W.E.D. Scenery Development Ride-Along #2

I took some time to record another airport design in W.E.D, this time Cal Black Memorial in Utah. The audio works well in this one all the way through, and I talk through how to add AI traffic and taxiways as well. Thanks for watching, and get out there and design some scenery!

How To Disable NVIDIA Share

Just a few minutes back I was recording a flight on the PilotEdge servers that they will be able to use as a drone in the Western US Expansion area. Just as I was entering the downwind leg of the designation airport my sim crashed – which is only the second system crash I’ve had in X-Plane – making the flight a bust.

This frustrated me.

The culprit was “NVIDIA Share,” which seems to have crashed first, thence crashing the sim. I have since researched how to disable it, and here’s how you do so. Who knows – it may free up some processing headroom as well.

How To Get Started With X-Plane 11 (For Those Coming From P3D Or FSX)

How To Get Started With X-Plane 11 (For Those Coming From P3D Or FSX)

Now that I’m spending so much time with X-Plane people have been asking if the switch is permanent. I don’t think anything in the world of computer software is forever, and we will see how much of a coding re-write the forthcoming P3D 64 bit release will bring, but for now at least, yes I have made the switch and I am no longer using Prepar3D. I’m also not missing it, and am far more satisfied with X-Plane than I was with P3D 90% of the time (and I’ll explain the other 10% below).

The other question I’m getting is “What advice do you have for others making the switch?” So I’m writing this little how-to in hopes it will help other P3D and FSX users at least get the most out of the X-Plane beta, if not make the switch completely. So here goes. This list of steps is a version of my own experience with the switch. There are likely dozens of other possible ways to get started, but based on my experience in P3D and X-Plane, this is what I would do if I were to do it again:

