When I first saw the work of Koolala I was shocked in a number of ways. Not only were the renders wonderful to behold, they completely reshaped what I thought was possible with real-time rendering in Unreal Engine 4.
For a few years I have been familiar with Physically Based Rendering (PBR) principals in rendering. It just makes good logical sense to me as a way to build complex materials with computers. It has been around a lot longer than the recent buzz would suggest, however over the past year there as been an increasing amount of support for PBR in real-time rendering.
What surprised me the most about Koolala was not the quality of the rendering, but that it was not pre-rendered. The following clips are recordings of simulations in Unreal Engine 4, meaning if you had access to the files and Unreal Engine 4, you could drop in and navigate the scene on your computer in real time. Koolala has set an incredibly high bar for PBR in real-time engines that I hope one day to match and build on.
Enjoy Koolala's fine work: