[Video] Chaos Vantage vs Unreal Engine 5 for Archviz || The Definitive Breakdown
Recently I have completed two speedbuild videos – if you haven’t seen them yet you can check them out HERE and HERE – one with Chaos Vantage and one with Unreal Engine 5. They both started with the same simple house model and the goal was simple – to create a full scene for the house and render it as a cinematic archviz type animation.
I didn’t really have a strong vision for where the scene was going, but I knew that both workflows provided very professional tools and assets that could get the job done in a nicely polished way. What I didn’t foresee is how different the two projects would be – in time spent, in the general ease in which I could create, in the look and feel of the finished product – frankly, I was quite surprised by several things I found. There were some major differences, and I want to talk about them.
I think both workflows have their pros and cons, and in this video we will discuss all of them. I anticipate that this overview will give you some insights that might help you to work out your optimal workflow as well, so let’s get started…
Read the full breakdown below or watch the video here:
I’m going to break the comparisons down into these categories:
· The Model
· Art Direction
The model is what it is. It is created in 3ds Max, and doesn’t change the workflow either way except for one thing, and that is “how well does it translate to our chosen real time software.” And good news, both Vantage and UE5 perform very well in this category. With the added help of Epic Games’ Datasmith plugin, a 3ds Max model and be brought into Unreal Engine very easily and seamlessly – no fuss. And Vantage – if you’re already using the 3ds Max + V-Ray workflow – is essentially just an extension of 3ds Max, so the transition is again quite seamless. Both software even have live link capabilities with 3ds Max models, although I have not yet fully tested that capability with Datasmith – let me know in the comments if you have been successful with it.
In this category, I’d say the two workflows are basically even as long as you can use Datasmith. I might give Vantage a slight edge because it is a little more integrated into 3ds Max, which I like.
If you’re like me, an archviz artist first, and totally accustomed to a 3ds Max + Vray workflow, your view of this category might be a bit distorted. I know that Unreal Engine has amazingly powerful capabilities within in its material editor tools, but often I try to avoid them altogether. Since I am way more comfortable creating the precise materials I want using Vray materials, that is what I do – and then I hope that they just translate well using Datasmith. The really good news is that they mostly do! Of course, with Vantage, I know they will translate because Vray and Vantage are using the same render engine. So, here I give the edge to Vantage, because really in both workflows I am using Vantage (or Vray) materials.
Once they are exported to real time – Vantage can easily change materials by dragging and dropping from the built-in cosmos asset browser.
Unreal can do something similar using Megascans materials, and also has every tool you would ever need to edit a material or create a new custom one. Like I said, though, that can get somewhat confusing and complicated. Your best bet is to get it right in Vray in the first place, or to learn Unreal Materials really well, or both.
This was a really big deal! Bigger than I thought it would be. Obviously, with both these workflows, there is an endless amount of assets available for purchase and download, but I mostly stuck with the free assets built-in to each. I find this so much less time consuming because of the seamless integration. Of course, the assets we are talking about here are Megascans for Unreal Engine, and Cosmos for Vray & Vantage. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that Megascans leans heavier towards nature, and Cosmos leans heavier towards manmade archviz items – furniture, light fixtures, accessories…that kind of stuff. All of those things are totally necessary, BUT, this project happens to depend highly on nature and natural assets. That is where all the real detail is. For building out natural environments with realistic details, Megascans blows everything else away, IMO. And, it is so nice to be able to place everything in real time. The integration of Megascans into Unreal is an extremely powerful combo. Vantage doesn’t have anything that can compete with that directly, and although Megascans can be used with 3ds Max, it is just not nearly as easy to fill out your scene with it as it is in Unreal Engine with the foliage tools, and with the high frame rate real time rendering it can achieve.
In short, I LOVE cosmos for so many things in archviz, but if I want to quickly build out a natural environment, the Unreal Engine + Megascans combo dominates.
And that really brings me to my next point…scattering
When filling out a scene like this one, the ability to scatter objects is extremely important. For the 3ds Max, Vray, Vantage workflow, I used Chaos Scatter for this. There are presets for it in Cosmos, so all you really need to do is create the shapes that will control your scatters, and you get good results right out of the box. I use Forest Pack regularly as well, and it does essentially the same thing. For Unreal Engine, I used the foliage tools, which allows you to paint objects onto your landscapes, either individually or many at a time. With both tools, the randomness is built in. Unreal Engine actually has scattering abilities more akin to Chaos Scatter with the release of their procedural tools, but I didn’t use that for this video.