  1. Download the X-Plane 11 beta. I have found it very stable, and see no reason not to start with 11 rather than 10. It is taxing on the system, at least as much as P3D, although I find it much smoother at low frame rates. But realize it’s cutting edge, and you may need to back off sliders a bit (but I’ve done fine, personally, and as the beta moves to final the frames will only improve).
  2. Download and install alpilot’s HD Mesh Scenery V3. This is sort of the equivalent of ORBX Vector. It will increase the resolution of your terrain and will make roads, forest boundaries, towns, power lines, etc. all much more accurate in the sim. It is excellent, you can download only the areas you want, and it is donationware. (While alpilot does not have the entire world, the X-Plane 11 underlying mesh is also very good as it is, and while not as detailed, is more current.)
  3. Download and install the W2XP models and W2XP sceneries for the parts of the world in which you want to fly. W2XP is shorthand for “World To X-Plane,” and if HD Mesh Scenery V3 is ORBX Vector then the W2XP sceneries are the equivalent or ORBX regional landclasses, with improved textures, autogen, etc. You will download at least two files: the W2XP World Models, and any regional sceneries you want. I downloaded the models, America, and Europe. Don’t worry about the “Net” and “Aerials” versions – you only likely need the main scenery files and the models file. These files, too, are donationware. (UPDATE: If you’re going to use World2XP America, be sure you have these four libraries installed – OpenSceneryX, World Models, R2 Library, and FF Library.)
  4. Download MisterX’s Airport Environment HD textures. These are replacement textures for much of the default runways, tarmac, taxi lines, etc. in X-Plane. It’s a bit like REX Direct. But it’s free.
  5. Get some weather. There are several options:
    • Use the default X-Plane clouds and weather, and XP will download real-world weather data if you enable it to do so. (Note though that I, and many others, find the default XP clouds very unattractive.)
    • Further improve the weather injection with the free NOAA plugin, which has very accurate METAR and winds aloft data.
    • Get SkyMaxx Pro v4, which is payware and $40 US. It’s sort of an Active Sky for X-Plane, although many have found the clouds unrealistic. It also needs an injector, so you could use the NOAA plugin with it if you wanted very accurate weather data.
    • Get xEnviro, which is payware at $70 and the new guy on the block for sky textures, clouds, and weather injection. This is what I use, and I think it is very good. Downsides are that it does not let you set your own weather, so if you want to set a particular situation you are left with X-Plane default clouds (although it does have a “make it clear” setting if you need things to be clear for a while.) But they are iterating very fast (it’s already at 1.6 and I got it at 1.1 just a few weeks ago) and it improves with each release. The clouds are not 3D volumetric, but volumetric clouds are on the roadmap, and it does not hit my frame rates at all. I’m very happy with it, and think it’s every bit as good as Active Sky Next if not quite AS16/ASCA. If you like overcast, you’re going to love this.
    • There is another, more geeky option, which is the Real Terra Haze plugin script for FlyWithLua (and note you will need to download FlyWithLua as well). This is a free option, and sort of the equal to PTA for Prepar3D. It seems to be solid for weather and texture replacement when combined with something like NOAA, and lets you tweak a lot of things. If you want to be really geeky, and want to save some pennies, you might check this out.
  6. Get some scenery. One place where P3D and FSX users will be surprised is the relative lack of localized scenery in X-Plane (and this is part of the 10% I noted above). While it has about every airport in the world, many are just 2D with no buildings, and many cities also lack much of the custom building models that come with FSX and P3D (like Las Vegas, for example). The good news is that there is a MASSIVE online community that has designed scenery with which to fill the world, and most of it is free. Here’s my advice:
    • Download the free Prefab airports package. It will fill up 25,000 (yes, 25,000) airports with basic terminals, aircraft, etc. from one of over 30 layouts and make the world far less barren.
    • Do a Google search for any airport you might want appended with “X-Plane” (for example, “KMQS X-Plane“), and it will pull up options for you. You can also search the scenery library at X-Plane.org. Pay particular attention to anything by MisterX, as his airports are excellent (like KSAN … again, free).
    • For even more quality stuff, get some payware.
    • Make your own! The free WorldEditor (WED to X-Plane folks) program is easy to learn and it’s fun to make your own airport scenery. There are plenty of how-tos on the Web to get you started.
  7. Read this primer on scenery ordering so things layer in the correct sequence in your sim after you’ve added your new goodies.
  8. Get some airplanes. The big makers (like Carenado) make airplanes for X-Plane, but be careful as most haven’t been given the green light for 11 as yet. The good news is that x-Plane 11 ships with several great default aircraft, including jets, gliders, a C 172 and two twins. They all fly great, and I’ve been very happy with the default Cessna (there’s even a version with floats). The community has also made hundreds of others which you can find at X-Plane.org, and about everyone I’ve asked says the Airfoil Labs C172 SP is the most accurate GA airplane available for flight sim, anywhere, on any platform (including A2A’s 172). It’s not XP-11 ready yet so I’ve not gotten it, but I will.
  9. AI aircraft. Part of my 10%. Sorry, no great options for you compared to P3D and FSX, at least not yet. For AI aircraft, you can turn on up to about a dozen AI aircraft for wherever you’re flying, but the ability to have MyTraffic inject real world schedules for you just doesn’t exist with XP. X-Life is getting good reviews, but is only available for certain airports (although that list is growing). I live without it, or turn on the default dozen planes and make do.
  10. ATC. Also, no great options compared to P3D and FSX. XP has stock ATC, but it’s not sophisticated and only has two voices. When I want ATC I fly on PilotEdge, which is wonderful as it is real-world quality. And with the new Western Expansion, it’s better than ever.
  11. Spend time at X-Plane.org. It’s a great resource, and the X-Plane community is extremely welcoming, friendly, and charitable. It’s a great group and a great way to learn.

So that’s the long version. The short version is:

  1. Download the beta.
  2. Download HD Mesh V3 for the parts of the world you want.
  3. Download W2XP models and sceneries for the regions of the world you want.
  4. Download Airport Environment HD.
  5. Read the primer on scenery ordering.
  6. Get xEnviro.
  7. Get the Prefab airports package and MisterX airports (and any other airports you might want).
  8. Stick with the default airplanes for now.
  9. Have fun, and quickly forget what it was like to play with .CFG files.

A final few words on scenery. First, I know that coming from P3D and FSX some of this seems like a foreign language. This primer on scenery at AVSIM is very informative and will help you learn how things work in X-Plane.  Second, it’s relatively easy (if time consuming) to make your own photorealistic scenery for X-Plane. Do a Google search on “X-Plane ortho scenery” and “X-Plane photo scenery” and you’ll learn plenty. I was lucky that a viewer gifted me a bunch of photorealistic scenery (no, I can’t share it) so I’ve not had to make my own, otherwise I would. But unlike FSX and P3D the autogen buldings and trees will populate on top of the photorealistic scenery, which makes for excellent effects, so photoreal is worth looking into if you have the time and storage space.

