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What is Niagara?

Niagara is a powerful next-generation VFX system in Unreal Engine 5 that allow a technical artist to create additional functionality on their own.

Niagara is a next-generation VFX system in Unreal Engine that has the power to allow a technical artist to create additional functionality on their own without having to rely on the expertise of a programmer. It’s easy to use while simultaneously being incredibly flexible and adaptable.

Both Cascade and Niagara can be used for VFX in Unreal Engine 4, but Niagara differs greatly in how it’s used and how VFX is adjusted compared to Cascade.

Niagara consists of four core components: Systems, Emitters, Modulers and Parameters.

The Unreal engine handbook explains that “Niagara systems are containers for multiple emitters, all combined into one effect.” If you wanted to create a firework effect with multiple bursts, you could create multiple emitters which are then placed inside your Firework system.

For emitters, “Niagara emitters are containers for modules. They are single purpose, but they are also re-usable. One unique thing about Niagara emitters is that you can create a simulation using the module stack, and then render that simulation multiple ways in the same emitter. Continuing our firework effect example, you could create one emitter that had a sprite renderer for the for the spark, and a ribbon renderer for the stream of light following the spark.”

“Niagara modules are the base level of Niagara VFX. Modules are the equivalent of Cascade's behaviors. Modules speak to common data, encapsulate behaviors, stack with other modules, and write functions. Modules are built using High-Level Shading Language (HLSL), but can be built visually in a Graph using nodes. You can create functions, include inputs, or write to a value or parameter map. You can even write HLSL code inline, using the CustomHLSL node in the Graph.”

"Parameters are an abstraction of data in a Niagara simulation. Parameter types are assigned to a parameter to define the data that parameter represents.” For more information on the various parameter types, take a look at the Unreal Engine handbook here.

Check out this Introduction to Niagara by NVIDIA Studio.

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