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non-Blender: Overview of UE4 animation "A Boy and his Kite"


Have you seen 'A Boy and his Kite'? It's an amazing real-time video, both because of the nice short story but certainly because of the technology. Here's a look behind the scenes.

Rafaelp writes:

FXGuide published an article showing the production process for "A Boy and his Kite," a real-time rendered animation using the Unreal Engine 4 and presented at GDC this year.

If you have not seen, is worth checking out:
For more information, see the full article.


  1. I first saw this when it was released at GDC. This is kinda amazing considering it was running in real time on one GTX Titan. Unreal Engine is really changing the game for real time applications.

    They gave a talk about how they created this demo, and a large part of the content is made from photogammetry of places in Austrailia. They then released the assets from that effort for free in the Epic Unreal Market Place.

    Very cool stuff going on here.

  2. Other than seeing trees popping in, this was an excellent showcase of the power of real time rendering. Obviously, if it was a game, the popping of trees would be a no-brainer. Not Pixar ready, but DANG it was fantastic.

    • What's really amazing is the fact that they didn't do the optimizations you would think they normally would. First, the meshes for the objects are the high resolution 100K poly meshes, not the 1-2K you might expect.

      They also create an interesting AI for the deer in the demo, so they would look life-like, and behave naturally if the camera approached them. Some very cool tech going on here.

      P.S. Yes, I am a little bit too excited by the Unreal Tech.

        • Brian Lockett on

          You and me both, brother! I've been a UE4 developer for a year now. I'm never looking back. No regrets whatsoever!

          UE4 is a masterpiece engine, that improves frequently, and the developers actually listen to my input! It's completely opened the doors for AAA indie game development.

          It's all a complete turn-around from how I used to feel about Unreal Engine, which was convoluted and the community unwelcoming. I used UDK for years, but I never truly loved it. But I LOVE Unreal Engine 4.

      • Brendon Leenheer on

        100K polygons is probably achievable through DX12, what with the significant increase draw calls and all...

        • In one of the GDC videos behind the scenes, they mentioned that they actually got better performance than they expected with just throwing triangles at the GPU. I am fairly certain they are using DX11. They said the wanted to show off what they could do on todays hardware.

          Also, they have mentioned several times in their weekly engine broadcasts that their DX12 support is not ready, and they are working in direct partnership with Microsoft on some issues. I got the impression that the main work on that was being down at the Microsoft end.

          Off topic, but In the WETA digital demo brief, they basically said that throwing polygons at the screen was faster for VR than doing the tessellation tricks and other things, as you ended up having to do it twice.

  3. TARDIS Maker on

    I really love this demo. It really shows what UE4 is cabable of.

    The rendering in this is amazing. There are some small points that look a bit off (some of the mountain shots) but in general, it is really amazing. But you have to keep in mind, not only is this real time, but you also have the calculations of the deer ai, you have the foliage which is all placed procedurally. They didn't just get rid of all the overhead of a game engine.

    Really an amazing feat to get it all done in realtime .

  4. That fake SSS looks pretty nice. Also EPIC donated around $13,000 to improve blenders FBX exporter. "Free" engines need free development tools to go with it. And problems with blenders FBX exporting was hurting their indy adoption.

    • Brian Lockett on

      "'Free' engines need free development tools to go with it."

      Well, not necessarily. It's a nice luxury to have free development tools, but not a "need," per se. We all like free things, but the only ones who "need" free tools are people who can't afford them.

      But many UE4 developers (myself included) were perfectly fine paying for UE4's $19/month subscription all the year before. It's just very generous of Epic Games to give us UE4 without cost.

      UE4 being free saves you the expense of the engine, but there are still plenty of affordable options around like Maya LT (which is nicer than many people credit) and MODO Indie. Everything's significantly more affordable now for indie developers.

      There's still a very good reason why some still prefer to pay for a tool than solely rely on Blender as it currently stands. Even as Blender has (finally!) begun to address better FBX support and custom normals, it's still lacking in PBR workflow support and cutting-edge innovations like geodesic voxel binding (which is a very handy feature that's soon to be a standard).

      In other words, to the serious professional, cost of (now affordable) tools are no longer the primary concern, but rather, the efficient workflow a tool supports. Time is more costly than money. Because tools are becoming so accessible now, efficient workflow is the highest priority.

      What's truly hurting Blender's indie adoption is its not staying with the curve of changing and emerging trends. People need a PBR-ready workflow in Blender, but this isn't even on the agenda of development yet.

      I use Blender for some things, but my game development work with UE4, I've long had to turn to a more efficient second 3D package. Blender's quite capable, but right now, I need "efficient" more than "capable."

      I do believe Blender could get to such a point of efficient workflow, and with time, it might. But its developers will need to sit down together and focus on it. Maybe the next project will be a game that focuses on this aspect.

  5. Brian Lockett on

    By the way, to those who don't know, this "A Boy and his Kite" scene and all its assets are now available as an example scene within UE4, free for you to dissect and play around with.

    Epic Games have become like the rich uncle we all wish we had in life, who spoils you and spoils you some more. You have my sword forever, Epic Games!

    • Brian Lockett on

      In fact, they give you so much, I've had to hold back on downloading stuff I don't really need! Great content and useful stuff, but man, UE4 updates and its example files will have you eating up 50 GB like nothing!

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