Sun and Sky Actor

An overview of the setup and usage of the SunSky Actor with the SkyAtmosphere component.

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The Sun Position Calculator plugin includes a Geographically Accurate Sun Positioner that gives you fine control over the Sun's position based on a geographic location and date in time. The SunSky Actor is part of this same plugin. It uses the same mathematical equations to govern the position of the Sun in the sky and includes a bundle of components—a Directional Light, Sky Light, and SkyAtmosphere—to produce true-to-life renderings that show realistic patterns of sunlight and shadow.

The SunSky Actor makes it simple and quick to set up your scenes no matter your aesthetic choice, with settings for Daylight Saving Time (DST), the date, and the time of day. It's designed to work well within games and other industries, like our Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC), or Automotive, Product Design and Manufacturing.

Project Templates and Setup

When creating a new project , you can select from different industry types and templates relevant to each.

Depending on the template you choose, some properties are enabled/disabled. These properties affect the look and functionality of the SunSky Actor.

Keep the following in mind when choosing a Template Category and Template:

  • The project setting for Extend default luminance range in Auto Exposure settings is required for this SunSKy Actor to display correctly without editing its properties.

  • Some templates for each template category enable the Sun Position Calculator by default. You can verify this by going to the main menu and selecting Edit > Plugins and searching for the plugin and searching for the plugin once you've opened a new project.

Enabling the Sun Position Calculator Plugin

  1. From the main menu, choose Edit > Plugins.

  2. Find the Sun Position Calculator plugin under the Misc category, and check its Enabled checkbox.

    SunSky_SunPositionerPlugin.png

  3. Click the Restart Now button to apply your changes and re-open the Unreal Editor.

    SunSky_Restart.png

Using the Sun and Sky Actor

Once you've enabled the Sun Position Calculator plugin, you'll find a new Actor called Sun and Sky available in the Editor Modes panel under the Lights category.

SunSky_Modes.png

Drag it into the Level viewport.

SunSky_PlaceSunSkyInLevel.png

When adding a SunSky Actor to your scene, it's best to remove any Directional Light, Sky Light, or SkyAtmosphere components that are already there. Otherwise, it's best to start with a new Blank Level if you're starting from scratch.

When you drag a SunSky Actor into the Level and it appears bright white, you can do one of two things:

  • Enable Extend default luminance range in Auto Exposure settings in the Project Settings under the Rendering category.

  • Or, if you don't want this project setting to affect the look of your project, you can select the SunSky Actor's Directional Light and use a lower Lux intensity.

The SunSky Actor contains movable Actors for Directional Light, Sky Light, and SkyAtmosphere components as part of its Blueprint. When the scene component SunSky(Self) is selected, the exposed Blueprint properties that can be set—such as those for date, time of day, latitude and longitude—are displayed. Selecting the individual components—like those for the Directional Light or SkyAtmosphere—displays their own properties. These properties—like mobility and intensity—can also be set.

SunSky_ComponentsDetailsPanel.png

Properties and Settings

The following adjustable properties are found in the SunSky Actor Details panel.

SunSky_Properties.png

Property

Description

Location

Latitude

The degree north or south of the equator.

Longitude

The degree east or west of the prime meridian.

Time Zone

The specified time for a given region of the world. The time zone uses GMT as a basis.

North Offset

Sets the directional position of North for the SunSky Actor and its components.

Date

Month

Sets the current month.

Day

Sets the current day.

Use Daylight Saving Time

Enables Daylight Saving Time (DST).

DST Start Month

Sets the Month at which DST starts in the current year.

DST Start Day

Sets the Day at which DST starts in the current year.

DST End Month

Sets the Month at which DST ends in the current year.

DST End Day

Sets the Day at which DST ends in the current year.

DST Switch Hour

Sets the beginning and ending hours of DST.

Time

Solar Time

Sets the time of day.

Enter this value as a float in military time. For example 12:30 AM would be 00.5 and 12:30 PM would be 12.5.

ArchVis Template Level Examples

When you create a project, the template category for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction includes a template called ArchVis.

SunSky_ArchVisTemplate.png

This template project is dedicated to architecture visualization workflows, with examples for sun studies, interior rendering, and non-photorealistic stylized renderings. It includes the following assets already set up for you to use:

  • Multiple Levels that contain scenes set up to demonstrate visualization with physically accurate lighting using the SunSky Actor.

  • Lighting configuration and Post Process Volume with ray-tracing features already set for those projects that have enabled ray tracing.

  • Example Cameras and Sequencers used to render out the scene. These also include dynamic time-of-day transitions.

This template also enables the Datasmith plugin , which is a collection of tools and plugins designed to import scenes and assets created in offline rendering applications, like 3ds Max and CAD software, into a real-time engine.

Exterior

The Exterior Level demonstrates usage of the SunSky Actor with multiple cameras used with Sequencer to demonstrate a time-of-day sequence while moving through the scene in various locations. It can be found in the Content/ArchVisProject folder.

It's also a use of the SunSky Actor components lighting the scene dynamically , as well as a demonstration of the various real-time Ray Tracing when they are enabled for the project.

Interior

The Interior Level demonstrates usage of the SunSky Actor components to light the scene with precomputed static lighting . It can be found in the Content/ArchVisProject folder.

This includes:

Additional Notes

  • Ray Tracing features enabled by default on the SunSky Actor for the Directional Light and Sky Light to both support casting of ray-traced shadows.

  • It's possible to manually change rotational values of the Directional Light in the SunSky Actor. However, when you change other settings that affect other parts of the SunSky Actor, your manually adjusted rotational values will be reset to the default position. This prevents contradicting values incorporated with the idea of a geolocated calculation.

Additional Resources

  • When you input a location by name at the website LatLong.net , it returns a map view, along with latitude and longitude coordinates.

  • The website TimeAndDate.com has a section of their site dedicated to the Time Zone Map , which can be useful when figuring out what time zone you want to set the SunSky Actor to use. By default, it uses -5 GMT.

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