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Alan_A

ASA vs. REX 2.0 weather head to head

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I'm continuing to find my way into REX 2.0 and get the hang of it.As a longtime ASA user, I'm much more comfortable with their weather engine. But last night, I decided to try a head-to-head comparison. I loaded REX textures and weather for my nearest local airport - Montgomery County, MD (KGAI) and took a short flight to Frederick, MD (KFDK) in the RealAir Citabria. Then I exited all programs, kept the REX textures in place, loaded ASA weather (same METAR, with low winds, light clouds and 10-mile visibility), and repeated the flight.The results were interesting to say the least. There were clearly technical differences. REX generated cumulus throughout the flight, while ASA kept cumulus confined over KFDK and provided more high cirrus for the rest of the area. Visibility seemed better in REX - I think because ASA was, as per normal, using overcast textures to generate the haze layer, which makes it thicker. Wind gusts were marginally more noticeable in REX. Frame rates were marginally better in REX, probably because of the heavier haze layer in ASA, though the differences really weren't more than 3-5 frames (with a cap of 30) at any one point. There was one quick stutter in REX when approaching KFDK, otherwise both flights were smooth.By far the biggest difference was the subjective impression of the flights. Judging by the view outside my window, ASA was better able to match the real world (haze was quite evident IRL). In all, it felt more realistic. But the REX flight was much more emotionally intense. The combination of sky color, sun texture and rendering of low sun through cumulus made me think I was feeling heat from the sun through the windshield. There was more contrast between sky lighting and ground lighting. It felt more real than real, but was memorable, and made ASA seem a little prosaic.The best I can summarize it - speaking as a photographer - is that ASA felt like Ektachrome, realistic and more subdued, and REX felt like Velvia, all wild intense color.For the emotional impact, I really liked REX, and based on that I'm willing to work more with it, even though it can be an unruly beast (at the moment it doesn't like my Saitek switch panel, which freezes in a way that locks out my TrackIR, which then crashes FSX...)Has anyone else tried a head-to-head comparison of ASA and REX? If so, what were your impressions? Which did you like better, and why?Alan

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Guest rdg

Hi, I really enjoyed your overview of the two products. I felt no bias whatsoever from you. I just purchased REX, but have only installed textures for now, and will work with the weather engine after I have settled in on my favorite textures. I did own ASA early in their release cycle which I will avoid doing so in the future, simply because of problems that I encountered. These were not minor issues mind you. I do understand that these developers have taken on a very complex programming project, and the amount of testing that would be required to have a solid engine would be a bit overwhelming due to the wide array of hardware currently being used to run FSX. So, much of the testing really took place after the product was released. I have heard others speak about the technical hurdles when creating a weather engine, and it is not for the meek. There are many developers creating scenery, aircraft and utilities, but not so many willing to jump into creating a weather engine. From reading on the forums, some of the frustration developers face is working around the limitations of FSX. I take my hat off to both of these companies for their willingness to take on such a challenging endevour. Will either of them ever get it completely right? No I dont think so, and I think if the current customers and potential customers realize this fact, the disappointment would be minimized. So, from a marketing perspective, I believe it is best for these companies and maybe others thinking about creating something like this, to be very prudent about the promises during the marketing stage. I am looking forward to giving REX a try, but I wont allow myself to expect perfection.RegardsBob G

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ASA took a while to settle out - at first I put it aside and went back to ASX, but then the last beta before the service pack, and then the service pack itself, seemed to get it sorted out and it runs smoothly for me at least. I've been using HiFi sim products for years, so I figured they'd sort it out over time.Agreed that creating a weather engine isn't for the faint-hearted, and my hat's off to both developers, too. I'd never expect perfection (whatever that would be in this context). Right now, it's just really interesting to see how the different programs work and what results they produce. I'll try to do some more head-to-head testing and see what the differences are - though as soon as the A2A Cub comes out I'm probably going to be focused on that... Maybe I can do more weather tests and learn Cub engine management at the same time. Time management of great add-ons - a good problem to have...Alan

