How to get started with Unreal Engine for filmmakers
Want to use Epic’s tools to create film and TV content but not sure where to start? Read on!
This guide will dig into our entire ecosystem so you not only know where to start, but which tools are going to help you create your best work possible.
Your first step
An Epic Games account unlocks everything
To use Epic’s tools, you’ll need an Epic Games account. This will give you access to every product in our ecosystem. Go to this page and follow the instructions to set up yours.
How to download the Epic Games launcher
The launcher is the desktop application you’ll use to download Unreal Engine and Twinmotion.
Once your Epic account is set up, click the blue button in the top-right corner that says ‘Get Epic Games’. This will download a setup wizard to install the Epic Games launcher.
Open it and install the launcher.
You’ll be asked to sign in again using your new Epic account credentials—go ahead.
Click on Unreal Engine in the left-hand navigation—you’ll have the option to download Unreal Engine (UE) and Twinmotion on the following page.
We’ll explore how to download the rest of the tools next.
Introducing the Epic ecosystem for media & entertainment
The Epic ecosystem encompasses a broad range of 3D digital creation tools, designed to give you everything you need to create immersive virtual worlds, high-quality linear content, stylized animation—or anything else you’re inspired to.
It also includes popular tools like MetaHuman, RealityScan, and more. Here’s a quick guide to finding and setting them up.
Building virtual worlds with Unreal Engine, UEFN, and Twinmotion
Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) provides the tools and assets you need to create breathtaking digital sets. Whether your story takes place in an atmospheric Victorian mansion, a crumbling Mayan jungle temple, or the sleek interior of a spaceship, you can create it with UE5.
It also comes with Hollywood-grade cinematic tools and robust VFX, physics, and lighting systems, making it easy to incorporate into a modern digital production. Twinmotion, on the other hand, is perfect for initial concepts and previs, as it offers an intuitive UI and plenty of creative options—all without the need to code.
And for playable experiences that build on animated worlds, you can look to Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN), which empowers creators to build experiences and publish them directly into Fortnite. Find out more below.
Unreal Engine is an advanced real-time 3D creation tool that’s perfect for everything from photoreal visuals to immersive experiences. You can use it to create animation; produce visual effects (VFX); and utilize virtual production workflows that include assembling complex scenes for previsualization, powering a live event with real-time AR and lighting, filming an episodic show in front of a LED wall, and more.
Your story doesn’t have to end when the credits roll. Bring audiences into your characters’ world with immersive, interactive experiences built in UEFN.
UEFN is a version of the Unreal Editor that you can use to create and publish experiences directly to Fortnite. By bringing in your own custom assets, you can effectively build a replica of your story world for Fortnite’s massive audience to explore.
Twinmotion is not only the fastest way to start creating immersive 3D scenes, it’s available in a free edition for non-commercial use. Filmmakers are increasingly using Twinmotion to design virtual sets, and art directors are frequently using it for previs. There are even those who have even created complete short films using the tool.
MetaHuman includes applications and plugins that can help you create realistic digital humans based on presets or your own custom mesh. The MetaHuman framework even includes tools that can produce facial animation with a smartphone.
Let’s take a closer look at the framework’s core components:
MetaHuman Creator is a powerful application that helps you create realistic digital humans in minutes. You can use these to populate your animation, film, and TV projects made in Unreal Engine.
Mesh to MetaHuman takes your own custom scanned or sculpted facial mesh and converts it into a MetaHuman, fully rigged and ready to animate. You can even further refine your character in MetaHuman Creator.
Also part of the MetaHuman Plugin for Unreal Engine, MetaHuman Animator can capture an actor’s performance and turn it into high-fidelity facial animation for your MetaHuman using an iPhone (or head-mounted camera) and PC.
It is perfect for use on set: Need an actor to give you more, dig into a different emotion, or simply explore a new direction? Have them do another take. You’ll be able to review the results in about the time it takes to make a cup of coffee.
For more information on getting started with MetaHuman, join the forum discussion in the Epic Developer Community.
Populating your virtual world with digital assets
So you can use Unreal Engine and Twinmotion to create 3D environments. And MetaHuman to fill that space with digital characters. But what about all the other stuff you need to build a virtual world—buildings, cars, forests, animals, and more?
The Epic ecosystem offers a number of options for bringing assets into your digital environment. You can scan real-world objects and turn those into 3D models, or you can browse one of our libraries of digital assets to find what you’re looking for.
