Perhaps their response was positive because I mentioned in my request that the use was "not for profit"and that the distribution was to others with the same hobby . I'm sure you could argue that the email from Bing giving permission to distribute imagery created from their maps constitutes a written license. After all, it came from the Business Development Manager of the Bings Maps Licensing section, so the response was from a person of responsibility in the appropriate area.
Hi Nick, This sort of problem is definitely of GeoConvert feature. Try a different tile at the same settings and it works. Try a different zoom level and the same tile and it works. AeroScenery content is all present, but GeoConvert fails to produce any data. I have even had instances where I am running the extract for levels 14 and 15 but only level 14 is created. Same thing masks on or off. The GeoConvert screen says its doing level 15 tiles but produces none, and no errors appear in it log. It could be something to do with how close the source image is to the FS2 tile size. One tutorial for the GeoConvert helper tool mentioned that its "snap to lvl 9" option can fix these problems of missing output, although the snap to feature relates to level 9 tiles but when creating levels 9 and up together.
I’m thinking we will be having a totally different conversation or at least totally different results once we have USGS hd scenery available for testing. IPACS may reduce the quality of the scenery when looking at it in FS2 but, the quality of the base images are far superior to most of the Bing and Google free images in the U.S.
Unfortunately better source quality doesn't translate into better images in FS2. Also doesn't USGS map data just cover the USA? Their terrain data is USA only. There's a whole rest of the planet out there, even if some of us are standing upside down.
Level 9 is ok seen from a cruising liner at FL300+, but not for VFR.
If you create level 9 and 11 together using best image quality for level 11 area, you would see level 11 imagery below you. Level 11 tiles become visible at 40nm, so level 9 detail is only visible in the distance. At FL300 you would still be seeing level 11 tiles within 40nm. I have found that even level 15 tiles, if you have enough of them, are visible at FL600, as tile draw distance is not affected by altitude. You just have to be looking straight down. I did a quick test with level 9 & 11 scenery by itself and your right, it is not at its best under 3,000ft. It gets better as you climb and at 5,000ft is acceptably realistic. So if you wanted to do VFR flying below 5,000ft I guess you would need to create the area with a minimum of level 12/13 and depending how low you want to go, maybe even level 14. I not a pilot just a simmer, so have no real world experience of VFR.
If you intend to cover a place with variable resolution, it should be all based on the same source resolution, unless you are pretty confident that the source images show the same thing whatever the resolution.
That's a good point. But even using one image quality source you still get some quite noticeable imagery contrasts from place to place. This is just the limitation of using available imagery.
It seems that when using tool like AeroScenery, or FSET for that matter, you want to minimise your effort while maximising your quality of output. What I want form FS2 scenery is less detailed imagery everywhere for flying above 5,000ft, then more detailed as you near an airport area and the finally the most detailed imagery when you are on final approach. I thought those 3 requirements neatly dovetailed with GeoConvert level groups of levels 9 &11, levels 12&13 and levels 14 &15. You would also use an image source that maximises quality for the higher level of the pair and then let GeoConvert dumb it down for the lower level of the pair.
I think we will always have to live with the possibility of levels 9 & 11 will sometimes have different textures to others, as using imagery quality higher than level 15 simply generates huge amounts of data for little benefit. However if we can find a quality sweet spot that would let us generate levels 12 to 15 using the same source data that would be a bonus, but I'm not confident this is possible. The beauty of AeroScenery is that anyone can generate all levels using one image quality source if the have the time and computer resources to do so.
I understood AeroScenery is a tool for everyone, not just for the experts. In order to make it usable for those with less computer skills (and computer resources) we have to make it easy enough to be worthwhile. To do this we just need a set of rules we can apply to an "easy mode" in AeroScenery. This is what I was trying to achieve. However if that is not the purpose I still want to know the sweet spot for my own scenery design.
So I still think FS2 final image quality is what should drive the image source quality levels used, but maybe we can do it for more levels at a time to avoid the problem you mentioned. I'll keep working on finding the sweet spot. For level 9 & 11, I already have found image quality level 15 is it, as you lose quality using level 14 but gain nothing using level 16 on level 11 FS2 grid. I happened to pick New Orleans for my testing and found no source image variations between 14, 15 or 16, but this may not be the case everywhere. I think we'll go crazy if we think about this too long.