So I hope this helps. I’ve loved X-Plane, and the one time I loaded P3D since I downloaded the XP-11 beta I was left thinking, “Boy, I don’t miss this.” I don’t know if X-Plane 11 is for ever P3D and FSX user (in fact, I’m certain it’s not), but it is for me. It’s fast, stable, looks great, has very realistic flight modeling, and is supported by a massive community of people working together to improve it. I’m sold, and if you decide to try it out, I hope you enjoy it, too.

Solved! How To Use Dual Controls In X-Plane 11

* NOTE: I updated this post on 1/16/17 to clarify how you find the initial assignments of axes and buttons.

The one lingering barrier to my complete switch to X-Plane was the inability to use both sets of the Basement Sim’s controls. It seems that in X-Plane if roll/pitch/yaw are assigned to more than one controller, only one will work and X-Plane disregards the other. (This is not the case with FSX or P3D, which simply read whichever control provides the most recent or largest input.) Only one set of working controls is a real problem for me, as being able to fly with family, friends, etc. is a big part of what I enjoy about the Basement Sim.

There is an answer, though, and it turns out it is Lua. From the Lua website:

Lua is a powerful and fast programming language that is easy to learn and use and to embed into your application. Lua is designed to be a lightweight embeddable scripting language and is used for all sorts of applications from games to web applications and image processing.

 

Lots of simmers and cockpit builders use Lua to write little bits of computer code, called “scripts,” that allow them to execute unique commands (like having the buttons they installed in their panel turn on the cabin lights). Lua scripts are like little apps you can run to get things done that the sim software won’t do itself.

X-Plane is very easy to integrate with Lua thanks to the FlyWithLua plugin. I had posted on the X-Plane.org forums that I was hoping the final release version of X-Plane 11 would allow multiple sets of controls, and one of the very helpful folks in that community — Teddii — responded that a Lua script might be the answer. He said I should be able to write a script for one of the buttons on my yoke where if I flip the button to the left the left controls are live, and if I flip it to the right the right controls are live. He even volunteered possible code.

Getting the code to work meant finding out which axis numbers X-Plane was associating with each of the yokes. Fortunately every time you launch X-Plane FlyWithLua puts a little .TXT file called “initial_assignments.txt” in its plugin folder that shows initial joystick and button assignments. To find my axes and button assignment numbers I first went into X-Plane’s joystick configuration screen and assigned the axes of BOTH yokes to pitch and yaw. This gives you a warning that you have dual assignments in X-Plane, but that’s OK. I also assigned the button that I wanted to use to pass control of the airplane to a command I would recognize (in my case, calling ATC). Looking at the initial_assignments.txt file I could see the pitch, roll, and yaw axes for both yokes and the button numbers for the left / right switch on my Yoko yoke (which X-Plane reads as two buttons – one for each position – rather than as one, and I had assigned BOTH to call ATC in the joystick configuration screen). You will see commands like this in the initial_assignments.txt file:

set_axis_assignment( 0, "roll", "normal" )
set_axis_assignment( 1, "pitch", "normal" )
set_axis_assignment( 3, "yaw", "normal" )

… and …

set_button_assignment( (4*40) + 1, "sim/operation/contact_atc" )

You need to do a little math for the button assignment: (4*40)+1, for example, is 161. That’s the button number for the MyAirplaneYourAirplane code. You may also need to guess which set of axis assignments are the left and right controls, but that’s easy to change if you get it wrong.

I added these variables to Teddii’s initial code, put the “My Airplane Your Airplane.txt” script file in the FlyWithLua scripts folder, and gave it a go. Partial success: it worked in swapping to the right controls, but would not swap them back to the left. Looking at the joystick configuration window in X-Plane I could see that I again had conflicting yaw / pitch / roll controls, and deduced that while the swap from left to right worked, the script did not clear the assignments for the left yoke, resulting in the same problem I had started with (dual-assigned controls).

So I just modified the script a little bit, adding lines to assign the axes that I’m switching away from to “none.” SUCCESS! It worked, and now I’m able to easily pass control of the airplane to a passenger by flipping the yoke switch to the right, and take it back by flipping it back to the left.

The final code follows, and you are welcome to use it if you like. Thanks again for Teddii for his help as I would not have been able to do this without his initial and very helpful code. Also, there is a nice primer on getting started with FlyWithLua here.


