What's new in Unreal Engine 5.1

This release builds upon the groundbreaking feature set released in UE5 to add a new level of robustness, efficiency, and applicability across multiple industries. Here are a few of the highlights.

Lumen, Nanite, and Virtual Shadow Maps updates

Lumen, Nanite, and VSM support for 60 fps

We’ve laid the groundwork for Lumen dynamic global illumination, Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry, and Virtual Shadow Maps (VSM) to support games and experiences running at 60 fps on next-gen consoles and capable PCs, enabling fast-paced competitive games and detailed simulations to run without latency.

Nanite Programmable Rasterizer

Nanite has been updated with a Programmable Rasterizer to allow for material-driven animations and deformations via World Position Offset, as well as opacity masks. This paves the way for artists to use Nanite to program specific objects’ behavior, for example Nanite-based foliage with leaves blowing in the wind. 

Increased developer efficiency

Virtual Assets

We’ve decoupled the metadata from the object data, enabling you to sync only what you need from source control systems, resulting in smaller workspaces and faster syncs.

Automated PSO caching for DX12

We’ve implemented automated Pipeline State Object (PSO) caching for DX12, simplifying the process needed to prepare a game for shipping in DX12. 

On-demand shader compilation

We’ve added the ability to compile only the shaders needed to render what is seen on screen while working in the Unreal Editor, and optionally during platform development iteration.

Enhanced world building tools

World Partition now supports Large World Coordinates, enabling you to create massive open worlds without loss of precision, while an improved user experience around managing, filtering, searching, and viewing files and changelists accelerates source control workflows. 

Plus, you can now create large water bodies with better performance and a smaller memory footprint, with new HLOD (Hierarchical Level of Detail) support for water rendering and streaming.

Updates for virtual production, broadcast, and live events

Faster, easier stage operations

We’ve added a new dedicated In-Camera VFX Editor tailored to common stage operations tasks. It includes an improved Light Card system that enables you to intuitively and efficiently create, move, and edit light cards. Other key enhancements include Color Correction Windows (CCWs) and the ability to apply color corrections per Actor.

Overhauled VCam system

We’ve overhauled VCam with a new underlying system that now utilizes Epic’s Pixel Streaming technology for improved responsiveness and reliability, and updated the UI to a modern design that camera operators will be familiar with. We’ve also added the ability to connect hardware devices and laid the foundation for customizing the UI in the future.

Enhanced workflows for using media in engine

We’ve significantly improved the workflow for adding EXRs or movie files: now, you can drag and drop footage from the Content Browser to a new Media Plate Actor. In addition, you can now play back mipmapped and tiled uncompressed EXRs in engine and with nDisplay with the appropriate SSD RAID. 

Animation and rigging enhancements

Now in Beta, the Machine Learning (ML) Deformer enables you to create high-fidelity real-time approximations of complex proprietary rigs or any arbitrary deformation. 

Control Rig continues to expand toward fully procedural rigging with many updates to the core framework, including a new Construction Event that enables you to generate rig hierarchies via a graph.

Sequencer sees new support for constraints; a refactored UI/UX for increased stability, extensibility, and usability; and additional functionality exposed to Blueprint and Python scripting.

Other key features

Enhanced geometry tools

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce the need for round tripping with DCC applications, enhancements to Unreal Engine's built-in geometry toolset in this release include new functions for Geometry Scripting, UV Editor improvements to handle more complex assets, and additional mesh editing and creation tools. 

Audio system enhancements

MetaSounds updates include additional node types, together with support for various multichannel output formats, and the new ability to show feedback on real-time node connections, making producing professional interactive sound faster and easier. We’ve also introduced Soundscape, a plugin for procedural ambient sound generation.

Artificial intelligence (AI) toolset

With this release, the AI toolset introduced in UE5 moves out of Experimental status. It includes MassEntity, which enables you to efficiently populate large-scale worlds and create crowds with tens of thousands of believable AI agents; Smart Objects, for creating meaningful gameplay interactions; and State Tree, a general-purpose hierarchical state machine. 

See all the updates

Take a look at the release notes to get more details on all the new features and enhancements in Unreal Engine 5.1.

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