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Recent experience with photoreal

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Hi all, new to the forum. First let me express my great thanks for all who contribute here for their helpfullness and free giving of tools and toys. I've just purchased FS2004 and am just blown away by the wonderful realism it provides and have downloaded a huge amount of addon scenery and scenery design tools. I'm a computer programmer by trade so I'm greatly intrigued by the whole technical challenge and creativity required for scenery design.In flying over the part of the Phoenix valley I live in (Litchfield Park near Luke AFB), it became apparent that the scenery for the Phoenix area was patchy at best and frustrating to fly over. Some parts are truly photoreal but a great deal of it is simply default textures with the area around my home showing only empty desert. Luckily, Maricopa County's website has this wonderful interface to download high resolution aerial photos of most of the country taken as recently as 2004. Needless to say I've downloaded many gigabytes of great images.I've downloaded a number of free applications based on the posts I've read here including Terrabuilder, the FS Resample Tools and a few others. Since there was this wonderful forum about Terrabuilder I decided to try that application first but ran into a wall immediately. After assembling the images into a giant bitmap of the area around my home, I was faced with the task of trying to find the lat/long corners of my image. Since the FS9 scenery of the area I was trying to replace had very few recognizable reference points, especially at the edges of where my image would fit in, it seemed an insurmountable task. I nearly gave up but then tried FS Resample and found that the task was simple. All I needed to know was two reference points anywhere in the image that I could reference to points on FS and the program did the rest for me, calculating extents, rebuilding my image, and creating the bgl and texture files. Within a short time, I was flying over my neighborhood in wonderful resolution. I was hooked and went out and found a bunch more images of the Phoenix valley including a set over Lake Pleasant, a lake north of my home. That's where I learned all about the results of not water masking, something that FS Resample doesn't deal with. I fixed up my results a whole lot with the Coastline Creator software, using it to flatten the lake and define the coastlines properly, but the lake surface is still land and has none of the wonderful FS water textures. Here's my question now. Do I use FS Resample to determine my extents and then go back into Terrainbuilder to complete the job with a true water mask or is there some other method I should be looking into? Oh, and also found another anomaly. Seems there's some rivers and canals crossing under my photoreal scenery now and there's this deep trench that goes along with them that just doesn't fit the picture above. Any way to get rid of that easily?Thanks,Art Martin

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Normally it's in bad taste to respond to your own post but there have been numerous views and no replies as of yet so I'll talk to myself. Actually I had forgotten to add that once this project is bearable to look at I certainly planned on sharing with anyone that wanted it. I think anyone familiar with the Phoenix valley would be very pleased. It will include as much photoreal scenery as I can add. I already have most of the Phoenix westside and the Tempe/ASU area started as well as the Lake Pleasant stuff.Art Martin

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Martin,TerraBuilder has the very same exact feature - Calibration using 2 points. It had it from the very beginning of the application, 7 years now... You should have asked the question in the TerraBuilder forum, I would have gladly helped.

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>Here's my question now. Do I use FS Resample to determine my>extents and then go back into Terrainbuilder to complete the>job with a true water mask or is there some other method I>should be looking into?You need to add an alpha mask to the water areas in your photographic bmps.>Oh, and also found another anomaly. >Seems there's some rivers and canals crossing under my>photoreal scenery now and there's this deep trench that goes>along with them that just doesn't fit the picture above. Any>way to get rid of that easily?In your terrain.cfg. replace the lines offset=-10 to offset=flat.George

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Thanks for your help. Misho, have to tell you, trying your program for the first time without a step-by-step tutorial, that wasn't obvious to me. It seemed to be asking for the upper left and lower right extents of the picture which were a real mystery. I'll go back and explore that. Believe me, I've been in a whirlwind trying to absorb about a year's worth of information in a week and have been looking for shortcuts. I'm sure I'll end up heavily in your program by the end of all this.Now George, in regards to that lines offset value, am I to assume that if I change to flat that worldwide my rivers will have no depression anymore? If so, is there a way to simply exclude the rivers from below my photoreal layer instead? That certainly would be preferable. The depressions are kinda cool in areas with the default scenery. They give some depth to the flat areas. Now one pet peeve I have with the rivers around the Phoenix area is that they show up bright blue. Anyone that's lived in the Southwest knows full well that rarely do the rivers here actually run. 99% of the time they are simply dry arroyos, nothing more than a brown depression. When they do run after a rainstorm, even the water is brown. My guess is that MS has not included a dry arroyo water texture. Anyone ever have any success in redefining that texture for arid areas?Art Martin