 

My Airplane / Your Airplane FlyWithLua Script

-- axis numbers for left yoke
L_axisPitch = 75
L_axisRoll  = 76
L_axisPedal = 52

-- axis numbers for right yoke
R_axisPitch = 25
R_axisRoll  = 26
R_axisPedal = 2

function yoke_switch()
    if button (486) and not last_button(486)
    then
        -- activate right yoke
        set_axis_assignment(R_axisPitch, "pitch", "normal" ) --"normal" or "reverse"
        set_axis_assignment(R_axisRoll,  "roll", "normal" )
        set_axis_assignment(R_axisPedal, "yaw",  "normal" )
        -- DEactivate left yoke
        set_axis_assignment(L_axisPitch, "none", "normal" ) --"normal" or "reverse"
        set_axis_assignment(L_axisRoll,  "none", "normal" )
        set_axis_assignment(L_axisPedal, "none", "normal" )
    end
    if button (480) and not last_button(480)
    then
        -- activate left yoke
        set_axis_assignment(L_axisPitch, "pitch", "normal" ) --"normal" or "reverse"
       set_axis_assignment(L_axisRoll,  "roll", "normal" )
       set_axis_assignment(L_axisPedal, "yaw",  "normal" )
       -- DEactivate right yoke
       set_axis_assignment(R_axisPitch, "none", "normal" ) --"normal" or "reverse"
       set_axis_assignment(R_axisRoll,  "none", "normal" )
       set_axis_assignment(R_axisPedal, "none", "normal" )
    end
end

-- check for the switch button every frame ...
do_every_frame("yoke_switch()")

-- end

How I Configured X-Plane Screens For The Basement Sim

First, I’m writing this quite quickly as I have someplace I need to be. So forgive any typos, and I may revise it a bit later …

After several days of tweaking I finally have my X-Plane 11 visuals for the Basement Sim where I like them, and I like them a lot. It was a bit of a process getting there, and absolutely a learning experience as I’ve never played in this space in X-Plane before, but it was fun and I feel like I understand it much better – and I really like the results.

You’ll remember that the reason I had to do all of this is because of how X-Plane handles multiple monitors. Historically, it didn’t do this at all without significant add-ins. With X-Plane 11, though, we have multi-monitor support, and it works great, thanks to a simple dialogue that allow you to set a field of view (the default is 60 degrees), along with lateral, vertical, and roll offsets for that field of view. In essence, if each monitor is like a camera on a tripod, you can set the width of the image (field of view), as well as the direction it is pointing horizontally (lateral), tilt (vertical), and side-angle tilt (roll).

So by setting different offsets for each camera, you should be able to achieve a set of views where the front screen is looking out the front of the airplane, the left screen is looking straight out the left window, and the right screen is looking straight out the right window. By varying the fields of view, which act like a zoom, you should be able to get objects on different-sized monitors (I have a 100 inch projection screen in front and 32 inch LEDs on the sides) to match up. And finally, by varying offsets, you should be able to get the horizon to match up across the three screens.

After some trial and error, I was able to do this. For my screens and my cockpit, this was the setup that worked best:

LEFT SCREEN:

  • 57 degree FOV
  • -90 lateral offset
  • – 6.5 vertical offset
  • 0 roll offset

FRONT SCREEN:

  • 97 degree FOV
  • 0 lateral offset
  • 7 vertical offset
  • 0 roll offset

RIGHT SCREEN:

  • 57 degree FOV
  • 90 lateral offset
  • -6.5 vertical offset
  • 0 roll offset

These settings produced a nice alignment of horizon and runway lines that matched up very well, especially from the position of the GoPro in the back middle of the cabin. But there was a problem, and the problem was that I could still see the panel on the front screen. So just use the arrow keys to raise the eye point, right? But therein is the complication, because in X-Plane 11 (at least so far) the multiple views are all connected to a single eye point, meaning that they all move together. So when I raised the view to get the panel out of the way, the top of the virtual cabin windows were now in view. And if I lowered the view to get the windows out of the way, the panel was visible. Everything moves together. So how to solve THAT problem?

The answer is the great little program that comes with X-Plane, Planemaker.exe. It allows you to make your own aircraft for the sim, or to modify the ones you fly. You can find it in the same root directory in which X-Plane sits. It turns out that the airplane models in plane maker are made of three-dimensional objects that the designer loads to cover the wireframe (and invisible) physical dimensions of the airplane and flight model. In essence, they design a wireframe airplane, and then fill and cover it with textures and objects, like wings. These objects don’t affect the flight characteristics, as they are simply window dressing for the flight model. And it turns out that you can move them around, and even delete them entirely. The airplane will look different–if you delete the wings and look at the airplane in chase view, it will have no wings–but it will still fly just fine.

