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CapnSplat

SkyMaxx 2.0 Real-World Weather Representation

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Like many others here, I was awaiting with bated breath the arrival of SkyMaxx Pro 2.0 and its numerous improvements. The new HD puff textures are great, the cloud shadows add depth to the overall scene, and the lens flare is a nice, cinematic touch. However, I seem to be having issues when it comes to SkyMaxx's representation of real weather.

 

To be clear, I fully understand that SkyMaxx is not a weather injector in the vein of Active Sky or Opus and I fully understand that SkyMaxx can only work with the information that is provided to it by X-Plane. That said, when using X-Plane's built-in real-world weather feature, it seems that either X-Plane is unable to communicate all of that information to SkyMaxx or that SkyMaxx is unable to parse all of it. (Alternatively, this could be a problem with my sim setup.) The result is that when using SkyMaxx, the clouds that I see out the window often do not match what I'd expect to see based on X-Plane's weather maps.

 

Here are some screenshots to illustrate what I mean. First, I loaded up the sim at KSNA and set the weather to "grab real-weather from the net". Since I had SkyMaxx installed already, I first took some shots of the clouds provided by the add-on, one from about 1,000 feet up, one from just over the cloud tops, and one from a few thousand feet above.

 

Here's the weather map that X-Plane drew upon downloading the real-world data:

 

wf3DBZO.jpg

 

For clarity, here's a zoomed-in view of the local map with the cloud overlay enabled. Note the cloud cover boundaries and the aircraft's heading toward the southeast.

 

sWCpHTs.jpg

 

1) SkyMaxx, facing SE, low altitude:

 

XGQct3G.jpg

 

2) SkyMaxx, facing SE, cloud tops:

 

drQYxpm.jpg

 

3) SkyMaxx, facing SE, high altitude:

 

bPKoGzp.jpg

 

For comparison's sake, I exited the sim, uninstalled SkyMaxx, and loaded back up at the same place and time of day. Unfortunately, the master weather servers X-Plane uses for its real-world data updated during these few short minutes, so the cloud boundaries had moved to the southeast and the overcast covered KSNA:

 

4) Default, facing SE, low altitude:

 

WFrFMly.jpg

 

5) Default, facing SE, cloud tops:

 

hNWjx0T.jpg

 

6) Default, facing SE, high altitude:

 

BgiCnUF.jpg

 

Due to the weather server updates, this is an imperfect comparison, but in image 6 you can see that the X-Plane overcast covers most of the coast and begins to taper off over the mountains. SkyMaxx appears to fill the whole scene with clouds (see image 3) regardless of the cloud boundaries/formations (see the local map above, according to which images 1-3 should be nearly devoid of clouds).

 

Here's a better comparison. This morning a storm was blowing through central Arkansas. I loaded up at an airport just outside of Little Rock and forced a real-weather download. This is the local map with the cloud and precipitation layers enabled. Please note again the cloud cover as drawn by X-Plane.

 

v2IjXQn.jpg

 

Images 7 and 8 below are using the exact same weather data (no unintended update this time), and were taken with as close to the same angle and altitude as I could manage. The only difference between them is that 7 uses default clouds and 8 uses SkyMaxx clouds.

 

7) Default, facing NE, high altitude:

 

1mj0M5F.jpg

 

8) SkyMaxx, facing NE, high altitude:

 

DlDk2j0.jpg

 

So, all of this to say that SkyMaxx Pro 2.0 doesn't seem to be fully compatible with X-Plane's real-weather data; it appears to be able to use cloud type and height data from real-world METAR reports, but then draws clouds into the environment as if it were using the "set weather uniformly" feature of X-Plane's weather engine.

 

These are my observations about SkyMaxx's interaction with X-Plane's real-world weather data and I'd be curious to hear other users' as well. I have seen nothing but glowing reviews for the new version and I too want to love this product, but I can't help but feel a little frustrated that the clouds out the window may not be very accurate. Any insight into this? Have I missed an option somewhere or borked my install? Or is this just a limitation of SkyMaxx and/or the X-Plane SDK?

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A couple of things....

 

First yes we are limited in the SDK on what we can do as far as weather representation in SMP, a serious weather injector is needed and I can safely say with the changes coming in the BETA cycles for X-Plane LR is driving towards more control for developers in regards to weather.

 

Second we are constantly improving where we can and do have a stable and in a general sense accurate representation of weather.  If weather fronts are what you are looking for yes we are not there yet,  word is YET.......again these things take time and communication with LR...

