Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Custom ground vehicles

I've marvelled at Gary Summons' Xtreme products where he has custom vehicles operating independently of normal FSX road traffic.  I'd love to be able to recreate this but have no idea how!
Until I came across an old utility and I wondered whether it would be able to do the trick?

It's called AI boat traffic compiler - it allows you to create custom AI boat traffic and schedules, which at it's core is just a custom model, following a predefined path, at pre-determined times.  Could this utility be used to create what would be AI boat traffic on land, if you just use a vehicle model?  I am going to investigate......

UPDATE: Gary has got back to me to say his custom vehicles are done through SCASM coding, which looks quite complicated but I'm looking into it to see if I could get my head around it at all.....

Transparencies in Sketchup Part 2

I've managed to get my Sketchup model into ModelConverterX now, after going back to a previous version no, not the latest development release.  I've no idea why that helped but it did (see screeny below)









Unfortunately I can't get MCX to successfully export this to an FSX model file so that I can include it in my scenery!  Help hopefully may be on the way from FSDeveloper.com where I've posted about the problem....

UPDATE: It was simple - I didn't copy the dds texture file to the active texture folder!  Once done the model imports into FSX perfectly - what a schoolboy error! :p

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Scenery Transparencies


I've had it in mind now to learn how to do transparencies in scenery to make them more realistic.  One application for this is more complex scenery with things like handrails etc.  To do this with vertices is possible but very inefficient when a flat plane with transparent areas can be used.

I've sorted out being able to use alpha channels with textures, and as you can see have managed to get transparent textures into Sketchup now.  The red area to the left is a large red box inside the model :)

I'm having some problems importing them into ModelconverterX though so actually using them in FSX isn't possible at the moment :(  Little by little though I'm getting there....

Borrowing Scenery from Earth Simulations

I have been in contact with Earth-Simulations, the developers who have done the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly, and Shawbury Fields.  Since I bought some of their sceneries I have realised that all of the scenery bgl's are openable in Instant Scenery 2!
Darren has very very kindly agreed to let me use their existing scenery libraries in creating my own freeware scenery.  The up-side to this is that I can use their models to more quickly create an alternative to the flat photo-scenery FSX world.  The down-side is that my scenery will only be usable by people who have bought at least one product from Earth Simulations.

I've thought about this offer for a day or so and have come to a conclusion: that I will take up Darren's offer and use his libraries for the following reasons:
a) If I am to create scenery I need to do it as quickly as possible - my wife understandably wants some of my attention too!
b) I already have the libraries having bought some ES products so whatever I create I can use myself quite happily (and from my perspective I'm the most important simmer of all :p)
c) Darren has already invested a degree of time in creating his libraries - for people to expect to get all that work for nothing is downright cheeky.
d) If they really want my creations (and I'm not sure that will be the case!) they can buy something from ES, and the ES sceneries are really lovely :)

Where it's appropriate because the scenery demands it, I'll do my own custom models as well as using ES libraries, so it will be a mixture of stuff - doing it this way will save me lots of time and effort in not having to create every building.

Thanks Darren, and also for your kind offer to host anything I create and have it delivered to people via your ES-Installer software....

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fantastic FSX add-ons

I have to confess to doing rather little on my scenery recently.  I took a large number of photos for the textures and in a schoolboy error realised when I uploaded them from the camera to my PC that there was a greasy smudge on the lens and that every image was unusable.  Combined with some issues at work I've not managed to retake them yet.  So I did the next best thing and invested in a couple of great add-ons instead :p

I was always a little disappointed with my VR-Insight Hat-Track product.  Although it did the job, it was always a little unresponsive no matter how I set it up and it had a killer problem in that it jumped forward and to the left for a few seconds every now and then, resulting in disorientation especially at critical times such as landing.  Despite a visit to their customer support forum where the problem was already documented, (and where I found that they had discontinued the product and almost all support for it!), no suggested fixes or workarounds helped.  So I decided to splash out on a TrackIR 5.  (I initially decided on the Hat-Track because of a review detailing that it was a little weak physically in one place and had broken easily.)  Now I wish that I'd bought the TrackIR in the first place!  It's much more responsive, lags much less and adds so much to the immersivity (is that a real word?) of the sim :) Highly recommended....