It’s because of this that I was able to solve my view problem of having a panel that was too high, wings that were two low, and cabin walls that I could see. Here’s how I did it, with some screen grabs from my Mac which has X-Plane 10 on it (this Cessna looks a bit different than the one in X-Plane 11, but you’ll get the idea):

  • In my X-Plabne “Aircraft” folder I made a duplicate of the default Cessna 172 folder. I created a full copy called “Cessna 172SP Copy” that had all the contents of the original in it. This way I could work without messing up the original.
  • The file that Planemaker reads is a .acf file. I opened plane maker, and opened the Cessna_172SP.acf file from the Copy folder. When you do, you’ll see something like this:

Screenshot_12_14_16__4_43_PM

  • With the Visualization menu on the left you can “turn on” or “turn off” different parts of the visual model. This does NOT make them invisible in the sim – it just makes them invisible so you can see what’s behind them. Here’s a view where I’ve turned off the fuselage object:

Screenshot_12_14_16__4_46_PM

  • Turn off the fuselage object so it’s out of the way. Then click Standard / Misc Objects from the menu. You will see a screen that lists all the 3-D objects that make up the visual model of the airplane. something like this:

Screenshot_12_14_16__4_47_PM

  • This is a powerful screen, so tread lightly here. But if you click the “clear” button for any of the objects, Planemaker will delete them from the visual model. They won’t show up in the sim at all, but it also won’t affect the flight model. Your external screenies may look strange, but you can easily remove things you don’t want to see. If I delete the cockpit.obj object, the model now looks like this:

Screenshot_12_14_16__4_49_PM

  • So that’s what I did. In the X-Plane 11 172 I also deleted a second cockpit object, seats, and a bit more. I DID NOT delete any of the avionics or panel, because I think they may need to be in the model to work, but I’m not sure. When I loaded X-Plane 11 and loaded that Cessna (if you look at the details for the airplane in the flight setup screen it will show you which folder it’s in so you can pick the correct one from the Copy folder), I could see the wings, cowl, and prop, but the cockpit was gone, and I finally had a correct view like I was looking out real windows. BUT – there were still alignment problems (wings too low, cowl too high, panel too high).
  • If you look at the Misc Objects screen you will also see that you can adjust the vertical, lateral, and horizontal positioning of objects, and you will actually see them shift around on the screen. I used this to lower all the panel objects a lot (but still so I could see them by tiling my view in case I needed to), to lower the cowl and prop a bit, to raise the wings a bit (I suppose I could have just raised them and left the cowl in place, but I’d already moved it), and to move the wings forward.
  • Finally, I adjusted the starting eye point so that every time I load that airplane the view is in the right place: in the center of the aircraft, rather than in the pilot’s seat, and a bit forward so the wings are just where I wanted them (again, If I moved the wings more I could have accounted for this there, but not the center position of the view). You can tweak this in Planemaker as well, using the Standard/Viewpoint window. It looks like this (this is the X-Plane 10 version, and the 11 is just a bit different):

Add_New_Post_‹_On_The_Glideslope_—_WordPress_and_Cessna_172SP

  • By adjusting the “pilot’s viewpoint” values you alter the starting location of the view when you open a flight with the plane. I adjusted the lateral value to 0, which starts the camera right in the center of the cabin, and moved it forward a bit by adjusting the longitudinal arm (long arm) value DOWN to be about 2.2 feet. This starts the sim with the view just where I want it, and the whole thing now looks like this:

DCIM106GOPROGOPR7006.

DCIM106GOPROGOPR7005.

And I think that looks pretty good. So, with all this behind me, when it’s time to do this for a new aircraft I believe I’ll do the following:

  • Configure the screens first, probably using the “no scenery, no HUD” view so I can just focus on getting the sizing and alignment correct.
  • Then look in the 3D cockpit view to see how things interrupt with the view, and to move the eye point around to get a sense of what I need to delete and move.
  • Use Planemaker to delete objects.
  • Go back into X-Plane to see how it looks and to decide if I need to adjust the wings, etc., then go back and forth with Planemaker until I have those adjustments how I like them.
  • Use Planemaker to get the permanent starting eye point where I want it.