Lastly, there is one additional twist here. This twist applied to FSET and probably applies to Nick's tool as well: with certain imagery sources, when you get to the highest 'zoom levels', they don't actually increase in true resolved spatial resolution.
Yep I noticed this issue myself using Bing data. I first noticed in FSET as it cycles through the images as it downloads them. When I redid an area using a supposedly better quality I noticed that the images cycling through the screen were more grainy. It is likely also that some areas have higher quality images than others, even though both areas have the same download resolutions available. I found that in the area of Australia I was extracting, there was no quality difference between FSET levels 0 and -1, just bigger downloads.
I am currently doing some comparisons of what gives the best image quality in FS2. Looks like image download level 20 need never be used. And it could be we are using download images way too detailed for the various levels in FS2. Below are few shots of a GeoConvert level 9 run at both 15 and 16 download image quality. Once again source images are different but the output is not. Hopefully after a few extracts and comparisons I'll be able to work out what the max download image quality is required for a particular GeoConvert level. Once we know that then we might be able to create larger areas in less time.
Its the stats for the level 9/11 grids that are most interesting:-
- level 15 quality downloaded 4225 images and required 782mb of disk space (804mb free required)
- level 16 quality downloaded 16641 images and required 2606mb of disk space (2697mb free required) and all this for no improvement in FS2.
In both cases both the output ttf files were about 35mb. Don't forget a level 9 tiles is only 30nm x 30nm, relatively small in the FS2 world. So extrapolate that out for the HD space required for a bigger area and you'll see that using the optimal download image quality becomes important. While storage is cheap, all that has to move through your PC memory as its created.
FS2 level 11 tiles - 15 on left 16 on right
Stitched source files - 15 on left 16 on right
I think the image you showed me was from the stitched image file. That doesn't equate to better quality in FS2 as GeoConvert compresses the image. My images were of the converted files ready for FS2.
Below are the 2 source images that generated the FS2 tiles. Once again 19 on the left and 20 on the right. In my post above the FS2 tiles showed no difference between source image quality or 19 and 20. However in the source image data below used to generate those tiles, there is a noticeable difference between 19 and 20. Its really what appears in FS2 that is important.
Looks impressive, but will this quality be as impressive in FS2. I'll give it a go and see what happens.
Will USGS tiles allow us to share the converted ttc files?
Had a quick look on the USGS site and all it says is that it is provided free of charge. They also talk about sharing but this seems geared more towards sharing data with them, rather than sharing data from them.
They also state :-
"It is critical that our information be protected from uninvited disclosure or intentional corruption, and that our systems are secured against external attack to the maximum extent possible. This memorandum established guidance that will help assure that our contractors perform in a manner consistent with DOI's security needs and mandates.
IT security must be incorporated into all phases of program planning and execution, from budgeting to close-out. The cognizant Program Manager or IT System Owner has primary responsibility to assure that contractors are aware of and comply with the DOI IT Security Program."
If IPACS sourced their map and elevation data from USGS, then they may already have the answer to your question.
Did a bit of testing to see if download image levels have any benefit in FS2. While level 20 took longer than level 19, the resulting level 15 images showed no improvement. So all level 20 does is eat up your HDD space, increase your download times and take longer to produce the ttc files. The area used was New Orleans as I figured a populated area in the USA would have the best chance of having higher level imagery. I'll compare the other levels after the AeroScenery update.
Image download level - 19
Map level 15
Images downloaded - 1122
MB downloaded - 4.4mb
Total HDD space used - 278mb
Image download level - 20
Map level 15
Images downloaded - 4290
MB downloaded - 16.7mb
Total HDD space used - 869mb
19 vs 20 - zoomed out
19 vs 20 - zoomed in
To build on what we have now it would definitely need to be a kind of "easy mode" that lets the user enter the minimum altitude for the squares they've selected. Behind the scenes it would use all the same options and folder structure, just doing some logic to decide which options to set for each grid square.
