Interview: Gottfried Razek and Joop Mak BlueSkyScenery
Conducted by Dominic Smith
When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?
I first started developing for MSFS way back in 2001 when I did my first photoscenery experiments. Back then there were not as many photoreal sceneries as there are today, and I was totally fascinated by the idea of flying over real world terrain. I will never forget the wow effect when I loaded my first scenery into FS2004. I've been hooked ever since then. My good friend Joop, who I develop my sceneries with, started a year before me (2000) making scenery adjustments.
Tell us about the nature of your designs and what you do?
As mentioned, Joop is the other member of the team, and he creates all our airports. The airports are very important because most of the time the layout of the default airports don't match that of the real world, which causes double or misaligned runways. He also brings a little life to the otherwise empty default airports by placing all kinds of objects. This makes a huge difference as an airport should feel alive. Over the years Joop has made more than 1000 airports which if you think about it, is quite awesome and an amazing feat. Myself, I create the photosceneries and the elevation mesh.
What do you consider your best or most popular work?
That's hard to say. We think most of our sceneries covering large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix or Salt Lake City are the most popular. However, sceneries covering scenic areas like the Canyonlands, Glacier or Grand Canyon and all our other National Parks are also very popular.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?
The most challenging aspect is to get the colors right. Most of the time the colors in the original aerial imagery are not correct and often there are abrupt changes. We try to eliminate all of that so as to achieve as smooth and realistic flying experience as possible. In areas with many lakes or coastal areas, defining water bodies is also a challenge. In this case, you have to define an alpha channel that matches the textures to a couple of pixels so as to make them look good and believable. With large waterbodies or coasts you also have to define a blend channel for a smooth transition to the default water.
Yes, a lot of photographic sceneries suffer from having textures of different shades, so how do you go about about fixing that?
As I already said, this is often the greatest challenge. We do not just pull the imagery and throw it into the resampler. Most of the time we do a lot of image processing to get colors, saturation, brightness and contrast right. Sometimes we do a whole area twice.
For Joop, large airports are a real challenge, as not only does he have to adjust all the runways, taxiways and buildings, but he also has to adjust the information so that the AI traffic behaves correctly.
What have been your favorite projects?
My personal favorite probably is the Canyonlands area, but I like all the national park sceneries we have created.
What software packages and tools do you use to develop?
Joop uses ADE165, developed by Jon Murchison (ScruffyDuck) to create his airport improvements. To minimize the impact on frame rates, he only uses default objects from the FS library. For myself, I use mostly Photoshop and programs from the FSX SDK. I also use a couple of small utility programs that I wrote myself and which aid me with my work.