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Weather for Prepar3D v4 - difference between Active Sky, ASCA, ENVTEX, PTA, and Rex SkyForce 3D?

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I've worked with FSX / Prepar3D / X-Plane for a few years on and off, but I've never dealt with any aftermarket weather packages. Can someone tell me the difference between what all these weather packages do?

Active Sky
ASCA
ENVTEX
PTA
Rex SkyForce 3D

I've heard of people using the first four together, but don't they all do the same thing? Maybe not PTA, because it looks like it replaces the default shader engine. Is PTA the same thing as Prepar3D Tweak Assistant?

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PTA is a like you say a Shader tool. Its amazing and you can custom the sim to look just how you like it. A topic in itself.

Active sky

Is the best weather engine currently we can buy. That cuts a long story short.

ASCA works with Active sky to give you cloud art and depiction. 

ENVTEX is a texture addon that can be integrated into ASCA to give what most people seem to think give better clouds & skies than what default ASCA comes with. (personal taste aside)

SF is new and brings a new level of the amount of textures and structures within the sim, that's not been possible before. It does come with its own weather engine but AS is a lot better.

I use all the above together.

AS+SF

ASCA + ENVTEX for sky textures only.

PTA I use Matts preset with my own custom tweaks.

Can all that be conclusion....properly.  :blush:

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Don’t forget :

ASP4 in Full Dynamics + ASCA = up to 8 different clouds texture sets , depending on weather settings , mixed in 1 flight.

This adds a lot of realism.

No other combo is able to do this ....

 

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15 minutes ago, GSalden said:

Don’t forget :

ASP4 in Full Dynamics + ASCA = up to 8 different clouds texture sets , depending on weather settings , mixed in 1 flight.

This adds a lot of realism.

No other combo is able to do this ....

 

That's a small amount. Gerard. REX have confirmed that even the set of 8 pictures, that's 8 lower and 8 upper are just a small sample of what is being used within a set. The 8 of each is just to give an idea. Thats 16 just as a start to give us an idea of types. 1509 models are ready to install !

textures.jpg

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Active Sky = the best weather engine around

ASCA = texture addon for sky and cloud textures, can inject them dynamically (which can actually be noticed in the sim), works together with Active Sky (same company)

ENVTEX = texture addon for skies, clouds, water, runways, grass, and so on, similar to REX Direct, the sky texture can be used by ASCA for dynamic injection

PTA = P3D Tweak Assistent indeed

Rex SkyForce 3D = texture addon for sky and cloud textures, similar to ASCA, comes with basis (not too good) weather engine, can inject cloud models (not textures) dynamically (which I haven’t noticed so far)

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36 minutes ago, Nyxx said:

That's a small amount. Gerard. REX have confirmed that even the set of 8 pictures, that's 8 lower and 8 upper are just a small sample of what is being used within a set. The 8 of each is just to give an idea. 1509!

textures.jpg

That 1509 is the amount of MODELS, not the amount of TEXTURES. SkyForce cloud texture contains double the amount of the old ones and this should be enough, according to REX, to show you every possible cloud, but it’s not that SF is using 1509 textures. It is using just one texture at a time.

One ‘old’ texture contains 16 samples to cover the various area’s of clouds, so I presume SF textures offer 32 samples. 

BTW When it comes to the amount of textures that can be used ASCA is still king. 

In order of the amount of textures being used:

ASCA Global = 1 texture at a time but ALL available textures can be injected one at a time during the entire session

SkyForce = 1 texture during the entire session but double the size so you could say 2 ‘old’ textures

ASCA Full = 8 textures during the session, so that’s 4 times as much textures to choose from compared to SF.

Also take note that ASCA can dynamically change sky textures.

I do doubt though if anyone can actually see the difference between all those cloud textures... :happy:

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52 minutes ago, GSalden said:

Don’t forget :

ASP4 in Full Dynamics + ASCA = up to 8 different clouds texture sets , depending on weather settings , mixed in 1 flight.

This adds a lot of realism.

No other combo is able to do this ....