Hi Nick, Have been thinking about "easy mode" and how that might work. In order to do that it I tried to come up with a best practice standard that we could then base easy mode on. The attached PDF covers information an average user will need to know to effectively use AeroScenery even in Easy mode. Such things as basic Aerofly grid info, some scenery design examples, and how the users might use that information to use AeroScenery without an easy mode. Lastly it delves into what action an easy mode might require from both a user's perspective and from a programmer's perspective. Spoiler alert - It gets easier for the user and harder for the programmer, but not much harder. By just removing the "Automation Required" column in the easy mode section, we already have a high level user's support guide for AeroScenery. A supporting tutorial could eventually provide a step by step guide for scenery creation. As much of the document relates to Aerofly rather than AeroScenery, it could easily be relevant to how we use FSET now.
I have made some assumptions as to which map grid tiles to use as well as what image download level is appropriate for each GeoConvert level. I did this based on my own experiences and from comments from other users on the forums, but it might not be the best mix. Users would create scenery for large areas (GeoConvert levels 9 & 11), airport circuit areas or low level VFR areas (level 12 & 13) and close airport proximity areas or high detail VFR areas (level 14 & 15). An easy mode should steer users away from common mistakes that result in GeoConvert producing rubbish or nothing. Even the more experienced might prefer the easy mode but an "expert mode" would allow them to decide how they wish to combine image quality, map grid size and GeoConvert levels. Expert mode is basically AeroScenery as it stands now.
When thinking about the easy mode I tried to use logic that could be applied to AeroScenery without making too much work for you. As AeroScenery development progresses the scenery design logic in the attached document would need to be tested and tweaked to ensure it all works. Masks would probably be turned off for easy mode and optional for expert mode. If we get the scenery design logic right, masks won't matter for easy mode users anyway. More experienced scenery creators will want to modify stitch images to add transparencies which require masks enabled.
In easy mode users would only need to select the map Grid level, the desired map grid, quality level and hit start. I am not sure if the various "Actions" should be available in easy mode or not. You'll need to zoom in a bit to see the information in the PDF clearly.
Edit - new spreadsheet created to correct some scale issues as I had forgotten about level 10. WIll add some expected download sizes once I have done some testing with the next version of AeroScenery.
If you don't ask you don't get. Unlike Bing, Google's voluminous legal fluff basically said "Don't contact us".
Thanks for reading and responding to my comments. It is great to know how IPACS works.
I find that Aerofly FS2 flight simulator gives me the most realistic experience even though it lacks some features available in other flightsims. This is mainly due to the photo realistic scenery included as standard and available for purchase, and the stellar performance on more modest computers like mine. In additional to Aerofly I also have use both FSX and Prpar3d. I like the performance improvement of P3d over FSX, but I have so much content for FSX that P3d isn't even installed any more. But every time I go back to FS2 from FSX, the syrupy smooth frame rates and large areas of photo realistic scenery are like a flight sim junkies dream. This is surely the future of flightsim!
Work is underway to allow users to create high quality content themselves using AeroScenery and share it (thanks Bing maps) with other users. Utilities like Fscloudport are available now to allow users to create runways, airport and surrounding buildings and static aircraft. Developers of this type of enhancement are my hero's. AeroScenery will greatly reduce the complexity of photo realistic scenery that the more skilled users can already create. Fscloudport has a good selection of basic buildings, and with a little creativity users are able to create complex structures, like the curved multi arm Domestic terminal in Brisbane Australia. While the result is not as good as custom designed scenery available for purchase in this and other sims, from the air still manages to looks realistic enough. I never sit at the gate looking at the great details of the buildings in front of me. I am more interested in the aircraft itself, getting it up in the air, how the airport area looks from the air as I depart and then approach for landing, and how that detail impacts my system performance.
While the just released Florida scenery is a visually impressive feast, there are a vast number of happy simmers out there available to use AeroScenery and Fscloudport tools to also create scenery worthy of Aerofly FS2. All without IPACS lifting a finger.
