This release brings numerous wide-ranging improvements as Epic continues to expand UE5's functionality and potential for game developers and creators across industries.
As well as enhancements to core rendering, developer iteration, and virtual production toolsets, Epic is introducing new experimental rendering, animation, and simulation features to give you the opportunity to test extended creative workflows inside UE5—reducing the need to round-trip with external applications.
What's new in Unreal Engine 5.3
Refinements to core UE5 rendering features
With this release, Epic continued to refine all core UE5 rendering features to address their ongoing goal of making it easier for developers to leverage them at higher quality in games running at 60 fps on next-gen consoles; the improvements also offer higher-quality results and enhanced performance for linear content creators.
Specifically, Nanite has faster performance for masked materials, including foliage, and can represent a greater range of surfaces due to the new Explicit Tangents option, while Lumen with Hardware Ray Tracing has expanded capabilities that include multiple reflection bounces, and delivers faster performance on consoles.
Other areas with notable advancements include Virtual Shadow Maps (VSM)—which is now Production-Ready—Temporal Super Resolution (TSR), Hair Grooms, Path Tracing, and Substrate.
In another useful improvement, developers can now leverage additional CPU and memory resources when converting content from the internal UE format to a platform-specific format, significantly reducing the time it takes to get a cooked output from a build farm server or on a local workstation.
Enabling Multi-Process Cook launches subprocesses that perform parts of the cooking work alongside the main process. Developers can select how many subprocesses they want to run on a single machine.
Cine Cam Rig Rail
Filmmakers can now emulate the workflow and results of traditional camera movement along tracks or on dollies, thanks to a new Cine Cam Rig Rail Actor.
The Cine Cam Rig Rail provides more refined controls than the existing Rig Rail, including the ability to choreograph settings like camera rotation, focal length, focus distance, and so on, at different control points along the path. It supports both in-editor and VCam workflows.
Talking of VCam, enhancements to the system in this release include the ability to review takes directly on the iPad for faster iteration; to simultaneously stream different VCam output for different team members—for example, with camera controls for the camera operator, without for the director—facilitating collaborative VCam shoots; and to record at a slower frame rate and play back at normal speed for easier capture of fast-moving action.
As well as these updates to core toolsets, Unreal Engine 5.3 introduces a number of exciting new Experimental features, which Epic expects to further develop in future releases. However, it is not recommended to use them in your productions just yet.
Cinematic-quality volumetric rendering
Two new features, Sparse Volume Textures (SVT) and Path Tracing of Heterogeneous Volumes, introduce a number of new capabilities for volumetric effects such as smoke and fire.
Sparse Volume Textures store baked simulation data representing volumetric media, and can be simulated in Niagara or imported from OpenVDB (.vdb) files created in other 3D applications.
In addition, more complete support for rendering volumes is now available as Experimental in the Path Tracer. This offers the potential for high-quality volumetric rendering—including global illumination, shadows, and scattering—for cinematics, films, episodic television, and other forms of linear content creation directly in UE5.
Real-time use cases such as games and virtual production can also begin experimenting with SVTs for playback of volumetric elements, although performance is limited at this time and highly dependent on the content.
Starting in UE 5.3, Epic is introducing orthographic rendering; this is useful for visualizing architecture and manufacturing projects, as well as offering orthographic projections as a stylistic camera choice for games.
Multiple areas of the engine have received attention to achieve parity between perspective and orthographic projections. Most modern features of UE5 are expected to now work, including Lumen, Nanite, and Shadows. Orthographic rendering is also available in the Unreal Editor, enabling users to make updates in a live setting.
A new Skeletal Editor provides animators with a variety of tools for working with Skeletal Meshes, including the ability to paint skin weights.
Whether for quick prototypes or final rigging, this enables you to perform more character workflows entirely in the Unreal Editor without the need for round-tripping to DCC applications—so you can work in context and iterate faster.
Panel-based Chaos Cloth with ML simulation
Also designed to enable you to bring more of your creative workflows directly to UE, this release sees some updates to Chaos Cloth.
Epic introduced a new Panel Cloth Editor and new skin weight transfer algorithms, and added XPBD (extended position-based dynamics) constraints as a basis for their future cloth generation in engine. This provides for a non-destructive cloth simulation workflow in which you can trade off speed for precision. In addition, the use of panel-based cloth can result in better-looking simulations.
Cloth can also now be simulated and cached in engine using the new Panel Cloth Editor in conjunction with the ML Deformer Editor.
nDisplay support for SMPTE ST 2110
And finally, in preparation for the next generation of LED production stages, Epic added Experimental support to nDisplay for SMPTE ST 2110, utilizing NVIDIA hardware and Rivermax SDK. This lays the groundwork for a range of hardware configurations that open up new possibilities for LED stages—the most exciting configuration uses a dedicated machine for each camera frustum, maximizing the potential rendering resolution, increasing frame rate, and allowing for more complex scene geometry and lighting than previously possible.
This solution offers the ability to tackle challenges like wider angle lenses that require greater resolution and multi-camera shoots that stress current systems. It also implies lower latency in the system, due to simplification of the signal chain.
And there's more…
These are just some of the new features and enhancements in Unreal Engine 5.3. Check out the release notes to see the full feature list.