Also, I'd seen the EZCA camera add-on after coming across the 737NGX promo videos.  After a quick download and upgrading to the latest version with a patch, I soon had EZCA and the TrackIR working perfectly in tandem.  It's much easier on the eye being able to seamlessly drift from one view to another and chose which ones you can track around with head movements with.  Again, highly recommended....

The next one was a bit of a punt...I'd found FSFlyingSchool2011 on a random google search for FSX add-ons a while ago and thought I'd try it out as there was a free demo.  It doesn't contain any flyable missions but it does provide helpful advice on flight techniques and amusing commentary from your in cockpit flying instructor Smitty.  FSFS2011 offered a weekend special offer so I got the voice command pack and Cessna 173 detail pack for free as well as a 15% discount :p   It tracks flight plans and offers advice for waypoints and you can configure many different options regarding what help and advice is offered during a flight, including coping with failures.  I don't think I've plumbed the depths of this product yet but even after only a few days I now can't help but marvel at how flat and empty my cockpit experience was without Mr Smith there to keep me company.

My penultimate choice was an ATC upgrade courtesy of VoxATC6, from RCSimulations.  This aims to almost replicate correctly the ATC in real life.  It's voice recognition led so comms is much more realistic at a stroke being through a yoke button set to ATC together with a proper headset.  There are prompts on-screen so even newbies can get to grips with proper CAP413 radio usage rather easily.  This is a fantastic add-on, not cheap but it makes FSX really feel realistic and I would rather lose a leg than be without it....! :O

If you haven't found Plan-G yet download it now!  It's a freeware add-on flight planner head and shoulders above anything else I've seen.  The only downside is that when you run FSX fullscreen you can't follow Plan-G.  Apparently though it's possible to run a second PC as a client using SimConnect meaning that you can have FSX fullscreen on the server (main PC) and have Plan-G running on the second PC displayed at the same time (and it won't be consuming any cpu resources either) so this might be something I want to delve into at some unspecified point in the future.

I really do feel that the quality of experience in FSX has taken a great leap forwards with these additions, so I'm feeling the motivation to take my scenery to the next level to match it.  To make it easier to do larger residential and unspecific industrial locations I have another potential trick up my sleeve, more on that maybe later....!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Autogen Annotation


I've been playing around with the possibility of creating a range of stock autogen buildings and using them through the autogen annotator to create a representation of areas faster than doing every building with a custom model.

It's taken me a lot of heartache to get the annotator in the SDK working tonight but it's done.  The hardest part was just figuring out where the final .agn files should go! 

Anyway, autogen is now possible without having to place very single tree and bush individually, as long as I use the annotator in the SDK.


[UPDATE - Having played around some more I've now been able to open the Treescapes .agn files and edit/add things to them, including buildings]

Sunday, 10 July 2011

GenX v3 update vol 3

I had the dubious pleasure of installing PlayHorizons VFR Photographic Scenery v3 Vol3 when it arrived this week.  I bought this because Liverpool is explicitly covered with the new 60cm imagery and I wanted to see how far it extended and whether it would make my custom ground texture for the Estuary Business Park obsolete.

The 60cm imagery does not cover the whole of the city I'm afraid and just about goes as far as Garston Docks, missing out the whole scenery area I am intending to cover.  If you're interested, I was a little disappointed, not just because the imagery is years old (I had harboured a hope that it might have been updated as there's been loads of new development in Liverpool over the past few years, but also because there were some quite serious and awful to look at mistakes included.  The ground textures don't fully cover the land, leaving some largish white triangles straddling the coastline.  The water masks aren't properly aligned leaving some nasty effects right through the middle of Garston Docks.  And the colours are as reported across the whole range, in that they are somewhat greener than the rest of the v2 Gen X range.  The colours are a subjective thing, either you can put up with them or you can't, but the white triangles and water masks are plain disappointing - they just shouldn't have released a product with those kind of errors.  Now, I uninstalled the update straight away, and it removed all water from my world - the Mersey estuary and Irish sea suddenly became fields :p  It's also affected some of my other scenery areas to the extent I've had to go back and reinstall them fully again.  Not quite a bitter taste in the mouth but not far off either. 