I actually don’t think that will take very long, now that I’ve done it once. Of course, If Laminar allows unique eye points for each screen, all this will be unnecessary. Until then, I hope it’s of help to you, and that it helps many more X-Plane simmers build their own cockpits. To help with that, you may download my .acf file for the 172 here. It probably won’t be perfect for your sim, but it might be a good starting point. Thanks for reading.

Coming Soon: My Guide To Building A Basement GA Flight Simulator

CoverI’ve been trying to post more and more information that can help folks build their own Basement Simulator, and have finally decided to take the plunge and write a guide on the topic. I do NOT want to offer something that goes into significant detail about the software, hardware, and PC side of things, as Sim Samurai’s Ultimate Guide To Advanced Flight Simulation achieves that with far greater detail than I’ll ever have to offer. (And if you’re planning to build a home sim and haven’t purchased the UGTAFS, I can say it was one of the first things I did when I got started, and it’s worth the price.) Rather, I want to offer something that describes in reasonable detail the design I’ve used, choices I’ve made, and lessons I’ve learned in building the Basement Sim — including plans, tools, and parts — so that others who wish to build a similar GA cockpit can more easily do so. My vision is something that will be enough of a detailed resource that someone could use it to build and start flying in a sim like mine.

I began producing the guide yesterday, and have 18 pages written so far, including side, front, top and back plan elevations. I hope to complete it sometime next week. Because of the time and energy invested, I do plan to offer the guide for sale, and expect to do so for somewhere around $30 with a full money-back guarantee if people who buy the guide aren’t satisfied with it. I figure the experience I’ve put into it is probably worth that, but we’ll see.

For those who are curious, here’s the current table of contents, and I presume each of these sections will make it into the final draft:

  • INTRODUCTION
  • OVERALL DESIGN
  • TOOLS & PARTS
    • Tools
    • Parts
  • COMPUTING EQUIPMENT
  • TVS & PROJECTORS
    • On Resolution
    • The Projector
    • Projector Or TV Front View?
    • The TVs
  • INSTRUMENTS, CONTROLS, AND AVIONICS
    • Instruments
    • The Wonderful FIP Gauges By Tom Tsui
    • GPS
    • Controls
    • The Importance Of USB Hubs And Proper Power
    • Final Thoughts On Avionics And Controls
  • BUILDING THE FRAME
    • Basic Frame Plans
    • Side Elevation
    • Top Elevation
    • Front Elevation
    • Back Elevation
    • The Panel
  • SIDE PANELING
  • UPHOLSTERY & CARPET
  • THE GLARE SHIELD
  • TRIM
    • Placards & Stickers
    • Real-World Parts
  • LIGHTING
  • INTERCOM & HEADSETS
  • SEATS
  • OTHER TOPICS
    • FSX, P3D, or X-Plane?
    • Rumblers
    • GoPro and Video

So stay tuned! I hope it will be a valuable resource for others looking to pursue the hobby as I have.

How To Stop Dynamic Head Movement In Prepar3D

A question I get from time to time is how I manage to keep my virtual cockpit views from moving as the aircraft moves (for example, the virtual eye point moving back as the airplane accelerates, or to the side in a turn). Prepar3D (and I presume FSX) have a configuration setting called “Dynamic Head Movement” which creates the effect. To turn it off, open your Prepar3D.cfg file and edit the values of these lines so they appear as below, and it should fix it (you may need to reboot):

[DynamicHeadMovement]
LonAccelOnHeadLon=0.000000
LonAccelOnHeadPitch=0.000000
RollAccelOnHeadLat=0.000000
YawAccelOnHeadLat=0.000000
RollAccelOnHeadRoll=0.0000000
MaxHeadAngle=0.000000
MaxHeadOffset=0.000000
HeadMoveTimeConstant=0.000000

My Custom Camera Configurations

One of the most common questions I get about the basement sim is how I’ve aligned the cameras across the side LEDs and the front projection screen. I wrote a post about the process here, but a few folks have still asked for the config files themselves. I’ve actually written the camera settings into the individual configuration files for each aircraft I fly, but I do keep a reference file that has the settings. I’ve pasted it below the “continue reading” break below.

But please remember: these settings are based on the aircraft in the sim, the width of my cabin, the size of my screens, and the distance and height of my projector. Your mileage may vary considerably. Also, note that the first several camera settings below are in the format you need to add a custom camera to a scenario file, and the final one (for the Piper 180) is in the format you need to add a camera view to an aircraft config file. Hope this all helps.