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Guest rdg
ASA took a while to settle out - at first I put it aside and went back to ASX, but then the last beta before the service pack, and then the service pack itself, seemed to get it sorted out and it runs smoothly for me at least. I've been using HiFi sim products for years, so I figured they'd sort it out over time.Agreed that creating a weather engine isn't for the faint-hearted, and my hat's off to both developers, too. I'd never expect perfection (whatever that would be in this context). Right now, it's just really interesting to see how the different programs work and what results they produce. I'll try to do some more head-to-head testing and see what the differences are - though as soon as the A2A Cub comes out I'm probably going to be focused on that... Maybe I can do more weather tests and learn Cub engine management at the same time. Time management of great add-ons - a good problem to have...Alan
Hi, nice of you to take the time, and I am sure others will appreciate. Again, I have not touched the weather engine as of yet. I am just checking out the FSX weather generation with the new 4096 clouds. Woh Weee, the clouds are really incredible. It really has added to my immersion factor. I was wondering as I could not find on the REX forum. I noticed in the options menu there is an option for "Airport Signs". I could not find an option for this in the Themes. I of course saw the airport environment and runways but nothing for signs. Where can I find this? Talk to you soon.Bob

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First - let me say to ignore my sig - my response to this question has no bearing on the fact that I beta tested ASA. I was (medical) a RW pilot with over 10K hours and have seen my share of real world weather.That said - IMHO, some of what has been said here is almost like comparing apples and oranges. What you SEE relates to the textures loaded. The OP did state that he kept the REX textures in place. However, the degree of accuracy of the depicted weather is what you might want to compare and then decide for yourself.Simply put, ASA reads the metar for the current station and as you fly updates the weather as you go. REX's approach is to "blend" the weather, for want of a better word - meaning they will read the same metar but they will also read metars over a wide area and adjust so the overall view is a blend. As I understand it their aim is to have fewer updates to interfere with the flight.An example, I live in the flight path of KBUR. It was a particular and rare rainy day with heavy overcast and KBUR was operating IFR. Fired up ASA and what I saw in FSX was what I saw out the window. Loaded REX and saw a heavy overcast but not IFR nor was it raining. The winds were a tad less also.I feel that that the user has to decide which approach better fits their flying. One method isn't any better than the other, just two different approaches to the same problem.Just MHO,Vic

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I am using REX2 and really like it.
Is that a reply to:
Has anyone else tried a head-to-head comparison of ASA and REX? If so, what were your impressions? Which did you like better, and why?
:(

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First - let me say to ignore my sig - my response to this question has no bearing on the fact that I beta tested ASA. I was (medical) a RW pilot with over 10K hours and have seen my share of real world weather.That said - IMHO, some of what has been said here is almost like comparing apples and oranges. What you SEE relates to the textures loaded. The OP did state that he kept the REX textures in place. However, the degree of accuracy of the depicted weather is what you might want to compare and then decide for yourself.Simply put, ASA reads the metar for the current station and as you fly updates the weather as you go. REX's approach is to "blend" the weather, for want of a better word - meaning they will read the same metar but they will also read metars over a wide area and adjust so the overall view is a blend. As I understand it their aim is to have fewer updates to interfere with the flight.An example, I live in the flight path of KBUR. It was a particular and rare rainy day with heavy overcast and KBUR was operating IFR. Fired up ASA and what I saw in FSX was what I saw out the window. Loaded REX and saw a heavy overcast but not IFR nor was it raining. The winds were a tad less also.I feel that that the user has to decide which approach better fits their flying. One method isn't any better than the other, just two different approaches to the same problem.Just MHO,Vic
I agree with many of your points. I'm not sure it's entirely apples-and-oranges, though. The programs look different for two reasons - one is the accuracy of the weather, as you suggest, and the other is that they're rendering the weather in different ways. For example, REX and ASA both reduced the visibility to 10 miles, but in ASA the visibility looked worse because it renders haze with a heavier texture. The effect in REX almost looked like the blurries at first - it seemed to be reducing resolution in distant objects without obscuring them so much. I'm not sure that's the way it actually works, but that's how it seemed.I've had other flights using REX textures with ASA weather - mostly at dusk - where I could barely see anything. I think this was the result of combining the heavy ASA haze with the very rich REX dusk colors.One question - in ASA, if you select the direct smoothing options (visibility and wind), doesn't it produce the same kind of blended weather as in REX? Or am I wrong about that? I use the direct smoothing options in ASA because I find the abrupt transitions really unsettling.I agree with you about ASA seeming to be more accurate - I've had several flights where the ASA weather seemed more like local weather. But until last night I hadn't tried a direct comparison.Finally, I agree that it's up to the user to decide which works best. I'm just trying to see what each one produces so I can make that choice myself.Alan

