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Thread: How to create photoreal scenery for FSX

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zoandar View Post
    Dealing with off-color imagery captured from the satellite servers can be an annoyance or a downright frustration. When I was working my way around Lake Erie along the north shore of Ohio, USA I found that of the 3 servers available in SBuilderX313 at this time, (Google, Virtual Earth, and Yahoo) Virtual Earth yields the best looking scenery and most natural coloration. But for some odd reason, when I crossed the international border into the Canadian side of the lake, its islands, and shorelines, I found getting decent scenery is next to impossible.
    Color is not a problem. The real problem is clouds.

    I should mention that, from the very start, I could NOT achieve capturing ANY scenery at the LOD 16 Tiberius K. describes in this very nice tutorial. I just won't happen. The very best I can get is LOD 15, which I used for most of my project dealing with US scenery. Ontario, Canada shoreline and its islands, such as Pelee Island, I had to settle for LOD 14 or 13, simply because there IS NO scenery above that level. The screen just blanks out in SBX when trying to capture that part of the world in the higher resolutions using either Virtual Earth or Yahoo, so I was forced to use Google. But I had to go with terribly low resolution to not have part of the image simply missing. In fact, one of the Canadian Lake Erie islands yielded such terribly poor imagery that I had to "paint it" with forest imagery garnered from one of the LOD 15 Bass Islands as a GIMP pattern, just to have it look any better than butt ugly.
    Yeah, I often have to do a little patch work, too. Since I'm mostly doing tropical islands only, they all look much alike, so it's easy to copy and paste few parts here and there. If it's done well, no one will ever notice. It's done easily with rather flat terrain where you don't have much shadows created by the landscape itself.

    I usually choose one island that looks naturally very nice as a standard model and recolor the other images until they match this one. When I did Western Fiji I took Naviti from bing maps as the standard and recolored all other islands in the area according to that one.

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    Tiberius K. in the flesh! At last we meet. I thought you had moved on to that great flight sim in the sky. Um....wait....that's what we're doing here, isn't it?? lol

    I want to thank you profusely!! It was literally decades I used most of the evolving versions of MSFS and dreamed of having scenery actually look even vauguely like my part of the world, and found it very disappointing it did not. When at long last I found an online vendor willing to make and sell Ohio scenery I was ecstatic! Finally!!

    Imagine my disappointment then, when what I bought had a large percentage of the lakeshore waters completely NOT water but a very ugly photo imagery. And the vendor gave up when trying to implement some sort of fix for it, and later went out of business. Every time I flew I was staring at that ugly lakeshore, dreaming of SOME way to come along to fix it. When I could stand no more I started researching how this might be addressed by any means possible. I bought addons that were supposed to make water more realistic. But since it isn't water, they did not work (not knowing anything at all about FSX scenery at the time I had hoped FSX could use the utility addon to "fix it". That did nothing).

    Eventually I started looking for some way to "work with FSX water scenery", and after some Googling I was led to this nifty tutorial. You've opened a barrel of dreams for me here, and I really do thank you for it!

    You've also kind of created a monster. lol Well, you and GIMP, which had also been unfamiliar to me. The further I go the more I learn, and I find myself literally circle touring Lake Erie around and around again applying newly learned fixes to improve the appearance of my scenery more and more. But I enjoy doing this so at least I'm a happy monster. I'm currently adding all the little marinas along the lake shore to the watermask, rather than having static water coloring in them.

    On the subject of clouds and satellite image coloration, I've only very rarely seen a single cloud in the imagery for my entire project, which is mind boggling because we get a lot of overcast weather here in Ohio. I was led to believe these satellites must deliberately only photograph areas with no clouds on any given day. Of course the clouds were in Canada, where all my lousy scenery coloration has seemed to be. I don't understand why.

    Anyway, glad to meet you! And did I say THANKS?

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    Hi Zoandar,

    you've got the right attitude. Never give up. There's always a way to work around a problem. I'm still working on a solution for that moving out cvx files nonsense. I'll try experimenting a bit more with exclusion polygons. So far moving out the entire cvx file was the best solution since I'm usually planning to cover the entire area so I'll have to do the entire grid anyway. However, if you want to use your scenery on another computer then there might be some problems. That's why I usually move out the entire cvx and apx files.

    Creating a blendmask can be an art. I've experimented a lot lately. I had to do thousands of square miles of reefs. You can also consider changing the water tile category for your scenery area. The default water tile color isn't always the best.
    Last edited by Tiberius K.; 01-12-2013 at 11:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by archfer View Post
    Hi Zoander

    I have been following the discussion between Jim and yourself with great interest and have tried using TMFviewer in the way he suggests. If you open your photoreal scenery .bgl file and then click the Open option in the File menu of TMFviewer and select the cvx????.bgl file. You will then find that the last one opened is overlaying the first and you can alter its transparency from the Overlay transparency... option in the View menu. Under Vector Data, Layers you can remove the water poly's, exclusion poly's, etc to give you a clear picture of what's going on. I hope that will help a bit.