Continue reading “My Custom Camera Configurations”

Getting Started With SPAD.neXt

The creator of this great Saitek driver replacement utility has posted a good getting started video on YouTube. Recommended. 

How To: Creating Custom Cameras In Prepar3d V3 (Especially For Three-Monitor Setups)

How To: Creating Custom Cameras In Prepar3d V3 (Especially For Three-Monitor Setups)

Many of the questions I get on my YouTube channel are about my screen setup and how I manage to get the images on the projector and side screens to align. I do it through custom cameras created using the custom camera tool in Prepar3d, and thought it might be helpful if I wrote a post here explaining my process.

There are two ways you can use custom cameras in P3D. One is to create new camera views in a particular scenario. These will be saved in the scenario config file (which is stored in the P3D folder in your PC’s Documents folder), and they will be persistent with that scenario: whenever you load it, those camera views will be listed as options in the Custom Camera submenu of the View menu at the top of the screen. If you save custom cameras in your default scenario, they will remain there, too. The other is by adding them to an airplane’s default configuration file, in which case that camera view will always be available for any scenario or flight with that airplane. That’s a bit more complicated. I’ll describe both here.

Creating custom views is easy but not always intuitive, and through (much, much) trial and error, I’ve learned ways to simplify the process and get good alignment across multiple screens. Here’s my process for setting up a new set of screen views, which for me would involve three cameras: Front (for the projection screen and view out the front of the aircraft), Left (for the view out the left window), and Right (same for the right window).

FIRST: I begin with the front view, because it’s the front horizon that I will want the side views to match up with. Custom cameras inherit the settings of the view from which they start, so to save time I first use the view directional keyboard commands to move the view to something close to what I want to have (forward / back, left / right, up / down). It’s easier to tweak a view that’s sort of close than to start completely from scratch.

SECOND: I right click on the front view select “Custom Camera / Create New” from the popup menu:

Photo May 15, 8 53 57 AM

This brings up the Manage Camera Views screen:

Photo May 15, 8 54 29 AM

THIRD: I tweak that view to get it to my liking, and the easiest way to do this is to use previews. Click the Preview button, and it will open a new view window on the main screen that has inherited the view from which you clicked. Drag the window and its edges so it fills the front view screen. From now on any changes that you make to the variables in the Manage Camera Views dialogue will show instantly on that view screen when you click the Preview button. So you can easily tweak, preview, tweak, preview, etc.

As for the variables in the dialogue, here’s what they mean:

  • X is the placement of the eye point left or right of center in the aircraft
  • Y is the placement of the eye point above or below center in the aircraft
  • Z is the placement of the eye point front or back of center in the aircraft
  • Pitch is how “nose up” or “nose down” the view is
  • Bank is how angled left or angled right the view is
  • Heading is how turned to the left or turned to the right the view is

Tweak these settings until the view is how you like it, then give it a name in the dialog and click “Save.” P3D will then ask you if you want to quit or not. If you choose “Yes” the dialog will close as will the preview window, but a view with that name will now appear in the Custom Camera pop-up menu, and you can select it for your front view. With my front view is that I like to see the cowling of the aircraft, but not the glare shield (as my sim has one). This means my front view is pushed forward quite a bit along the Z axis, and yours may be different.

FOURTH: Once the front view is created, I make a left-hand view for the left window monitor. I follow the same process as above, using the keyboard keys to turn the view to the left, move it close to the window, adjust the height, etc. Again, I’m just trying to get it close. Once it is, I open the Manage Camera Views dialogue, create a preview, drag it over to the left window monitor, fill the screen, and begin tweaking the preview. One variable that I simply set rather than tweak is the Heading variable. For the Left view I set it to -90, as this has me looking directly out the left side of the aircraft.

Through trial and error I’ve learned two things are important with the side views. The first is that at least for me, the side views and front view need different zoom settings. My sim is really close to the projection screen, and it’s a 100-inch screen. To keep objects from being huge I have the front zoom at .30. For objects on the side views to be about the same size they need a greater zoom, and I use .60. I’ve come to this through trial and error, and in my sim this has things like the buildings and taxiway lines matching up well from a size perspective. Your zoom settings will be different, but know that the front and side views may need different zooms. The second is that the Bank variable is important. The default camera views nearly always have the horizon when viewed out the side window tilted toward the front or rear of the aircraft. I use the Bank variable to adjust the tilt to make the horizon straight, and the Pitch variable to adjust the height of the horizon so it lines up with the horizon of the front view across the two screens. This may take some trial and error, and might mean re-tweaking the front view’s Pitch a bit, but when it’s dialed in I can (1) see the cowling of the aircraft out the front, (2) see the bottom of the wing and my flaps out the side, and (3) have the horizon match up across both left and front screens.

