Join Craig Barr for an in-depth discussion in this video Placing and manipulating actors, part of Unreal Essential Training.
- Working objects in Unreal, such as lights or geometry, are referred to as actors. These are the essential items for the creation of anything interactive and visible within your project. Let's take a quick look at the basics of how to place and manipulate an actor. Of note, before we jump into how we can place and manipulate objects within the scene and what exactly an actor is, let's take a look at what we have in our default scene here. Those are just a basic default scene and what we have here is our content browser.
If you have access to the files, we have our content available down on the bottom left, but we also see in the viewport the simple floor and our Player Start icon, so it's going to place this here by default. We can see that by turning on and off the visibility of that icon, and what that icon is essentially a little flag, kind of marking the spot where a player is and then we have a game controller as an icon. The arrow is indicative of the direction that the player would be facing in if playing a game from that point.
So just to explain what's happening within the environment there. If at any time you don't want to see that, you can just simply turn that off. So we leave our floor plane on because we're going to use this to place some objects or actors for that matter. Now if we go into our Modes panel here on the top left of our user interface within Unreal Engine 4. This is where we want to be able to access the actors that we work with. Now an actor within the Unreal world is anything that you interact with, anything here at all. That can be a light, that can be a piece of geometry, that could be a character, a full moving character.
It can even be an effect or anything that you can bring into the viewport and interact with. So let's look at some of the basics here within actors. We have things like this basic mode, and this is everything from an empty actor or you can think of that as something like a null or a locator. The way that would work if you're familiar with other 3D software packages, right down into things like lights and then we have some default primitives. As well, we have a light folder in here that is going to give you some of the basic lighting setups here, so directional lights, point, spot, and a sky light for some environmental lighting.
All of these again, referred to as an actor within Unreal, and visual effects, BSP, which are the geometry brushes, which we'll take a look at a little later on, and then working with volumes and All Classes essentially is going to let you deep dive in and find all of these different pieces here under one folder rather than being categorized like they are here. So let's start out with something very simple. Let's grab a simple cube and all I'm going to do here is from this browser, I'm just going to left-click and I'm going to drag it into the viewport.
Before I release, see what happens here if I'm not on the floor, you'll see that I'm actually just out here and hovering in space, but if I bring it in towards the floor here, it's actually snapping onto the floor right now and I can release that and then we can just begin to position or work with the way we want to position this object in space. We get this little blue, red and green navigator here. What is that? Well that's indicative of the translate navigation icon here within Unreal Engine 4.
The hotkey for that to get used to is w. If I hit w it's going to bring that up. Similarly, if i hit e, it's going to bring up my rotational gizmo and r is going to grab scale. We can access these as well in the viewport right up here. Scaling, rotation and translation. Now, it is important to get used to this w, e, and r because at any time we can come back and especially if you're placing objects, you're going to want to know those hotkeys and get familiar with them to be able to go in and work with these.
Now much like other 3D content creation packages, there's always a little more than just three arrows going on. You can see inside that we have these little planes and these are kind of translational planes. So what that means is that right now if I want to move this one. Let's actually open up our details panel in here a little bit, just gonna scroll to the top. The reason I want to do that is that we can see our transformation here. So this is our location and x, y and z or zed, our rotation, our scale and this is where we would start to manipulate everything.
We have z or zed up and if I start to pull that you're going to see that the blue arrow is indicative of this value here over in location. So I can either adjust this live within the viewport or I can even numerically input a number in here, a value if I wanted to as well. Now we have these little planes down here and what these planes are, they're going to lock between two different values, so for example, if I hover onto the green, I know I'm that locking to moving or manipulating my object in y.
If I grab the red, I know I'm locking it into moving it within the x. But if I grab this little plane here, it actually allows me to move it in both the x and y plane, not the z or the zed plane. So I can do the same thing up here, if I want to move, it's going to highlight in yellow the two planes that I'm working with here. So in this case here I'm manipulating this in my viewport only in the z or zed and y plane and this is handy because it's very useful for placing objects where you want to constrain it to planes, especially if you're putting something along a wall, for example, or something where you don't have the ability to use snapping.
So we have these planes available to be able to quickly manipulate that. Now if I hit e I'm going to come into our rotational value, same idea. We're going to see a color scale here and we're going to see that I can rotate around and I'm going to get a nice little grid icon to show how I am working with that, and of course, at any time, I can put the numerical values here. Same thing with working with our pressing r and hitting scale. If I grab the middle icon there, I'm scaling everything uniformly and if I grab the rest of these, I'm scaling arbitrarily along those different axes.
Again, I can work by plane, just like we could with the translational value as well. So that's the basic of placing and manipulating an actor from this browser but of course there are other ways that we can place an actor. If I'm within the viewport here and I just right-click, I can come down here and I can access quite a giant menu set within here. What we want to look for right now though is this Place Actor, and this is going to give me essentially what we're working with here in that top left mode browser there where we have our actor menu set.
So you can see that we have some lights, we have some primitives in here and it is going off-screen down here at the bottom, perhaps if I right-click up a little bit higher we can get down to a few, but here is where I can start to bring in things like for example, Directional Light. Now remember I said that working with lights and objects are really no different in the sense of what they are in the Unreal world. They're actors and that is I can interact and manipulate and move them around and they're visible within the viewport. So they work in the same way, w, e and r, to able to access my translation, rotation and scale values for that as well.
So those are the real basics as to how we can place an actor into the viewport and how we can quickly manipulate them when we looked at the basic hotkeys and how those little navigational icons work within Unreal Engine 4.
- 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