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Jimmy RFR

X-Plane 10: Clouds & Datarefs - Questions

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A recent battle with determining some issues in XP had led me to remove all third party enhancements, one of which being SkyMaxx. Before I re-installed SMP, I wanted to test out some of the manual dataref settings that I've seen people play around with, along with custom clouds and custom skycolors.

 

So, the past few nights have seen me playing around with settings and testing things out. I'm really happy with my progress, and plan on sharing some screenshots. In fact, there was one post by Murmur quite along time ago that suggested using random weather patterns with system size set to max - my gosh, it was absolutely amazing to see. I'd yet to see as nice of looking weather as that yet in my sim. But normally I'm following the idea of using a very tall layer of scattered cumulus.

 

However, my experimenting with datarefs also led me to playing with setting up the clouds manually via datarefs - a sort of 'make my own theme' kind of thing, that I can choose with a FlyWithLua macro. This led me to realize that I'd really like to have less overall cloud coverage then 'Scattered Cumulus' allows for, while keeping the nice tall fluffy clouds.

 

But choosing 'Few Cumulus' seems to force a 2000' cloud height, no matter what I set via dataref. It also seems to produce these flat-ish not-so-nice looking clouds.

 

So, is there a method to making a very sparse or occasional cloud coverage, while keeping the nice clouds produced via using scattered?

 

Ideally, what I'd like to achieve is where there are nice looking large clouds, but they are spaced randomly, perhaps in small groups, fairly far apart, with lots of blue sky in-between. I think this would be a great representation of the isolated, but rather large cumulus clouds that I see around my area mid afternoon, that later start building up and become larger, perhaps ending as thunderstorms.

 

Is there a way to write the info that XP uses when it shows you what the regenerated weather looks like?


Jim Stewart

Platforms: X-Plane 11 | P3Dv4 | DCS
System: i7-6700K o/c @ 4.4GHz | EVGA GTX 980ti | 32GB RAM | BenQ 32" @ 2560x1440 | Oculus Rift | W10 Pro

Other Sim Interests: Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Dirt Rally, Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator

 

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his led me to realize that I'd really like to have less overall cloud coverage then 'Scattered Cumulus' allows for, while keeping the nice tall fluffy clouds.

 

But choosing 'Few Cumulus' seems to force a 2000' cloud height, no matter what I set via dataref. It also seems to produce these flat-ish not-so-nice looking clouds.

 

So, is there a method to making a very sparse or occasional cloud coverage, while keeping the nice clouds produced via using scattered?

 

Ideally, what I'd like to achieve is where there are nice looking large clouds, but they are spaced randomly, perhaps in small groups, fairly far apart, with lots of blue sky in-between. I think this would be a great representation of the isolated, but rather large cumulus clouds that I see around my area mid afternoon, that later start building up and become larger, perhaps ending as thunderstorms.

 

Is there a way to write the info that XP uses when it shows you what the regenerated weather looks like?

 

I've been trying to achieve the same, in other words having sparse cumulus humilis clouds, all over the sky, but looks like X-Plane weather engine is not 100% capable of a good representation of that.

 

However, there are some datarefs that you could tweak to improve the things.

 

First of all, there is a dataref called "sim/weather/cloud_coverage[0]" (0 is the first cloud layer, 1 the second, 2 the third). Now, the value of this dataref corresponds to the following coverage:

 

0: no clouds;

1: hi cirrus;

2: few cumulus (internally named "lo cirrus");

3: scattered;

4: broken;

5: overcast;

6: stratus;

 

X-Plane always sets it to one of those integer numbers, but if you use a decimal number, you can change the coverage. In other words, if it's set in the range 2.5-3.4, you will have scattered clouds, but with different coverage.

 

So, if you set it at 2.5, you will have scattered clouds but with a little less density/coverage:

 

r95zeQ2.jpg

 

But if you set it at 2.4, X-Plane will round it at 2 and consider them "few cumulus", so you will have different textures and stratiform squished clouds:

 

mNF5JHU.jpg

 

The best way to achieve what you want, is to modify the art controls called "clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_" (from 0 to 6). If you change them to something like 0.8, the "few cumulus" cloud puffs will be more tall and less squished. You will also have to also modify the cloud textures though, otherwise, X-Plane will use the cirrus textures to draw them, and they will look bad.

 

Here is what I got (the color and textures can evidently be improved, but the shape is not bad):

 

6rwdzoe.jpg

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That's some awesome info right there, and exactly the direction I was looking for! It sounds like setting sim/weather/cloud_coverage[0] to 2.5 is the simplest change - I had no idea that you could use decimals. But still pretty dense.