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Alan - LOL - the way ASA handles the haze layer is my favorite feature. As they say, different strokes. Flying in So cal where the smog REALLY makes a haze layer and I can appreciate the accuracy of ASA in that regard. I use the Xgraphics Cirrtus overcast textures to control the haze layer. I used to practice acro using the smog top as my nard deck. It was easy to see but not easy to see through.I can see your point however that even though it might be realistic it does make it difficult to see. However withlens flare on and flying right into the sun you have the same issue.Part of my apples and oranges is aimed at using the texture display as a measure of the weather engine. I use FEX, REX and XG and there are *some* textures and colors in all three that are difficult to see. Part of that has to to with dawn & dusk textures and how they are rendered. The FSD YF23 HUD for example is allmost impossible to see at dawn or dusk because of this. It's FSX issue not REX or FEX. Don't know for sure exactly how the smoothing works but it is more of applying a buffer between zones, if you will, as opposed to a blanket adjustment.BTW, I'm hoping that either Tim or Damian or Jim will chime in here if I'm misrepresenting what I understand.It sounds like we are in agreement. Actually it could be great for both developers - everyone buy both and decide! :)Vic

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Hi All,Just to be fair, I am reading this thread and will continue to do so, but unless something is totally not true I will be staying clear!Thanks!

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Alan - LOL - the way ASA handles the haze layer is my favorite feature. As they say, different strokes. Flying in So cal where the smog REALLY makes a haze layer and I can appreciate the accuracy of ASA in that regard. I use the Xgraphics Cirrtus overcast textures to control the haze layer. I used to practice acro using the smog top as my nard deck. It was easy to see but not easy to see through.I can see your point however that even though it might be realistic it does make it difficult to see. However withlens flare on and flying right into the sun you have the same issue.Part of my apples and oranges is aimed at using the texture display as a measure of the weather engine. I use FEX, REX and XG and there are *some* textures and colors in all three that are difficult to see. Part of that has to to with dawn & dusk textures and how they are rendered. The FSD YF23 HUD for example is allmost impossible to see at dawn or dusk because of this. It's FSX issue not REX or FEX. Don't know for sure exactly how the smoothing works but it is more of applying a buffer between zones, if you will, as opposed to a blanket adjustment.BTW, I'm hoping that either Tim or Damian or Jim will chime in here if I'm misrepresenting what I understand.It sounds like we are in agreement. Actually it could be great for both developers - everyone buy both and decide! :)Vic
I agree we're in agreement!I also think that ASA's handling of the haze layer comes as close as anything I've seen to real-world flying. I remember my first experience as a GA passenger, flying with a friend in the NYC area in early March. On the ground it looked like a clear day, but when we got up to cruise at 2900 we slipped into the haze and visibility was down to about five miles, maybe less. ASA gets that perfectly.I'd never say that REX was realistic. I don't know if you remember Velvia, which I mentioned earlier - it was a color slide film by Fuji that was famous for producing colors not found in nature. It had an intense, oversaturated look and that made it a favorite for advertising and corporate annual report photographers who wanted high intensity, not realism. I guess I'm intrigued by the fact that REX seems to produce a similar effect. There's something artistic about the simulator - in the sense that however real things look, they'll never look completely real, so maybe there's value in abandoning realism and going for emotional punch.On the other hand, that could also get old real fast. The truth is, I've been an ASA loyalist and I'll probably wind up back there, but I'm trying to give REX a chance and see what it does, and how it does it.I think you're right about ASA buffering and smoothing among multiple METARs, as opposed to averaging them out. Jim hasn't denied that (thanks for chiming in, Jim!) so I'll take that as a provisional yes.Your post reminded me that I haven't spent nearly as much time as I should with X-Graphics - before using REX I was using FEX textures. I should give X-Graphics a try - maybe they're better tailored to what ASA does, since they come from the same house.Hmmm, more stuff to work on... at least it's keeping me occupied while I wait, wait, wait for that Cub...Alan

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is that ASA felt like Ektachrome, realistic and more subdued, and REX felt like Velvia,
I like your Ektachrome/Kodachrome(?) (Technicolor?) analogy. To some extent those very vivid and saturated coloring in REX is a subject that concerns me. In pursuit of perfection you can easily go too far.

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Guest abulaafia

I'll stay clear of the textures issue, because I am using REX all the way. I have, for the past month, flown the same flights, same time, same metars with ASA and REX weather engines, but the same REX textures. They show very much the same weather around stations with data available. It is in the areas without data where ASA wins by a big margin. REX does ok for the US, where many weather stations exist, but the representation of "no data" is far far better in ASA, probably through its interpolation mechanism and the fact you can choose how much cloud to depict where no data is available. So flying in the Australian outback, Indonesia, China or anywhere in Africa with REX is almost like flying without weather at all. The other points I wish to make is that weather creation in ASA is far more unobtrusive. You don't notice it's there. The weather clears only seldom, whereas in REX I get this frequent pops where all the weather is suddenly gone. Not to mention the annoying green bar in REX. ASA's use of the exclusion zone around the a/c is far better than REX's abrupt updates. Funny enough these are points of feedback Reed has received for YEARS, when his program was still called Weathermaker, but it never really improved. Again, where good METAR strings are available, I find both programs do a good job. I did not notice any systemic differences. Both offer a far better experience than default weather.

