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Product Review: Twinmotion 2020

Architosh reviews Epic’s Twinmotion 2020, a leading real-time interactive photorealistic rendering application for AEC and design markets.

EPIC GAMES RELEASED TWINMOTION 2020 in March of this year, adding new upgrades to the package worth delving into. It is one of the easiest real-time (interactive) rendering packages with the added benefit of being built on the Unreal Engine.

At Autodesk University 2019, back in November of 2019, Anthony and I got a peek into this version. We were so excited by what we saw that the Twinmotion 2020 review became a bit of a group effort, with Anthony—along with my husband, Kevin Cahill, an architect, visualization, and VFX Hollywood professional—all contributing to the evaluation. Anthony provided additional insight and the pros and cons section at the end. Let’s get into it!

Twinmotion 2020 Intro

Initially, Twinmotion was created by French Visualization Studio KA-RA. It was created as a way for architects with limited 3D experience to create stunning still or animated renders for clients. After a brief partnership with the French AEC software company, Abvent, Epic Games acquired Twinmotion in 2019.

Twinmotion 2020 is a real-time immersive 3D architecture visualization tool for efficiently producing high-quality images, panoramas, and standard or 360 VR videos quickly without long render times. Twinmotion combines an easy to use interface with the power of the Unreal Engine 4. It is available for both Mac and PC.

Twinmotion 2020

Twinmotion 2020 has many enhanced visuals due to new Unreal Engine features like a physically-based sky and sun model and more realistic vegetation.

Twinmotion is also a great stepping stone for the Unreal Engine environment, and in the future, we hope there is a direct link between Twinmotion and Unreal Engine. It should be stated that being built on one of the world’s top game engines, the exposure Twinmotion has is massive. There are over 436,000 registered users since May 2019, a comparable worth noting as Unreal Engine 4 itself has over 7.5 million downloads. Epic itself is now claiming that Twinmotion is the number one real-time rendering solution used in both architecture and production and the number one rendering solution being tested in all aspects of different creative industries. Importantly for the Architosh’s legacy audience—and this has been noted several times before—it is the only real-time rendering solution native on the Mac platform in addition to Windows, leaving Bentley’s LumenRT and the very worthy Lumion exclusive to the Windows platform.

New Features in 2020 Version

Twinmotion 2020 is based on the 4.24 release of the Unreal Engine, with new volumetric light tools and screen-space global illumination (GI). There is also a new physically-based atmospheric sun and sky model (recently just added to Unreal Engine) and cinematic depth of field (DoF). Kevin, who has been using Twinmotion in archviz production work, noted that color bleed issues from the sun seem to be better if not very much solved entirely.

Depth of Field

An example of the Depth of Field features in Twinmotion 2020.

At at a foundation level, the UI/UX is roughly the same though there are several improvements in this area related to feature groups we will discuss in a moment. Twinmotion 2020, like all versions, seeks to deliver professional quality images using an interface that the average architect or non-visualization pro can learn quickly. Some items in the UI are hidden on purpose to simplify the workflow; the challenge for the photo-realistic rendering entrant is remembering what tools exist in the more hidden portions of the UI and learning the logic of why they are there in the first place.

Vegetation Improvements

Vegetation assets are much improved in this 2020 release, being upgraded in polycount from tree models from XfrogPlants collections and brushes from Megascans Library (acquired by Epic in 2019). The selections of vegetation are mostly excellent, a lack of southwestern plants and cacti notwithstanding. Phoenix and Los Angeles architects may get a wee bit frustrated but Epic has already heard about this feedback so we expect a redress soon.

grasses in Twinmotion

You can now blend different grasses into a vegetation layer and edit their individual characteristics rather than re-apply vegetation adjustments with the brush tools.

Epic seems to have made two primary improvements in this department. One, the image quality is much improved (as already noted). Second, it is now easier and faster to place vegetation and in a more realistic way.

Vegetation scattering uses a brush-based system giving users the ability to paint trees, bushes, and grasses quickly. Painting layers make it possible now to add items to the layer, place them with the brush, and then go back and edit the items on the layer. You can control the growth of your vegetation by selecting the plant or group and using sliders to cycle through the age (and thus usually height, width) of your vegetation.

Twinmotion

Trees in Twinmotion 2020 now scale by age intelligently and more realistically, not just by geometry.

New in this release, when you age your trees in particular, they don’t just scale the geometry up and down but change as the tree would actually change over time. When you add trees to a paint layer, you can add two copies of the same tree and individually select and edit its settings, like age (height) and density. You can quickly create more realistic site environs by painting this layer with a brush and then adding species variety to it and then tweaking the settings of each item in the layer to create scale and density diversity.

This also works with grass, both turf type, and wild variety. And speaking of grasses, a new setting tells Twinmotion 2020 to fade the grass as you zoom further away from it, thereby saving your processor resources. There are different distance settings for this. Grasses are processor-intensive so this greatly aids in keeping Twinmotion 2020 running smoothly.

Finally, vegetation works more realistically in animations, including when wind runs through leaves on plants and trees.

next page: Lighting, People, BIM and Other Improvements

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