Does this mean I won't be buying from PlayHorizons again?  No, I will, as they've got more stuff in the pipeline (60cm imagery for the whole of Scotland) that I'd like to see.  Just like Earth Simulations, if we don't support these guys we won't get lovely new eye candy from them because in this tough old world they'll go out of business.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't point out the problems and errors and insist they are fixed though!!!

What does all this mean for my scenery around Liverpool? Mainly, that I didn't waste my time making the custom ground textures!  wooo!   Second, that you should bear with me if my stuff contains errors because I'm doing this for fun :)  Third, that I should probably invest some time in making the proper night textures for my custom ground area as it definitely won't be covered by any other product in the near future.....

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Speke Texture Progress

I've started preparing the textures for some of the residential housing in Speke and the fire and ambulance stations.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Off topic: Shawbury Fields and Earth Simulations

I know this isn't about Liverpool at all, but I thought it neccessary to say something about this particular product and Earth Simulations as a developer, especially as there appears to be some misunderstandings about what this product actually is.

When I first heard of Shawbury Fields as in development I was quite excited, as it's only just to the south of where I usually fly. I looked at the screenshots and impressive though they were, I held off buying. Why? Because I wasn't sure that with so much detail I'd get enough performance to make it flyable.

As with most things I like the look of though, the magpie effect won out in the end and I bought it! I wish I'd done that sooner, because it really is a beautiful scenery. I had to overcome a few memory problems and re-install the OS and FSX (not because of Shawbury Fields I hasten to add, just that my installation of WinXP was so old and cluttered it might as well have been dead :p)

This not a single airfield product - coverage of such a large geographical area is this way is unheard of for UK products as far as I know and the realism factor of so many buildings and trees cannot be underestimated at all at low levels.

Shawbury Airfield itself (with Shawbury Fields)
Shawbury Airfield itself (without Shawbury Fields)

Telford (with Shawbury Fields)

Telford (without Shawbury Fields)



Lots of autogen and bespoke 3D models

Lines of smaller trees added in minute detail!

Gliders and Parasailers as well!
So, am I satisfied with this product?  hell yes! 

Positives:
  • So much area covered
  • Great detail
  • Lots of landmarks included
  • Excellent performance given the level of detail
  • Good forum support on the Earth Simulations website
Are there any negatives for me?  Well, yes, I'm a bit of a perfectionist with my own work and never really consider it good enough because I am intimately familiar with all the compromises that have to be made...  In that sense every product is the same and there are some minor details with Shawbury Fields that niggle with me in the same way.

A good example is  in the eastern area near Chirk there's a bridge missing and the terrain at one end of the aquaduct at Pontcysyllte is too high.    ES know about the issue though ( http://www.earthsimulations.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=1026&start=20 ) and are willing to do an update.  I may well take a short trip there to get them some photos so they can make accurate models.

These issues can be rectified easily enough with some minor 3D scenery additions and tweaks though, so overall I don't think they detract from the product that much.  Either Earth Simulations will give an update or someone will do it 3rd party as freeware :) 

The bottom line is Shawbury Fields is a great product and I'd be very surprised if you were disappointed by it. 

A word on Earth Simulations as well.  Darren and Vicky have always been very responsive and I genuinely get the feeling they do care about their customers.  They have a number of products in development not least of which is an autogen tool which could cover the whole of the country with accurate buildings and vegetation.

The prospect of some killer scenery product like that means that as well as the scenery items I really want and like, I'm buying some of their other sceneries as well, even though I'm not likely to fly them too often.