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George, thanks for that suggestion about the lines offset value. I found that putting the value to 1 instead of 'flat' left just a slight depression, barely noticeable unless you were at ground level. I assume you mean by adding an alpha mask that I need to make a copy of my photoreal image with the lake in black and all other areas in white as the basis for that mask.Art Martin

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>I assume you mean by adding an alpha mask that I need to make>a copy of my photoreal image with the lake in black and all>other areas in white as the basis for that mask.Correct in one :-) George

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Oh man. Got a start on doing that mask last night and what a chore. Only program I have that can handle selecting complicated areas and filling them with a color is Photo Deluxe 2.0. They have a selection tool for defining an area but with the complexity and size of the image and shoreline, after an hour I still didn't have the full shore defined. The real bummer is that when you save the PDD file it doesn't remember the selection area. Now much of the lake is colored black but in order to go back in and color the land white, I have to reselect the shoreline all over again. There has to be a better tool for doing this. In the image, the land is mostly gray and brown and the water is a bright green. Would be simple if there were some program that could do a search and replace based on existing colors or create a selection area based on that same criteria. Any suggestions? Art Martin

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I hope you are not creating the alpha channel using your full photo bmp. You should do it on each of the su files, using a program such as DXTBmp from Martin Wright together with a graphics editor.George

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Oops. See, told you I was new at this. Is that the same plan then with the different season textures too? Certainly sounds easier in the 256 X 256 images.Art Martin

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That's one way to do it, but I like to do things the easy way:) By masking each tile I'd have to do this for all seasonal/night images as well. I don't want to have to open each tile image until I run the annotator. Once is enough.Using Terrabuilder, I definitely like to simply mask the water in my summer texture and let Terrabuilder do all the work. I don't know what type of masking tools your graphics software has, but most have some sort of paint-on-mask tool. I use Picture Publisher, but it does have great mask tools which I take for granted. Here's my normal technique for placing non-georeferenced but known-scale images.First, I always start with a correctly scaled image -- at 4.8m/px. This lets me use all the tools at my disposal to keep the image clear and sharp. This works well here in New Zealand (I think being close to 45 South we get a nice square coverage?), but your requirements may vary.I place the summer image only into Terrabuilder with rough co-ordinates (only south and west to stop it from resampling) and run the process. I then use the single-point calibration to find the accurate co-ordinates. If I didn't know the scale, I'd use a two-point calibration within Terrabuilder to give me the scale, then resize in Picture Publisher before running Terrabuilder for the final time with the resized image and water mask, plus seasonal/night variations if I have them.As you can tell, I'm a great fan of Terrabuilder, and am happy never having to see inside an INF file as long as I live...

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Art:I live in Phoenix, well Mesa actually, and I came across your post here in the forum. I am a successful full-time designer with top-notch equipment and grpahics programs. If you need any sort of graphical help on your project I would love to help you with it. It would be great to have something different for our home town in FS2004. The stock scenery isn't that great :( I would help you or whatever, but all I ask is that you share the projects final results with me :) That would be wonderful. I am already drooling at what you posted. Please contact me via email at: timest999@yahoo.com Thanks so much.Tim

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Tim, would love to collaborate. Sent an email to you and I'll be posting some screenshots from home here this weekend.Recent progress: - overlayed a huge photo of the Phoenix downtown area from Bethany Home/I17 on the upper left to Sky Harbour Airport on the lower right and the alignment looks very good. Lots of intriguing possibilities to consider after viewing from above such as creating the Deck Park Tunnel on I-17 which you can actually see now. Patriot's Park would be a fun object. America West Arena is missing from the FS objects. Eventually adding in the overpasses on the freeways would add tremendous depth to the scene. - Lake Pleasant is overlayed with a photoreal image now and the shorelines have all been defined with the water area flattened. In the photos from Maricopa County however, the water is a bright green and sticks out like a sore thumb. The obvious fix is to remove the green water from the images with a mask, set up the underlying class as true water and have a great seaplane landing spot with some AI boats. The hints I've received in this post have given me the info I need to take on that step. - The downtown Tempe/ASU area has been overlayed with photoreal pictures and now I-10 clearly winds between the hills at the Broadway Curve. The mountains between ASU and the Tempe Town Lake show up well with the FS Genesis mesh and I've placed a default Rwy 12 stadium object in the middle of them. It's not quite big enough and would make a wonderful project. The Town Lake needs alpha masking to make it a true water surface. - A great deal of the westside of the valley has been photo-rendered between Luke AFB on the upper left and about Van Buren and 51st Ave on the lower right. I have most of the pictures required to tie this area in with my recently added downtown Phoenix section and I'd love to get all the photos for the area to the south with the Salt River. I added in the default Rwy 12 stadium object where the Cardinals stadium is being built and their default amphitheater object for the hockey arena but they clearly need new realistic objects. The Cardinal's stadium in construction phase would be awesome. Too bad there's no object created for a really lousy football team. Naturally my neighborhood has had a great deal of loving care and detail added.Art Martin

