• The Must-Have Files Of X-Plane Scenery

    The Must-Have Files Of X-Plane Scenery

    When you purchase X-Plane Global Edition it comes with eight dual-layer DVDs most of which is scenery. During installation you're asked to select regions you would like to install via an overlay of check boxes on a world map. If you check them all, you'll find yourself loading 78 GB (uncompressed) of global scenery.

    The bulk of the scenery is located in a folder called "X-Plane 10 Global Scenery" where 52.9 gigs of data is provided by the Laminar Research team to bring you forests, textures, roads, urban terrain and lay the foundation for accurately modeling scenery for the whole planet. When you jump in your favorite aircraft, you'll quickly see major metropolitan areas coming alive with buildings, roads, ponds, hills, and trees as you approach their airspace.

    New York
    Los Angeles

    It's a lot of scenery but it's also a big world so you don't want to expect this kind of detail at every airport you visit. There are still open spaces where scenery should be and doesn't exist but don't despair even if it's your home airport or city. There are plenty of people making payware and freeware scenery. Some of the add-on scenery even comes with X-Plane. For instance you'll find another folder in your X-Plane directory called "Custom Scenery". It's already populated with 22 major add-on Aerosoft scenery packages of airports and cities all over Europe.

    Frankfurt Germany
    Heathrow London
    Paris France

    The "Custom Scenery" Folder is the one that makes it possible for you to add scenery developed by other people for X-Plane. Each of the folders the scenery is kept in contains files with the .dsf extension and stands for "Distribution Scenery Format". The folder also contains navigation information (in the Earth Nav data folder) of the area the scenery overlay covers or is placed and is described by longitude and latitude line boundaries. This new format was introduced in X-Plane 8 and it describes the appearance and some physical properties of a 1x1 degree section of the planet.

    Tens of thousands of DSF files, taken together, form the scenery for the whole planet. X-Plane uses these files a few at a time to keep from overloading memory. This format constitutes a system that lets developers create new scenery that is overlaid on top of the default X-Plane 10 Global Scenery.

    The DSF files contain all the various entities in the scenery package including object files which describe buildings, network files for road patterns, forest files for vegetation, etc. Objects can be placed at any location. The contour of the terrain is described by the DSF Meshes which cover the entire DSF area with a set of triangles that define the surface of the earth in 3D. These are what gives a 3D shape to the terrain in X-Plane. For a much deeper look into those files read the DSF_Overview on the x-plane.com wiki.

    There are of course several tools for working with DSF and mesh files. I'm going to give you a bit of an introduction to some of the most used ones for those of you who want to know what developers use. All of these programs listed below are freeware with the exception of AC3D.

    One of the most important tools is called the WorldEditor (WED). It's a scenery creation and graphical editing tool that allows you to create custom airports and scenery, customize a local airport using the built-in airport elements, customize air traffic control flow, and output files that can be shared with the community. It's not meant to edit base terrain meshes, or model 3D objects such as aircraft, or buildings, etc.

    Some people also use the Overlay Editor that can be found on the Jonathan Harris site. On this site you'll find many tools for importing/exporting object models to and from Blender, Sketch up to X-Plane, and even FS2004. Other tools include X-Publish, Animating Jetways and Docking Guidance System, Ground Vehicle Traffic Kit, XPosm (for generating roads, railways, power lines and parks, etc.), Open Street Map importing, and even an OBJ syntax highlighting mode for those of you that love the Emacs editor. Be sure to see his Examples and Tutorials section for a host of information on how to get started if you decide you want to understand more about your scenery in X-Plane.

    For Terrain Mesh editing the MeshTool can be used. It's a command-line tool to let you modify and adjust the X-Plane base meshes. The formats of the DSF mesh have changed from X-Plane 8 and 9 to version 10 so if you decide to start messing with the terrain at the mesh level do some reading up on it first. In X-Plane 10, Ben Supnik from Laminar Research tells us that it can handle a new extended DSF that you can read about on the X-Plane Developer Blog.

    Another tool used by the developers is osm2xp. This will convert data from Open Street Maps to X-Plane. It's written in Java and supports X-Plane, Fly!Legacy, and FSX It also has support for Open Scenery X (more on this later) integration for objects (i.e. lighthouses, water towers, wind turbines, houses, people, static aircraft and buildings, etc.) so they can be accurately placed on the X-Plane terrain.

    Blender and AC3D are two 3D modeling programs used for generating a lot of objects as well as even aircraft simply because some good exporting tools have been made available for getting the objects exported to X-Plane from these programs.

    In a nutshell, you have all your objects sitting on top of a terrain mesh packaged up in DSF files with information on where they should be placed. With all the tools mentioned above for editing, positioning, creating, animating and even auto generating scenery it brings us to the next piece - the libraries.

    1. travelfreak's Avatar
      travelfreak -
      Thanks for all this information! It's great to have a website like this one that provides all this detail! I love flight simulators and I'm new to X-Plane (Always have used FSX). I understand that handling the files in X-PLANE is a little different from FSX. This helps a lot! Thanks again!
    1. malcolmest's Avatar
      malcolmest -
      Useful and interesting information. Thanks for taking the trouble putting together this detailed article.
    1. ATCMiker's Avatar
      ATCMiker -
      Hope someone can answers this question. A friend of mine has VFR scenery installed, he is also trying to install some custom airport scenery but the scenery does not show up. Is there a heir-achy system that should be used? where would the custom airport scenery go in relation to the VFR scenery. Or is it something to do with the .ini file that I have heard mentioned.

      Thanks for any help or advice.

    1. RorySten's Avatar
      RorySten -
      Boy I wish I would have read this earlier instead of asking Fred stupid questions about missing facade errors etc. Good wiki article even though I read it late.
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