I'm not connected to Earth Simulations in any way whatsoever, other than as a customer of several of their products - but I really do feel that we as simmers need to support developers with potential.  Great small companies like this deserve our support otherwise outstanding ideas like Autogenesis may not ever get to market.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Scenery Project Rolls On

Now my wedding is done and dusted, I'll be progressing again slowly with my Liverpool EGGP scenery project...(when the boss allows me of course :p)

First up is to complete the ambulance and fire stations at Speke, picking up where I finished with the industrial estate.  I'll also be looking at the same time to start creating some of the houses in Speke itself as I want to render the whole area around the airport. 

Then I'll move on with more buildings around Speke Hall Avenue, but these may go more slowly as I'm anticipating a lot more difficulty getting access for photos.  Many of the sites have secure areas so I may have to work up textures from scratch and they're likely to take more time to get right.

I'm hopefully looking at 2 weeks for the ambulance and fire stations, then August/Sep to have more of the Speke Hall Ave area finished.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

New Hardware

Despite building a machine that I *thought* would be able to handle FSX properly, I've found over the last few months that my flights have been blighted by artifacts and visual corruptions.  Nothing I've been able to do with hardware settings or tweaks has made much difference at all, which has kind of left my motivation for scenery development a bit low.

I've bitten the bullet over the past week though and invested in another 8Gb RAM, Windows 7 and a hybrid SSD HD.  Having installed everything it all works an absolute dream now :) No more crashes due to insufficient memory, no more artifacts or visual corruption and silky smooth framerates everywhere even at speed with Earth Simulations Shawbury Fields and every setting maxed out as far as it will go and in some cases tweaked further than FSX general settings allow. :D

Flying is now not a dream just a reality and after getting married in a few weeks I will happily get back to more scenery design around Liverpool John Lennon Airport....

Monday, 9 May 2011

New ModelConverterX release














I've looked again at Arno Gerretson's FSDeveloper blog and learned there have been some interesting developments with his tools.  Arno has incorporated multi-LOD and hard landable surface support so that's something to play around with and look at after my rapidly impending wedding.

As you can see though from the quick test above there are some of my buildings that can be massively reduced in complexity for lower LODs - this one is a reduction in the order of 80% less triangles to render, down from 2,500 to under 500.  Much of my scenery so far is quite simple due to the construction of the buildings themselves, but this may do something to reduce rendering overheads at distance.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Motorway Bridges

Even with GenX, don't you just hate the awfulness of flattened bridges and jagged uneven terrain when overflying motorway junctions?

Now you don't have to, as this before and after example just northeast of Liverpool at the bottom of the M57 shows.

Edits include terrain corrections along all aspects of the roundabout, motorway and sliproads, corrected texture for Speke Expressway so bridges don't appear at lower road level, extrusion bridges at correct locations mapped with accurate road textures on top and various vegetation around and about.  I probably made the terrain corrections far to complicated so any others I do should be simpler and easier.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

New scenery..please help someone less fortunate

I've now provided download links for everything I've done so far - feel free to use it as you wish free of charge.  If there are any problems with my scenery please comment on this post and I'll do my best to address it if I can.  Please note you will need all of these files for the whole scenery - I've posted them separately as that's how I've developed them.

Download Links:

Or for users who wish only to install certain parts here is it in sections:
http://www.filefactory.com/file/ca39b20/n/Higher_Res_Photoscenery.rar
http://www.filefactory.com/file/ca38e6a/n/Owen_Drive.rar

All I'd ask is that if you continue to use it would you please consider making a small donation to the Japan Tsunami appeal...go on, there are always people who are more in need than yourself, and if you've got the freedom and time to mess with Flight Simulator, you can spare a few pennies to help someone less fortunate.


(The links above are not related to me in any way whatsoever and are taken from a Google search 23.03.11, if you are unhappy using just look it up yourself!)

Thankyou!

Spindus Road 2nd part published

This is the 2nd part of Spindus Road.  Covers HP building, gatehouse, office block, substations, tank, trees and fences.















Download Link:
http://www.filefactory.com/file/ca392e4/n/Spindus_Rd2.rar

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Spindus Road published

Spindus Road industrial estate is mostly finished now, this version includes all major buildings, properly aligned fences, trees, the gatehouse and industrial estate sign (look carefully!).