 

 

 


But if you set it at 2.4, X-Plane will round it at 2 and consider them "few cumulus", so you will have different textures and stratiform squished clouds:

 

Is there a way to change the texture being shown for the stratiform clouds that show when you change cloud coverage to < 2.5 ?

 

 

 


The best way to achieve what you want, is to modify the art controls called "clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_" (from 0 to 6). If you change them to something like 0.8, the "few cumulus" cloud puffs will be more tall and less squished. You will also have to also modify the cloud textures though, otherwise, X-Plane will use the cirrus textures to draw them, and they will look bad.

 

Are you replacing the cirrus texture here? I suppose this precludes actually using the cirrus clouds as high altitude cirrus, since then it would show those puffy clouds instead. Still, I think that this shows a lot of promise, since it's actually delivering on the idea of a minimal amount of cumulus clouds.


Jim Stewart

Platforms: X-Plane 11 | P3Dv4 | DCS
System: i7-6700K o/c @ 4.4GHz | EVGA GTX 980ti | 32GB RAM | BenQ 32" @ 2560x1440 | Oculus Rift | W10 Pro

Other Sim Interests: Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Dirt Rally, Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator

 

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Is there a way to change the texture being shown for the stratiform clouds that show when you change cloud coverage to < 2.5 ?

 

Not that I know, except of course changing the actual texture bitmap.

 

 

 


Are you replacing the cirrus texture here? I suppose this precludes actually using the cirrus clouds as high altitude cirrus, since then it would show those puffy clouds instead.

 

Correct, unfortunately X-Plane uses the same texture bitmaps for "cirrus" and "few cumulus".

 

However, these two clouds coverage use different flatness and transparency values. So, probably a good artist could make a texture that could look good both as a cumulus (depicted tall and opaque), and as a cirro-cumulus (depicted flattened and partly transparent)


"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." [Abraham Lincoln]

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If you use the "cloud_puff0.png" texture for all cloud puffs (copying and renaming it "cloud_puff1.png" to "cloud_puff5.png"), and modifying the aforementioned datarefs, you can achieve some nice cloud structures that are not so bad (again, a good texture artist could do much better) and similar to cumulus mediocris, close to what you want to achieve:

 

ogmlfcD.jpg

 

Real cumulus mediocris:

 

QV1KpEQ.jpg

 

Moreover, if you set "hi cirrus" as a coverage, you obtain some nice and realistic sparse clouds:

 

Kb6bfYA.jpg

 

 

 

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I spent far too much time last night playing with these ideas, plus other settings. Using 'hi cirrus' along with replacing the cloud textures and adjusting the squish_layer_x's sure gives a nice effect.

 

But then I got playing with cloud shadows, ambient light, fog and visibility, and got completely swamped in ideas and changes until I lost total track of what was going on. :wink: There's a heck of a lot of power there, but it's so hard to figure out how changes in certain datarefs affect other datarefs. Alone, some aren't to hard to play with, but when it comes to balancing several and still acheiving a pleasing result, wow... things get difficult quick.

 

But when it works... oh man, you end up with the best looking clouds ever. I mean no disrespect to SMP, but I don't know if I can go back to that!

 

From what I've seen though, it looks to me like it's near impossible to maintain one set of dataref values that work 100% of the time. What looks nice at midday sometimes doesn't look great at dusk, or at night. And what looks good with visibility set to > 60 or 70 nm, then doesn't look the best when visibility is 15 or 20.

 

I've started making a few scripts that vary their settings based on the placement of the sun in the sky using sun_pitch_degrees (works great for adjusting clouds/ambient_gain for whitening the clouds a bit without them being too bright at night) , which is seeming to work well, and my next step is to integrate some settings based on visibility.

 

I guess my goal is to find a group of settings or at least a dynamic script that I can use most of the time...

 

One other question I ran into last night was the colouring of the dark parts of the clouds. It seemed that as I gained altitude in relation to the clouds, what seemed rather grey from below was turning a bit unnaturally blue. I'm curious as to what controls that? I couldn't seem to find an art control that had an effect on it, so is it something within the skycolor textures?


Jim Stewart

Platforms: X-Plane 11 | P3Dv4 | DCS
System: i7-6700K o/c @ 4.4GHz | EVGA GTX 980ti | 32GB RAM | BenQ 32" @ 2560x1440 | Oculus Rift | W10 Pro

Other Sim Interests: Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Dirt Rally, Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator

 

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One other question I ran into last night was the colouring of the dark parts of the clouds. It seemed that as I gained altitude in relation to the clouds, what seemed rather grey from below was turning a bit unnaturally blue. I'm curious as to what controls that? I couldn't seem to find an art control that had an effect on it, so is it something within the skycolor textures?

