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HI allI was wondering if anyone can give me a few pointers for a virtual cockpit tutorial?I have updated my website showing some GMAX images but to be honest I haven't a clue what to do to get the VC to appear in FS.I have just downloaded the PANEL SDK from M$ site but I see in a previous posting some reckon it does not provide all the required information.I really want the does and don'ts of virtual cockpit design.Thanks in advance.Paul

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Heck!!! :-eek Great model dude! :-hahWell - the Panel and Gauges SDK is mainly for creating C gauges from scratch etc. not for VC design. For a VC tut look [a href=http://thegreatptmd.tripod.com/vc_tut_frame.htm]here[/a]. Works hmmm quite well. Don't remember if really *all* reqired information is included there, though.Anyway, give it a try.For further questions... Ya'd know whadda do! ;-)Good luck :-)Etienne

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Thanks Etienne.I will study this later.As an aside, are there any SDK's from M$ that provide VC info?For those that have not seen my website please visit.www.iol.ie/~bae146designHaving looked through this forum it is clear Fr Bill and Milton seem to have the edge. The tutorial you have directed me to; is this the only one available? I see a few references to mistakes contained within it.My VC parts are all named BOX-- or Cylinder--. I have a lot of renaming to do!Thanks again Paul H.

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I can't help you with your VC problems, but I must commment on your 146. WTFG!! Hold your head high when u show that bad boy.

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Hi Paul,To export the VC part of your model in gmax:Group and set CoG for the exterior model like this:1. Group all of your external model; name it "exterior"2. Select the exterior with the "move/modify" tool3. Select the "Hierarchy Icon/Affect Pivot Only" and center the pivot at the CoG (I usually build my model with the grid crosshairs set at the CoG). Use the data entry section for coordinates at the bottom to set CoG.4. Now hide the "exterior" model.Group and set CoG for the interior model like this:1. Select and group all virtual cockpit objects; name the group "interior".2. Set the CoG for the interior group at exactly the same location as the exterior group CoG.Exporting:1. You should have all objects in either the exterior or interior group.2. Select both groups3. Go to File/Export Selected4. Name your aircraft and select Files of Type ".bgl"5. Save6. After the exporting process, the MakeMdl (or bgl) window will appear.7. Select the Options Tab, click HasReflectMap and HasLightMap8. Select the Main Tab9. Change Files of Type to Aircraft10. Select SaveMakemdl will now process, optimize, and generate the bgl for the interior and exterior models, then compile the package together. The output will be saved as a .mdl in the target folder.With the model now showing in FS2002, you can now start focusing on the animations and textures. This forum has discussed all of those areas but if you can't find your answer, please ask.Your modeling looks awesome ... have fun! :-)BTW, Bill is way more knowledgeable about VC's than I. He has been a great source of experience for all of us here.RegardsMilton

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Thanks MiltonThat will get me started.I'll be gone for three days sweating in the real simulator but anyone who can enlighten me further please go right ahead.I am curious to know more about dummy bitmaps and applying textures to panels. At the moment I am not interested in gauges. As you can see from the screen shoots all I have designed are the bases and surrounds for the gauges. All the switches might be programmed as gauges, but at the moment they are only in position for texturing purposes.I hope to use lithium unwrap and take screen shots when everything is in position so that a 2d panel can be rendered easily and accurately.I can then consider where to go with the gauges.I understand there are a number of methods of achieving the desired effects. Any information would be appreciated.Thanks for your inputPaul H

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>so that a 2d panel can be rendered >easily and accurately. Uhh... You wanna make the 2d panel right from the model??? Great dude!! :-eek