This scenery may have an update shortly due to the complexity of two of the models which I am going to try to simplify in order to maximise framerates.














Download link: (4Mb)
http://www.filefactory.com/file/ca390a6/n/Spindus_Rd.rar

Premier Inn Update

This scenery is now based on an overlayed ground texture and building model, rather than the previous download which was the building sitting on a flat plane elevated 20cm above real ground level....

Fences are again properly aligned and all scenery is adjusted to Horizon GenX.














Download link:

Owen Drive and Bleinhem Way updates

I've updated Owen Drive and Bleinhem Way to sit properly on the high res photoscenery.  Fencelines now are positioned correctly and the fence sections align just about perfectly rather than being about 1 degree out of alignment with each other.  Due to a mistake when editing all the vehicles in Owen Drive were actually sitting in the Bleinhem bgl - this has now been corrected.

Owen Drive






Bleinhem Way














Download links:
http://www.filefactory.com/file/ca38e6a/n/Owen_Drive.rar

High res base v1 published


I've been working nominally only in the day when designing stuff so far, so when one bit of feedback was my higher res photoscenery looked a bit wierd in the dark I investigated....















Yes, I think we can say this is not quite right!

So, I've updated the photoscenery that everything I've worked on so far is placed within.  It is now fully aligned to the Horizon GenX photoscenery and includes a basic night texture so it doesn't look so wrong.  The night texture will be updated at some later point to get the colour-mapping fully matching GenX at night and to include streetlighting effects where appropriate, as obviously this scenery overwrites the default or GenX night textures - consider it a local brownout for now ;)

Screenshots of the photoscenery during the day and night are below....

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Latest update...

As you can see below I've been pushing on - developing the PF chemicals facility between Spindus Road and the airfield.  Fps seems to have taken a hit here so I'm going to suspend development now until I've tested each individual model separately to find out what's hitting the performance.

Check back this week though because I'll be posting a download link in the next few days for everything I've done up to now while I test the scenery.

















In the meantime, I've put a poll up regarding which scenery area people who fly from EGGP would most like to see next - let me know.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spindus Road...more...

I'm learning more and more how to use Sketchup in designing buildings.  Most of the ones I've done so far have been boxy industrial units and I'm a dab hand at applying textures to faces now.  Some of the buildings in Spindus Road though are needing additional detail.  Take this unit for example below - it has curved roof elements, an extruded cylindrical curved pipe on the roof and a silo.

















This gradual increase in complexity is allowing me to learn how to use Sketchup in depth - the only downside is having to make decisions about which detail to keep and which is best avoided in the interests of better frame rates.  My perfectionist side says model it in as much detail as possible, my better nature says FSX is a flight sim not a building sim!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

More New Buildings Added

I've added another three buildings on Spindus Road Industrial Estate.  That's about half of that area done, then I'll need to go back and add some detail into the area in terms of cars, vans, trucks, materials, trees and some bespoke blue fencing I'll need to create as well.


..and the Premier Inn hotel car park was bothering me.  I've removed the flatten I applied and mapped my car park image I created to the terrain.  It looked a bit fake though so I photoshopped it to blend in more with my higher res photo-scenery.  A big improvement, especially as the hotel and cars etc are now no longer 20cm off the ground!


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Progress with Spindus Road

Here's another addition to the Spindus Road buildings - Palace Chemicals right in the centre.  Still getting 40+fps on the screenshots....


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Next Texture Explanation?

See http://www.ptsim.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=2135 for an external opinion on the night texture issue.  Indications are it is FSX and the amount of data it is having to deal with that is causing the issue.

Good in that it's not caused by me (directly!), bad because there's little chance of being able to stop it.

Spindus Road in development

After making the new photo-scenery I've cracked on with creating some of the units in the Spindus Road area.  Obviously these aren't 100% done yet I'm noticing some tweaks that need sorting, but this gives some indication of progress at least :)  With the large photo-scenery and all buildings modelled so far, I'm still comfortably getting 40+ fps.  That dips only when water or weather comes into the equation....

