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Interview: Garry J. Smith



Garry J. Smith Interview

Conducted By Dominic Smith








Firstly an introduction - I am Garry J. Smith - ageing rapidly towards 64 years and have been tinkering in flight sim artwork since 1998.


I maintain a free downloads flight sim site at: http://www.gjsmith.net


I also provided a repository for both Mike Stone's and Milton Schupe and team's fantastic and prolific flight sim work since they retired from flight sim development.


Both these sites also contain free downloads:


Mike's stuff can be found at: http://www.gjsmith.net/Mike-Stone/














Milton's stuff can be found at: http://www.gjsmith.net/Milton_Shupe/


My current main project is the Ford Tri-Motor Project at: http://www.ford-tri-motor.net


One thing I must make very clear from the beginning; I am not an avid sim user. I use the sim mostly to check my aircraft texture work or create my scenery projects. I have never flown a serious flight from point A to point B in all the years that I have been doing flight sim artwork.


Shame on me, you might say, but after reading the contents below you will discover that my focus is on doing graphics within a media that just happens to be flight simulation.


All the technical flying stuff is not something that enthralls me, however the challenges of graphically altering the aircraft and the flight sim environment certainly appeals to my nature and enabled me to enjoy those challenges whilst enjoying my graphics hobby.


Now the responses to the questions:














When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?


I first started in FS graphic development way back in 1998 on textures for FS98. This was at a time when everything was 256x256 pixel images and only 256 colors.


What got me interested? Well that is a hard question, but basically I had been tinkering in graphics right back to the days when you had to do most of the artwork in binary or hex code using old DOS machines.


The advent of Microsoft Windows opened up a new era for me in graphics. I tinkered with the first (line drawn) Microsoft Flight Sim programs but these were a bit boring in the early days. When FS98 came out flight sim graphics became far more interesting.


With my many years of application development, I ventured into creating a set of programs that allowed easy access to the image editing of FS98 aircraft. Hence my first commercial FS venture - Control98 - followed by Control 2000. By that time I was hooked on FS graphics.


I now not only do aircraft repaints but also create flight sim scenery models and build scenery across a very diverse range of needs.














Tell us about the nature of your designs and what you do?

When it comes to flight sim graphics, design is a dynamically changing environment - particularly when you have to adapt to the techniques of different development methodologies by other people who create the aircraft you are working on.


Each is a challenge and a learning curve to discover and utilize the various textures and their mappings to the models. In some fortunate cases I have been able to work alongside aircraft model developers and jointly created the texture maps with the modeler.


What do you consider your best or most popular work?

Without doubt the Edward Moore's Ford Tri-Motor Project (http://www.ford-tri-motor.net) is my most popular ongoing projects. Edward Moore and I are now moving into our fifth year on this project and we have created well over 2000 downloads and have many more exciting things to develop and release for the simming community to enjoy.


Over the 16 years of flight sim graphics development I have done thousands of individual projects and hundreds of major projects for both individuals and organizations throughout the world. Just one example for those that enjoy JustFlight's Traffic programs - the thousands of liveries you see are mostly my work.














What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?


Every repaint, every creation of a scenery model and/or the development of a scenery pack is an exciting challenge for me.


Since the beginning I have always enjoyed the vagaries and challenges of anything I do and try and make whatever I am doing better than the last thing I did.


And I still greatly enjoy that challenge - the old adage "nothing is impossible, just some things take more time to achieve" is something that I have strived to fulfill most of my adult life.


Garry, what have been your favorite projects?


Again, the Ford Tri-Motor Project is way up there as my favorite ongoing project - see http://www.ford-tri-motor.net


Another would be the Heritage Flight Museum for Bellingham and Paine airfields, see http://www.gjsmith.org - (a demonstration page with slideshows and link to the Museums).














As for repaints - I have worked with many prestigious and prolific aircraft developers. Also quite a few other individuals and major flight sim companies over the years - Warwick Carter, Mike Stone, Milton Schupe, to mention just a few great developers - and JustFlight and Abacus have often used my services for many of their projects.


Coming from a graphical background, could you tell us what software packages and tools you use to develop your work?