Being freed from scenery design would allow IPACS to concentrate on adding features that bring more realism to FS2. Things like live weather, AI aircraft, ATC etc, all of which are delivered standard in a flightsim coming up to 12 years old. And FSX is pretty ancient by computer software standards.
This slight change in focus to enhancement rather than scenery could make Aerofly more popular (selling more copies to balance the lack of scenery sales). Providing enhancements that flow through to Fscoudport, like more static aircraft types and more region specific paint jobs, creates even better free scenery content, enticing even more users to Aerofly. Even with the maximum detail wacked into Fscloudport, there is no performance penalty in Aerofly. A credit to both Aerofly and Fscloudport.
Lastly all users love free stuff that enhances the flightsim experience. The more free stuff (like scenery created by other users), the more people will want to migrate to Aerofly. Simmers love flying over their home turf so projects like scenery being created for Australia and various other parts of the world not covered by existing scenery, might also entice users of other simmers to make the transition to Aerofly. The more people who migrate to Aerofly the better for IPACS. Sales of FSX enhancements also prove simmers are willing to pay for enhancements. I'd definitely cough up a modest fee for an ATC, AI aircraft or live weather enhancement for Aerofly. Florida is on the other side of the world, in a country I have never visited. ATC, moving aircraft and weather are all around everyone everywhere.
This is not a criticism of IPACS, anything you have developed to date or your plans for the future. I love Aerofly and thanks for developing it and providing additional aircraft and plenty of scenery free to existing users. But a slight change in focus could attract more simmers, and make the Aerofly experience better for everyone, not just frequent travellers to Florida.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change." Charles Darwin
There is no penalty for using base imagery at better resolutions than the GeoConvert tiles we convert it into, other than the huge file size and download time.
I am not sure this is correct. Wouldn't it be easier for FS2 to display a large level 9 tile on its own, rather than it is for it to display the the multitude of level 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 tiles it has to pop in and out depending on your distance from the tile. Deciding when to use a level 12 tile in pace of a level 11 tile and so on must have some impact on performance. A level 15 tile area and level 9 tile area look much the same from FL350 so there is no benefit for areas where you don't come down low. The actual altitude at which the a level 15 tile area looks like a level 9 tile area is much lower than FL350. Also once IPACS create additional enhancements such as ATC, AI aircraft and live weather, scenery performance would become more important. Sigh, well I can dream can't I.
Excellent idea Ken. Colours and graphics always triumphs over just words. I think there are enough experienced scenery creators to come up some decent help content, without getting too detailed that it scares people off.
I think the comment that there is a relationship between FS2 levels and image detail level downloaded is right on the money. There's a clue in the TMC readme where it states level 14 is roughly 1 m pixel.
I have been doing a bit of testing to understand how the scenery works in FS2. I did this by simply using FS2 with scenery I had created and observing the results of the different methods I had used. I also needed to work out how the tiles work with each other to better understand why my scenery choices worked or didn't and where best to use more detail. Knowing this also helps understand why GeoConvert does what it does. For instance you thought you did everything right, downloaded the highest res imagery, but the scenery looks rubbish in FS2 or Geoconvert simply didn't produce tiles.
So I think that the download image quality, GeoConvert level used and targeting detail where it is needed are the holy trinity of scenery design for FS2.
A quick for instance. I had been using Bing maps in FSET and noticed that higher quality downloads sometimes weren't resulting in higher quality when viewed in FS2. I had already created level 14 scenery for a small airport not far from home using Bing map data downloaded at 0.5m pixel quality. So I downloaded the exact same area from Google but at .25m pixel as Google data seems to have higher detail (but pesky watermarks). I then used the same TMC to create my level 14 tiles from the Google imagery as used for Bing data.
I located an area that contained a house with a oval pool which was easy to find and small enough to show up any quality differences. To my surprise, the 0.25 m pixel Google data gave the same slightly pixelated view of the pool as the 0.5 m pixel Bing data. I then ran the Google data through GeoConvert at level 15. When I looked at the pool again the pixelation was gone and a much more detailed pool had appeared.