An overhead shot showing everything so far...
Overhead from a different angle...
Closeup of one of the units...
and another....
and another...

New approach to higher res base images

I've decided to change tack and try working in a different direction.  I knew all along that the base images I had available for the area I want to cover are pretty old and don't show half of the new developments on the Boulevard Business Park.  So I've stitched them all together in Photoshop and managed to find a friend to help me get some newer aerial pics.   The new aerial pics were impossible to capture from an overhead perspective so when I got back with them I had to perspective crop various sections out of different images and then map it onto my existing old imagery to get it in the right place.  Easier said than done!

Not only was mapping the perspectives across awkward, but even when in the right place the colour matching made me want to vomit!  I haven't quite got the colour matching right with the GenX scenery but that can easily be tweaked with Photoshop later.   I used SBuilderX to make the bgl and the results are below.  All the higher res imagery is now in one file, albeit an 8Mb one.

Also, in doing this I've lowered the resolution somewhat from my first attempts, to see whether it made a difference or not with the night texture problem.  I've flown over this texture now for a while and it's happened once before correcting itself.  I'm looking into whether there's anything I'm doing that's causing it but in the end I'm goig to use it and if people don't like it they can turn it off - after all it's not like they're paying for it.  At some point I'll return to the high res texture and darken it to have a night version, but that's not top of my priority list right now.

You can see from the image below the difference between my photo-textures and GenX is pretty substantial, even at the new lowered resolution, especially from a lower altitude.


Friday, 11 March 2011

To carry on, or not to carry on....

Feeling a little depressed and frustrated about the night texture problem.  I can't find anything on the internet about the issue and without the higher res base images my scenery looks a bit poor.  I've invested a lot of time so far in the accuracy of the building textures, and without a similar level of ground detail they just look out of place on a low res low detail background.

I've posted a message on the SBuilderX forum - http://www.ptsim.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=2135 - to see if anyone can help solve the problem.  (That's assuming it's an SBuilderX issue and not just another Microsoft f*ckup that can't be solved at all.)

Don't want to give up, but don't want to do a half-baked job either!

See below an example of the night texture issue, including a zoomed in shot.  You can clearly see the tiule thats showing the night textures doesn't even touch the area covered by my test bgl in this example.















Thursday, 10 March 2011

Texture issues

I've retested the higher resolution clipped textures several times in flight and several things are becoming clear.

1. The frame rates I've been getting after a reboot are very good and still between 30 and 40fps consistently.  When FSX is run after I've done some modelling or image work the performance is much lower.

2. The water texture problem has only cropped up again once and I suspect that that is a memory issue, as it happens when the blue squares of death appear as well.

3. The strange problem of the night textures popping up in the middle of the day has occurred several times, but not consistently im the same place, or to the same extent.  Also, it self-corrects after a while, showing black night textures then updating them to the proper day textures.  I can only assume this is some kind of memory/video issue with the textures, unless someone can point me in the direction of a better answer??

I'm testing some smaller scale base images to see whether they have the same effects, but in the meantime I'd be grateful to hear about anyone elses experiences with those published before.

Monday, 7 March 2011

High Res base images for download and test

High Resolution base images mastered!

After some cogitation I realised that my previous blunders with SBuilderX trying to make high res base images were somewhat off the mark!  Oh how clumsy those flat sketchup planes with textures reverse mapped onto them were...and look now unto the lovely base images for Spindus Road Industrial Estate, the fire station and factory beyond.  You can clearly see the previous scenery to the right, and the sharp eyed will have noticed that Owen Drive is now sporting a high res base image as well.....















I've played around with SBuilderX some more and worked out how to import non geo-referenced photos and reference them over the ground.  This is cutting some corners but I had to overcome understanding that images had to be a 32bit bmp, there needed to be an alpha channel, which was completely white, the filenames had to have no spaces, that the project name in SBX had to start with 'Photo', and that you had to create a data file, an info file and have both of them with a copy of the original texture in a specific SBX folder.  Sounds easy but it was a lot of trial and error.  Even then I only had a square image that didn't blend in with the surrounding GenX at all.