Back in the beginning I used a simple BMP editor - however as the simulators and the technical requirements became more complex I started to get into the heavy graphics tools such as Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro (PSP) which were the two learning curves I undertook.


Ultimately by the time Paint Shop Pro got to Version 5 I decided to stay with it as my major graphics tool and upgraded through several versions - but holding at PSP Version 7 and Version 8 - yep, I use both versions for various tasks and reasons.


The reason I am holding at those versions is that I have just about mastered the things I need to do for graphics and none of the newer versions have offered me anything above and beyond what I needed - so I drew the line and have stayed with what I know intimately.














Another tool that became extremely valuable to me was the Abacus program - FSRepaint. This tool provides a 3D view of the model and textures and links to PSP dynamically so as to enable editing of those textures - basically what you do in PSP is seen on the rendition of the 3D model.


Fortunately I was part of the development process and ended up with a special version that I still use today. This version is far more dynamically integrated to PSP and I can see instantly on the 3D model the changes I make in PSP and I can keep PSP open as I move from one texture set to another. However, it is a little unstable in bridging to PSP, occasionally locking up. Obviously that version never made it into the release phase.


The released version is excellent and supports both FS2004 and FSX but is not as versatile as the version I use - I am happy to risk the occasional lock up to have the convenience of automatic live updates and maintaining PSP open with all my reference material throughout a full repaint session.


I also use the latest version of FSRepaint for all of my FSX repaints as the older version was created before FSX was even in development stage.














As for model development for scenery, I use Google SketchUp to create my models and some old tools to make the models Flight Sim compatible, plus another old tool to create scenery libraries with those models.


Yes there are many more sophisticated tools now available but I am happy with what I use and, like all old dogs, I stay with the tricks I know.


For creating airfields I use JustFlight's AFX program - great tool - but I still have a bit of a fight in creating water runways and moving AI aircraft on them successfully - sometimes I win and sometimes I fight the program for quiet a while!


For object placement within the simulators, I use a very old version of Flight One Software Inc's Instant Scenery. Another great tool.


Garry, with all that software, what kind of system are you running?


Well, as you asked, here is a lowdown of my computer system, work environment.


Operating System XP Pro
Computer: Specially built Intel Core i7920 system
2 Video Cards - AMD HD6700 Series
Four Monitors
3 22" Acer VK228 monitors
1 55" Soniq 3D High Definition TV used as 4th monitor for testing and watching TV of course!














Ten terabytes of storage online consisting of: 7 hard drives partitioned into 10 independent drives


6 terabytes of storage live remote consisting of: 4 remote hard drives - USB3 external devices


Basically Drives 😄 through to S: are active when I am working and have synchronized selective backups running to relevant remote drives.


Is there a reason why you're still using Windows XP?


Why am I still in XP? Because all of the working tools and my working environment is XP based. I also lack the technical competence to risk migrating to higher levels of Microsoft. This is mostly because of fear that I might lose productivity or tools that are essential to me, and partly because I am a very old dog and happy with the environment that I have spent years fine tuning to meet my needs.


Who would you consider to be your mentors or inspiration in the development world?


I have had many mentors over the years and I have been inspired by many developers all with various levels of skills in different aspects of flight simming. Many have now left the simming environment for a plethora of reasons but I am still here pumping out free stuff - still enjoying it, so I continue to do it.














I try to reciprocate the support I have received by creating tutorials, and always respond comprehensively to enquiries on "how to" from many sim patrons.


I do know that we all owe freeware developers a great deal as they have encouraged and supported our hobby and budding developers for countless years - they set challenges for us to better our skills and provide goodwill and advice freely. I am always grateful for the support, guidance and encouragement that I have received over many years from these good people.


Try to imagine what flight simming would be like without freeware developers sharing their efforts - a fixed number of aircraft, a fixed number of liveries and even worse, static, never changing scenery. Think also about the number of major sites that service our hobby. What if they had no freeware to download - in a nutshell it would be a pretty boring hobby without the freeware developers.


Garry, do you develop payware/freeware or both?


Predominantly I develop freeware - but have been involved in many corporate product development projects for graphics work. Also I have done and still do major projects which are released for free but could be deemed as paid work.














The Team

How many people work with you or your team?