    In doing that I have found that there are roads and railway lines criss-crossing my scenery, which is great. The roads are fine but the railway lines don't match my scenery. Do you or Jim know if is there any way to move them so that they line up properly or do I have to exclude them and redraw them in my scenery?

    Attachment 140747

    In the screenshot the road is on the right in red and the railway is on the left in a shade of green that causes it to blend into the background. However you can see that it crosses an area of water on a causeway and a couple of bridges and in FSX the line is just hanging in the air above the water to the side of where it should be.


    @Jim - is this what you had in mind when saying overlaying layers in TMFV could be transparent?ld

    Archfer, this brings a question to mind. I don't think in all my years of FS I've ever seen an AI train moving on a railroad. Is FSX capable of doing that?

    I would agree with Jim that I would think default roads and RR would be overlaid with our own custom scenery. And after restoring those FSX terrain CVX files, I now have highway traffic moving along my scenery interstates. I am not sure if they actually follow the same paths as the default scenery interstates, but I haven't yet seen a vehicle off-roading it.

    How much effort is involved in making traffic move on secondary roads? Based on what you folks have said here, is it just a matter of tracing the desired path on our scenery and then compiling some kind of additional BGL file?

    I did have an odd thing happen for awhile last night, but before I could finish creating a post here, with screen shots, of what I was seeing it suddenly vanished and I still have no idea what was going on. I was fixing a coloration issue at Long Point, Ontario (fascinating geology there) and suddenly a "dashed line" appeared parallel to the shoreline in my scenery. I actually looked like thick versions of "~ ~ ~ ~ ~" in a black color. At first I thought it was somehow the edge of the area's hydro-poly (remember, most of my scenery was not created with full QMID7 sized hydro-polys because it is not islands, except those in the west end of Lake Erie, which is far smaller than a QMID7 grid area). So I used SBX to move that hydro-poly boundary, but the line remained. Oddly, it was not apparent on the Long Point.bmp base image. I tried a few different things in GIMP and after each re-compile it wad still there. I unloaded my Long Point scenery and found the line to be following a winding line of trees along the shore in the default terrain. Somehow, it was trying to show THROUGH my imagery. I checked in GIMP to assure my bmp image was 100% opaque, and it is.

    So I set the issue aside to think about it and started gathering the screen shots to post it here. Along the way I found a coloration mismatch I wanted to fix, using tools in GIMP where the three segments of scenery match up to comprise the whole of Long Point (its about 40 km square). As I was fiddling with the opacity of a green overlay on the adjoining segments to get the best match, recompiling each of the 3 segments each time to see them in FSX, suddenly that line disappeared. I still have no idea why it ever showed through in the first place. So I did not bother posting about it. But your comment on the railroad reminded me of that event. What could cause something like that to "bleed through" opaque custom scenery to the surface and be visible?

  5. #95


    Thanks, Jim, that was what I was afraid of.

    The roads are pretty close to perfect it's the railway line (railroad) that I thought was showing up in my scenery but I have had another look and here are a couple of screenshots:

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	140760 Click image for larger version. 

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    It looks like a bridge of sorts almost following the line of the causeway and running from one side of the lake to the other. As this is an object would I be able to edit it?

    You were correct, the roads and railroads don't show up in my scenery but if there are no AI trains as Zoandar says then maybe I should just forget them.

    In the first screenshot you can see an AI boat on my scenery lake so I suppose the AI road traffic will just follow the lines that are hidden by my scenery. If that is the case all I have to do is exclude the railroad lines and redraw them (there are only a couple) for AI trains to follow the rails in my scenery.

    I will give it a go and see what happens.

    I had another question. Can I use water class tiles to show varying depth in my harbour and can I change the colour according to the seasons? Once again, maybe I should just give it a go and see what happens.



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    I have to credit my son, who was home on a Christmas visit, for a lot of the work going into my gradient Blendmask procedure. I was showing him what I had done with the custom scenery, and he asked why there wasn't some way to make the defined edges of the shallow water look less defined. He has some Photoshop experience, so he asked me what went into making the Blendmask and Watermask. Once I showed him how that is done, we tried several methods of getting a gradient, but it was a lot of manual blurring and such. What I wanted was something I could essentially "spray on", with no more than a pass or two, instead of all the recursive brushing we were doing. After some time I arrived at my technique described above.

    Now and then I do have to give in to hiring someone to do a project here that is beyond our means and skill set. But not often. Never giving up is baked into my constitution. One of the up sides to a lack of patience I have cultivated all my life. There is a difference to me between "patience" and "putting a lot of detail work for hours into a project". For me, patience means waiting for something or someone else to act. I'm not into that.

