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UE3 Home > Unreal Development Kit Gems > Adding HUD Distortion
UE3 Home > Post Process Effects > Adding HUD Distortion
UE3 Home > Materials & Textures > Adding HUD Distortion

Adding HUD Distortion

Last tested against UDK June, 2011
PC compatible


Adding distortion to the screen is often a really handy effect for providing feedback to the player. It may mean the player has been hit by a certain kind of weapon, is currently under water or viewing through a sniper scope. In this development kit gem the sniper scope will be used as the example.

Post Processing

Unreal Engine 3 stores its screen output in a render target which allows you to modify it using post processing. As it is stored in a render target, the Material system is used to modify the render target. Please refer to Post Process Effects, more specifically Post Process Materials.

Setting up the material


To start off, some textures are needed. Textures are stored in the UI LOD Group and have the Address X and Address Y set to Clamp.

A normal map for distortion.


An alpha map for opacity.


Sniper scope texture coordinates

For a sniper scope, it isn't desirable to have the texture stretched out over the entire screen. Ideally, you would want the sniper scope to be in the middle of the screen and constrained to a 1:1 aspect ratio. This can be achieved in the material by adjusting the texture coordinates.


  • Multiplying texture coordinates adjusts the scale of the texture as a percentage. For example, 0.5 is 50% of the texture and 2.0 is 200% of the texture.
  • Adding to the texture coordinates adjusts the position of the texture as a percentage. This isn't the same as the position of the texture on the screen, but rather where to start looking within the texture when first using the texture. Normally this would just be 0, but adjusting this allows you to pan across the texture to select a different pixel to start drawing at. In our case, since the texture has its Address X and Address Y clamped, it will shift the texture across the screen and produce black parts on the edges which is ideal for a sniper scope.

For different screen resolutions, it will be required to set these parameters within Unrealscript.

Sniper scope distortion

For a sense of 'immersion' producing a small amount of distortion to hint at the curvature of the sniper scope's lens is desirable. The way to do this is to adjust the texture look up coordinates on the Scene Texture Sample. By multiplying the normal map, it is also possible to adjust the strength of the distortion as well.


  • Multiplying the normal map with a scalar parameter allows you to adjust the strength of the distortion easily.

ALERT! Because you are adjusting the look up coordinates, be aware that you may also need to adjust the overall texture coordinates as the image may be shifted so that it doesn't represent the players view any more. You may need to offset it.


Sniper scope colorizing

With the texture offset and the distortion complete, it is time to bring everything together. By linear interpolating between two versions of the Scene Texture Sample, using the opacity map, it is easy to create the sniper scope pattern on the screen.


  • Change the color of the sniper scope overlay by adjusting ScopeColor's RGB values.
  • Change the strength of the sniper scope overlay by adjusting ScopeColor's alpha value.

Completed material


Creating a simple Post Process Chain

Post process chains is what Unreal Engine 3 uses to handle post processing effects. Using a node like tree to chain effects one after the other, allows designers to create new post processing effects by combining other post processing effect modules easily. For more information on this system please refer to Post Process Editor User Guide and Post Process Effect Reference.


To test this material effect, create a new Post Process Chain by left clicking the New button within the Content Browser.


Once the post process chain has been created, double click on its icon with the Content Browser to open the Post Process Editor. Right click within the empty space, and select Material Effect from the context menu that appears. This will create a new Material Effect post process node.


Select on the Material Effect post process node, and set the Material field to the Sniper Scope material created above.


Modifying the material parameters in Unrealscript

As stated in the material creation section of this development kit gem, there are some variables that you need to adjust. To be able to find and reference the Material Effect node within the post process chain you will need to give the Material Effect node a name. This is done within the Post Process Editor like so:


var MaterialInstanceConstant SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant;

function PlayerTick(float DeltaTime)
  local MaterialEffect SniperPostProcessEffect;
  local LocalPlayer LocalPlayer;
  local LinearColor LC;


  if (SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant == None)

    // Get the local player, which stores the post process chain
    LocalPlayer = LocalPlayer(Player);
    if (LocalPlayer != None && LocalPlayer.PlayerPostProcess != None)
      // Get the post process chain material effect
      SniperPostProcessEffect = MaterialEffect(LocalPlayer.PlayerPostProcess.FindPostProcessEffect('SniperScope'));
      if (SniperPostProcessEffect != None)
        // Create a new material instance constant
        SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant = new () class'MaterialInstanceConstant';
        if (SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant != None)
          // Assign the parent of the material instance constant to the one stored in the material effect
          // Set the material effect to use the newly created material instance constant
          SniperPostProcessEffect.Material = SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant;

          // Adjust the scope color
          LC.R = 1.f;
          LC.G = 0.f;
          LC.B = 0.f;
          LC.A = 1.f;
          SniperPostProcessMaterialInstanceConstant.SetVectorParameterValue('ScopeColor', LC);




  • Download the content used in this development kit gem.

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