In regards to the current major projects my focus is the Ford Tri-Motor Project working alongside Edward Moore - this is a two man project - started way back in early 2011 and still going strong.


What are your specific roles in the Ford Tri-Motor Project?


Edward C. Moore is the inspiration for the entire project. This project is being achieved at considerable expense in time and money for Edward and myself.


I believe that we have developed a world class historical flight sim project. Basically our endeavor is to "Keep History Alive." Edward pays me a token amount per hour for about 50% of what we do and I donate the other 50% in time and effort.


Edward is the overall manager of the project - sets the goals and objectives - chooses the aircraft and the liveries that those aircraft will wear - specifies the scenery required and the desired design for such scenery. He does the majority of the research and controls what and when things will be released.














As for me - well I do just about everything else - paint the aircraft, build the scenery, build the models for the scenery and maintain the web site - all of the design work and web presentation is left to me.


Edward allows me a great deal of flexibility in incorporating the graphics artwork to the aircraft, scenery and scenery models - but for some tasks he is adamant that they should be done in a certain way. Wherever possible we try to create historical renditions but we also have some fun. We pride ourselves on providing "Fact, Fiction and Fun" products for the simming community.


Real Life

Do you have any experience in real aviation?


Yes, did 20 years in the Royal Australian Air Force - 1970 to 1990 - initially in administration and then computer programming. However, I did hundreds of second seat or passenger hours in many military aircraft throughout that era.


What started your interest in aviation?


When I was a young lad (back when the earth was cooling) some mates and I witnessed (one stormy night) a Sabre F86 fighter jet crash in the suburb of The Junction in Newcastle NSW Australia. The aircraft crashed into the backyard of a house; we saw the pilot eject but the aircraft was inverted and he went straight down into a house. The poor fellow died instantly...fortunately only one civilian was hurt - hit by a piece of flying metal outside the nearby pub (beer place for Aussies) - he survived his injuries.














We rushed to the scene and found a still inflated main wheel - wow, we thought, this would have a great inner tube that we could use at the beach - so we started to roll it back towards Bar Beach where we lived - but the police spotted us and made us roll it back to where we found it. That was a downer for us - missed out on a good beach toy.


Anyway I think that set the seed - had several trips with mates out to Williamtown RAAF Base as young lads and we would watch the aircraft fly - sit there all day (near the end of one of the runways which was near the main access road). We were in awe of the noise and thrill of the jets and other aircraft flying in and out of the base.


As I neared 18 years of age the only work available in Newcastle at the time was semi skilled work at the BHP or to try to get an apprenticeship, so with that in mind, I tried something different and out of the blue I applied for entry into the RAAF. Fortunately, of the 7 Newcastle lads that went down to Sydney for the selection processing I was the only one that was selected. My lucky day - never ever thought I would spend 20 years in a service that I grew to love.














Garry, with twenty years service, do you have any memorable flights in real life?


Wow where do I begin - had many memorable flights in many aircraft of the RAAF of that era - many hundreds of hours in my log book, lots of it in the second seat - Mirage III's - Macchi MB326H's - Hueys -and lots being freighted around in C47's, Hercules and Caribous.


In Butterworth Malaysia - I obtained a couple of "Target Tug" flights in Canberra Bombers in the claustrophobic jump seat, more Mirage flights, much more Huey stuff - some Malaysian Air Force aircraft - and some visiting other nation's military aircraft across a broad spectrum - including a real up close and personal hands on with a Vulcan Bomber.


I also took a NASA flight in a specially modified C141 which was doing an astrological science flight from RAAF Richmond where she was visiting.


I participated in a Perth to Sydney Air Race in the RAAF's C47 stationed at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia to Bankstown in Sydney staging through RAAF Base Edinburgh. Lot of very funny stories from this flight...


As for exciting stuff - had a burst tire on landing in a Mirage once - that required a shower and a change of flight suit for me and the pilot - many supersonic flights in Mirages and several other aircraft that I best not list here!














Aerobatic flights were frequently taken in Macchi's whilst serving at 2FTS - often the second seat was empty and I went as additional ballast! Tons of hands on with this aircraft - could perform many different aerobatic maneuvers independently.


