In this tutorial I will show you how to build an airport in 3DS Max step by step using the complete Florida Keys scenery as a reference. The entire process seems overwhelming but once you get an understanding of the format it's much simpler than it appears to be. I will cover the following stages in this tutorial to ultimately build an entire airport:
Note: there are many different variations of this process that will indeed work but all variations will still follow the same concept as shown within this tutorial.
Let's get started:
In order to build your airport correctly you will need to set up 3DS Max properly. There are only a couple of items required for this to insure you obtain the best results with your project.
For best results you should set your viewport to one screen with perspective and shaded selected
The resolution is important to the placement of your models and decals. Let's set this setting by clicking on the little '+' in your viewport and select 'viewport configuration/display performance'. You want to change the 'texture maps' number to 4096. This will give you a good reference image to work off of.
And the most important setting is to set your coordinate system within 3DS Max to match hat's needed for the conversion into Aerofly. From within 'customize/unit setup' the display unit scale should be set to metric/meters and set the system unit setup to 1 unit-I meter
The reference image will be used as a guide for your entire airport project. This image will not ever be exported from 3DS Max as it's solely a guide to line everything up. This is very important to set up properly otherwise your entire airport will not line up to the real-world coordinates used in Aerofly.
Note: prior to making your airport(s) it's assumed that you have already made the geoconvert scenery for that area. This tutorial will also assume this step has been completed.
Here are the steps necessary to make this:
Note: Make this image as high resolution as you can as it will be used for the reference image in 3DS Max; I made the image with (-1) FSET resolution.
Note: Make sure this only produces one image file
Now might be a good time to save your project. As a rule of thumb you should always create save points throughout your progress. If you mess something up, you can always go back to your last save point, so you can never have too many saves with different save names for example: 1-reference image, 2- began modelling, 3- made terminal, etc.
Now that we have a good reference image for our project and we know that it's aligned properly to the real-world/Aerofly coordinates we can begin to make our airport model (hangars, terminals, tower, etc.). Have fun with this step as the more detail that you add to your models, the more realistic your airport will be. In this tutorial we will keep things rather simple to move things along.
Note: You can either make your own models or import them in if you already have them. IPACS will also be publishing a model library that you will also be able to use for this step.
In this tutorial section I will show you how to make and texture a basic object, how to create lit objects that will light up at night in Aerofly, and how to export the object group and set up your tsc file for the model conversion.
Note: Gather as many photos as you can for both reference to build your models and to use for texturing later on. In this tutorial I'll show you how to build and texture the FedEx Center. Since most models are made practically the same, I'll leave the rest up to you.
Note: In order to keep polygon counts down and keep Aerofly performance up always try to eliminate any sides that aren't visible once you convert your models.
Note: For easier placement make sure that you uncheck 'fill holes'
Exporting to Gimp
In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to add textures to your model using Gimp. This way you can see some special techniques used to set up your textures. You can use any photo program for this but Gimp is powerful and free to use.
Note: it's important to include the suffix _color for each of your map images. You should follow this requirement for each model that you create.
This is the image that you are going to edit in Gimp with your own textures
Now that we've set up the image map for adding textures lets get that FedEx Center textured in our project.
In Gimp, you can now add layers and move images onto your map.
In looking at your map image in Gimp, you can reference the map in 3DS Max to see which sides on your model are where on the image map simply by clicking on your model in Max.
Note: The image box seen on the map image is upside down, so when you add your texture to that box be sure to flip it.
Close out Gimp and go back into 3DS Max. In the upper right corner of the Edit UVWs window you will see a box with 'Checker Pattern (Checker)' inside it. Replace it by selecting 'pick texture/bitmap'. Locate the map image that you just created and select it in place of the checker image.
Note: As you can see in the image below, all of the models are built, textured, and grouped in the proper format.
As you can see, your first airport building is modeled and textured. There are many things that you can do to make a nice scenery model, this only showed you a very basic building process. In the completed 'Florida Keys' scenery package you will see that the FedEx building has an inside as well, this is possible when you model as well.
Prior to beginning this section be sure that the latest 3DS Max IPACS plugin is placed into the 3DS Max/plugins folder.
In this section we will learn how to get your models to show up in Aerofly successfully.
This is a good time to create a project folder for your airport. This folder will have everything needed to run the converter and make your airport in Aerofly. For this tutorial we will make a folder named: 'Key West International“. Inside the folder will include:
Let's begin this section by exporting your model group.
This will make your TGI file for your airport models.
Once you have your TSC created to your needs go ahead and add it to your project folder. The section directly related to your models is shown in the image below.
Note: If you wanted to convert only your models at this point you can do so however you will need to omit the lines for groundpoly and decals in your TSC.
