Review: Photo-Real Houston Texas by Newport Scenery
By Bill Stack
Screen shots by Newport Scenery
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. The metropolitan area is the U.S.A.'s fifth largest with 6 million people. Its location in a bay on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico makes it an important transportation center. With oil production in the region since 1901, Houston has seen tremendous population growth for decades. It is home to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency's Johnson Space Center from where manned space flights are directed.
Several commercial, municipal, and private airports in Harris County serve the greater Houston area. The following are within Newport's photo-realistic scenery area:
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH) is Houston's largest airport. It serves more than 40 million passengers and more than 500,000 operations in 2011. It is the largest hub for United Airlines, which it acquired from Continental in 2010, and which handles 800 flight operations daily.
- William P. Hobby Airport International Airport (KHOU) is Houston's second-largest airport. It handled more than 9 million small and medium domestic airline flights and more than a quarter million flight operations in 2011.
- Sugarland Regional Airport (KSGR) is a publicly-owned general aviation airport that handled about 48,000 flight operations in 2011.
- Weiser Air Park (KEQY) is a private general aviation airport that is open to the public. It has about 38,000 annual flight operations.
These Houston airports are outside Newport's scenery area: David Wayne Hooks Memorial (KDWH), Ellington Airport (KEFD), La Porte Municipal Airport (T41), and West Houston Airport (KIWS).
Screen shots by Bill Stack
Newport's Photo-Real Depiction
Newport's depiction of the Houston area appears to cover about 25 square nautical miles. The two-dimensional depictions are taken from satellite photos and laid over the FSX terrain mesh. As a result, all shopping centers, subdivisions, roads, and other features of the real Houston are depicted, albeit in two dimensions. All three-dimensional objects are default FSX and are unchanged by Newport. Nothing is added, removed, or remodeled. Some of those are realistic such as skyscrapers and stadiums. Transition areas show distinct differences between photo real and FSX. All animated vehicles on the ground and aloft are default FSX.
My comparative screen shots show that Newport's photo-real scenery appears much more realistic than FSX stock scenery with autogenerated objects. What we see is what the satellites see in their two dimensions. Autogenerated objects would defeat the purpose of photo-realism by adding objects that don't belong there.
But the resolution of Newport's photo-realistic Houston isn't enough for close scrutiny. It appears blurry with unclear distinctions from low altitudes. Higher resolution requires much larger files and thus more storage space, and it tends to diminish frame rates. The balance is scenery that looks realistic from aloft but blurry when views are close to the ground, such as during take-offs, landings, and airport circuits. Consequently, photo-realistic scenery is best for higher altitude views. Newport's Houston looks good from about 2,000 feet and up. It's for flight simmers who want their scenery to depict what's down there -- especially items large enough visual reference such as shopping centers, schools, industrial parks, factories, roads, and interchanges. Photo-real scenery is not for flight simmers who want to see all that in three dimensions from low altitudes.
I saw no seasonal changes, presumably because the satellite photos on which this scenery is based were not taken in four batches to reflect all four seasons. Because of its latitude, Houston doesn't experience the same seasonal weather that most of the United States experiences anyway. Winters are short and mild. Snow hardly ever falls on Houston.