My conclusion is that downloading 0.25m pixel resolution data and then using on a level 14 tile is a total waste time. More bandwidth, more CPU resources, longer processing time were all used for no benefit on a level 14 tile. Perhaps AeroScenery could assist users from making this mistake either by preventing certain combinations or just a popup advising the combination used will not give any benefit. So I think there is some benefit in providing some protection in your program to prevent users from taking actions which would give no benefit or at least some advice. Perhaps the guide could be integrated into the AeroScenery Help button. It might also help reduce support questions and user frustration. eg the guide could advise that they should use 4 m pixel quality on levels 9 and 11 in large areas, but use .25 m pixel and level 14 in small areas around airport or areas of low VFR flying. In some areas you only are doing high level flying, so detailed imagery is wasted in FS2.
I am reasonably sure I have a handle on how the tile levels, tile sizes, and tile draw distance and viewing altitude all work together to create visually stunning scenery in FS2 with the least possible CPU and GPU load. I though I might document how I thought this all works for the more technically minded users out there as it does aid scenery design. If my assumptions are correct, then in my opinion the scenery rendering method use by IPACS is just plain smart. No wonder it makes FSX performance look like very old technology (which it is).
Creating the scenery that gives the best visual result for the least possible effort will also have a flow on effect in FS2, as that scenery will use the least possible GPU and CPU resources. This then leaves plenty of resource surplus available for allow users to run future developments such as ATC and AI aircraft. Also if you plan distributing scenery to other users some sort of standard will provide consistent results amongst users, minimise file sizes and maximise scenery quality. The last thing you want to happen is someone to download 0.149 m pixel quality to create level 9 to 15 scenery for the whole country, then blame AeroScenery for poor system performance.
Sorry its a bit long winded, as is often the case with my posts, but I wanted to cover the whole picture.
I was doing some testing on some scenery tiles I had created and wanted to get my head around how the tiles work together. So I decided to find out the distance you are when a tile appears for a particular GeoConvert level.
Listed below are the approximate distances a tile will appear at:-
. A level 11 - 40nm
. A level 12 - 20nm
. A level 13 - 8nm
. A level 14 - 6nm
. A level 15 - 1nm
So a level 11 tiles becomes visible at 40nm away as you fly towards it, and it disappears as you move more than 40nm away. This draw distance does not appear to be affected by altitude or speed.
Now the bug. If you load your aircraft say 50nm away from your level 11 tile, it comes into sight at 40nm. However if you load your aircraft at 90nm away from the tile, the tile will only appear at about 10nm. instead of it usual 40nm. This test was done in the F15 at about 30,000ft and max thrust, but I did a few tests at 300 and 800 knots and found speed wasn't issue.
I also tried it with a level 13 tile which normally appears at 10nm. Starting at 40 nm away the tile appeared normally at 10nm. I then tried 50nm and the tile also appeared normally. However when I exited FS2 and went back in, the tile appeared at only 4nm when starting from about 50nm.
So it seems to be a combination of distance from the tile, the draw distance of the tile in question, and whether you have used the scenery in the current session.
I did read in another thread (which I can't find now) that users were reporting that the latest update had introduced a bug that was causing tiles to pop in later than they had in the past. Not sure if this is new or has been around for a while, but my findings might indicate the scenario that is causing this issue for some users.
Note: these test were done on a single tile of level 11or 13 tile I had created using the wiki scenery process, and loaded in an area with no default imaging other than fuzzy global.
When geoconvert runs with Masks Off, the Level 9 tile doesn't generate, Levels 11 and 12 have gaps. Does anyone have this problem?
Missing tiles with masks off is systematic of scenery areas being generated not aligning with FS2 grids. When this happens GeoConvert just skips tiles that would only be partially textured. Turning masks on instructs GeoConvert to generate these partially textured tiles and a matching mask tile which I assume allows FS2 to correctly render these types of tiles.
Similar thing happens if your source images have transparencies. With masks off any tile that would have included an area with a transparency is skipped by GeoConvert. With masks on everything is generated, but this does create more tiles for FS2 to read. According to another thread, mask tiles can cause other issues.
There is some work being done with aligning AeroScenery selections with FS2 tile grids more closely.
This problem also exists when generating scenery using the older method using FSET.