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arno

Photoreal texture resolution increase in FSX

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Ok, I'm now over my initial excitement about the anticipated texture resolution increase for photoreal scenery in FSX and have begun to realize what this now means to we designers that don't just concentrate on small areas around airports but instead create huge areas with thousands of texture files.My Phoenix Photo Scenery covers thousands of square miles of photoreal textures. The initial release has over 4500 256 X 256 DXT1 texture files with a size of about 43kb each (At this time there are no seasonal and night textures so that 4500 could blossom up considerably if I include them). As you all know these give you roughly 4.8 m/pixel resolution. This comes out to about 193mb of size total and my computer goes through about a minute to load up all the texture info when I start out at an airport somewhere in the middle of my scenery. As one flies around the valley there is considerable disk activity as larger mips are loaded in for visible tiles and if one slews around too fast you overwhelm the computer and have to wait to catch up on texture loads. If, as we're anticipating, we'll be able to go up to 1024 X 1024 texture file sizes with a resolution around 1m/pixel, those DXT1 file sizes are going to be in the range of about 500 - 600 kb each. For my 4500 tiles, the disk size now goes to about 2.5 gb. Even with the fastest computer imaginable, blazing drives, and awesome graphics processors, I'm envisioning loading times of a half hour and a huge amount of disk activity as your aircraft goes from place to place. Maybe MS has found some new nifty way of addressing this but I simply cannot imagine it. Obviously, MS can't talk about the details yet but I'm wondering if others are starting to think about the implications here. Will we have to divide our huge projects up into sections of various resolutions or will we simply create these massive ultra high-res sceneries and rely on the user's setup to determine what mips are displayed? Maybe supercomputers are looming as home workstations sooner than we think.Art

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I've got 145,000 bmp and 27,661 agn files totalling 6.3Gb. For those driving aluminium tubes I don't suppose it matters, however if like me you like it low and slow I would love to have 1024x1024 textures.George

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Hi Art,I can't give you all details, but for the NL2000 project we have been testing with high-resolution textures for the total country. As the mesh techniques do not (yet) allow them, we are now trying different placement, but the PC loads them fine. Of course it takes quite some memory, but it is still runable. And I can tell you that for the total country we are talking about 20+ GB of textures, of course they are not all loaded at the same time.I must say that FsX with the higher resolution sounds great to me, as that would allow us to finally use the mesh techniques as well, which has clear advantages of course.

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Hi there,interesting points! I had a similar thought as Art when I first heard about the increase in resolution: "I'm glad I don't generally work with photoreal textures!". If a project like Megascenery PNW with ("fake") full seasons and night lights currently requires 10GB or so the FSX version would be a hefty collection of DVDs ;-) Aside from the base requirements for HD space the RAM necessary for loading the textures inside the display "ring" would be rather freightening too: with extended textures on we're talking ~20,000 tiles and without still approx. 5,000 tiles. Then again, there might be a completely different way of loading tiles and mips. It'll be interesting to see what the FSX team comes up with in the end.Cheers, Holger

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It would seem you have to load the file to get at the mip.One problem with the 1024x2 textures is that in built up areas shadows are really a problem. I did a micro sceenry of Washington DC mall, and I had to manually remove the Washington Monument shadow as a minimum. There are plenty of other shadows in the texture that are easy to see in the low/slow environment. For rural/wilderness areas shadow issues aren't so bad. Maybe some tree shade over roads. That can be corrected by VTPs (assuming they still will be used). I wonder how blending works at that hi res where you are using a landclass-style texture rather than position specific?scott s..

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I imagine that the load could be a temporary one though. The graphics engine merely opens the file, extracts the mip it requires and closes it. Memory only contains the level of resolution required. Still, loading times simply have to be affected when you're dealing with hundreds or thousands of files. Maybe the mip containing the 1024 X 1024 info will only be displayed at extremely close distances.So will the tools available now for breaking up files into the texture tiles be adaptable to be able to deal with the new resolutions? I generally use the Resample Tools by Elrond Elvish and it's been a done deal for quite some time and I truly doubt he's into upgrading the tool. I guess I need to start going a different route.Art

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Hi Guys,1 m/pixel I believe will only be suitable for the real "lowflight" parts - e.g. the airport itself and maybe 5 miles out.If one was to use that high res for vast areas there would be a distribution problem as well as a HD space problem.You cannot today and for some years to come expect people to d/l files via Internet bigger than say 100-200 Mb.I am resonable sure that a "flyable" large photoscenery can be constructed with the final resolution of 1 m/pixel, but those will be limited in terms of numbers of users since they will have a, for most people, too big download size.Todays 4.8 m/pixel photoscenery suits better the mainstream simmer with an flight altitude above the 3000 outside the airport areas.Only my 2 cents of opinion :-) Bjorn