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>I am curious to know more about dummy bitmaps and applying >textures to panels. At the moment I am not interested in >gauges. As you can see from the screen shoots all I have >designed are the bases and surrounds for the gauges. All the >switches might be programmed as gauges, but at the moment >they are only in position for texturing purposes. >>I hope to use lithium unwrap and take screen shots when >everything is in position so that a 2d panel can be rendered >easily and accurately. Paul,What I've done to create the 2d panel bitmap has been to finish the VC, then simply 'snap a picture' in FS2002 and use that as the template... :) The goal is to provide as smooth and transparent transition from the 2d view to the 3d view as possible.Such a nice model truly deserves the very best panel and gauges that can be made...Since there are a number of available lighting techniques that may be used, you need to make a determination rather early in the design process to avoid having to redo major parts of your work later on, because you've reached a dead end... :)When I can take some time away from some payware work I'm in the middle of at the moment, I want to develop a fully illustrated tutorial on the VC creation process, with emphasis on proper gauge design/selection for VC use, lighting techniques, and texturing.

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>When I can take some time away from some payware work I'm in >the middle of at the moment, I want to develop a fully >illustrated tutorial on the VC creation process, with >emphasis on proper gauge design/selection for VC use, >lighting techniques, and texturing. You're in payware?? ;-)Hey I'D heavily appreciate that tut!!!! Way to go Bill! :-hahEtienne :-wave

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Hi AllBack again. Thanks for all the postings.Fr Bill I realise you are busy at the moment but your reply has me somewhat intrigued? Am I going about things in the right fashion or am I going to end up frustrated? (not that I haven't been there with this project already).Again you have suggested a number of possibilities on how to proceed but I neither know what these are or which one is right for me.I have put a lot of work into this project so if you are suggesting the best way is the hardest/highest workload then so it shall be.But what is it? What is the best way? Maybe you wish to keep that to yourself, (I fully understand that I really do especially when you are working on a commercial product - I worked on the LTU2001 product for Aerosoft some years ago I built the Airbus A330 and was given information that was then cutting edge so honestly I do respect your right to a commercial edge.If this is not your intention and with time permitting I would love the opportunity to learn from you and equally if I can share any of my design experiences with you or in fact with anyone I will.Thankyou once again for the input; it is much appreciated.Paul Hwww.iol.ie/~bae146design

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Holy! Dude, that is one amazing ARJ model. Is there going to be a virtual cabin too? I am definately going to fly it when the Northwest airlink one comes out! :-beerchug Cheers to your model!

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Hi AllI finally got the VC running in FS. The view is a little distorted, perhaps I am doing something wrong.But it is exciting to see the work in place.I have no interest in making a cabin for the 146, my feeling is that you want ride down the back then go buy a ticket.While I am not knocking anyones desire to create a virtual cabin it is a bit of a gimmick and one that is using up resources that could be put to better use.I'll put my efforts into the cockpit.Thanks again for the kind words.Paul H

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Nice! I'm still routing for a virtual cabin though. If you don't want to do one, it's ok. I just live models with virtual cabins. :-bluegrab

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Nice job Paul,I have followed as many postings related to VC and have failed to get my interior to appear in FS. Did you have to name the interior parts with special prefix? Also when I export according to others instructions the export fails. The export BGL does not make the two 12K files that it should so I can add the interior.x to the list and the write the MDL. I am at my resource end!!What is the gig here? I haven't even got to the mapping and guage files yet. Should there be something done there at this point as well?Any help will be appreciated!!Steven

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Hi StevenMilton wrote a piece earlier in this topic about how to do it.However the first question I must ask is1 FSDS or GMAX2 If GMAX are you are using Middleman or just MAKEMDL.3 Milton's message refers I believe to using MAKEMDL.exe only.4. IF you use middleman the you need to groups place the VC in an INTERIOR group and the aircraft in an EXTERIOR group.5 Now to see these thing in FS you need to go the hierarchy utility.The exterior pivot show be set to the COG point which is 0,0,0 in my aircraft.I have built the interior group 20 metres left of the aircraft so using the Hierarchy utility again I set the pivot to -20,0,0.Run the middleman utility save the file as a .mdl- middleman does all the bgl splitting and reconverting for you so it is relatively simple.Finally once compiled, move the mdl from GMAX to your desired aircraft model folder.You need to set the eye point reference from the aircraft cfg file.I work in metres and the GMAX coordinate system works X, Y and Z but this eyepoint reference works as Y X and Z and in feet from the reference point which is different from from the COG but in my file the COFG and REF point occupies the same coordinates 0,0,0.You need to determine where a pilot sits in the exterior (not interior) model a get this eye point value.Your panel cfg file also must include a VC reference. Be sure that if you are borrowing a panel cfg to modify to your requirements it has this entry. Look at one of the default aircraft panel cfg files.That is as much as I know. I will complete all the parts in the VC and then find out what to do next.Hope this helpsPaul H