 

Actually, Full mode always loads 8 predefined sets. Afaik they aren’t injected on the fly: it is a hard coded pool of textures. So it doesn’t matter what the weather is, the same textures are always being loaded. Obviously the weather DOES matter when it comes to which samples of any texture is being used! 8 textures gives you 128 samples to play with! If SF textures are indeed double the size they have 32 samples to play with.

As I said, ASCA Full has 4 times as much to show you. For what it is worth, of course... The advantage of SF is, come to think of it, that it has more models to show you! I do think those models make a more obvious differernce than those textures...

So ASCA has more textures and SF has more models... but in the end it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. :happy:

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21 minutes ago, J van E said:

 

One ‘old’ texture contains 16 samples to cover the various area’s of clouds, so I presume SF textures offer 32 samples. 

BTW When it comes to the amount of textures that can be used ASCA is still king. 

In order of the amount of textures being used:

ASCA Global = 1 texture at a time but ALL available textures can be injected one at a time during the entire session

SkyForce = 1 texture during the entire session but double the size so you could say 2 ‘old’ textures

ASCA Full = 8 textures during the session, so that’s 4 times as much textures to choose from compared to SF.

Also take not that ASCA can dynamically change sky textures.

I do doubt though if anyone can actually see the difference between all those cloud textures... :happy:

BTW I am told that in Full mode those 8 textures can also be replaced/injected dynamically but I am not sure about that (yet).

Interesting thanks J you have done your homework.

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13 minutes ago, Nyxx said:

Interesting thanks J you have done your homework.

Haha, yes, the world of sky textures is a very interesting world :laugh: but it’s quite an effort to get all that information on the table: none of the manuals or official sites say anything about how this all works. You have to dig deep and think hard... which is why I am going to bed now LOL

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SF has made me realise that we have overlooked the shapes,sizes and model structure of clouds. On a long haul today I saw masses of variation of cloud types. Although they may all have shared only a few of the same textures. 

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1 hour ago, ErichB said:

SF has made me realise that we have overlooked the shapes,sizes and model structure of clouds. On a long haul today I saw masses of variation of cloud types. Although they may all have shared only a few of the same textures. 

I think with PTA and cloud shading along with the angle of the sun makes the texture argument redundant. The variety of models is what was needed. 

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11 hours ago, J van E said:

Actually, Full mode always loads 8 predefined sets. Afaik they aren’t injected on the fly: it is a hard coded pool of textures. So it doesn’t matter what the weather is, the same textures are always being loaded. 

Quote :

“The technology behind ASCA includes optional tight integration with AS16/ASP4 to enable features such as Real-Time Texture Dynamics, which allow you to manually change or have your textures automatically changed multiple timesthroughout a flight without the need to shut-down and restart your simulator!” 

 

As I read this , they are injected on the fly in realtime.

And myself I have both ASP4 + ASCA on a cliënt pc so textures are being sent over the network...

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3 hours ago, GSalden said:

Quote :

“The technology behind ASCA includes optional tight integration with AS16/ASP4 to enable features such as Real-Time Texture Dynamics, which allow you to manually change or have your textures automatically changed multiple timesthroughout a flight without the need to shut-down and restart your simulator!” 

 

As I read this , they are injected on the fly in realtime.

And myself I have both ASP4 + ASCA on a cliënt pc so textures are being sent over the network...

It doesn't say that real-time feature is used all the time. Only for the items that say AUTO in the interface of ASCA you will get injection. With Global all three texture options are AUTO and with Full only sky and the high clouds. It seems everyone is thinking ASCA is injecting things always and all the time but I have yet to see prove of that. :happy: 

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I'm not going to fan the flames of which product does what best. But any weather engine is still using the same METAR data. It's how the engine both interprets and interpolates is what sets apart the the top engines from the rest of the pack.

It's nice to be able to tinker with the shaders, but those products are the Photoshop of weather. They cater just as much to personal taste as they do to realism. I've found that all that having all that latitude in adjusting shader settings is counterbalanced by the ability to mess everything up.

