Creating soft shadows with Movable Lights in Unreal Engine

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I’ve just figured out a small mystery that I thought I’d share with you. It’s about enabling soft shadows in Unreal Engine, specifically with the Movable Light type. It’s the “expensive to calculate” variety, especially when enabling soft shadows. I’d like to use them to get real time good looking shadows for still images and animations, hence real time performance is not important to me. Here’s what we need to do:

  • pick a point or spot light
  • enable Distance Field Shadows in the properties
  • adjust the Source Radius parameter

Here are three examples of this technique:

The first image shows the scene without soft shadows, the second one with soft shadows. The Source Radius is set to 0, whereas in the third image I’ve set it to 50. Higher values will give even softer shadows, although setting it to 0 will already give a certain softness.

Note that the Distance Field Shadows option may be greyed out in your project. If that’s the case, head over to your Project Settings and enable Generate Mesh Distance Fields under Engine – Rendering. This requires restart of the editor.

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