 

Assuming you're using my modified skycolors textures, probably it's happening something like this: the cloud colors depend on the skycolor texture X-Plane is currently using, and that depends on 4 factors: visibility, altitude, cloud coverage, presence of snow.

 

Now, as you gain altitude and fly above the cloud layer, the visibility progressively increases towards the maximum.

 

Probably you had a medium ground visibility (say, 20 or 30 miles) in weather settings, so below the clouds X-Plane was using the "clean" skycolor texture. But as you gained altitude and flew above the cloud layer, the visibility progressively increased to maximum, and X-Plane shifted to using the "mount" skycolor texture.

 

I modified that "mount" skycolor texture that you're probably using, but ended up using way too much blue in the cloud colors, so that explain the shift in colors you're using. Try reverting back to the original "mount" skycolor textures and see what happens.


"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." [Abraham Lincoln]

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I modified that "mount" skycolor texture that you're probably using, but ended up using way too much blue in the cloud colors, so that explain the shift in colors you're using. Try reverting back to the original "mount" skycolor textures and see what happens.

 

That was exactly the case. Thank you.

 

I've had a productive evening, achieving almost precisely what I wanted:

 

3j0xUF4.jpg

 

Not very flashy, I know, but more like the sky I've seen on a regular basis than anything I've experienced in X-Plane to date!

 

To share:

 

I'm using your low-res cloud textures, with the second column copied over the first and re-saved at the same resolution, then copied for all 5 texture files. The other texture replacement was Tom Knudsen's SkyColor X Set1. Visibility is set at about 60 nm in this shot. I love how the clouds are blending at distance with the scattering. It's worth noting that 180 degrees from this shot, there were almost no clouds at all.

 

Then, a bunch of datarefs, set via lua.

set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/first_res_3d",2)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/plot_radius",2)

set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_0",0.8)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_1",0.7)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_2",0.6)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_3",0.5)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_4",0.4)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/lo_cir/squish_layer_5",0.4)

set( "sim/weather/cloud_coverage[0]",1.5) 

set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/ambient_gain", 1.50)

set( "sim/private/controls/atmo/atmo_scale_raleigh", 25.0)
set( "sim/private/controls/atmo/inscatter_gain_raleigh", 5.0)
set( "sim/private/controls/skyc/raleigh_scattering_mount", 0.212

set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/cloud_shadow_lighten_ratio", 0.75)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/shad_radius", 0.75)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/shadow_size", 2048.00)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/shad_alpha_dry", 1.50)
set( "sim/private/controls/clouds/shad_alpha_wet", 1.50)

The cloud coverage at 1.5 is forcing 'few cumulus', but with even a bit less coverage.  I also found that on my 1440p monitor, I needed to set 2048 on the shadows to stop them from flickering. Overall, I'm extremely happy... and performance with these clouds seems excellent, which also makes me happy!


Jim Stewart

Platforms: X-Plane 11 | P3Dv4 | DCS
System: i7-6700K o/c @ 4.4GHz | EVGA GTX 980ti | 32GB RAM | BenQ 32" @ 2560x1440 | Oculus Rift | W10 Pro

Other Sim Interests: Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Dirt Rally, Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator

 

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I've had a productive evening, achieving almost precisely what I wanted:

 

Not very flashy, I know, but more like the sky I've seen on a regular basis than anything I've experienced in X-Plane to date!

 

To share:

 

I'm using your low-res cloud textures, with the second column copied over the first and re-saved at the same resolution, then copied for all 5 texture files. The other texture replacement was Tom Knudsen's SkyColor X Set1. Visibility is set at about 60 nm in this shot. I love how the clouds are blending at distance with the scattering. It's worth noting that 180 degrees from this shot, there were almost no clouds at all.

 

Then, a bunch of datarefs, set via lua.

 

The cloud coverage at 1.5 is forcing 'few cumulus', but with even a bit less coverage.  I also found that on my 1440p monitor, I needed to set 2048 on the shadows to stop them from flickering. Overall, I'm extremely happy... and performance with these clouds seems excellent, which also makes me happy!

 

Very good results Jimmy! :smile:

 

From my experience, X-Plane is much better (using tweaks) at depicting "soft" milky clouds, rather than hard-defined solid clouds (like the various cumulus clouds typical of summer convection). However I noticed that in real life, I see soft milky clouds much more often that I thought.

 


"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." [Abraham Lincoln]

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I have a hard time getting the point here guys. I mean I know how fun it is to spend hours tweaking, and I do it once in a while. But in terms of clouds, SkyMaxx 3+ is at a point where X-Plane's default clouds just can't win anymore.

