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Fortnite creator turns its skills to architecture with immersive real-time visualisation

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Twinmotion enables architects to experience their designs instantly, direct from BIM or CAD, so they can adjust and develop them as they go

Refinement in Unreal Engine includes accurate lighting and material scenarios
Refinement in Unreal Engine includes accurate lighting and material scenarios Credit: Twinmotion

Foster + Partners and BDP are among architects hailing the benefits of a high fidelity real-time architectural visualisation tool that renders direct from BIM or CAD models

Twinmotion, developed by Epic Games, creator of the gaming phenomenon Fortnite, enables regular designers to generate ultra-realistic visuals of schemes in real time to interrogate and improve the communication of their work.

The latest version includes a plug-in for the games engine Unreal Engine and access to a large library of ‘Megascans’, film-quality images of 3D assets and surfaces to bring designs closer to reality.

Foster + Partners uses Twinmotion as an integral part of its design process to explore and visualise a scheme, also taking models into Unreal Engine for enhanced development.

According to Gamma Basra, partner at the practice, direct connection to CAD software is a key benefit of using the software: ‘A “live” real-time model can be quickly updated with new design elements and visualised. Animations and/or rendered still views provide a lot of flexibility to meet the needs of design team workflows.’

The platform’s ability to ‘give clients agency in virtual environments’ makes it a powerful engagement tool, he adds.

  • Twinmotion renders out high fidelity 3D images of schemes in real-time.
    Twinmotion renders out high fidelity 3D images of schemes in real-time. Credit: Twinmotion
  • The latest version includes an expanded asset library, including 20 new Japanese and American trees and 60 people in different postures to help contextualize projects.
    The latest version includes an expanded asset library, including 20 new Japanese and American trees and 60 people in different postures to help contextualize projects. Credit: Twinmotion
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Twinmotion is being applied by BDP’s visualisation team to create virtual environments and by architect and engineering teams to generate specific outputs to engage clients.

‘It gives us greater flexibility around design iterations and improves efficiency and consistency compared to the traditional dead-end of still image production,’ said Elliott Crossley, digital delivery director at BDP.  ‘Being able to interact with a model, which is properly rendered with accurate lighting, is a huge benefit in communicating a sense of place being proposed. We can work with stakeholders to move to specific viewpoints, virtually wander through the building, or run design simulations in real-time.’

London-based Feix & Merlin Architects tested Twinmotion on a large private residential project, specifically to check the appearance of a feature staircase with fins designed to appear solid as they overlap when passed by.

Tarek Merlin, director at the firm, said: ‘It’s exciting to design, model and experience the world we have created instantly, trying out different design options and experiencing them in a much more immediate and immersive way.’

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The practice envisions using the software in future to create images that subtly change over a few seconds to make them more engaging, rather than full video flythroughs or still images.

Twinmotion can import models from most BIM and CAD programmes, including Archicad, Revit, SketchUp Pro and Rhino. The latest update enables users to edit Twinmotion projects in Unreal Editor, adding materials, lighting, context, and other project elements to communicate preliminary concept ideas. More accurate lighting and material scenarios can then be refined by a visualisation specialist in Unreal Engine.

An early access Presenter Cloud service allows users to upload presentations to the cloud ready to be played by stakeholders over interactive pixel streaming.

The Twinmotion asset library now includes thousands of high fidelity Quixel Megascans, including 3D objects to populate scenes and high-fidelity surface materials from bark to bricks, marble and metal.

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