Just for amusement I've included below a screenshot taken during the development process, showing my first successfully imported phototexture, but unfortunately showing as a big blue reflective water texture.  The alpha channel was completely black fooling FSX into rendering it as water.  A quick change to a completely white alpha channel fixed the problem!

To fix the square issue was relatively simple, but only because of a background in Photoshop.  I can explain in detail if anyone would like make their own scenery as well, but it involves laying a path around the exterior margin of where you want the base image to show, turning it into a selection, inverting it, selcting the image layer and deleting the excess image to leave a white space which FSX renders as GenX scenery.  I just saved the resulting file to a different name, copied into the SBX folder, renamed it back to the original filename used to reference the image square in SBX and ran the compiler from within SBX again.

Hey Presto, the bgl file that SBX subsequently output only showed the cropped high res image over the area I want :)

This sounds difficult but is completely do-able with freeware tools and a little time.  Anyone could do this having built up a little bit of knowledge about how to process images.  It's GCSE stuff.  I'm more than happy to explain how I did it in detail if anyone is interested in doing their own, and I might write a tutorial on it at some unspecified point in the future, as I couldn't find anything that told me everything I needed to know in one place.  The only surprise with this is that there isn't more scenery out there like mine seeing as it's this easy????

End result, loads of high res base images mapped directly to the terrain, including Owen Way and Bleinheim Drive.  Now just to get on in time with making the scenery to sit on top of it.......

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Available for testing

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spindus Road Industrial Estate

You can see from the image below I've now got the higher res basemaps for Spindus Road industrial estate in place.  It will take me some time to get Spindus Road done because not only are there lots more buildings to photograph and design and texturise, I also have to spend some serious time wedding planning now, and I'm off to China for 2 weeks for an old mates impromptu wedding as well!

Premier Inn Hotel

Here's 2 screenshots of the Premier Inn on Speke Hall Avenue.


This scenery gave me a few problems, in that the hotel has been built on a greenfield site, and the GenX scenery still shows that.  So whilst Owen Way scenery just sits on 1.2m GenX photoscenery, and I used a higher res google maps image for the base of Bleinhem Way, I needed a different solution here.

First of all I tried applying a flatten to the area but the previously encountered problem with the inter-relationship between flatten polygons made that impossible as I could only flatten half the area!  After emailing Gary and getting a pointer or two I tried again to overlay an image over the default terrain using SBuilderX.  When I first tried I kept getting error messages relating to the texture I was trying to use.  After a not inconsiderable time head scratching I figured out it was that SBuilderX doesn't support spaces in texture image filenames and once I'd renamed my file and removed the space, SBuilderX compiled it happily with no errors.

As can be seen in the picture above though, the overlay over default terrain caused the base image to distort and look very different to the nice flat car park that exists in real life.  So I went back to placing the base image on a flat plane sitting underneath the building model with no flatten polygon applied and the altitude reference set to the car park entrance off Speke Hall Avenue.  That still posed a problem in that one end of the car park disappeared under some low-res terrain and the hotel itself looked like it had been buried at one end.

The best workaround I have been able to come up with is to raise the altitude of the whole model by approx 16cm, which brings it above the terrain across its whole surface and displays it properly.  The drawback is that one end of the area near Speke Hall Avenue is 16-25cm above where it should be!  Fully zoomed in and paused it is possible to see this defect, but I'm guessing that overflying this scenery from an altitude of at least 1000ft and a significant horizontal distance away will mean that the 16-25cm error may not be noticeable!

Another bothering aspect is the car park still looks a little artificial.  I had to build it from scratch because all aerial imagery available still shows it as a field, so I took various photos of the car park surface and counted the number of parking spaces from each aspect.  I extracted images of the surface from the photos and used that as the base building block for the tarmac surface.  Other details like the disabled parking bay marking are again extracted directly from photos.   Even though the tarmac texture is built from an actual photo it doesn't look convincing so I may play around with that at some point to try to improve it.