Unreal Engine 4.26 released!

December 3, 2020
We’re pleased to announce that Unreal Engine 4.26 is ready for download! This release brings new tools that extend your ability to create believable real-time environments and characters for games, film & TV, visualization, and training & simulation; continued advancements to our virtual production toolset; higher-quality media output; improved design review tools; and much, much more.
 

More convincing animated characters

If you’re looking to create convincing humans or animals, being able to simulate and render true strand-based hair, fur, and feathers is a must. In Unreal Engine 4.26, Hair and Fur is production-ready, featuring a new Asset Groom Editor for setting up properties, and compatibility with features such as DOF and Fog. LOD generation is built in, and we’ve also added the ability to generate cards and meshes for lower-end hardware in engine as an experimental feature.
The way your characters move is obviously equally important to their believability. To this end, it’s now possible to create animations in Sequencer by blending animation clips such as motion-captured data; the workflow will be familiar to animators who’ve worked in other nonlinear animation editors. Animators can preview skeleton animations to easily see how one skeleton blends into the next, and match joint placement for a smooth transition between clips. The feature is integrated with Control Rig, which now offers an experimental full-body IK solution in addition to the standard FK/IK. Learn more about Sequencer in UE 4.26 by checking out this tech blog. 

Immersive natural worlds and environments

Whether you’re creating an open world for your players to explore, a terrain for training personnel, or an outdoor setting to show off your latest automotive or architectural masterpiece, the ability to create convincing natural environments that immerse your audience is critical.

In Unreal Engine 4.26, you can author and render realistic or stylized skies, clouds, and other atmospheric effects with full artistic freedom, thanks to a new Volumetric Cloud component that is able to interact with Sky Atmosphere, Sky Light, and up to two directional lights. The atmosphere can receive volumetric shadows from meshes and clouds; lighting and shadowing updates in real time to reflect time-of-day changes. In addition, there’s a new Environment Lighting Mixer window that enables all components affecting atmosphere lighting to be authored in one place.
This release also sees the introduction of a new Water system, enabling you to define oceans, lakes, rivers, and islands using splines. You can adjust and visualize the depth, width, and velocity of rivers along their lengths, and the wavelength, amplitude, direction, and steepness of waves on oceans and lakes. The system includes a new Water Mesh Actor that uses a quad tree grid to render detailed surfaces up close, smoothly transitioning to simplified ones at distance. Built-in fluid simulation enables characters, vehicles, and weapons to interact with the water; the fluid also responds to Terrain, such as reflecting ripples off the shore, and reacting to river flow maps. Watch this presentation to learn more and see the system in action.

Extended virtual production toolset

We’ve been continually expanding and enhancing our virtual production toolset since we first introduced it, and this release is no exception. Here are just a couple of highlights.
 
As virtual production techniques evolve, LED volumes are getting larger and larger; to support the higher number of pixels this requires with existing hardware, we’ve leveraged technology such as NVIDIA’s NVLink, enabling data to be transferred between two GPUs at very high speed. This enables any viewport to be rendered on another GPU; for example, one display-facing GPU would render the entire scene while another handles the inner frustum, passing the pixels back to the first one.  

There’s also a new fully REST-compliant Remote Control API that enables you to easily collect and organize any parameters or function libraries from the Unreal Engine UI into customizable presets. These can be used in a panel in the Unreal Editor, or seamlessly connected to widgets—such as radial dials, sliders, or color pickers—in web applications, without coding. For example, this could enable an artist on a stage to easily change the sky rotation or the sun position from an iPad. Besides its obvious application to virtual production, this feature can benefit any industry where non-technical users need to make changes remotely in real time, such as broadcast and live events.

Enhanced high-quality media output

Introduced in Unreal Engine 4.25, the Movie Render Queue enables you to create high-quality frames with accumulated anti-aliasing and motion blur for film and television, cinematics, and marketing, and extremely high-resolution images for print.
In this release, it’s now possible to output render passes, including matte IDs, camera motion vectors, Z-depth, ambient occlusion, reflections, and more from the Movie Render Queue, enabling you to refine your images in a downstream compositing or photo editing application. 

We’ve also added support for OpenColorIO (OCIO) to both the Movie Render Queue and the viewport, enabling you to work in any color space while ensuring your image will look as intended on its target platform.

In addition, there’s new support for exporting multi-channel EXRs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHR codecs, and Final Cut Pro XML EDLs, as well as the ability to integrate render farms.

More effective collaborative design reviews

The Collaborative Viewer template that enables multi-user design reviews on VR/AR/Desktop has received significant usability and performance improvements, enhancing the collaborative design review experience and enabling more users to join a session. In addition, there’s now support for voice communication between participants over VOIP using in-engine peer-to-peer protocols.

And there’s more!

These are just a few of the highlights waiting for you in Unreal Engine 4.26. There’s also improvements to Chaos physics and to ray tracing, new GPU Lightmass, a completely new Virtual Camera system, enhanced DMX support, new Datasmith exporter plugins for Rhino and Naviworks...the list goes on! Check out the release notes to find out more and see the full feature list.
 
Some features are beta or experimental, and should not be considered production-ready. See the release notes for details.

    Get Unreal Engine 4.26 today!

    If you’re an existing Unreal Engine user, you can download Unreal Engine 4.26 from the Epic Games launcher. If you're looking to dive in for the first time, click the link below to get started. Either way, we hope you enjoy all the new features and upgrades, and as always, we encourage your feedback!
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