• Review: Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art

    Publisher: HiFi Technologies

    Review Author:
    Meng Yu

    Suggested Price:
    $22.99

    Buy Here

    Introduction

    Whilst scenery and aircraft are the mainstay of flight simulator add-ons since the very beginning, products that enhance the sky are seeing a surge in popularity. Considering that most of flying is, in fact, done in the sky, this comes as no surprise.

    Active Sky Cloud Art (ASCA) is one such product from HiFi Technologies - the same company that made the highly popular Active Sky weather engine that injects real-time weather into your flight simulator - and is advertised to provide a visually appealing experience whilst having minimal performance sacrifices.

    Product

    So, what is ASCA? At its core, ASCA is not entirely unlike products such as Cielosim's Airport Enhancer HDX in the sense that it's a texture replacement program, only for the sky. However, its uniqueness arises from its ability to not only enhance existing cloud textures but also to add entirely new "cloud scenes" and "cloud structures" in order to provide a more realistic experience whilst flying.

    Despite the amazing visuals that ASCA provides though, it's still a performance-oriented product. HiFi Technologies did not merely throw in a bunch of HD textures and call it a day, but instead created eight different texture sets for a total of 128 textures so as to vary the quality of textures in order to improve performance. For example, ASCA uses lower resolution textures for overcast layers to improve performance within the simulator as the visual impact of such a decision is calculated to be rather insignificant.

    Booting up ASCA, you'll be greeted with the screen below. ASCA works based on the concept of "themes", where each theme has a different sky color, cloud texture and cirrus cloud appearance. If you own Active Sky 2016 or Active Sky for P3Dv4, you'll be able to utilize additional options such as "Full Dynamics" or "Global Automatic", both of which automatically regulate sky colors and cirrus appearance, though "Full Dynamics" lacks automatic cloud texture control. These options will provide a much more realistic flying experience as the program will be able to fully adjust the textures based on the current weather.

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    The resolution of textures can be selected in the settings menu, going as high as 2048x2048 for the normal download, or, should you have the desire, up to 4096x4096 with an HD content pack. Additional features include the options for how much of ASCA is enabled as well as various simulator settings (such as choosing which simulator to inject weather into).

    Finally, ASCA provides "Art Tools" which allows users to create their own textures for ASCA should they prefer to.

    Visuals And Performance

    Loading up the simulator, there is quite an obvious difference before and after installing ASCA. Here're some comparisons between default P3D clouds and ASCA clouds with the default weather theme: Major Thunderstorm. The same settings were used in both tests and cloud coverage was set to maximum. Pay particular attention to how ASCA creates clouds that are more defined whilst making the sky a more vibrant shade of blue.

    Default P3D:

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    ASCA only:

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    Active Sky Cloud Art     Active Sky Cloud Art

    As evident from the pictures, ASCA provides a marked improvement in cloud textures and structures over that of default P3D. Due to limitations of my computer system, I was unable to fully test the HD textures in 4096x4096 resolution. Nonetheless, from the results above, there should be no doubt that ASCA will provide more realistic sky textures.

    Performance wise, ASCA performs admirably as well. Despite the high-quality cloud models and textures, I didn't notice significant lowering of frame rates at all. In fact, I daresay that on higher end systems, there will be no decrease at all arising from the use of ASCA.

    However, whilst ASCA provides a welcome facelift to the skies over default P3D textures, I feel that its textures and models are no better than that of the competition. Whilst something as ambiguous as the likability of cloud textures is really up to the individual, I do feel that REX does offer more options when it comes to injecting various clouds in to your simulator. Especially when considering its price tag, offerings from Rex Game Studios are a compelling option indeed.


    2 Comments
    1. P-3C SS-3 VP-16's Avatar
      P-3C SS-3 VP-16 -
      Kinda disappointed in it myself. Live and learn.
    1. DAVIDSTRAKA's Avatar
      DAVIDSTRAKA -
      I have AS16 with ASCA and really enjoy it very much! The real time global automatic is my choice. I go for the real time weather always when I fly. I did try REX also but there are issues with the real time weather injection. It comes down to ones own personal taste really.
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