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Rescaling to 4.8 m/p has seemed intimidating to me since I have no clue what the original m/p ratio of the pictures I download are. Using FS Sample Tools, I haven't had to worry about that step. I just pick out two points in the picture, reference their lat/long and the program builds my final output picture for me, resized and trimmed. Their rescaling seems to not lose any of the image sharpness and seems very precise. The user interface was absolutely intuitive without any instructions where my first attempt at Terrabuilder was nothing but an exercise in frustration.I can clearly see that Terrabuilder is the more powerful package for doing the complete job with its support of the alternate seasons and alpha mask image and I know that I'll end up there but the user interface gave me an immediate attitude. Here was this setup screen with a half dozen or so text boxes that, at a glace, all seemed enabled and yet the program was expecting me to double click only in the first one to put in the project name and somehow know to click "Next" to be able to get into the others. The labels for those text boxes were terms I was unfamiliar with in their context to what I'd read about scenery design so I had no idea what I was supposed to put into them. Trying to leave them blank and submitting the form gave me a cryptic message about not having full info without mentioning what info I had to have. Finally I downloaded a walkthrough of the setup screen and was able to get into the screen where I put in parameters for the image I was importing. The interface seemed to require me knowing the upper left and lower right lat/long of the picture, something very difficult to determine. Nothing on the screen told me that any known points would do as I later found out in this post. All minor things once you are familiar with the program though. I'll get over it.I do look forward to getting proficient on Terrabuilder. All the posts I've read of it's abilities give it high marks. I want to also thank all the freeware authors for their donations. I'm a programmer myself and perhaps I'll dabble in something so I can return the favor someday. It'd be great to create the mother of all scenery design packages that combines the best of all in one place.

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Man, too many software packages in too little time. The experience I was relating to in Terrabuilder was in fact with the use of Ground2k4. Apologies Misho. I tried Terrabuilder again last night and realized immediately that it was a whole different user interface. Now, I still have to tell you that I ran into an immediate user interface problem when I went to enter extents into the image setup page. First, what in the heck are the little pushbuttons on the four corners for and why do the opposite entry boxes change when I type a value into them. I know there's probably a tutorial (I've probably downloaded it) that explains all this, but why can't a page have instructions on it? Also, why this seeming need to put in lat/long in decimal equivalents when FS gives it in HMS format? That's what I liked about FS Resample Tools. It is designed the way a human mind processes things. Here's your choices. What do you want to do next (in plain English)? Are you sure that's the choice you want to make? If so, here's the repercussions. Only the buttons you logically should push are visible and enabled. The input boxes for lat/long are exactly the way you get the info from slewing around the scenery in FS. The input labels describe exactly what the boxes are asking for. On a personal rant about programming - I began as a DOS programmer where our systems were designed procedurally, one step after the other, instead of this wide open Windows GUI that most programmers bought into. Multitasking is a wonderful thing but it's not how the human mind works best. Users are the most comfortable when they're presented with exact and very limited steps they can take where the programmer limits the paths they can go down. Why have a screen with 30 buttons on it when most users will only use one or two of them? If they need to use that additional functionality, take them down a different path, give them another more specific screen with options that only deal with the task they choose. I was often told that my programs didn't need manuals to use them. Maybe it's just cause I'm too dumb to add in complexity to things. There's certainly no right or wrong and I feel this pang of guilt here for even intended constructive criticism when the programs I'm referring to are absolutely free. Oh well, that's the fun and the wealth of forums.I'm going to continue this in the Terrabuilder forum after searching my harddrive for that tutorial I know I downloaded.

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Art:OH MY GOD!! THIS LOOKS FABULOUS :) You are doing a fantastic job from the looks of this. And wow, what a difference from when I fly over the same area, even when using fscene :)I emailed you, so I will be awaiting your reply. Very nice job indeed :)Tim

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