• Getting Started In Scenery Design For X-Plane Part 2

    Getting Started In Scenery Design For X-Plane Part 2
    World Editor (WED) Phase 1

    By Brian Godwin

    WED is the main tool for X-Plane scenery. Version 1.2 (recently final) brought with it the capability to create items that are specific to XP10, which itself brought an update to the APT file specification (http://data.x-plane.com/file_specs/XP%20APT1000%20Spec.pdf). This spec is a good reference to keep around as it will answer a lot of questions.

    I won't waste space going over things that are already in the WED user manual (http://www.x-plane.com/support/manuals/wed/) but just cover some things that I have learned along the way. The main gist of WED is that (unless you are placing an object) you are drawing a line or drawing a shape using a line...that's it. Before you draw that line/shape though, think for a second what it needs to be. Does it need a line color like a pavement stripe? Does it need light attributes like blue taxi lights? You can set these properties as default so that they are created right along with the line. This can be especially time saving if you are doing a really long or complex shape because each segment (the area between two clicks of the mouse) inherit the default properties. Wisdom dictates that you default the properties there are "most" of in your shape, then go back and change the lesser properties.

    Here, I am using the taxiway tool (which also creates other surfaces as well).

    Background Images

    If you watched (or even just glanced over) the Youtube videos I made you will have seen the lesson on background images. Unless you have a photographic memory it is imperative that you have enough of these to cover the entire airport area...or at least the area you want to work on. In the US, you can obtain satellite ortho imagery and download it for free from the USGS web site. This page will even link you to a tutorial on how to collate and collect the images you seek. The most beneficial aspect of the server is that you can download the images in "GeoTiff" format. What that means is the geographic coordinates of the image are embedded in it. When you select the image(s) for a background in WED they will automatically "snap" into the correct location. WED will overlap them if necessary so you don't have to worry about having perfect seams when you grab them from the USGS server. Any other format and you will have to manually position then distort (repeat many times) the image to fit what you want.

    Open up WED and create a new airport location. Use that location to import from the default apt.dat file. If this sounds like a second language, don't fret...I have a video of this process as well. When the airport is imported, save the file (the first time creates the XML file that stores your work), then export the scenery pack. This will create some necessary folders in the Custom Scenery folder as well as create the apt.dat for your project. Get used to saving OFTEN. You will also need to export the scenery pack prior to loading up X-Plane to see your changes.

    Before we get started, it is often beneficial to open up the new (blank) airport in X-Plane and turn up as many settings as you can. Since we are not flying we can afford to go a little higher than we normally would. What we are looking for is how the underlying structure and autogen is going to render. This will tell us if we need to create an exclusion zone for the airport to block trees, houses and roads from popping up in the middle of our work.

    Import and/or place the background images you got earlier. If the exclusion zone is needed, go ahead and create that. Also, draw the airport boundary. In the sim this will "flatten" the terrain that the airport occupies. Now compare the airport properties against the known values from airnav.com or other sources. Runway distance, heading, surface type, surface condition, REIL, distance markers, etc. Windsock locations, beacons, comm frequencies also. Never assume that the info in X-Plane is correct.

    Regardless of when you have to start drawing lines, it is important to note that you should strive for low node counts. The reason is that higher node counts impact performance when X-Plane loads the package.

    It is not necessary to draw a 15-20 node curve in order for the line to match the background image. Instead, using bezier curves (look it up in the WED manual) with as little as two nodes you can create curves in almost any shape/direction/degree that you need. Just make sure you don't cause any segment to cross over another. If that happens, the display will change noticeably and it will not render when you load the package in X-Plane. The remedy is to zoom (really tight) on the nodes in question to see the overlap and undo it.

    Before we start creating on a wholesale scale I recommend that you start a grouping strategy. Create one entity, highlight it in the hierarchy pane (upper right window), then use CTRL-G to make a group out of it. From here on when you are adding items of that group, just make sure you click within the group before adding because WED always adds new items either where your last "focus" was or at the top of the hierarchy pane.

    In the graphic above, if you were to add any object, WED would place it above runway 17L/35R.

    1 Comment
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Thanks for part two Brian!!

      These are so helpful!!

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