Let's recap what we have completed so far:
In this section of the tutorial we will learn how to add the groundpoly to your project. This is an important step for your project as it will both define the ground cover that you wish to texture, and which ground cover you wish to keep transparent showing only the imagery below. The groundpoly will also smooth and flatten your airport and remove the bumps of your runway.
Note: In this tutorial we will show you how to add your runway texture only, if you wish to texture the apron area be sure to carve that area out as well. The steps needed to add the apron will be the same only adding a separate material ID for it.
Now, as you can see that the runway is a solid plain. Since Aerofly works better with sectioned material you need to add some cuts to the runway.
Note: Clicking the right mouse button completes each cut.
Now that we have completed the basic template for the groundpoly it's time now to texture it.
Note: For premade textures you can use the textures in the Kingman Demo. For all texture files, they will need to have the suffix _color and needs to be placed in your project folder as described earlier.
Note: When adding textures always remember to go back a level in the drop down next to 'standard' to insure you are in the correct group.
Now we want to create a third ball that will be used to combine the runway and outside textures into one texture group.
The result will look like this:
Now, with your textures set and bound to your groundpoly now it's time to add the vertex coloring. The vertex coloring is where you define what gets seen in Aerofly and what doesn't.
Now we need to select the outside vertex only (with the runway vertex unselected)
You will now notice that all of the vertices are selected as red except for the runway.
You should see everything colored black except for the runway now.
Now that we have completed out groundpoly it's safe to add the lines for it to our TSC file:
Note: If you wish to add an apron texture to your airport, you should add that area the same way you did for the runway however, you will need to assign a different material ID to that area. in a new material ball add the apron colors and save the texture name as xx(underscore underscore)airport(underscore underscore)apron. Add to same multiball used for runway and outside.
OK, looking at the progress, you should have now completed the following:
Taking a look at your project folder, it should now look something like this:
Now that you have built your airport groundpoly and objects it's now time for the final core step. The decals are the detailed lines and markings that go on top of your runways, apron, and taxiways.
To best prepare for adding your first decals you should perform the following steps:
Once you have your workspace configured for decal placement let's move on to adding our decals.
There are many different techniques to make decals, in this tutorial we will learn a few different common approaches.
Let's begin with some simple runway markings:
Next let's add our texture. Note by adding a texture to our new plane now allows for you to make copies of your plane quickly if more than one is needed.
Next we add our texture.
Now that we have the texture added to our plane we want to make some copies to finish the remaining lines. Note in this situation it's faster to copy the first four then highlight those four and copy the group to finish the other four. Use clone/instance to make your copies.
Here's your result:
Let's now continue by making more common lines in the same way. For any lines that are straight they can all be made with a simple plane object, even the runway numbers.
Once you have all of your decal objects made be mindful that you can set priorities of your decal groupings. These priorities allow you to overlap decals over other decals. priorities can range from 0-9, with 0 being the bottom most decal.
OK, let's assume that you have made enough decals that you want to start grouping them. Note you can group as many decals together as you wish.
Let's now take the decals that we made in the tutorial and group them properly.
Let's now continue making our decals using a different method. As many taxiways have straight taxiway centerlines with curves as well, it would be very difficult to make these with just a plane object. Let's try this now by using the line object.
Once you are finished with your line you need to right click to cut the line off. note you can make adjustments to your line by clicking on the vertex dots and moving them around.
Now, we need to change the width of that wide line to match the actual centerline of the taxiway.
Your line should now be the correct size.
Since there are no other decals that go under this line, go ahead and attach it to the 'runway_decal__priority0' group. Click on the group in your hierarchy and click on the attach function and click on the line that you just created. Note We are adding this line to this group for the purpose of the tutorial, you can pick and choose which groupings you want your decals in.
Lets now make a 'hold short' decal that overlaps the centerline decal that you just made.
The final step of making decals will be to group each sub-group of decals that you made. So let's do this now.
Here is an example of what your project should now look like once finished.
The final result of this project should show all three TGI files (_obj _rwy _decal), your TSC file, and all _color textures used in your project. Note all texture files must be 2080×2048.
So your airport is finished but it still looks empty? We have published a large xref library of models that you can use to add already made aircraft, buildings, structures, and airport objects to your project easily.
The complete xref model library can be found in the Aerofly FS 2 Downloads section HERE
Let's add a couple of these now.
Let's recap everything we have done.
Here is everything together (with the groundpoly turned off as it covers our area)
Now that we have our entire airport built it's time to convert the project into Aerofly.
Finally, there are many different techniques used to produce some very nice sceneries from 3DS Max, this tutorial shows only some very basic techniques. The key here is to practice but most importantly to enjoy yourself. It's a good feeling when you are sitting on the apron of your favorite airport that YOU created.