Epic Games announced it has acquired Quixel, a startup that created a huge “photogrammetry” asset library of real world imagery that can be used in animated films or video games.

Back in March during the Epic Games event at the Game Developers Conference, Quixel demoed a cinematic short film Rebirth that looked like it was someone taking a video of a landscape with a video camera. Only it was an animation using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.

Epic said that it will make Quixel’s bundled tools, dubbed Bridge and Mixer, and all of Quixel’s Megascans library assets available free for everyone with the Unreal Engine, and Epic will retain all of the 100-plus employees of Quixel. Epic made the announcement at its Unreal Academy London event. The purchase price was not disclosed.

In addition, Epic is announcing new Unreal Engine developments coming in version 4.24 (now available in a preview) that will streamline functionality for creators across industries. This includes all Unreal Studio features, including Datasmith and static mesh editing. These features, like new ways to create hair or fur, will become available in Unreal Engine going forward.

Quixel used Megascans assets and Unreal Engine to create the photoreal Rebirth short film unveiled at GDC earlier this year. Quixel’s Rebirth assets are also used on Epic’s groundbreaking virtual production demo for creating in-camera VFX.

“Our mission at Quixel has always been to make the world more accessible for everyone through ultra-high resolution scanning,” said Quixel cofounder Teddy Bergsman, in a statement. “As part of Epic Games, we’re now able to accelerate this vision as we grow the Megascans library, speed up the development of Bridge and Mixer, and improve integrations with all major 3D software and renderers.”

Founded in 2011, Quixel’s products include Megascans, an extensive library of 2D and 3D photogrammetry assets, supported by companion applications Bridge and Mixer. Game developers, filmmakers, and visualization specialists use Quixel Megascans assets to craft blockbuster games (Metro Exodus, Destiny 2, Battlefield V), animated entertainment (The Jungle Book, Black Panther, The Lion King, Pacific Rim: Uprising), and lifelike scenes through high-quality content and access to a vast array of tools.

Quixel’s primary operations will remain based in Sweden and the six countries where employees are based.

“Building photorealistic 3D content is an expensive endeavor in game development and film production. By coming together with Quixel to make Megascans free for all use in Unreal Engine, this level of artistry is now available to everyone from triple-A studios to indies,” said Epic Games Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney in a statement.

As part of making the Quixel Megascans library of more than 10,000 assets free for use with Unreal Engine, ten high-resolution packs have been shared today for free on the Unreal Engine Marketplace, as well as a collection of assets from the popular Iceland collection used in the “Rebirth” cinematic short. Additional asset packs will be made available for free on the Marketplace at a future date within the Unreal Engine 4.24 release timeframe.

Quixel Mixer and Quixel Bridge are being made available for free to all, regardless of engine choice or license type. In addition, all Quixel Megascans users can look forward to more downloads per month and more generous license terms.

Unreal Studio for all

Epic also announced more streamlined features and workflows that advance Unreal Engine for all creators. Starting with Unreal Engine 4.24, features such as the Datasmith suite of plugins, static mesh editing, and the Variant Manager — previously available through the free Unreal Studio beta — now ship as part of the unified binary tool. As a result, all Unreal Engine users will now have access to the same features, regardless of industry and use case: games, architecture, automotive and transportation, film and television, broadcast and live events, as well as training and simulation — with the entire community benefiting from a more diverse user base with transferable skills.

As a result of this shift, the Unreal Studio beta will be retired upon the release of Unreal Engine 4.24. Users remaining on Unreal Studio 4.23 or earlier will be able to continue using the product, however Epic will no longer release new versions or offer further support. The Datasmith plugin for 4.19-4.23 will be made available for all users for free on the Unreal Engine Marketplace.