Normal Maps to Unreal Engine: FBX Export

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Instructor John Burdock

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How to export out an FBX file format.

In this video, you'll learn how to export out an FBX file format, that Unreal engine natively accepts. You'll also learn the FBX export interface, and talking about different settings to use.

For more information on Substances in Cinema 4D, watch: Substance Designer



In this video, we're going to talk about how to export out our baked object in an FBX file format as well as go over the best FBX export settings. So the first thing we need to do is actually move our object into a new scene. This is because by default, Cinema 4D will export everything in the entire scene out in one chunk. So we need to only separate out what we want to export. My favorite way of doing this is simply selecting the object I would like to export, doing Ctrl+C and then going up here and clicking File, and then clicking New. So we're going to go to File and click New. This will create a new scene for us and then all we have to do is just click Ctrl+V. This will paste our object into the new scene, and he's now ready for export. All we have to do now is go up to the top left here, click on File, go down to Export, and this will give us a list of all the export formats that Cinema 4D can export out in. Now as I mentioned before, we're going to be exporting out in an FBX file, or .fbx file, because this is what Unreal Engine natively supports. So, I highly recommend always export out in FBX for Unreal Engine whenever you can. It plays much nicer with this than any other format that it supports, so definitely please use the FBX file. So, let's just select that right there. And what it's going to do is it's going to bring us up to the save file dialogue. So we need to choose a location where we're going to save it. For me, I'm just going to save it in my dailies folder here, but you guys can save that wherever you would like to. But what I'm going to name it is very important. I'm going to name it Test. Now, that's not important, you can name that whatever you want, but I'm going to do do an underscore and then Object. Now notice I added an underscore instead of a space. This is because Unreal Engine, like many game engines, prefer underscores instead of spaces. Realize that it still would work even if I did a space and did not have an underscore. So if I had a regular space like this, it still wouldn't be a problem. But it's important to adopt this naming structure because later on when you're inside of Unreal Engine, it would much prefer to have this. And in fact, it'll actually force you to do this. So it's a good habit to kind of get into. Once you're done, we'll just click save, and then it'll bring up our FBX export settings. This lets us choose our FBX export options. Now, I'm not going to cover the entire thing here. I'm only going to cover the most important pieces that have direct links to normal maps and exporting out the geometry in a way we're going to be using it. So a lot of this stuff, we're going to be skipping. But what we will start with is FBX Version. What this does here is it lets us choose which version of the FBX file that we'd like to export out in. For the sake of this course, we're going to be exporting out in FBX 2016 format. Next up we have As Text File. This simply means if we have this checked on, Unreal Engine will read this file better if it's an animation. There is no animations going on the scenes, we don't need to worry about it. General, we're going to skip this, Animation, going to skip this as well, but next up is Geometry. Now this has some important stuff we need to talk about. Right here we have Normals coming up here. This is our first guy right here. Now, what is very interesting about Normals here, is it's not the same as the normal map that we just baked out. To help kind of explain what I'm talking about here, I prepared a nice little slide right here, to kind of help show off what is actually going on. So we have Normals. Now, first thing up is Normals is the same as the Phong Tag in Cinema 4D. So Phong Tag, Normals, exact same thing. This is what Unreal Engine kind of tends to refer to, our Phong Tag. Other applications will also call this Smoothing Groups. So just remember, this is part of one major group that does the same thing. So, what this actually does, Phong Tag or Normals, is if we have it checked on, it'll make our object look very smooth, and kind of flatter kind of like in here. And if we have it checked off, it'll make our object very hard edged, with no Phong or Normals checked on. You can see we have our very hard edged here. So all it's doing is really just smoothing out, averaging the Normals, or the polygons information here, to smooth this out. So that's all that's really doing there. While we're here, let's just go ahead and cover the rest of these guys while we have this nice handy kind of diagram listed up here. So, Vertex Maps, going to skip it. Vertex Colors, going to skip it. Nothing to do with Normal Maps, but then, Triangulate Geometry. This isn't directly linked to normal maps, but I am going to cover this very lightly because it is important to know. So, Triangulate Geometry. What does this mean? All this is going to do, is take your regular four-sided polygon object, and if we have it checked on, it will then split it down the middle, and create a three-sided polygon or triangulate our geometry. So if it's off, we have four-sided polygons, and if it's on, we have three-sided polygons. Now, you may be wondering, why would we do this? Why would we want to create more geometry? And this is simply because graphic cards, GPUs, read triangulated geometry much better than four-sided polygon geometry. In fact, it reads it so much better, that Unreal Engine will force triangulate your object on import. Now you may be asking the question, why am I even bothering to triangulate my geometry in Cinema 4D if Unreal Engine is going to do it on import? This is because we want to make sure Unreal Engine has to do the least amount of work as possible. So I highly recommend, triangulating your geometry on the way out. This is why I brought that up, because it's a very important thing to remember. Now that we've done all this, let's head back into Cinema 4D where we can finish up exporting our object. First up then, is textures and materials. We're going to skip SDS Subdivision, because this has nothing to do with our Normal Maps, but what Textures and Materials does, is it simply exports out the textures and materials that are applied on our object in the FBX file. So when we open it up inside of Unreal Engine, it'll bring those textures in along with it by default. Because we're going to be manually bringing in those textures and materials anyway, because we're using the xNormals' baking workflow, we're going to leave this checked off and not really worry about it. After that we have Embedded Textures. This does the exact same thing as Textures and Materials except it's a sub of that. So if I check Textures and Materials on, and then check on Embedded Textures, all this means is the Textures will be embedded into the FBX file. If it's checked off, the FBX file will simply just be referencing those original textures there. So, I know this is getting a little complicated, but all it means is if we embed them, it's literally doing that, it's putting the textures inside of there increasing file size, and if we have it checked off, it'll just be referencing the original location from where we saved those. And finally, we have Substances. All these are, is types of Textures and Materials that are created with a program called Substance Painter or Substance Designer. Now, we're not going to go into detail about that all, but just realize this has something to do with another application's integration into Cinema 4D. For more information about Substances and how they work in Cinema 4D, feel free to check the link in the description of this video. But now that we have done all that, let's go through from the top down and make sure we have everything like we want. FBX Version, check. Normals, check. Triangulate our geometry, definitely checked. Textures and Materials, don't need to worry about sending them out. And now, we can click OK. We've now exported out our FBX file. So, we've just gone through a good bit of information here in a short bit of time here, so let's finish everything up by going over, what did we just learn? So, we just learned, how to move our object into a new scene. How to open the FBX Export interface. How Normals are the same as the Phong Tag in the FBX exporter. Why we triangulate our geometry, so it's more compatible with Unreal Engine and better optimized for GPU performance. And we also learned, FBX 2010 is the only format that will export out textures. Very important one there. We also learned, how to export out our object in an FBX file format.
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