 

Lastly as far as cloud coverage is concerned try playing around with the UI, overcast conditions especially.  Just like the rendering options in X-Plane users should really try and find an acceptable balance based on their specific setup.  The representation looks different over the default because it is a whole new engine that should be treated as such.  I don't see anything that constitutes a problem just a few who do not like the representation.....(thats OK BTW and valued)

 

Trust me when I say we look at these posts as extremely helpful and they give us continued focus on the future of SMP...... ;)  Our goal is to tackle as many different angles to bring as many people towards SMP as possible.  Im biased of course but I feel these are the best representation of clouds I have ever seen in a sim especially in the realm of performance......

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I've noticed those observations too, in fact I became obsessed with this enabling and disabling SMP and agree that real weather didn't mix well with this great product. I really like how SMP render the clouds and its effects but for me the default clouds are more consistent with the real weather data.

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A couple of things....

 

First yes we are limited in the SDK on what we can do as far as weather representation in SMP, a serious weather injector is needed and I can safely say with the changes coming in the BETA cycles for X-Plane LR is driving towards more control for developers in regards to weather.

 

Second we are constantly improving where we can and do have a stable and in a general sense accurate representation of weather.  If weather fronts are what you are looking for yes we are not there yet,  word is YET.......again these things take time and communication with LR...

 

Lastly as far as cloud coverage is concerned try playing around with the UI, overcast conditions especially.  Just like the rendering options in X-Plane users should really try and find an acceptable balance based on their specific setup.  The representation looks different over the default because it is a whole new engine that should be treated as such.  I don't see anything that constitutes a problem just a few who do not like the representation.....(thats OK BTW and valued)

 

Trust me when I say we look at these posts as extremely helpful and they give us continued focus on the future of SMP...... ;)  Our goal is to tackle as many different angles to bring as many people towards SMP as possible.  Im biased of course but I feel these are the best representation of clouds I have ever seen in a sim especially in the realm of performance......

Many thanks for your reply, John. I suspected that this was an issue with the SDK, but I'm pleased to hear that Laminar are working to open things up for third-party interaction. I'm also glad to hear that real-world WX improvements are in the development plans for SkyMaxx and I look forward to seeing SkyMaxx fronts and squall lines in a future update. Hey, they said cloud shadows couldn't be done, but here we are! Keep of the great work!

 

I've noticed those observations too, in fact I became obsessed with this enabling and disabling SMP and agree that real weather didn't mix well with this great product. I really like how SMP render the clouds and its effects but for me the default clouds are more consistent with the real weather data.

Thanks for corroborating my observations. This is the predicament I find myself in as well. I'll probably be alternating flights with SkyMaxx and default clouds for weeks to come!

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Wish you would have used EFASS's WX engine in your comparisons. I've noticed it does a better job for my flights. 

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Wish you would have used EFASS's WX engine in your comparisons. I've noticed it does a better job for my flights.

Good thought. When I get the chance I'll try and put together a four-way comparison between X-Plane's and UltraWX's real-weather with both default and SkyMaxx clouds.

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I've noticed it does a better job for my flights. 

 

I can confirm, just installed EFASS and and along with SM,it does a better job of depicting weather.

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Yes but the upper winds coming from EFASS are completely wrong and doesn't match the reality. That's why i am using EFASS around the airports and the NOAA-plugin to get the real upper winds.

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Owing to ohsirus' recommendation and my own curiosity, I decided to do a four way comparison between X-Plane's default weather engine and UltraWX (included with EFASS) with both default X-Plane clouds and SkyMaxx Pro 2.0 taking care of the visuals.

 

First up, my X-Plane rendering settings just in case anyone should find them relevant. Note that I'm using 50% cloud puffs when it comes to the default clouds.

 

zC8XCoV.jpg

 

After popping around from airport to airport trying to find a location with clear-cut cloud formations, I happened across Innsbruck (LOWI). I forced a weather update to make sure I had the latest data available to X-Plane. Here's is the local map with the relevant weather overlays. The images that follow were taken from directly over the aircraft (in the center of the map) facing nearly due west.

 

A3fv6Hi.jpg

 

1) Default XP real-weather, default XP clouds

 

AWSNGQ3.jpg

 

2) Default XP real-weather, SkyMaxx Pro 2.0

 

ZDwooBy.jpg

 

As you can see, the western cloud formation is neatly rendered while using default clouds, but SkyMaxx draws broken clouds across the entire scene.

 

Here are my SkyMaxx rendering settings. I forgot to deselect the "force cirrus layer" option.

