WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
We are at the point where computer generated graphics are as good as, if not better than the real thing – this is a tipping point for content creation.
Car configurators have been a standard sales tool for automakers for some time now, but the same tool that’s helping car companies create ultra-realistic cars is the very same tool that’s helping Hollywood create their latest blockbusters – like the Mandalorian. And, as the tech gets better and better we can expect to see more of the content we see being made in this way.
Whether they’re customizing a new purchase in the dealership or testing out different looks online, customers expect to be able to explore different options before putting their money down – and they expect the configurators to show them what the car’s will really look like in real life. And some of the world’s leading brands such as Pagani, Audi, BMW, McLaren, and Mercedes have turned this aspect of the sales process into an art form, harnessing powerful rendering techniques like ray tracing to create configurators that are ever more photorealistic and interactive.
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So how are these interactive digital showrooms built? Well, Epic Games has just announced a new sample project that enables everyone to find out for themselves.
The Automotive Configurator as it’s known is a free real-time configurator sample, built in 3D creation tool Unreal Engine. The project shows off a completely interactive Audi A5 convertible model provided by Audi Business Innovation, set in an all-new immersive salt flat environment.
The idea behind the project is to give you a jump start and reduce the initial steps required to build your own version of the configurators offered by major car brands. It provides the opportunity to dive under the hood of the technology used in today’s most advanced interactive digital showrooms.
You’ll be able to explore all the different components of Unreal Engine that make up the project, from the Blueprint visual scripts used to the Variant Manager. Importantly, there’s no custom software and no programming needed – virtually everything you see can be achieved in regular, vanilla Unreal Engine 4.26 – and the quality of the next version, Unreal Engine 5 has to be seen to be believed. The project demonstrates how the standard feature set that exists in Unreal Engine can be used to achieve stunning results.
You can customize your car with different paint colors, and change features that you’d expect to find in a dealership configurator, such as the wheels, trims, seats, interiors, and other standard variables. When you’re done, you can render out a short commercial using the Movie Render Queue.
The sample project also serves as a base for those in other industries to experiment with configurators for different types of products, from architects designing buildings to budding film makers wanting to make the next blockbusters and, of course, Epic’s main customer base – game developers. Of course.