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>Hi All >>Back again. Thanks for all the postings. >>Fr Bill I realise you are busy at the moment but your reply >has me somewhat intrigued? >Am I going about things in the right fashion or am I going >to end up frustrated? (not that I haven't been there with >this project already). >Again you have suggested a number of possibilities on how to >proceed but I neither know what these are or which one is >right for me. Hi Paul!I have no problem sharing freely whatever I've learned with anyone, whether their project is destined to be freeware or payware, unless of course it is 'something totally never-before-done,' in which case that project needs to see public release first... :)What I do lack is time...I notice that you've spent a considerable amount of time modeling 3d switches for the overhead and knobs for the AP panel. Since there isn't a way to 'animate' them though, I am curious what you've got in mind? Something I've always had in mind to try would be to model static things - such as a gauge frame - in 3d and then apply the texture/gauge files to lend a bit of depth to the illusion. These features, not being animated, should be fairly easy to accomplish.Understand that the way that you obtain animated gauges in a VC is through the use of transparent 'projection panels' on which they are displayed. In practice, you will need to subdivide your VC cockpit into a series of relatively flat areas that are on the same plane when viewed from the left or right, and then draw a set of planar surfaces that are the exact shape/size to 'fit' each of those areas.Please, do not even consider designing a VC without gauge backlighting! An otherwise stellar model will be rendered useless at night otherwise... :)The various methods of nighttime gauge illumination predicate the specific design technique used, so this is where an early determination of which you are going to use for each subsection will save time and frustration in the long run. Here is a very brief description of each method:Basic Method #11) Apply a fixed panel background to the physical VC panel.2) Project gauges onto the planar $VC surfaces, with VC_L.bmp mask in the 'Self-Illumination' slot in the Material Editor.Chief weakness of this method is that when panel lights are turned on, the entire projection surface will turn flat black, hiding/obscuring the background panel's image.Basic Method #21) Do exactly as above, but apply appropriate sections of the VC background image to each of the planar projection panels via an entry in the panel.cfg file.This will overcome the 'flat black' problem as described above, but will not allow you to use 'spot' or 'flood' lighting, as described in the Advanced Methods listed below.Advanced Method #11) Apply a fixed panel backgroud to the physical VC panel.2) Design your 'planar surfaces' as a set of individual objects the exact size and shape of the gauges themselves.3) Group them logically into 'sets.'4) Apply the $VC.bmp texture to each 'set,' with a VC_L.bmp mask assigned to the 'Self-Illumination' slot in the Material Editor.The advantage of this method is that this will eliminate the weakness of the "Basic Method" completely. Where there is no projection surface, there will be no 'flat black' to cover/obscure the background.In addition, you will be able to apply an Alpha Channel mask to the background.bmp in the Material Editor, providing a method of 'spotlighting' and/or 'floodlighting' appropriate areas of the panel - such as under-glareshield lights.Advanced Method #21) Similar to Advanced Method #1, except that 'holes' are cut into the VC background panel, and the planar projection surfaces are placed behind the VC background panel.2) As before, the 'holes' must be the exact size and shape of the gauges that will be used.Conclusion:From the descriptions of the two 'Advanced Methods,' it should be abundantly clear by now that one of the earliest decisions that must be made - before beginning the process! - is which gauges will be used in the model, and which method (or combination of methods!) will be used... :)I hope that this is a bit helpful.