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We appreciate the kind remarks and I think Vic is correct at least when it comes to comparing oranges and apples. However, to respond to how REX handles the weather, REX does not blend the metar's. We use the data that is provided by our sources, and if a station does not report, we make the necessary adjustments so that a hole is not missing at that station.You can go back and forth on whether this program showed this or this program didn't show that, but it really comes down to what data you receive and at what time. In the countless hours of development and testing phases, I have found that even 5 minutes can make a huge difference in weather reports and depiction. So in the time that one can load a wx engine, shut it down and load the next wx engine, the weather report could have very well changed.@michal, the environment coloring in REX is subject to what the end-user chooses. If you don't like one aspect of the environment, we made sure to give the freedom change it. There are over 15,000 textures to choose from with the ability to colorize your water environment, so the flexibility in REX is vast. @Abulaafia, in regards to your mention of unavailable data... this is a major area we are currently concentrating on.

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Very interesting discussion - thanks to all. I should reiterate - probably multiple times - that my hat's off to all the developers. Not looking to trash anyone here. Weather generation is one tough nut and it's great that people are trying.I just flew my same miniature route - KGAI to KFDK - using ASA and, for the first time, X-Graphics. That was a whole different kind of wow. Drab textures (was using tonight's weather, so it wasn't a direct comparison to lst night's results)... but the way the haze thickened gradually and the visibility slid down to under four miles approaching KFDK was just amazing - in the sense that it seemed organic and completely natural. Really a nice experience. Very different from the REX wallop, but nice. X-Graphics sun (Destination) was awful, though - looked like a bleach spill. Will have to try another.I also have to say the lighter X-Graphics textures ran better, given the heavy haze. Now, I haven't yet tried the smaller (e.g. below 1024k) clouds in REX, so that's not a direct comparison.And I liked the way the programs ran - unobtrusive (agreed) while running and very fast to start and load.Looks like there are many ways of getting at the weather. Could we say that the truths are out there?Alan

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I don't own ASA, but I far a very long time now have been eyeing it. I never purchased it, in the end, one reason being that I got REX2, which gave me everything I wanted: good textured, weather generator and a flight planner. I'll have to say one thing though: I have been using REX2 mostly for the textures. I love the water and clouds, although I have rarely been looking at the sky, since I usually just fly with fair weather and daytime. Now I also have to emphasize the fact I've been doing a lot of test-flying aircraft for reviews, and not so much complete flights.This is an interesting discussion and I've been following it for some time, been learning a lot from it. Thanks for that :-)

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Has anyone else tried a head-to-head comparison of ASA and REX? If so, what were your impressions? Which did you like better, and why?Alan
Thanks for sharing your thoughts appreciated.But at this point I don't have made my decision yet... as for REX2 I think they made a huge step forward compared to REX1 but I find the interface still not done in a professional way (not consistent and logical)As for the weather engine up until now ASA depicts the weather as I see it out of the window and REX is sometimes different :(What I don't like about ASA is the thick haze layer...REX has a smaller memory footprint :-)The textures form REX2 are the best out there (Tim did a great job there)I think we have here two great programs...Need more time to have a final preference which program to use.For new users, just use both so you can even choose which one does the job best at that particular moment lol :-)

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Guest rdg

Yes, the memory footprint is smaller, which is critical for XP even with the use of the 3gb switch. I would like to try and see if I can point REX to run on 1 core. I am going to give it a shot and see if there is any advantage.So far I am enjoying REX alnd I have not had any show stoppers which pleases me this early in the release. I think the beta testers did a great job. Only two small issues so far which I have posted, and this of course may be something specific to Windows 7, I dont know. RegardsBob

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Guest ArtieLange
I'd never say that REX was realistic. I don't know if you remember Velvia, which I mentioned earlier - it was a color slide film by Fuji that was famous for producing colors not found in nature. It had an intense, oversaturated look and that made it a favorite for advertising and corporate annual report photographers who wanted high intensity, not realism. I guess I'm intrigued by the fact that REX seems to produce a similar effect. Alan
Velvia didn't produce colors not found in nature, in fact it was the only film used by a lot of nature photographers. It was saturated and contrasty, but not "fake". Galen Rowell ( R.I.P. ) used it and there was nothing fake about his stuff http://mountainlight.com/

