UE5 Realtime Niagara Simulations – Interactive VFX Revolution in the Making

Unreal Engine 5 is out. There are a lot of interesting additions and improvements, but there’s one that has not seen a lot of focus in presentations: the Niagara Fluid Simulation! In this video I quickly go about how the smoke and fire (and liquids, etc) effects were previously done, and what the new system has in store for realtime and interactive VFX.

Niagara Fluid Sim?

Okay, so Unreal Engine 5 released. Check. The most flashy and media-attention worthy additions are Nanite* and Lumen**. Check. But there is also a huge number of additional things that are somewhat under the radar. One of them? New features of Niagara***, the VFX solution for UE5. It is a big deal.

How VFX were done before in UE4

Previously, usually you had to bake spritesheets out of other applications, load them into your particle system, and go from there. Spritesheet is a special image, usually with 8×8 smaller pictures inside, representing different frames of the vfx you had in mind. Make it loop and play it back, place it onto a invisible plane, and you have yourself a typical setup for smoke, fire, and the like.

A quick demonstration of described techniques that I have done for some testing purposes. See the yellow outline? That’s the invisible plane.

How VFX are different in UE5

With the new system, you actually simulate volumetrics inside the engine. In fact, it can be done while you are playing. Some of the benefits include the fact that it is actual volumetric data, and you can go around it and “see the volume”, and not just have this plane rotate towards the camera. 

Another bonus is that it actually can respect the velocity of an object that it is being emitted from. In the video I give a basic example of repeated textures from an  airplane on fire which emits repeated smoke spritesheets, basically the usual deal with VFX that everyone is used to.

Anyway, this is just an intro video I just “had to record”, we will jump into this and dive deeper in later videos. For now, thanks for reading and watching, and have a nice day!

— s o n g