Then there are the various products that alter the look of the sun the moon and the sky. Who doesn't enjoy a beautiful enhanced sunset? And how often does that happen in real life?

Lastly, there are add-ons that give the clouds more structure by providing both additional 2D textures and complex layering of the textures. Some of this complexity supposedly happens dynamically and is controlled by weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, etc.. But unless one is a cloud guru, you might miss the variety.

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2 hours ago, J van E said:

It doesn't say that real-time feature is used all the time. Only for the items that say AUTO in the interface of ASCA you will get injection. With Global all three texture options are AUTO and with Full only sky and the high clouds. It seems everyone is thinking ASCA is injecting things always and all the time but I have yet to see prove of that. :happy: 

You are wrong Jeroen ...

 

Full Dynamics is more enhanced than Global Automatic .

  • Global Automatic : Every time AS16 updates the weather it checks the conditions, communicates with ASCA and then ASCA decides which single texture file to install to the sim, just prior to loading the new weather. So this working together with the smooth theme transition you all know (?) since ASN introduced it, creates an environment that slowly changes the textures you see in the sim. Max variation however is still 1
  • Full dynamics : Now imagine each 3D cloud having its own texture (similar for example to AI aircraft, where each aircraft type uses different textures). That's what Full dynamics offers. Of course since the cloud variations are hundreds, we'd run into memory issues loading that many textures (if the current weather conditions have many different types of clouds). So, we restricted the "pool" of possible textures to 8, giving us an overall variation of 128 which is more than adequate while at the same time VAS footprint is minimal (unless you use 4096 textures).  So how this thing works in action?

- When AS16 is prepared to load new weather conditions consisting of a cumulus congestus, a Cumulonimbus calvus and some stratus layers, each one of them will use a different texture, increasing the scene realism significantly. As the flight progresses, depending on the weather conditions, a different cloud model will be selected (e.g. cumulus humilis) which has its own texture inherently "attached". This is the way in Full Dynamics you get transition of cloud textures as your flight progresses.
- One other advantage of this is that for example in Full Dynamics, some clouds that "need" higher resolution to depict properly (like the CBs) will use a higher resolution texture (up to the limit the user has selected in ASCA settings). At the same time softer clouds (like stratus), will only choose the texture resolution that is actually needed (e.g. 512DXT) and the result will be equally good looking scene, with much increased performance

 

Now stop being so pigheaded and go make a flight ...  :cool:

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36 minutes ago, GSalden said:

Now stop being so pigheaded and go make a flight ...  :cool:

Haha, well, I still don't think it's so (I did read that post you quoted!) but it is of no real importance :happy: : the only important thing is if my skies look good and realistic. But I will stop moaning about this. For now LOL

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Gerard is correct - in both full and dynamic the selected items are updated on the fly.

Let's try this one more time - :biggrin:

The "normal" way the sim uses clouds is the theme method. The user selects a theme from the selection provided by the cloud art program. That theme contains various "sets" of clouds (stratus, cumulus, etc) with size, shape and coloring that tries to cover various weather conditions. When the sim is run, that theme is loaded - during the flight, based upon weather, the various clouds "sets" are selected from that theme and displayed as you go.

The dynamic/global method essentially works the same EXCEPT the ASP4/ASCA combination will change the "THEME" on the fly - each new theme has it's own set of cloud "sets" which will give you a much larger variation. User can select up to 8 THEMES to be used at any particular time. That is essentially the function of the dynamic updating on the fly - prior to this, if you loaded a new THEME you had to reload the sim.

Vic

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Thanks, guys. That's a lot of info.

To be honest, I don't know the difference between a "model" and a "texture". What kind of performance hit do products like these typically have? My GPU is maxxed out already at 100% with the settings I'm using on Prepar3D v4. I'd just like to know before I buy, especially since there isn't a trial for ASP4.

I've also seen Rex Texture Direct and Rex Soft Clouds. What do these ones do in comparison to Rex SkyForce 3D?

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If you are already driving your GPU on the edge you will have to notch down your settings when using a wheater engine and texture addons.

