• Interview With Robin Tannahill X-Plane Scenery Designer


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

    Back in the seventies, I was working for a USA semiconductor manufacture who had a base in "Silicon Glen", in central Scotland. As I was passing a desk one day, I saw an engineer was "flying" a very simple airplane model over a "wire frame" landscape on his PC (the naughty boy should have been working!) I was intrigued by this and found out it was a very early flight simulator, by subLOGIC. Anyway, that was me "hooked" and I stayed with MSFS all the way to FS2004, but didn't go as far as FSX. When I heard that Microsoft were withdrawing their support for the continuation of the Flight Simulator franchise, I looked elsewhere and found X-Plane. I have never looked back! And shortly after "joining" X-Plane, I started my development work.


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

    I am a scenery developer (plus occasional aircraft livery developer). One of the differences between MSFS and X-Plane was that in X-Plane (and this continues to be the default case), airports are "populated" with ramps and taxiways, but, in many cases, they have no auto generated buildings. This, in common with many other "X-Planers" distracted (annoyed?) me, and I decide to investigate how I could "populate" my favorite airfields. Most of my early work consisted of conversions of MSFS scenery, always, importantly, with the permission of the original author, using Marginal's clever FS2Xplane.

    I then started making my own work, using, for the most part, the tools mentioned below. These are easy to use, especially as one gains experience, and allow those who are interested in making highly credible and visually attractive sceneries. I am not skilled in 3D design, and therefore have to use the available objects (found in X-Plane's numerous object libraries) which are as close as possible to the "real thing". But, if I say so myself, the results are usually pleasing, and in my opinion are much better than an "empty" airport.

    What do you consider your best or most popular work?

    Difficult to say. "Different strokes for different folks". I love flying (when I get the time!) in visually attractive areas of the world, so the ones that I might think are my best might not be the ones that, for instance, "heavy metal" fans would consider to be their favorite. As long as I am happy about the project myself, then hopefully I can also please others!


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

    Gathering information! As I mentioned above, I am not skilled in building 3D objects, so the more information I can gather about the project, the more I can replicate the "real thing" with scenery objects. Therefore a search for photographs is a standard procedure, as is gathering airport information from the likes of www.airnav.com and the European AIS Database at http://www.ead.eurocontrol.int/eadcms/eadsite/index.php.html. I will almost always use aerial photographs, overlaid on the scenery projects, to position aprons, taxiways and buildings. And, always check the runway end positions are correct!

    What have been your favorite projects?

    I like making an airfield look as "real" as possible, especially when taxiing in or out, so adding static aircraft, vehicles and proper ATC taxiing routes is always satisfying. As far as actual projects are concerned, again my favorites would probably be those in areas where I like to fly VFR, like Scotland, Alaska, Washington State and New Zealand. But doing a large, busy airport like EGNT, Newcastle and NZCH Christchurch is also satisfying, especially when I see all the elements come together. You might start off saying "I'll keep this simple", but before you know it, you're adding more signs, or ground markings, or "grunge", ground traffic etc.!

    What software packages and tools do you use to develop?

    For the most part, I use the WorldEditor tool (WED) at http://developer.x-plane.com/tools/worldeditor/ and Marginal's superb Overlay Editor, again found at the aforementioned link to his scenery tools. These two tools can now work more or less interchangeably and are both very powerful tools for scenery creation. Used in conjunction with the many excellent libraries of scenery objects available for X-Plane (including the default libraries contained within X-Plane 10), it is becoming possible for even inexperienced scenery designers to create excellent scenery packages.


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

    I really only started creating scenery for my own purposes, but later on decided to share my work with my fellow flight simmers. I consider myself to be adequate in scenery creation, but continue to be in awe of those developers who are skilled in 3D creation and who freely contribute some stunning creations in the X-Plane world, a prime example being "Cami de Bellis" and in the field of producing superb scenery using only default scenery objects (hence small file size) there are quite a few inspirations out there, for example, I am sure that many X-Plane users admire and appreciate the wonderful Brazilian airports of "joz". Joz and others are an inspiration for me to continue to improve my offerings!

    1 Comment
    1. Peachson1's Avatar
      Peachson1 -
      Well done mate. Can I use your King Salmon in X-plane 11?
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