Join Craig Barr for an in-depth discussion in this video Using particle systems, part of Unreal Essential Training.
- Unreal Engine 4 contains a very powerful, robust particle system. This system within Unreal Engine 4 is referred to as Cascade. And if you take the time to jump in and start to play with and really learn what Unreal Engine 4's particle system is capable of, I think you'll be absolutely blown away. It's a very powerful particle system allowing you to create all sorts of effects. Anything from fire to smoke to muzzle flashes or even spark effects, or even something that resembles liquid effects as well. So you can actually get into some really cool overall dynamic effects for your scenes.
Now we've taken our scene to a really nice level. We've put some foliage in with some dynamic ambient wind effects. And we've also added in some atmospheric fog, and we've looked at how we can play with the different types of fog and then really get that kind of low density fog. Now what we're doing is I've taken advantage of Cascade, or the particle system within Unreal Engine 4, and we've placed in this simple, ambient, kind of traveling fog. We're on this island environment here with this lighthouse and of course we want fog to play a big part in it.
So we have this particle effect of this fog kind of rolling in off the ocean into our landscape, and you can see this here. That's this ambient kind of rolling in fog. Now, if you can see the fog particle system that I have up here, I just want to quickly showcase what Cascade is all about and we'll do a quick tour as to what the particle system environment is like within Unreal Engine 4, and we'll take a look at this fog really quickly. If you have access to the content for this course, you can go into, underneath Content, Effects.
And you'll see here that there are a bunch of built particle systems that you can explore and play with in here. In this example here, we're just going to take a look at what Cascade is, and how that environment works. So, as an example, we can double click on Fog here, and that's going to bring up the Cascade Editor. Now, just to point out, if it brings up something like a window like this, you can simply drag and dock that tab up in the top. Now, within this environment that we refer to as Cascade, this operates much the same as the other editors, whether it's a material editor, any kind of visual scripting, or any other kind of editors you may have some experience with in Unreal Engine 4.
The difference is that it does work in different operators, particle based operators. So we can see that we have a Viewport preview much like you would get in something like the material editor. And we have, over here, this Emitters section. And this Emitters section actually applies to this overall emitter panel. And then what you're going to get up here is this type of emitter that we have, so if we click on that we're going to get this particle emitter. And then down below is the stack, and this essentially is the different modules that we're applying to affect overall the emission of the particles.
So all of these different little things here are stacking up and actually having an effect one by one, and we can see that by clicking on all these different ones and we have a details panel which is the same as out in the regular environment of Unreal Engine 4 or any of the other environments, this is where all of your parameters and attributes live. And as we click on all of these, we'll see that there are different parameters and attributes that exist for all of these different settings. The most important thing to understand is how this environment is set up. This here is a little bit different than the visual scripting, or material editor for that matter, in the way that you actually stack a lot of your emitters side by side.
So as an example, if I right click in here and click New Particle Sprite Emitter, you'll see that it's going to place it down right next to this one here, and we can see that we have a little bit of something going on in space there. Now, at any time if I wanted to add modules to my particle emitter, I can simply come and right click within that area by the stack of these modules, and I can add anything in, for example, if I wanted to add an acceleration. The nice thing about the way this stack works is this keeps everything organized. Anything related to the parameters or the attributes to it live down in the details panel down here.
And I can always drag and drop and reorder this if I want to to keep things organized in a different manner. Now you'll notice here that we have our Viewport, our Details area, and our Emitter tab. That's this tab here where we can kind of stack our different emitters side by side. And down below we actually have a curve editor. And this works much the same as like a graph editor that you might be familiar with in any kind of animation package. Now what's happening here, I should point out, is that you have a really quick and easy way to visualize the curves that you want to see.
So in this case here, with this emitter, we can see that we're looking at color over life and alpha over life. So just really quickly on how this works, we can dial in if we want to see a specific one within the curve editor by hitting this little graph icon here. So by clicking that on, it's going to allow us to see that and we can stack up a bunch of these in here to have them all placed out at the same time so that we can work with them collectively, or if not, we can actually turn them all off so that we're only working with the specific one that we want to work with.
Now the curve editor works in the same way as many of the other 2d kind of panning and zooming editors in the same way that you can always zoom in and out and you can just left click and drag it to pan all around in this one. And you can cetainly adjust your keyframes on the fly as you go. Now we've looked at the Viewport, the Details panel, and this tab where we can stack our emitters side by side, and we also see this curve editor. Now we have a toolbar up above that allows you to do a bunch of different things here related directly to the particle system. This is where you can build different levels of detail, for example, for your particles, or do simple functions like undo or redo.
As well, we have very similar tabs that you're finding in, or icons for that matter, that you would find in just about every other interface within Unreal, and that is the Save and Find in Content Browser. This works in very much the similar way as the material editor or any visual scripting, everything you do, you're going to want to save before you apply it to your scene. And of course at any time you can come back and test how that is interacting within your actual Viewport for your level. So I just wanted to give a quick overview of what Cascade is, how it looks, and how everything operates, and it actually works in its same user environment based kind of system as the rest of Unreal, but it does have a bit of this different set up here by stacking the emitters side by side, and you can group these underneath this tab.
- Customizing the Unreal UI
- Creating a new project
- Creating landscapes
- Blocking out levels
- Assembling a scene
- Working with materials and lights
- Adding post-processing effects
- Defining bodies of water
- Adding atmospherics, foliage, and wind
- Working with the Blueprint editor
- Creating cinematics
- Monitoring performance
- Packaging a game for distribution