When I have the left view correct I save it with the name “Left,” and instead of quitting the Manage Camera Views dialogue I click “No” because I want to continue with the next view: Right.

FIFTH: Once I have my Left view I do NOT close the Manage Camera Views dialogue. Instead, I rename the view Right, and keep all the variables THE SAME except three: X, Bank, and Heading. Bank and Heading are easy: just make them the inverse version of the Left value (so if the Bank and Heading were -4.5 and -90 for left, they should be 4.5 and 90 for right). Y, Z, Pitch, and Zoom should stay the same. This ensures your Left and Right views are mirror compliments of each other. The only variable to tweak is X, as it’s how far left or right of center the eye point is. For the Right view you’ll want it up close to the right window, so I tweak that variable, looking for a point where the both the left and right struts (or wings for a low-wing airplane) seem about the same size and position. Then I save that view as “Right” and close the dialogue.

At this point you should have three saved camera views, Front, Left, and Right, and you can assign them to their respective views and monitors. Now the question is how to keep them for use in other flights. I have two ways of doing this. First, and easiest, is to add the camera views you’ve defined to other saved scenarios. To make this easy (and to back up my work) I’ve created a text file on my desktop called “Cameras” into which I’ve pasted my camera settings so they are backed up and easily at hand. This is easy to do: go into the Documents/Preapar3d folder on your PC and open in a text editor the scenario .CFG file in which you created your custom views. Scroll down and you will see the standard camera views, and below that your custom ones. Just copy and paste the code into your backup Cameras file. Here’s a screen shot of part of mine:

Screenshot 2016-05-18 15.42.17

I have camera setups for four aircraft: the Carenado 182, A2A 182, A2A 172, and A2A Piper 180. All are pasted into this backup file so I have them. Then I can copy and paste the appropriate camera code into the config file of any particular scenario without having to create the camera views via the dialogues. Just open the scenario config file in a text editor and add the appropriate camera code at the bottom of the pre-existing camera locations. Just be sure to continue numbering the camera setups consecutively within the file.

You might also want your camera setups to be part of a default aircraft configuration, so those views are available whenever you start a flight with a particular aircraft (saved scenario or not). This is a little more complicated, but not much so. Let’s say I want to add my the A2A 172 Front / Left / Right camera setups to the default A2A 172 so they are always available whenever I use that aircraft. To do this I would go into my P3D directory / simobjects / airplanes / A2A 172 subdirectory and open the airplane .CFG file in a text editor. If you scroll down in an airplane .CFG file you will find the camera definitions, and they look like this:

Screenshot 2016-05-18 15.43.43

As you can see, these look DIFFERENT than the scenario camera definitions, which is where people get confused. The good news is that there are only a few lines of code that you need to change to convert one of these default views into a custom camera view. Here’s how to do it.

  • First, copy an existing camera definition within the airplane .CFG file. It doesn’t matter which one.
  • Second, paste it at the end of the camera definitions, and give it a new cameradefinition number that is next in the sequence from the definition above it.
  • Third, change the Title variable of the view to the name you want (e.g, “A2A 172 Front”).
  • Fourth, change the InitialZoom variable to be the correct zoom for your custom camera.
  • Fifth, change the InitialXyz line to reflect the X Y Z values from your custom camera.
  • Fifth, change the InitialPbh line to reflect the Pitch, Bank, and Heading values from your custom camera.
  • Sixth, and last, go to www.guidgenerator.com  and grab a GUID number. Each camera needs a unique identifier, and this site will give you one. Paste it OVER the GUID value between the brackets at the top of the camera definition. When you’re done, it should look something like this:

Screenshot 2016-05-18 15.44.08

Save the file. That’s it, unless you want to add Left, Right, or other views, in which case you can repeat the process.

In terms of having this all look good from a REAL camera’s perspective if you’re filming with a GoPro etc., what I’ve learned is key is that the camera be at about the same height as your eyes in your simpit. Then everything should line up across the three monitors as they do from where you sit (with some minor variability).

I hope this is helpful.