There is so much more fun stuff that I could recant for you but you would fall asleep by the time you got to the end.


Suffice to say, each and every flight was a story in itself - I could write a book on those adventures.


Would you like to share what you do in real life?


Sure, here we go..., grab a cup of tea, a couple of biscuits and sit back for a read.


Whilst in the RAAF I became interested in computing (early 80's) starting with my own, build it yourself, MicroBee Computer and for some unknown reason I took to it like a duck to water. Within a couple of months I was writing programs and games with graphics for the MicroBee and Amstrad computers. These programs were picked up by the relevant computer companies and were marketed nationally and internationally. These were my first forays into creating computer graphics and possibly the beginning of my fascination with artwork on computers.














Just to give a bit of perspective, in those older machines there were no "graphics" features, so I actually reprogrammed the lower case letters (eight rows of pixels each) which could be programmatically altered one row at a time in hex and then compiled. By doing this I could construct images by altering the various letters and build onscreen those images using blocks of lower case letters.


For one program I built a dynamically changing Monopoly game, limited to showing one side of the board at any one time. It even had a set of dice which visually rolled on the screen for random numbers.


The RAAF newspaper editor caught on to what I was doing and I became the first computer column editor for the RAAF newspaper.


Then, very shortly after starting the computer column, RAAF management in Canberra caught on and I was dragged down to Russell Offices in Canberra for some intensive interviews. This resulted in me becoming the first RAAF Serviceperson to become a full time computer programmer. This involved buckets of training on mainframes and COBOL - yep good old punch cards and a mainframe system that took a whole floor in a building.


Again, for no understandable reasoning, I excelled in this field, finished training many weeks early and started developing some of the fundamental Personnel Management Systems for the RAAF. The Australian Army and Navy adopted many of my software solutions and designs for their Personnel Management Systems.














Don't want to sound like too much of a brag but I achieved several awards and commendations for my work - I came to the notice of the then Prime Minister (Bob Hawk) who authorized one of my commendations, and I was ultimately seconded to the Public Service in the Prime Minister and Cabinet Offices to work on IT solutions that the PM's Office required. Retired from the RAAF and took up a senior computer position within PM&C.


Then after two years with PM&C I was poached by AUSAID, another Government agency but now dealing with Client Services and computer infrastructure management on a global basis. I frequently managed computer infrastructure for AUSAID worldwide and ultimately my team was also doing installations and support globally for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.


Lastly, I was recruited by an Australian based international organization to be their Chief Information Technology Officer (CIO) with a salary offer that I could not refuse! I helped expand that organization's global reach from a couple of dozen offices to over a hundred offices worldwide.


Then in 2002 I hit the point that I was spending far too much of my time galloping around the world and decided that I would now retire from the rat race and relax a bit.


Throughout the later parts of the above, from 1998 onwards I was always tinkering in flight sim related graphics - this was, at the time, my "relaxation" hobby.














When I moved up to Newcastle in NSW Australia in 2002, the circle was complete. I sat back and just had fun with flight sim graphics. Fired up GJSmith.net and started to share my tinkers with the simming community.


Amazing Garry! Apart from tinkering with graphics, what other hobbies do you do in your spare time?


With my full time enjoyment of flight sim graphics I have little time for other hobbies, but I do enjoy taking my 1988 Classic XJ Jaguar out on Sunday drives. Sundays are mostly reserved for this pleasure. I also I try to get in the occasional holiday and still do the occasional flight to exotic places for those holidays. Also my partner and I are working hard on our bucket list.



How do you choose your next new design or project?


My work is almost always reactionary - someone wants something done and I do it - or often I find an aircraft or a scenery project and have lots of fun working on it. Rarely do I get the chance to think forward to what I should do in the future as there is always something on the boil in the paint pot or an idea bubbling for me to get stuck into.














What simulators do you design for now and which ones do you plan to develop for in the future?


Predominantly I develop for FS2004. Why? Mostly because that is the version which is being requested the most. However I also do some serious repaint and scenery dabbling in FSX and other areas.


In what ways do you see development changing in the future?


For flight simming I think we might have passed the peak period of rapid development, done by a plethora of prolific freeware authors and flight sim companies.