Don't chase high fps numbers! Go for smoothness, you can also achieve it with "low" fps in the mid 20ies

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1 minute ago, JoeFackel said:

Don't chase high fps numbers! Go for smoothness, you can also achieve it with "low" fps in the mid 20ies

Only if you fly in a straight line...Fps in the 20s isn't smooth - it's a compromise. If you fly fast jets or helicopters fps in the 20s is a challenge.

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1 hour ago, jeff0000 said:

I don't know the difference between a "model" and a "texture".

A model is the shape on which a texture is placed to give the shape a recognizable look. A model of a ball would just be a 'mathematic empty' circle: put the texture of a basketball on it and it suddenly is a baskeball, put the texture of a soccer ball on it and it suddenly is a soccer ball. 

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1 hour ago, simmerhead said:

If you fly fast jets or helicopters fps in the 20s is a challenge.

Maybe true. I for myself don't fly fast jets in P3D because everyone i tried so far is a complete piece of **** when i look at the flight charakteristics.

A good example is the default F16. I've serveral thousand hours in BMS (they have the F16 flightmodel from NASA) and also some hours in real military simulators. I can't believe how LM can release an F16 which is so way off from their very own product! :-(

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18 hours ago, GSalden said:

You are wrong Jeroen ...

 

Full Dynamics is more enhanced than Global Automatic .

  • Global Automatic : Every time AS16 updates the weather it checks the conditions, communicates with ASCA and then ASCA decides which single texture file to install to the sim, just prior to loading the new weather. So this working together with the smooth theme transition you all know (?) since ASN introduced it, creates an environment that slowly changes the textures you see in the sim. Max variation however is still 1
  • Full dynamics : Now imagine each 3D cloud having its own texture (similar for example to AI aircraft, where each aircraft type uses different textures). That's what Full dynamics offers. Of course since the cloud variations are hundreds, we'd run into memory issues loading that many textures (if the current weather conditions have many different types of clouds). So, we restricted the "pool" of possible textures to 8, giving us an overall variation of 128 which is more than adequate while at the same time VAS footprint is minimal (unless you use 4096 textures).  So how this thing works in action?

- When AS16 is prepared to load new weather conditions consisting of a cumulus congestus, a Cumulonimbus calvus and some stratus layers, each one of them will use a different texture, increasing the scene realism significantly. As the flight progresses, depending on the weather conditions, a different cloud model will be selected (e.g. cumulus humilis) which has its own texture inherently "attached". This is the way in Full Dynamics you get transition of cloud textures as your flight progresses.
- One other advantage of this is that for example in Full Dynamics, some clouds that "need" higher resolution to depict properly (like the CBs) will use a higher resolution texture (up to the limit the user has selected in ASCA settings). At the same time softer clouds (like stratus), will only choose the texture resolution that is actually needed (e.g. 512DXT) and the result will be equally good looking scene, with much increased performance

 

Now stop being so pigheaded and go make a flight ...  :cool:

Great description Gerard ... thank you

So in your humble opinion which would you choose for the best 'on the fly' real world weather  .... Global Automatic or Full Dynamics?

At present I am using Global Automatic

Cheers

Paul

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1 hour ago, JoeFackel said:

Maybe true. I for myself don't fly fast jets in P3D because everyone i tried so far is a complete piece of **** when i look at the flight charakteristics.

A good example is the default F16. I've serveral thousand hours in BMS (they have the F16 flightmodel from NASA) and also some hours in real military simulators. I can't believe how LM can release an F16 which is so way off from their very own product! :-(

Try helicopters then... :D

I've learned to live with the limitations. I've been in a real F-16 simulator myself at our local air base, and while systems and flight model might be accurate, the poor graphics killed the immersion. Seems you can't have the cake and eat it too....

 

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2 hours ago, Paul_ said:

Great description Gerard ... thank you

So in your humble opinion which would you choose for the best 'on the fly' real world weather  .... Global Automatic or Full Dynamics?

At present I am using Global Automatic

Cheers

Paul

Hi Paul,

Here I am using Full Dynamics. I like it when the 3D clouds have different textures instead of them looking the same.

regards, Gerard

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