 

 

787_VIP_37.png?raw=1

 

787_VIP_61.png?raw=1

 

787_VIP_62.png?raw=1

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I have a hard time getting the point here guys. I mean I know how fun it is to spend hours tweaking, and I do it once in a while. But in terms of clouds, SkyMaxx 3+ is at a point where X-Plane's default clouds just can't win anymore.

 

To each his own. From the screenshots I see, I think SMP clouds have advantages and disadvantages compared to (tweaked) default clouds, and looks like I'm not alone in thinking that way. I don't see a clear winner overall. A good texture and color artist could improve a lot the default clouds.

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Here's some shots using default weather engine (tweaked). They're not perfect, but I think they all look better than your screenshots. This not to say that SMP isn't good, on the contrary, sometimes I see screenshots made with SMP that look very good. My point is that the default weather engine has good capabilities too, but a good artist would be needed to produce good results.

 

Summer cumuli:

 

MliJmMC.jpg

 

zal4sUE.jpg

 

Stratus from below:

 

CDEI8GZ.jpg

 

Stratus from above:

 

gvAxyhs.jpg

 

Cumuli:

 

waty8Xq.jpg

 

Ground fog (stratus):

 

5UkXeXL.jpg

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Here's some shots using default weather engine (tweaked). They're not perfect, but I think they all look better than your screenshots. This not to say that SMP isn't good, on the contrary, sometimes I see screenshots made with SMP that look very good. My point is that the default weather engine has good capabilities too, but a good artist would be needed to produce good results.

 

Wow just looking at those pictures is amazing. Sadly I've never seen weather this good in Xplane. Is it possible for you to share what you've done, or at least write a small tutorial on how to achieve such great feat?


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I have a hard time getting the point here guys. I mean I know how fun it is to spend hours tweaking, and I do it once in a while. But in terms of clouds, SkyMaxx 3+ is at a point where X-Plane's default clouds just can't win anymore.

 

For me, SMP has pros and cons. I appreciate the program, and have gotten a good amount of use from it. It does some things quite well - the clouds textures themselves look pretty good, with a decent blend of hard and soft edges. But your screenshots all show my primary issue with SMP: In situations with few/broken/scattered cloud cover present, It always feels like you're flying in the middle of a 'circle' of clouds, especially at low altitudes where I usually fly.

 

My primary reason for tweaking the default clouds was to see if I could get around that for low altitude flying in conditions with really good visibility, and I think I've been successful, being able to set it up so that I have the impression that the clouds are stretching out farther than I can see. I know some of it is trickery, since there actually aren't any clouds farther than the visibility set in the sim, but the tweaked default clouds blend so nicely with the scattering at the visibility limit, at least at lower altitudes. I have no idea how it looks up high, since I rarely fly anything up there in my sim.

 

I should note that if you set the area coverage on SMP to it's highest, it does cover a pretty large area as well - but I also found that performance demands were unacceptably high when setting it like this. Also, when using SMP's cloud shadows with a large coverage area set, I found the farther away shadows don't play nice with any sort of boosted raleigh scattering, whether done manually or through RTH.

 

All that said, I don't plan on scrapping SMP any time soon. In certain situations, especially in low vis with a solid overcast, it does a great job with not much of a performance hit. I think it's also preferable for flying with real weather - so far my playing around has shown that while quite a few different types of weather can be done quite well with tweaked default clouds, it almost takes a different set of tweaks for each type of weather you want. Where as with SMP, although I might not care for it's depiction at times, it handle nearly any type of weather without changing a thing.


Jim Stewart

Platforms: X-Plane 11 | P3Dv4 | DCS
System: i7-6700K o/c @ 4.4GHz | EVGA GTX 980ti | 32GB RAM | BenQ 32" @ 2560x1440 | Oculus Rift | W10 Pro

Other Sim Interests: Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Dirt Rally, Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator

 

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Here's some shots using default weather engine (tweaked). They're not perfect, but I think they all look better than your screenshots. This not to say that SMP isn't good, on the contrary, sometimes I see screenshots made with SMP that look very good. My point is that the default weather engine has good capabilities too, but a good artist would be needed to produce good results.

 

Summer cumuli:

 

MliJmMC.jpg

 

zal4sUE.jpg

 

Stratus from below:

 

CDEI8GZ.jpg

 

Stratus from above:

 

gvAxyhs.jpg

 

Cumuli:

 

waty8Xq.jpg

 

Ground fog (stratus):

 

5UkXeXL.jpg

Hi Murmur,

 

Can you please share how you achieved these clouds? I have SMP v3, RWC, and FSGRW and I do not see these types of results. I'm also still getting these annoying micro pauses with SMP.

 

I like the quality of clouds in SMP, but I don't see a wide coverage. It looks like you have found a way to have the best of both.

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