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Thanks for your time Paul,I am using Gmax4. IF you use middleman the you need to groups place the VC in an INTERIOR group and the aircraft in an EXTERIOR group.What is this "middleman" stuff and where do I get it. Like I said in another post I have tried the two group thing and still get no results.5 Now to see these thing in FS you need to go the hierarchy utility.What utility are you refering to here?Steven

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Stevenhttp://thegreatptmd.tripod.com/ is the location of middleman. Installation instructions included. You might check you have the latest version of makemdl.exe available from microsoftThere is reference to another utility called mdlcommander, I have not used this but I believe it allows access to the xfile (the go between state of your gmax project and the final mdl file), to make changes to material and lighting effects.I digress as this is not required for VC design.Ok the Hierarchy utility is the third tab in the right frame of gmax you know where you bang in the numbers or select a primitive shape. The third tab has a rectangle with 3 smaller rectangles below it.Select that tab and click on the affect pivot only button. The use the toolbar move icon to move the exterior pivot to coordinates 0.0.0 and the interior pivot to the x offset position,y and z coordinates (-20 (in my project) 0.0) Remember to turn off the affect pivot button function once each pivot is moved.export and middleman will do the rest. There are various middleman options that need to ticked when middleman runs, if you run into trouble chances are that one of these options either needs to be ticked or unticked. You have a choice.Paul

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Thanks Fr BillThe fog is slowly lifting.My intentions at the moment are to design the cockpit with the instrument gauge bases. These bases will be in the correct locations and hopefully set-up in such a way that accomodating the gauges is straight forward. For example the main forwad panel gauge bases all occupy the same plane.Once complete I will take a screen shot in GMAX or FS which will form a basis for the 2d panel artwork.Once that is complete I will consider the advanced options you refer to. From your information I may well have to redo some of the work already.I am a aware that I may use too many resources if I try and display too many gauges. Striking the balance will be the key.Would any gauge programmer hazzard a guess on the gauge limits/frame rate balance.Thanks again for the time.Paul H

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>Thanks Fr Bill >>The fog is slowly lifting. Well, that's the intention. It's a whole lot easier to model in VFR conditions... :)The following are some prototype images of a popular bizjet's VC panel. Because of the size of this cockpit, it has been subdivided into a total of seven separate areas, each with it's own UVW map and $ and _L textures.P1 (left half of main panel)P2 (right half of main panel)P3 (glareshield AP console & center pillar compass housing)P4 (left knee switch panel)P5 (ECU/FMS center console)P6 (right knee switch panel)P7 (overhead switch console)The first image is from GMax, and shows P1's UVW map. Since I want hi-resolution on all gauges, the $textures are all 1024x1024. Notice that the planar surface is actually a clone of the main panel, cut into two 'halves', and pulled a fraction of a inch away from the main panels surface. The 3d modeled portion of the entire panel/glareshield has been mapped and a base texture applied (with major gauge positions pre-located). The actual gauges are applied to the $P1 panel via the panel.cfg file.The next pictures illustrate the backlighted gauges from various angles. Note that these are not the actual gauges that will be used, but are mostly default gauges used as placeholders for the 'proof of concept' testing that has been done. In practice, I'd tweak the lightmaps so that the external bezels on the PFD would't 'glow in the dark' :)

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Thanks Paul,I figured out what you meant by the hierarchy utiliy just after I sent the post. I am farmiliar with that area after some stuggle to remember where it was several days back. I have just downloaded and installed the two programs you mentioned and followed the instructions carefully and even cut all but a few cockpit parts from the model to try to simplify it and make the "experimental" time shorter. Still nothing shows up in FS VC mode.Steven

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Sucesss, I have found the interior! It must have been the old MAKEMDL.exe as the problem. I went backward a few steps and set up without the commander program. I made a complete copy of the model and didthe two group thing and the BGL export. I then redid the export and used the MDL output. The mdl made both files and TADA!!!All that was needed then was to tweek the aircraft.cfg the get the pilot inside the cockpit instead of standing outside looking back at the plane wanting a ride inside for the first time.Thanks again for you contribution now on to the next thing, the gauges.Steve

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