In this case, being able to easily paint foliage was so much easier. Again, the real time factor creates the most fluid way in which to create. It is intuitive and creative. It is just better than drawing shapes and randomly scattering things within them to make sure they look right. For huge areas not right in front of the camera, scattering is more convenient. For important areas that are close up where you want full artistic control of how foliage will compose your shot, painting in objects works way faster and easier, IMO.
Again, when it comes to creating natural environments, Unreal Engine seems to have the upper hand here.
I have an important disclaimer here – for my Unreal Project, I was only using Lumen. Lumen is a lightning fast real time global illumination solution that gives very good results, but it will not be as “accurate” as the Vantage lighting. Keep in mind, though, that accuracy is not always the main goal, and also, if you want more accuracy you can always use the path tracer built in to Unreal Engine, but it will sacrifice the real-time feel of working in a game engine. Vantage is not to run at the same kind of frame rates that Unreal is, and it is going to be much more accurate in its lighting solutions – extremely similar to what you would achieve in Vray.
As far as setting up the lights go, for Vantage you mostly just set them up as Vray lights inside of 3ds Max. Inside of Vantage, you have a lot of control over them too because it essentially has a light mixer built into it. Lights can be turned on and off, and be adjusted in color and intensity as well.
With the Unreal workflow, I usually chose to add the lights later once my model is in Unreal. This way, I can use native Unreal Engine lights which give me more control and more predictable results, as opposed to an imported Vray light.
Both methods provide all the lighting capabilities you need with spot lights, area lights, direct lights, point lights, and HDRI domes, etc. That said, they will give different results. As you can see in my finished videos, the lighting just looks different, even though the setups are quite similar. I would say that Unreal leaves things more up to the artist discretion, and gives you slightly more ability to fake things or exaggerate things for more impact. Again, if you just want a straight up accurate representation of the physical attributes of your lights, Vantage will be closer, or you can use path tracing in Unreal.
Again I feel that these two workflows are very even in this regard. Realtime does make lighting a scene better, so Lumen is fantastic for intuitive and creative lighting, and Unreal has an edge there. However, if a more accurate lighting solution is needed, I would probably go with Vantage over the Unreal Path Tracer – mostly because I am already very comfortable with the Vray lighting workflow, and translating that into Vantage is just a click of a button.
For this, I mostly mean the ability to change and adjust the overall look and feel of a scene. In this case, it was a lot of lighting adjustment using light mixers, but also get the atmosphere just right. Both workflows have great tools for this, but I would say Unreal gives you more control in real time. Vantage does give you the light mixing, some post-processing settings, and a little bit of control over fog. For Unreal, all of those things live entirely within the game engine as robust tools with settings for absolutely everything, so of course this will offer more control and precision. On the other hand, it can be more complicated than you might need, or perhaps overwhelming. Again, the advantage for Vantage here would go to those who are already familiar with getting all of this just right in 3ds Max with Vray – then when they export to Vantage everything will already look right.
Unreal’s advantage is that having full control over the mood of your image at 30 frames per second is just intuitive, highly creative, and simply fun.
This is definitely something I prefer to do in real time with the fastest feedback possible.
If you are just animating cameras and their settings, Vantage is very simple and straightforward and gives you the exact functionality you need. Because of that simplicity, anyone can intuitively animate camera shots without much of a learning curve at all.
Unreal is also very good at this, but of course it has much more power built-in as well. That means more settings, and a lot more functionality than you might need, therefore, it can be a bit more complicated. That said, it is pretty easy to learn as well with a simple tutorial.
If you need complex object animations and those sorts of things, Unreal Engine can do it natively, and Vantage would be relying on that being done in 3ds Max. Again it comes down to how you want to create things. Animating in real time is DEFINITELY better, but most my animation is typically of camera settings, and both Vantage and Unreal can handle that very nicely.
The rendering portion is truly even in both workflows. In each, you simply need to give it the export settings you want and let it do its thing. The main settings to be aware of are samples – basically a measure of how refined you want each frame to be, at the cost of more render time. The goal is to get enough anti-aliasing, and to get rid of enough noise, so that you have a clean image, but also don’t have to render unnecessarily long.
This the breakdown for the two animations shown:
5 hours for the Unreal Engine animation using Lumen with some fairly high anti-aliasing settings
9 hours for the Vantage animation, but keep in mind it is computing accurate reflections and GI, rather than estimating it like Lumen.
Theoretically, both these could go way down if I was willing to render with lower settings.
The GPU used for this was a GEFORCE RTX 2080 TI, by the way, since I know someone will ask that in the comments.