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Velvia didn't produce colors not found in nature, in fact it was the only film used by a lot of nature photographers. It was saturated and contrasty, but not "fake". Galen Rowell ( R.I.P. ) used it and there was nothing fake about his stuff http://mountainlight.com/
Much as I admire Galen Rowell, I'd never say his work was subdued. Not "fake" either, but in the prints on his website (per your link), the colors deliver a kind of high-intensity, heightened realism - not unlike REX. Nothing wrong with that - it was his intent. Ansel Adams did similar things in black and white. You can go to Ansel's locations and you won't see his photographs in front of you - the photographs were the result of his artistry in visualizing, developing and (especially) printing. Again, the goal isn't realism, it's expression. As Garry Winogrand, a very different kind of photographer, said, "The photograph isn't the object photographed. It's a new fact."All of which is actually relevant when it comes to this thread. I've just finished another set of tests and at the end I find I've gone in a big circle back to where I started. ASA gives me the best weather. REX gives me the best textures. It took me a while to figure out how to work with the REX textures, 'til I discovered that, for my taste anyway, the best ones were the ones that were labeled as the most natural. The exception is dusk, where I settled on "Dry Southwest" for my northeastern and mid-Atlantic skies. It's the only one that gets just the right touch of red in the mix. I finally settled on REX clouds over FEX by a slight margin - choosing 1024 textures. Lower resolution looked fake, and higher bogged down my system. Again, I picked the more natural, less detailed textures. In my area, which is influenced by coastal weather, the clouds aren't all that chiseled to begin with.Once I got all the textures sorted out, I found that ASA weather gave me realistic behavior, and REX textures gave me a mostly real-seeming environment with (like Velvia) some added intensity. For example, the "Dry Southwest" dusk gives way to a midnight blue the likes of which I've only seen once or twice in the Alps in summer, and never around here. But there's a point to it. It seems to me that in the simulator, some aspects of reality need to be exaggerated to make up for the sensations you've lost - like motion and vibration and being completely surrounded in your environment. The luminosity of the REX textures isn't always realistic but helps restore the sense that "you are there." In the same way, the soundsets for certain add-ons (like the Aerosoft Beaver and, I hope, the upcoming A2A Cub) add to the atmosphere and almost convince you you're smelling avgas, which of course you're not. For all of those reasons, I prefered the REX textures to FEX or X-Graphics, even though it could be argued that those others are closer to reality. That said, I'm still avoiding the more exaggerated REX textures, like the "Oh My" dusk (which was the one I mentioned earlier, the one where the colors were so rich I couldn't see anything).For what it's worth, I think I'm now in complete agreement with Vic that the weather and the textures are separate issues and should be addressed separately. ASA plus the right (for me) REX textures gave me the same sense of emotional involvement as the all-REX flight I talked about in the first post.Additional insight - much as I like the idea of choosing weather-specific textures, in practice that leads to some of the stranger ones being swapped in. I'm doing better to choose a set that works for most situations, and then let the weather engine do its things. Again, points to Vic re: this.For what it's worth, my most successful REX texture set was this: Sky = Authentic (Dawn)/Reality (Day)/Dry Southwest (Dusk); Clouds = Cumulus Set 15, Cirrus Set 03; Inland Water = Deep Blue Eyes; Ocean Water = Ocean Blue Darker; Tropical Water = Sandy Bottom; Wave Animation = It's Water; Asphalt Runway 02; Parking 01; Sun/Lighting = Realistic Sun. Obviously, I'll experiment more with some of that.And of course, YMMV.As before, hope this is helpful.Alan

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Oh, one additional point. The problem I mentioned earlier in the thread - the Saitek switch panel that freezes and locks up Track IR4 along with it - turns out not to have anything to do with REX. I had it happen again last night using ASA as the weather engine. I'm not sure now what's causing it, but the common factor seems to be that it always happens at Plum Island, and now that I think about it, I can't think of its happening anywhere else. I'm not sure what the interaction would be between the scenery package and the switch panel - maybe an animation, like the flock of birds? I'll have to explore this further. But I wanted to post a correction and make it clear that REX is off the hook as far as this one is concerned.Alan

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A final note - after testing, "Simple Ocean" works better as a wave animation for me than "It's Water."Enough. The A2A Cub is out (amazing!) and I'm done tweaking and going back to flying. Really flying. Wow.Alan

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