Nowadays the sims are getting more and more complex to develop for and developers are becoming a little more reluctant to expend the many hundreds of hours needed on their projects, especially when it's freeware.


A lot of the earlier prolific developers have now resigned or moved on to other hobbies. Hopefully new blood will come to fill the obvious gaps that are now appearing across the development spectrum of flight simulation.














Your Thoughts

What can sites like FlightSim.Com do to support you and the hobby better?


FlightSim.Com is professionally filling a valuable space in providing the services that it does for the simming community, which I and no doubt countless others appreciate greatly.


The site is populated with a good team of people who excel in holding a hard earned and well maintained position of good standing and good services within our community.


However, I feel that FlightSim.Com could support freeware developers more aggressively when it comes to poaching and plagiarism.


Many developers have their work poached from FlightSim.Com, as well as other sites.


The major sites like FlightSim.Com should be seen more often to take an active and supportive role in trying to stamp out this poaching by disreputable sites and to also stamp heavily on plagiarists. In particularly those individuals and sites that profit financially or personally from the freeware products without the consent of the developers.














I know that FlightSim.com does put in some effort to try to reduce this "abuse" of both freeware and commercial work, however I think it is important for the major sites to be seen more often to use their "weight" in patronage to assist and protect the developers that provide virtually all of their free download content.


How do you feel about the future of flight simulation in general?


From my perspective of over 16 years in simming it appears that the community is slowly declining as major prodigious freeware developers have, or are, fading away. New developers are not quite filling this void as rapidly as it appeared to do a couple of years ago. Additionally it is disappointing to see many companies that produce commercial product for our hobby are struggling to survive.


What are some of the most important things a site or community can do to help the developers?


This is a tender nerve for me - with a very long time in the community providing many gigabytes of free product to this community. The thing that rubs me the most is the overall apparent lack of appreciation for the freeware developers by the community.


Yep, I know it is a soap box stood on many times before by many people, but it must be made clear that many freeware developers spend countless hours developing something which they then graciously present for others to enjoy for free.














Some of the stuff produced is good, some of it spectacular and some of it is bad - but it is the fruits of someone's labor shared graciously with us for free.


Often their work is downloaded by the hundreds and enjoyed by countless patrons without any sort of feedback to the developer. To add insult to injury, their efforts are sometimes publicly and negatively critiqued in forums. No developer has a problem with constructive critiques but some public comments are just downright negative and disheartening for budding developers.


We fail to grasp the fact that all development is a learning curve for developers; most start with simple projects and only through encouragement and support from the community ultimately turn into good developers turning out excellent quality stuff.


In the last 16 years I, and no doubt many other developers, can count on one hand the number of e-mails that we have received from anyone just saying "thank you for your contribution".


We seem to have moved into a community that feel we are entitled to free downloads and they should all be outstanding products, instead of feeling privileged to have people out there giving us the end results of their hard efforts.














In a nutshell, we, the simming community, primarily thrive and grow on products from freeware developers. Encourage them, support them and the volume of free product will continue and obviously this is better for all of us.


Garry, finally, what would you like people to know about the work that you and Edward do?


I think I have covered just about everything, but it is time for me to plug, yet again, the outstanding Edwards C. Moore's Ford Tri-Motor Project - http://www.ford-tri-motor.net. This is a superb ongoing project, even if I do say so myself.


Edward has a vision that he wants to share freely with the community, which is a desire to keep some exciting historical aspects of aviation alive through the environment of flight simulation. He has spent almost every waking moment focused on "what if", "can it be done" and other ideas that he wants to have created and shared with the community via free downloads.


So get stuck into the project, have some fun! There are even free jigsaw puzzles available on the Ford Project site just for a bit of non-flying relaxation. Almost 100,000 downloads (as I write this response) of those puzzles alone.














Well good people, that's me in a million words; well...probably far too many words, but I have had a long and eventful life so far and intend to continue to enjoy it and flight sim graphics until my dress shoes and me are pointing up in a box!


Happy simming to you all from an old painter who refuses to lay down his paint brush and who continues to enjoy the challenges and the pleasures of working in the simming environment.




Garry J. Smith
Aircraft Texture Tinkerer
And Scenery Tinkerer

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