 

ysb0n0a.jpg

 

Switching over to UltraWX: due to UltraWX's data being either more or less up-to-date compared to X-Plane's, the view to the west will be much different.

 

Wswjsdc.jpg

 

3) UltraWX, default XP clouds

 

WK5w5BD.jpg

 

4) Ultra WX, SkyMaxx Pro 2.0

 

Cb7lu1Q.jpg

 

It seems that SkyMaxx yields similar results regardless of the weather engine used, the main difference being that the clouds in image 4 are more scattered as a result of the sparser coverage in the UltraWX source data. It is also worth noting that since SkyMaxx is in both cases drawing more individual cloud formations than are called for in the weather source data, with my particular settings the net result is decreased framerates compared to default clouds. Playing with the sliders could perhaps mitigate this effect, but there does generally tend to be more "stuff" on the screen while using SkyMaxx.

 

Since there were clearly large differences in the weather data between X-Planes real-weather and UltraWX, I'm still not content with the precision of the comparison. Hopefully these images are nevertheless informative in some way. In the meantime, I've found a location with better continuity between the two data sets; I'll be posting those images shortly.

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X-Plane does not provide any means to read the position of individual cloud formations. It just gives you a crude cloud type.

 

Until X-Plane is willing to share cloud location data any third party weather rendering, be it a cloud engine or a WX Radar, is going to be extremely limited in what it can achieve to match the display of cloud formations on the local map.

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I'm still not content with the precision of the comparison. Hopefully these images are nevertheless informative in some way.

 

You can try to first get the reference using UltraWX. Then, in X-Plane press the "download real weather" button again and again, until X-Plane's rendition matches roughly your reference image. (X-Plane is placing the clouds randomly with each weather download, leading to very different formations.)

 

You can also draw your own weather and see how default and SkyMaxx depict it.

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Agree again about this new comparison. For me SMP is the best sky and cloud decoration you may find but it's not good for real weather representation yet. Also find true that in many scenarios the frames will be lower than default clouds, if real weather put two SMP cloud layers then the frames drops a lot versus default. Agree also with previous posters about a more developed sdk for XP10 for improving real weather representation.

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Also find true that in many scenarios the frames will be lower than default clouds, if real weather put two SMP cloud layers then the frames drops a lot versus default.

 

Can't confirm that -- but I am using the lowest overcast option, which is really fast compared to default. With medium and high overcast, the performance is comparable to default clouds.

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That's fine, by the way I was using medium quality overcast which gave me lower frames than default clouds.

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Speaking of overcast, I took a few other screenshots yesterday and had some interesting results.

 

There was some poor weather around Cincinnati yesterday so I loaded up the sim at KCVG with X-Plane's default real-weather enabled. Here is local map and weather info, followed by a pair of shots facing the NNW.

 

kTKSGSi.jpg

 

1) Default XP real-weather, default XP clouds

 

2Am9kx5.jpg

 

2) Default XP real-weather, Skymaxx Pro 2.0

 

ttw40by.jpg

 

I enabled UltraWX moments later. The local map isn't much help with distinguishing the cloud formations since XP is drawing the overcast layer across the entire map (something it doesn't usually seem to do with its built-in engine (see the above map)).

 

MTrpyw1.jpg

 

3) UltraWX, default XP clouds

 

1mAuCZy.jpg

 

4) UltraWX, SkyMaxx Pro 2.0

 

eyBaF3F.jpg

 

This time the weather source data for both UltraWX and X-Plane's real-weather appeared to be very close to each other, as reflected in the screenshots using default clouds (images 1 and 3). What's particularly interesting, though, is that while using UltraWX, the injector appears to be able to substitute SkyMaxx's stratus clouds (image 4; I believe this is also the same as the "low" quality overcast in the SkyMaxx options) for the "patchy" cumulus overcast that SkyMaxx depicts under the default real-weather engine (image 2).

 

Also, here is the actual METAR data from the airfield at the time:

METAR KCVG 101552Z 11006KT 8SM SCT013 OVC100 25/20 A3003 RMK AO2 SLP157 T02500200

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Alexcolka:

 

Courious did you try turning deleting the settings.dat inside smp? Also leave god rays and maybe even cloud reflections off? Plus turning down the cloud draw distance is another boost....This kind of tweaking can have huge gains over the defaults with little impact on the overall appearance of smp....

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Jspahn, yes I tweaked a lot the options, not using god rays nor cloud reflections and cloud distance is at half but thanks for your observations. This performance decay is only with two cloud layers mostly (one being overcast with med texture setting) using real weather.

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