Everything you need to know about Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite Mesh

by Nicolai Baskin

May 31st, 2021: 9:55 PM

Intro: What is nanite mesh?

Nanite mesh is a revolutionary new type of mesh, that will drastically increase the quality of your meshes, allowing billions of polygons to be rendered on screen at a fraction of the normal cost. Nanite Mesh only renders what is visible on screen as well, so no resources are wasted rendering things you cannot see. It is on par with or better than the highest quality standard meshes, but it uses up processing power closer to a low end mesh. It’s already in Unreal Engine 5, just enable it in engine or it comes enabled by default in all new projects.

Wow, it has been a while since I wrote this, here this is a newer article on RTX vs Lumen.


How many polygons can Unreal Engine 5 handle?

Unreal Engine 5 can handle 10 billion polygons with no problem, and the upper limit is much higher.

What is Lumen and Nanite?

Lumen and Nanite are a faster, cheaper, and easier method of achieving realtime dynamic lighting and higher polygon count assets.

Is Lumen in the land of Nanite a game?

“Lumen in the Land of Nanite”, is a beautiful game, though not fully commercial, demonstrating the new features of Unreal 5, like Nanite Mesh and Lumen Lighting.

What is Nanite Mesh?

Nanite Mesh is a new type of mesh. It is faster, more efficient, and generally better than normal meshes in every way. It only works on static meshes though so you cannot have nanite on an animated character. It drastically reduces processing overhead while drastically increasing quality of the assets.

Unreal 5 is in Early Access:

Unreal 5 is finally in early access, and I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into it. I have loaded it onto my system, and I am rapt with anticipation to mess around with it. Since anything after 4.24 is backwards compatible, when it releases I will be going on vacation, and developing nonstop like a hermit in my room until the cheeto bags become a landscape.


Highest quality assets:

Among a slew of other features, which should allow developers a lot of new powers, is nanite virtualized geometry, film quality assets with billions of triangles, no more polygon budgets, no more normal maps, and fully dynamic realtime global illumination, to name a few, and there will be no baking of high resolution models to low resolution game models, you may import your assets at the highest possible quality.

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Render more objects on screen than ever before:

The doctors at EPIC have cured at least seven separate headaches in one easy pill. The new engine can display more triangles than has ever been possible before, and can render a larger number of objects on screen at one time than traditional engines have ever been capable of.

Big improvements in performance:

Nanite Mesh is a new form of mesh, designed to replace regular static meshes, and results in huge gains in optimization, less disc space, quicker rendering, and less CPU usage. Level of detail is automatically handled. Polygon counts, mesh memory, and draw calls will no longer determine your framerate.

Vastly increased visual quality:

Essentially, the closer you get to an object, the higher the resolution it will display at. So if you get up really close to an object, it might render at 4k, while an object far away may render at a much lower resolution. This vastly increases visual quality, and reduces performance overhead.

Render only what is visible on camera:

The Nanite Mesh is rendered only when it is visible on camera, and otherwise takes up no memory. The meshes, at different scales of detail, are selected depending on what is visible on screen. The resulting mesh is able to render geometry that is a great deal more complex and detailed, with far greater numbers of objects rendered than was possible before, and next to no drops in quality. For all but a few cases, chiefly when mesh deformation is required, the Nanite Mesh should be selected as on.


Reduced file size:

Compared to your low polygon mesh, the Nanite Mesh might take up 15 times the size of a low poly mesh on disc. But still a lot less than your 4k high poly static meshes. The level of detail between a Nanite Mesh at 4K and a high poly static mesh at 4K is identical, however the high poly mesh takes up almost 8 times as much disc space, making the Nanite Mesh the obvious winner.

Less disc space usage:

When importing a new mesh, you have the option to convert it to the Nanite Mesh, or you can also do it en mass in content browser, by selecting a group of objects and right clicking to choose Nanites -> Enabled. Or by using the mesh editor, in the details panel.


What does Nanite support? :

The Nanite Mesh does not support Skeletal animation, Morph Targets, Spline, and World Position Offset in materials. So your animated FBX characters will still have to be rendered normally. However, the vast majority of objects in scene can be rendered in the Nanite Mesh, and should be, whenever possible, as long as you are using a Static Mesh, an Instanced Static Mesh, a Hierarchical Instanced Static Mesh, or Geometry Collection. Certain material types such as translucent materials are also not currently supported.

What is not supported?:

You will also not be able to use Nanite Mesh on aggregate geometry, so you can count it out when it comes to things like hair, grass, or flower petals. Anything that involves a large number of very small or fine objects. However if you want to render a huge amount of triangles, or a large number of instances of something, Nanite Mesh is the way to go.


Lots of modes to view your game in

The Nanite Mesh System comes with, for your convenience, a host of visualization options, including the General Overview, Mask, Triangles, Clusters, Primitives, Instances, Overdraw, Material Complexity, Material ID and Lightmap UV modes. To the people who eat and breathe this stuff, well, they will live in it. Although most normal humans will be scratching their heads wondering what they just read, I can assure you this will result in some very beautiful looking videogames, they will understand that. In fact the showcase material was such that, the photorealistic graphics give the illusion that you are somehow editing real life scenes inside your IDE. The Nanite Mesh also supports Vertex Precision and Nanite Proxy Meshes.

Are there any issues present?:

There are a few issues, regarding closely stacked geometry being overdrawn in occlusion culling and resulting in diminished performance, and you will have to avoid faceted or hard edge normals if you want to avoid performance and disc space issues. And do be careful when you disable the Nanite Meshes as your computer may no longer be able to handle the incredible geometry of the new engine.

Final Thoughts:

Unreal Engine 5 is looking truly beautiful, and if all goes well, will soon overtake all other engines as the new standard, resulting in high end studio quality games from back scratching nobodies, science geeks, and the weebs will…. make use of it, as only they know how. For now, it is still heavy in development, and you are warned not to use the early access version for development purposes, it is currently geared towards testing of features and learning, but the wait is almost over, and I look forward to using a Nuclear Reactor to cook my eggs, as it were.

Learn more about Nanite Mesh at the Epic Games Website.


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