Wednesday, November 29, 2006

3D Gauge animations in FSX

As I continue to work on FS9 and FSX (Flight Simulator X) versions of the 'Biff' (Bristol F2B) I have been learning how to create new animated parts using xml code. A few days into this learning process the FSX SDK SP1 was released to beta test and straight onto coding XML animation for FS X.

I have been using the Biff to give the FSX SDK a good workout. The external model FSX version of the Biff is straight conversion of the CFS3 version with FSX materials replacing CFS3 materials and additional animated parts such as animated control wires which one cannot do in CFS3. I'll post more on the material side of things of FSX in a future post.

There is a growing trend, these days, as exemplified by products such as the RealAir Spitfire, to use XML animated 3D instruments instead of the more usual XML or C++ 2D gauges. CFS3 was the first to use this methodology. However CFS3 was limited in that one was limited to gauge animations hard coded into the sim. All one could do in CFS3 was create new artwork and keyframe in 3DS Max/gmax. With FS9 came the ability to create one's own XML animated parts by creating and adding the appropriate xml animation code to, a component of the MakeMDL SDK in FS9 (FS2004). Just about any part for which a variable existed in the sim could be animated if desired.

However FSX has now arrived and with that an all new animation system. The new animation differs in that all animations have to be keyframed in 3DS Max/gmax. There are no hard coded animations in FS X. Animations such as wheels and propellors have to be key frame animated. There are no rotation animations.

Initially I thought the loss of rotation animation codes would be a problem but so far I have found a simple solution for most needle animations and compass animations without resorting to maths and code statements. I have posted some of my findings at the Freeflight Design forums. I had hoped to post here but the Blogspot software messes up my xml tags in a big way.

Airspeed Example used in FS X Bristol F2b
Compass example for a British Mk5 Compass used in Biff - can be used for any similar compass.

The animation creation process will be covered in the SDK when ACES release it. Hopefully that won't be too far away. There are only a handful of beta testers testing this. However we have all been busy.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Very brief update. I am very busy as usual. I have been busy beta testing the FS X SDK beta update these last 10 days or so. I must say I am very pleased. In the field in which I am most interested, aircraft creation, we have much that is new, especially new animation procedures and a new materials system.

There are no hard coded animations and every part that is animated has to be key framed. The plus side of this is that animated parts can have any name. The animations are attached to coded animations, in a modeldef.xml file, via a maxscript animation tool in 3dsMax/gmax. This is very useful for logical ordering of animations. The SDK also contains instructions on how to create and add new animated parts to the modeldef.xml file.

Material properties are now quite complex and require more than a little bit of work to achieve the correct effect. However the results are worth the effort.

To test the SDK I have exported and converted the CFS3 Biff to FS X mdl. The mesh initially exported without any problems. The animations took a few hours to figure out but worked without any problem. I am in the process of creating materials for the Biff. Self shadowing does not require any special modeling techniques that I can see. By using manifold meshes the modeler can improve the quality of shadows however manifold meshes involve large poly counts and would be difficult to achieve in a detailed biplane.

I have also been busy creating xml animated 3D gauges for FS9 and also soon for FSX.

All this has delayed the Sopwith Snipe somewhat, though I have had fun flying the incomplete Snipe in FSX. Don't worry I will resume work on the Snipe as soon as the Biffs are out for FS9/FSX.

Here's a pic of the Biff over Brisbane.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CFS3 Stuff

Still to come for CFS3..... they haven't been forgotten. Don't know when they'll be complete though.

Sopwith Snipe
Sopwith Baby
BV P212.03
Me P1112
Boulton Paul Defiant.

Maybe...... well a big maybe ............... some more Biff stuff too.... we'll see :)



Bristol F2B for FS9/FSX

While I currently have about 7 open projects for FS/CFS, since last weekend I have been primarily focusing on the Bristol Fighter for FS 9. I was not intending to do a version for FS X until next year. However with the remainder of the FS X SDK shortly being released and the FS9 F2B version being more more complete than I thought, I intend to move the FS X version forward and release both simultaneously, hopefully in a few weeks. The FS X version will be a hybrid of the CFS3 version and FS 2004 version, taking advantage of FS X Materials, animations and greater resolution. Essentially it will be an enhanced version of the FS 2004 external model combined with the CFS3 virtual cockpit.

I am trying to make sense of modeling gauges in 3d, animated by xml code, at the moment. So far I've only got the compass and clock working. WW1 instruments are usually non linear in nature and writing code for them involves a bit of trial and error.

I also have to paint the crew figures then optimise and break apart. In FS X I hope to create skinned animations for them.

Following the FS Biffs all attention will focus on the Snipe. Still hoping for late 2006 for the Snipe.