformation for AEC is the development of a seamless, open, real-time pipeline. For years, we’ve been making it easier to get your CAD data into Unreal Engine and Twinmotion, our real-time visualization solutions. Recently, we started researching a real-time connection between Revit and Unreal Engine via Datasmith as a demonstration of our commitment to improve on how you connect with design data—stay tuned for further details on this.    

Once you have your CAD data in a visualization tool, some additional questions crop up: does my project look the same as my competition? Can I achieve any ambition? And how quickly can I iterate on an idea? 

Our answer to this is start in Twinmotion, finish in Unreal Engine. This is a unique benefit of working with our solutions. Anyone on your team can easily work with Twinmotion to develop the basic idea and when you reach the limits of Twinmotion, you can pass that project over to Unreal Engine to take it further. This is where the new Twinmotion Importer plugin comes in.

The power to truly differentiate projects

The Twinmotion Importer enables you to start a project in Twinmotion and take it into Unreal Engine to leverage the advanced feature set the engine offers. With Unreal Engine’s powerful features at their fingertips, teams have the open-ended flexibility and creative freedom to truly differentiate their projects. It might seem like a small step, but there are a number of reasons why this development could be a boon for AEC companies. 

Open pipelines rather than closed boxes

Most rendering tools currently on the market are closed boxes. That can be frustrating, because it means they are inherently limited. People at AEC firms spend a lot of time making a render as impressive as it can be with these tools, only to have to stop there. What they’ve created is often completely unusable and untranslatable in the later stages of design and development. These tools are effectively dead ends.

It’s not just visualization tools—this is a frustration with all architectural software, starting with CAD tools. Epic has been making efforts to improve interoperability in this part of the pipeline with things like Twinmotion's Direct Link plugins

It’s all part of a wider story—the whole architectural design process often takes place in a series of silos. The lack of interoperability between them can mean wasted effort, with work done early on thrown away rather than being reused later in the pipeline. 

Twinmotion Importer is the next phase of Epic’s vision to open up this pipeline and remove that frustration. Because the importer means Twinmotion is no longer a closed loop, all of a sudden a whole world of possibilities opens up for the scene you’ve created. You can start out in Twinmotion and finish in Unreal Engine—and there are no boundaries with what you can do with the imagery there. 
The same project rendered in Twinmotion (left) and Unreal Engine (right)

The importance of dynamic narrative 

Having a way to quickly create a scene in Twinmotion and then seamlessly bring it into Unreal Engine for enhancement unlocks another superpower for AEC firms: storytelling.

That’s what differentiates Twinmotion from other rendering solutions—it’s the best tool on the market for crafting a narrative. Twinmotion’s support for animation is a big part of this. Someone with little or no CG experience can quickly put together a real-time scene, add assets and materials from the tool’s built-in library and Quixel Megascans library, and then use the software’s intuitive animation tools to create a compelling walkthrough.  

Now, with the Twinmotion Importer, the story doesn’t stop with Twinmotion or the architectural teams. The storytelling can continue with digital technology teams, visualization teams, and UI/UX developers, helping to create a bridge between architects and other parts of the business. Everything including digital twins, virtual collaborative platforms, XR experiences, immersive sales configurators, and more become possible. Take a scene from Twinmotion into Unreal Engine and you have limitless possibilities—no more silos, no more dead ends. 

What does this mean for businesses?

For AEC firms, having an interoperable tool chain is incredibly valuable. It means visualization teams don’t have to spend time on basic imagery—they are freed up. Architects can now express what’s in their mind’s eye directly, rather than having to rely on someone else to interpret it for them. Rather than having to explain “Well, I kind of want it to look like this,” they can quickly create a scene, then hand it off to someone else for refinement and taking up a notch.
Left: Twinmotion, right: Unreal Engine. Images courtesy of @wanimation2910
And because Twinmotion is more than just a visualization solution, it can be used during the architect’s design process as well. Twinmotion’s Note tool enables architects to capture information in context when providing feedback in a design review. Annotations can be exported to BCF format (IFC standard) in a zip file and loaded into Revit, Archicad, or many other BIM packages, streamlining the iterative process. 

With the Twinmotion Importer, the architectural workflow of the future could look something like this: an architect sketches out a building design in Archicad. She imports it into Twinmotion in two clicks, and uses the drag-and-drop functionality to quickly develop the scene, adding people and vegetation, and adjusting the season. 
Project in Twinmotion, image courtesy of @wanimation2910
She uses Twinmotion’s intuitive animation tools to create a video of her design and uploads it to her firm’s shared drive. The visualization team brings that scene into Unreal Engine via the Twinmotion Importer. They take the base scene that the architect created and leverage Unreal Engine’s box of tricks to enhance it, supercharging the realism of the lighting and reflections with real-time ray tracing, and integrating live data from the proposed site to visualize real-time traffic and pedestrian footfall past the building. 
Project in Unreal Engine, image courtesy of @wanimation2910
The result is a collaborative workflow that enables better communication, ensuring the architect’s design intent is understood and that effort put in early on is not wasted. 

Where are we on the journey?

The first phase of the Twinmotion Importer plugin has some important limitations that you should be aware of. These are covered in the documentation. However, the second phase of the initiative, scheduled for mid-2021, will address the majority of what’s missing from the workflow. 

It’s only the beginning of the journey towards an open AEC pipeline, and the Twinmotion Importer is just one of the milestones along the way—but we believe an open ethos and innovations like these could transform AEC workflows. Stay tuned as we reveal more developments in the future!

    Try out the Twinmotion to Unreal Engine Importer

    Ready to bring your Twinmotion projects into Unreal Engine?
    Download the beta version of the plugin below!
    Watch the replay of our webinar ‘Importing Twinmotion Projects into Unreal Engine’ to learn how to use the plugin.