RealityCapture is a powerful desktop application that enables you to create high-fidelity 3D models from laser scans and photos.
You can then use those digital models in your real-time scenes. First scans can be as little as $10 using our PPI model, explore your options today.
Empress Sisi - Schönbrunn - Created by Artzenal, acquired by Culture XR
RealityScan is a free-to-download mobile app that creates high-fidelity 3D models via a phone or tablet. You can use these digital models in your real-time scenes. It is effectively RealityCapture in your pocket.
Sketchfab is known as one of the best places to publish, share, discover, buy and sell 3D, VR and AR content online. They also make Sketchfab for Teams, a cloud-based, 3D digital asset management (DAM) platform that helps organizations share, manage, and collaborate using all of their assets, so projects (and permissions) stay on track. Sketchfab asset previews are also directly integrated into Twinmotion, making it easy to select, import, and use models as you see fit.
Megascans is the world’s largest library of AAA, cinema-quality assets based on real-world scan data.
It gives you access to high-fidelity photoreal assets, ready to use in any engine—from plants and trees to architecture and interior design. You can bring these assets directly into Unreal Engine for use in your film, TV, and animation projects.
Simply launch Unreal Engine, navigate to Window > Quixel Bridge and start searching the library. Megascans are directly integrated into Unreal Engine and Twinmotion.
In the coming months, this marketplace will be rolled into an even bigger and better online store: Fab.
Fab is a new marketplace planned for launch in 2023 that will give all digital content creators a single destination to discover, share, buy and sell digital assets.
Fab will unify Quixel, Sketchfab, the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and ArtStation Marketplace into one new experience that will connect communities and make it easier to access a massive library of digital assets—3D models, materials, sound, VFX, digital humans, and more.
The Epic Developer Community is a great place to access tutorials and learning content for those getting started with Unreal Engine. You’ll also find a collection of sample projects there that will help you see how different features work in practice. Let’s find out more about that.
Over the years, Epic has built a range of demo projects to showcase new features that we’ve added to tools like Unreal Engine and MetaHuman. Many of these have subsequently been released to the community as free sample projects.
You can download them to dive under the hood and explore how we put them together—they’re great for learning the ropes. Here are just a few highlights, you can find these and more under the Samples tab in the Unreal Engine section of the Epic Games launcher:
See how Weta FX created a short film (Meerkat) to test out how to render hair and fur driven characters in real time. You’ll get the fully rigged, groomed, and animated characters—together with their environment, cameras, effects, and audio—plus the Maya files, final textures and materials, and more.
Slay sample and tutorial series
Slay, a sample project for animated content rendered entirely in Unreal Engine. It features full environments built with virtual art department asset workflows and combines performance capture with traditional CG animation work. Download the project for free and explore it in Unreal Engine.
The City Sample reveals how the city scene from The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience was built. It consists of a city, complete with buildings, vehicles, and crowds of MetaHuman characters. The project demonstrates how we used new and improved systems in Unreal Engine 5—including World Partition, Nanite, Lumen, Chaos, Rule Processor, Mass AI, Niagara, MetaHumans, MetaSounds, and Temporal Super Resolution—to create the experience. Download the sample and explore it in Unreal Engine.
The MetaHumans sample for Unreal Engine 5 showcases some of the best practices of how to use the latest MetaHumans in your Unreal Engine projects. Download it here.
Machine Learning Deformer Sample
The Machine Learning Deformer Sample demonstrates how Unreal Engine’s machine-learning technology can be used to create a high-fidelity next-generation character with deformations driven by full muscle, flesh, and cloth simulation. Check it out here.
Additional Unreal Engine apps for filmmaking
Live Link Face
Live Link Face is a free mobile iOS app designed to help you capture facial performances for MetaHuman Animator and Unreal Engine.
Live Link VCAM
Live Link VCAM is another free iOS app that brings the power of virtual camera technology to smartphones and tablets. Use this when you want to record realistic camera takes with a full view of your Unreal Engine-driven environment.
Turn to this wireless app when you want to adjust 3D environment lights or lighting onset; it’s perfect for in-camera VFX (ICVFX) shoots.
Epic partners with companies who are able to provide technical support, implementation, and co-dev service to Unreal Engine customers.
If you want to find a partner to help out on a project, we now have a dedicated directory where all our Unreal Engine Service Partners are listed.
Search by area of expertise, industry, or keyword and contact your preferred partners straight from our directory. Interested? Find out more.
Want to find out more about using Epic tools to create animation and film & TV content? Check out these resources: