Milton Waddams

What software do big scenery developers use?

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Since I couldn’t find a Prepar3D scenery forum, I thought I’d ask here. Does anyone know what tools/software some of the bigger scenery developers use? I can’t see how they’d use ADE to make something like Flightbeam’s SFO.

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The modelling and texture mapping is done in a CAD/3D modeling tool like 3DSMax etc, depending on the modeler's experience and personal preference. Once the models and UV maps are finished they will be converted into P3D compliant formats using SDK conversion tools. 

Some of the bigger devs might use some self developed tools and converters, but the workflow itself is not much different to small devs, they all use more or less the same tools. 

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26 minutes ago, Woozie said:

The modelling and texture mapping is done in a CAD/3D modeling tool like 3DSMax etc, depending on the modeler's experience and personal preference. Once the models and UV maps are finished they will be converted into P3D compliant formats using SDK conversion tools. 

Some of the bigger devs might use some self developed tools and converters, but the workflow itself is not much different to small devs, they all use more or less the same tools. 

Thanks!

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1 hour ago, Milton Waddams said:

Since I couldn’t find a Prepar3D scenery forum, I thought I’d ask here. Does anyone know what tools/software some of the bigger scenery developers use? I can’t see how they’d use ADE to make something like Flightbeam’s SFO.

Take a look on this forum if you want to know what many people use for creating airports: http://fsdeveloper.com/forum/categories/scenery-design-airport-design.29/

You will note that the SDK has many of the tools necessary to makes stuff, and you'll also note that quite a lot of people do indeed use ADE although it's not the only thing you can use, and some larger developers might even create their own development tools for that purpose.

Some programs are going to be pretty ubiquitous among users of course, for example, the de-facto image manipulation software for many creative endeavors is of course Adobe Photoshop, most likely the CC2017 version for professional developers, which was just updated about three weeks ago. Although that is often used in partnership with Adobe Illustrator, which being a vector-based drawing program, and which can dynamically link to PSD and vice versa, will let one create stuff with extreme precision since it can snap to specific pixel grid resolutions, AI is often better for graphics creation than PS unless you need to use some of the filters and processes from PS. However, by default, neither PS or AI will handle DDS files without a plug in, so those texture files created in Adobe applications will often get transferred to another image editing package for conversion to DDS format if one hasn't got a suitable plug in for PS (or you don't want one in there), which is what I do, taking the PS files into Paint.net for the DDS creation process, since it will happily not mess up the CC SRGB IEC 6 1966-2.1 embedded profile, thus keeping colours accurate.

This is really common in creating stuff, i.e. using one program for one bit of the creative process and another for some additional bits, and throwing personal preferences into the mix makes it something for which it would be difficult to say there was a common way of doing things. Ironically, this is sometimes why it is a pain in the @ss for developers to update old sceneries and add-ons, as it can often be the case that some contractor did something in an unusual manner like that to achieve something.

So, 3D modeling-wise it's likely to be down to preference providing the software can export to a suitable format. Many people will use GMAX because it was kind of the 'go to' game and sim content creation software, and will allow the animations and visibility etc to be tagged from within it, however, you do still sometimes have to tweak that externally in the modeldef.xml file, for example to make seasonal visibility changes. Nevertheless, GMAX is cheaper than the program which it was derived from (3DS Max). 3DS max used to be the absolute go to 3D modeling tool for pros, but recently there's been quite a switch going on in the 3D creation world with a lot of people moving to Cinema 4D, although to be fair much of that has been driven by the fact that you get a cut down plug in version of Cinema 4D with Adobe After Effects, which means its largely CGI people who've made that switch, but if you have the Creative Suite (which you most likely will do if you have the CC version of Photoshop), then it means you effectively get Cinema 4D for free.

Having said that, it is conceivable people will use other programs, and some of these are quite inexpensive and one or two are free. One of these is Amabilis 3D Crafter (which used to be 3D Canvas). This is a good choice for anyone into making lots of game and sim content, or stuff which has to go out in lots of different formats because it has built in importers and exporters for absolutely a ton of different 3D formats (probably more so than pretty much any other 3D modeling tool), the ability to get stuff in and out of a 3D program is a lot of what makes it usable when working with other people who have their own program preferences.

Despite having these fancy programs, it is not unknown for a lot of people to still use programs which you'd think were a bit less 'pro'. A good example would be Abacus' Flight Sim Design Studio. FSDS may not have the capabilities of more expensive 3D modeling packages, but it still isn't bad for simpler modeling buildings and such, where a lot of the time the shapes are not particularly challenging to model, and whilst it is indeed simpler than many other programs, that does mean it runs quicker than more complex programs which have more whistles and bells, this is why even though I have Photoshop, I still often use the freebie Paint.net, because it might not be as capable, but it definitely fires up quicker than PS!

Likewise, Blender, Sketchup etc do also get used for making stuff and can be useful for certain things, for example, Sketchup can import and extrude DXF and DWG files into 3D shapes really easily and it has a lot of tools which will let you create arrays and such simply by dragging the mouse, so it is great for architectural modeling and probably quicker at it than a lot of fancier and more expensive programs.

Beyond this, many airports are not sat on a flat plane, and so you'd also want something which can handle DEM data for accurate terrain modeling. Some 3D programs will do that, others not, so it is often the case that you might like one program which models stuff the way you prefer, but can't handle DEM, so you'd export it out of that into one you might like less, but can do the terrain malarkey.

 

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Hi Folks,

Dang Alan - you even know about 3D Canvas to 3D Crafter saga - you are well versed - as it's a tad obscure in the FS community - it's much more popular in the Train Sim community... I only know of two people who've used it on this side of the fence - Paul Gausden and myself... Great little underrated program that I've used to model all kinds of stuff...

Regards,
Scott

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I wish I would understand one word ...;-)  But I am very happy that so many talented individuals and small companies do all this work - be it for free or as pay-ware.

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20 minutes ago, scottb613 said:

Hi Folks,

Dang Alan - you even know about 3D Canvas to 3D Crafter saga - you are well versed - as it's a tad obscure in the FS community - it's much more popular in the Train Sim community... I only know of two people who've used it on this side of the fence - Paul Gausden and myself... Great little underrated program that I've used to model all kinds of stuff...

Regards,
Scott

Yup, I quite often recommend 3D Canvas to people I train, since it has a freebie base version to allow people to decide whether they like it for no outlay, which they can then throw a few quid at to make more capable if they decide it floats their boat.

Don't get me wrong, I teach people Adobe stuff, 3DS Max, Cinema 4D and Sketchup etc, and those trainees are usually people who are going to be doing stuff professionally with those programs, so the fancy programs are often the better choice for some tasks, but if a freebie program will do the trick for someone, I'll suggest that to them rather than have them paying a fortune for something which does all kinds of things they'll never need. I recommend the same with Paint.net to people who don't have Photoshop, especially now Adobe appear to be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at their software packages and running the risk of turning them all into a bloated mess.

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What about for actually placing textures onto the models? Would that be done in the CAD?

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2 hours ago, Milton Waddams said:

What about for actually placing textures onto the models? Would that be done in the CAD?

Most 3D programs will allow you to designate how you project textures onto 3D model surfaces. The best way to envisage that is to imagine a film or slide projector shining the image onto the side of a cardboard box, in the same way a movie projector shines a film image onto a movie screen. In a 3D program, we can create the box, and in a paint program we can create the image which is projected onto its various sides.

So, here's a quick example...

Let's say you want to make a building with this picture below as the texture. There is nothing special about this image, it is just a bmp image file which is 1024 pixels x 1024 pixels in size:

 

IdsnbHl.png

You would then create a cube in your 3D modeling program, import that texture bmp picture, and then choose various bits of the texture to project onto various sides of the cube, like this...

DNzdJF7.png

You can see in this second image, the building texture is loaded into the texture placing utility which is part of the 3D program (in this case, the program is FS Design Studio).

You can see all of the texture as a thumbnail in the bottom right, but the selection box (in black) is only drawn around the part of the texture we want to project on that particular part of the model, in this case the left side. You can see the result of doing this in the top right 3D view, where you can also see I've already done it for the top of the box and one of the other sides. Then you just repeat that process for all of the other sides of the cube and that's it, building model completed.

Hope that helps you understand how it works.

 

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1 hour ago, Milton Waddams said:

What about for actually placing textures onto the models? Would that be done in the CAD?

yup, thats called Texture- or UV-Mapping. The texture itself is usually being created in a 2D tool like photoshop. Afterwards it will be wrapped around the 3D object in CAD

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is this a sneak peek of a secret scenery project you are working on Alan? ;)

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2 minutes ago, Woozie said:

is this a sneak peek of a secret scenery project you are working on Alan? ;)

Yup, it's the new Aerosoft Heathrow, as you can tell :biggrin:

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I know of many scenery devs who use 3DS Max, and it's pretty much the defacto industry standard for making 3D models. I also know of a few developers who have made the jump to the completely free Blender from 3DS max, and there are plenty of free tools available for making P3D scenery (including the very old and dated gmax, which is based on 3DS Max)

I'm a big fan of Blender myself and have it used it for many years, and it didn't cost me a penny

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2 minutes ago, Chock said:

Yup, it's the new Aerosoft Heathrow, as you can tell :biggrin:

I know great textures when i see them!! Thats some 4096 glory!

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Hi Folks,

 Bleh - texture mapping - my least favorite part of modeling - I can throw and manipulate polys all day - getting textures to sit nicely on them can be a real chore on complex shapes.. 

Regards,

Scott

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As far as making 3D models goes, typically you'd find a three-view of the thing you want to model, and then load it in as a background image in your 3D program, and then create all the various cubes, tubes and other shapes to make the thing.

Most 3D programs will let you create simple geometric shapes and you can then manipulate the individual points on those to further shape them. Sometimes you will use one shape as a cutting tool in order to cut parts out of another, which is often simpler than trying to create them from scratch although you can do that too if you prefer. Doing that cutting action is called a boolean operation. Here's an example of that in action, just to prove it's not particularly hard to do....

So, here's a three-view drawing of a Land Rover I found on the interweb, I've loaded it in as a backdrop and I've started by making a simple box, which will eventually be the front fender (or front wing if you are British). I've scaled the box to match the size on the drawing and moved it so it is over all three views, front, side and top, you can see the box is outlined in blue. This way I know it is more or less the right size for my model:

rxgD6gp.png

Now I want to cut out the wheel arch, so I've made a basic tube which will act as the cutting tool and I've moved it to the right place so it passes through my box, this is so when it cuts, it will take an arch out of that box shape I started with:

UbD6kXe.png

Then I chose 'boolean operation' off the menus and that performs the cutting action, then I delete all the cut out bits and the cutting tool too, leaving me with this:

avYIPWc.png

Now here's the tedious bit, selecting the individual points of the shape and moving them to the exact points on the curve so it's more like the shape of the actual wheel arch. you can see one of these which I am moving highlighted in yellow. If need be, I can add more points to the shape, which in fact I would need to do in order to make the curved bit at the top front bit of the part:

NtbAh40.png

That's about all there is to it if you fancy giving it a whirl. As you can see, it's not rocket science, but it does take some time to make decent models. All I'd need to do then is slap some textures on the thing and export it and it would be ready to rock as either scenery or a vehicle in the flight sim itself. I would have to designate the wheels with animations and name them specifically to have the flight sim pick them up and play suitable animations etc if I wanted it to be a vehicle displaying in the sim with the wheels steering and rotating. Scenery of buildings is a bit less hassle in this regard, since most of it is static.


Although this is in FSDS, which is not typically what a big developer would use to create stuff, but happens to be installed on this computer I'm on, so was easy to fire up to demonstrate this kind of thing, the gist of it is the same for all 3D programs. They pretty much all work like this.

As you can see from all that, it's not the modeling which is especially hard, it is more the amount of modeling which makes it hard. For a well modeled aeroplane, that means literally hundreds of parts, and for an airport, that means loads of buildings, all of which have to be photographed and researched so they look correct. Then you've gotta do all the gate stuff so it works in the program, the taxiway and runway designations etc so AI planes land properly and taxy to the correct gates and park at them properly and use the jetways accurately etc, etc.  Google Earth helps a bit, as does Street View sometimes, but generally speaking for scenery or aircraft modeling to a high standard, it means going out and photographing stuff, a lot, and a lot of stuff beyond simply the modeling tasks too. That's why those sceneries sometimes seem like they cost a lot when in fact they're quite cheap really if you consider all the work involved, especially from small developer, many of which are often little more than a one person operation. Of course they make money from it, but if you think all of them are driving round in Rolls Royces, they aren't, much of the time it's a supplement to another full time job.

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On 11/13/2017 at 11:27 PM, scottb613 said:

Hi Folks,

 Bleh - texture mapping - my least favorite part of modeling - I can throw and manipulate polys all day - getting textures to sit nicely on them can be a real chore on complex shapes.. 

Regards,

Scott

Hi Scott,

I think that's why I shifted away from FS a few years ago and now just make 3D printed models for shapeways - no texturing involved.

Pity I only ever completed one aircraft for FSX using 3D Canvas/Crafter

sgadps.jpg

(Download link should anyone want it 16Mb - https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=6B528339820717E!406)

Cheers,

Paul

 

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On ‎11‎/‎13‎/‎2017 at 5:51 PM, Chock said:

Of course they make money from it, but if you think all of them are driving round in Rolls Royces, they aren't, much of the time it's a supplement to another full time job.

As we sang in the U.S. Army during Basic Training:

"My Colonel drives a Cadillac, my Captain drives a Ford, I drive a donkey and beat him with a board..."

In a like manner, I drive a 1998 Toyota Camry but can pretend it's a Roll Royce Phantom...

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Which of the tools mentioned work with Prepar3d v4? I thought that 3dsMax was the standard, and there weren't a lot of other fully supported options, according the LM (unlike with FSX and earlier versions of P3D).

interested as I am looking for a 3D program to make airport buildings for v4, but 3DSMax is seriously expensive!

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2 hours ago, decapod said:

Hi Scott,

I think that's why I shifted away from FS a few years ago and now just make 3D printed models for shapeways - no texturing involved.

Pity I only ever completed one aircraft for FSX using 3D Canvas/Crafter

Cheers,

Paul

 

Hi Paul,

HAH - OMG - been ages and ages - sir... Hope all is well with you and happy to see you still kicking around here... LOL - yeah - throwing polys is the fun part - mapping and textures is the chore...

 

14 minutes ago, OzWhitey said:

Which of the tools mentioned work with Prepar3d v4? I thought that 3dsMax was the standard, and there weren't a lot of other fully supported options, according the LM (unlike with FSX and earlier versions of P3D).

interested as I am looking for a 3D program to make airport buildings for v4, but 3DSMax is seriously expensive!

Hi Robert,

I think Blender would be your best bet (free) unless you plan on making some serious cash with your projects... It seems well made and powerful... It's been on my "to do" list for a while - as I'd like to learn how to use it... I got very comfortable with 3d Canvas and the few times I played around with Blender - I just couldn't get motivated to learn the new interface...

Regards,
Scott

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