    One very major aspect in dealing with water masking in FSX, which I learned the hard way, is the importance of an underlying color being right, and being uniform if you want the water to look the same all over the place. All it takes as a terribly off color area like Long Point, Ontario to bring this to light, which was where I made the decision I needed a way out. Here is what it looked like before I started to work on it:

    Name:  ORIGINAL Long Point.png
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    And here is what it looks like after I worked on it (MANY times over): (zoomed in somewhat)

    Name:  Section of Long Point.png
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    This image is one of those I was preparing to post regarding the aforementioned "mystery line" that eventually disappeared on its own. The red arrows are pointing to it. But for this post I am just referring to what some attention to coloration can do. It puzzles me that these images come from the satellite servers looking so ugly. Their websites using these images never look this bad. I can't imagine they spend the hours we do putting refinements into each image before they are displayed, especially given they are doing the whole Earth!

    What's sad is that by default, FSX pretty much treats this beautiful 'sand spit' rich in history and tourism as if it doesn't even exist. I am not doing the entire Ontario shoreline, because I don't fly up there. But when I saw how awful FSX rendered Long Point and Erieau, I just had to do those 2 areas. Long Point has a lot of naval history. There are over 200 shipwrecks there dating back centuries, and it is a very popular dive site. I found it interesting that Erie, PA, which has a very similar attractively colored sand spit with a large basin in the middle of it and lots of shoreline development, is pretty much straight across the lake from Long Point. I wonder if the 2 sites were joined at some point after the lakes were created, and then erosion carved out the middle?

    Anyway, nice scenery from the air!

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    Hey Archfer, what are those clouds coming off the pontoons on your plane?

  8. Default Why no AI trains run in FSX

    I just did some Googling for AI trains in FSX and read a bunch of discussion which, distilled, comes down to the reason the developers originally intended to have them, then scrapped the idea. They could not get the train to move correctly on a curve. Several forum threads mention people subsequently trying on their own to model one, but always running into this problem.

    Also, there were rumors that FSX integration would be included in MS Train Simulator when version 2 released, but the killing off of the MS development team caused said version 2 never to be developed. So as nice as the idea seems, I guess it would be really hard to do.

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    Archie I think that's an extrusion bridge in your screenshots. You can exclude those too with SBX but you need to do that with the exclude tool (the "X" icon on the toolbar) rather than with an exclude polygon of any sort. Just draw a rectangle with the exclude tool, it'll pop open a dialog when you finish where you can tick the box "Extrusion bridges". That'll make a new "000_PROJECT.bgl" in your scenery folder containing only the exclude since this type of exclude can't co-exist in the same .bgl as the polygon excludes.

    You can recreate the extrusion bridge in the correct location with the line tool, make a line, right click it, and choose "properties". On the properties dialog you'll see an extrusion bridges tab where you can define the bridge (railroad, freeway, etc). Compiling that will make yet another .bgl in your scenery folder, you'll recognize that by the "_EXT" suffix SBX appends to the filename.

    Can I use water class tiles to show varying depth in my harbour and can I change the colour according to the seasons?
    You can, but to do that you'd need to blend mask the water out of your PR so that default water poly shows through (or a modified water poly you've made yourself in SBX). Waterclass won't have any affect your photoreal water. Further, a waterclass tile is along the lines of 1 km square so I doubt your area is large enough to get any deep water/shallow water variation going. A better option in my opinion would be to keep the PR water and modify the source imagery (maybe paste some water into it from a more appropriate piece of donor imagery).

    I found some kicka$$ water in Maine BTW , check out the VirtualEarth imagery at 44.2212651, -68.6206674. I made some PR water overlays for that area, blending the islands out so the landclass islands show through. That resulted in what I thought was a great water effect without need to spend a week in the annotator adding autogen trees. Check out this thread:


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post

    A better option in my opinion would be to keep the PR water and modify the source imagery (maybe paste some water into it from a more appropriate piece of donor imagery).

    I agree. This relates to my mentioning the underlying color for FSX water makes a lot of difference. In that ugly stock Long Point image, FSX rendered the near shore water as "electric blue" due to the silver coloration in the bitmap image. I think you could probably experiment with different shades of color, (I've learned that dark greens seem to work the best to match up with FSX water in other areas - I prefer to paint the water in most of my scenery with 273d2d Hex notation in GIMP (its a dark green) and it gives the colors you see in my second Long Point shot. But you could paint areas of lighter and darker shades and get effect just like the real aerial imagery you can see online for the water in areas like Long Point, Ontario and Erie, Pennsylvania. I left some of the actual satellite image coloration in those areas under the water to help get that effect.

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