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  • Writer's pictureArkify Team

Using Your 3D Scans In Unreal Engine

A short guide on turning your 3D scans into game-ready assets for use in Unreal Engine 5.

Using your 3D scans as videogame assets is an easy way to create a realistic game environment with beautiful graphics. This process has been made even easier thanks to the introduction of Nanites in UE5, a new virtualized geometry system, which eliminates the need to worry about 3D models with high polygon counts. In this article, we'll walk you through the process of importing and staging your models in UE5 as well as the (optional) process of reducing your scan's file size in Blender. We hope that after you finish reading, you'll see how importing your scans into Unreal is an incredibly simple process.

If you have not already installed Unreal, you can download it from their website here.

Let's begin!

Unreal Engine's Nanites Explained

Introduced with the launch of UE5, nanites allow users to render very high poly meshes in their games without a big performance cost. How does Unreal's new virtualized geometry system work? According to the official Unreal Engine 5 Documentation:

During import — meshes are analyzed and broken down into hierarchical clusters of triangle groups.
During rendering — clusters are swapped on the fly at varying levels of detail based on the camera view, and connect perfectly without cracks to neighboring clusters within the same object. Data is streamed in on demand so that only visible detail needs to reside in memory.

This essentially means you can now use high-poly meshes without worrying about using up too much memory. It is now possible to import your scans as they are to Unreal without going to the trouble of using a tool like Blender to lower the poly count.

However, as Unreal mentions in their documentation, it should be noted that larger file sizes will take up more disk space, and may make it difficult to upload and share your game with collaborators and users. If disk space is a concern for you, check out our article Lowering 3D Scan Poly Count in Blender 3.0 before moving on to the instructional portion of this post. The linked article will help you reduce the size of your 3D scan files while maintaining the majority of their quality and detail. Even with the reduced file size, Unreal recommends that you enable nanites for all meshes to ensure optimum performance of your game.

Importing And Staging Your 3D Scans In UE5

Now that we've explored nanites and how they work, let's import our first 3D scan into Unreal Engine 5!

Start by navigating down to the Content Drawer in the lower right of your screen. You can use hotkeys Ctrl + Space to open it. Select the folder you'd like to place your model in and right-click it to bring up the folder options. Select Add/Import Content > Import/Game/[YourGame'sName] > Select both the mesh and its .png texture file and import.

Once your files are selected for import, you will get to customize your import settings for the mesh. To keep things simple in this tutorial, we recommend following our settings pictured to the right.

Be sure "Build Nanite" under Mesh is checked to enable nanites on your scan, even if your mesh is already low poly to ensure optimum performance.

After import, your screen should resemble the picture below. One Default Material, one Mesh, and one Texture.

To place your 3D scan mesh in your scene, simply click and drag the mesh from the Content Drawer into your 3D Viewport. If you'd like to place the object on something specific, like the table in this example, hover the object over the table in the viewport before letting it go. It should snap to the table's surface automatically.

To adjust the position, rotation, and scale of your mesh in your 3D viewport, you can select the Move, Rotate, and Scale icons shown in the picture below.

Be sure to only use the middle handle on the Scale Gizmo (this will highlight the whole gizmo yellow) if you'd like your model to be scaled uniformly (pictured below).

Finally, you can apply texture to your model by clicking and dragging the .png Texture you imported directly onto your model in the 3D viewport. Your model will turn gray for a few moments before the texture appears. This action will automatically generate a new editable Material in the Content Drawer as shown below. Simply double-click on the new material in the Content Drawer if you would like to make any edits to it.

Thanks to Unreal's nanite technology, building and rendering highly detailed scenes with your 3D scans is easier than ever! By using 3D scans to build out your game's environment, you're not only creating scenes with stunning graphics, but you're also saving all the time you would have spent modeling the same thing by hand. Have you tried using your scans in Unreal Engine yet?

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