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Hi Bjorn,Good points about the resolution, but I think it depends on your use of FS as well. If you are flying VFR mainly you will remain below 3000 ft in general, so in that case higher resolution over the entire region is certainly required.But if you are flying with jetliners only, you only see the high resolution near the airport of course. So in that case the country side can have a lower resolution. It all depends on your intended users I guess.As pointed out in the earlier posts, I am indeed very curious how the loading of the textures will be done. You only need the 1024x1024 variant in the areas you are really close to, for the other areas 512x512 or 256x256 or 128x128 (depending on the distance) are also fine of course. This is also how it is done in the current scenery of course, far away you are not looking at the 256x256 variant, but at a much smaller one.The question of the tools is probably hard to answer at the moment, but how I see it is that we can just generate our images like we do know, only with a bigger size. So instead of 256x256, they will be 1024x1024 for the same area covered. So you get a few extra mipmaps.

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Hi all.Other than a tease, I didn't read anything specific about ground textures or photoreal in Jason's blog. We got no info on whether our current landclass and photoreal projects are backwardly compatible, or if the new ground-texture system is simply an increase in mip resolution... or a whole new way of displaying ground tiles.Dick

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You're right that there were no firm commitments about highest resolution but the hint was stronger than any other that we've seen so far. My guess is that it will be available for smaller areas with some XML code designating it as a higher resolution area with the default being the current 256 X 256 texture size. That's generally the way to make things backwardly compatible. New features are an addition to code that requires some flag to use. I'm so looking forward to seeing the next SDK.Art

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In another thread in the FSX forum Jason indicated that there is more than just a simple texture resolution increase. Reading in between the lines it looks like the basics will stay with some changes. I bet no one knows what exactly will go into the final FSX, not even the FS team - hence the vagueness.Christian

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>Hi all.>>Other than a tease, I didn't read anything specific about>ground textures or photoreal in Jason's blog. >>We got no info on whether our current landclass and photoreal>projects are backwardly compatible, or if the new>ground-texture system is simply an increase in mip>resolution... or a whole new way of displaying ground tiles.>>DickHi Dick and Others,Just a few quick thoughts,I do not pretend to know anything more than what you folks here already know...FSX hi res should not need any more tiles than what FS9 presently uses, if the textures files are 1024xX, more space yes, larger number no (again if size of 1024xX). I have used 1meter scenery for very large areas (fingerlakes region of upstate NY) since FS98 up to and including FS8, load times where not that bad over my lower res versions, I was using this scenery on a machine with very limited ram and CPU power compared to todays machines, I really see no problem with todays machines running it, only when panning quickly in VC, again old machine (note did not have AG).I am certain users of FSX will be able to select what max res of terrain will be (slider) 256/512/1024, it is already an option in FS8/9 and makes sense, older hardware vs some of the great hardware thats available right now etc.Lastly the tools for slicing 1024 textures already exsist, check Martin wrights site, he custom made me a slicer that has a few options if I remeber it is "Texcrop".just one more thought (it is all coming back now) a well proccessed 512xX done with the right filters for resizing and sharpening can look as good as a fair 1024xX proccessed map at one forth the size, just do airport and special interest areas in 1024xXI look forward to FSX, but I will no longer be in the game as a "player" just a user. :)http://www.frontiernet.net/~pleatzaw/images/ecto2.jpg

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Some rough reactions based on what I've read of this thread so far.I'm sorry to be cagey about details, but I'd rather underpromise and over deliver.That being said...Moving from the base of FS 2004 to where we currently are was not easy (and there is more work to be done). There has been a fair amount of work and investigation to mitigate some of the current FS2004 behaviors. But, yes, we are talking about pushing a lot more pixels on screen than previously, and there are costs to that. As we have done with each version, we provide for a range of user scenarios and cases, which means there will be scalability fom low to high end.The intention, goal, and design is to have as much of everything be backwards comnpatible as possible. As with every version, there are likely to be changes that break non SDK compliant hacks, *and* there exists a potential to break SDK compliant stuff. This has happened in each version, and should come as no surprise. It should also come as no surprise that we extend a lot of time and resources to testing and fixing backcompat issues, and this version should be no different.Whatever the changes, I believe we are better equipped to handle such cases this time around, and to communicate those changes than we have in the past.There are some new procedures and techniques that should allow for more expansion (as we did when we designed the weather system) and customization.I've found that while 1 meter is sweeeeeet, the biggest jump is from 5 to 2 meters per pixel. That is not a hint, just an observation. I expect to ship 1 meter textures.I've found it a challenge to both work with and store source files of the default textures. I encourage folk to investigate large storage media. :)As a side note:There will be both professional and amateur developers on the beta (which also tests SDKs). They will be a representative sample of the industry. From a signal to noise ratio it is not workable to invite everybody who should be on the beta, so please don't ask me to invite you. :)If you feel that you should be a part of the process (from a development side), send mail to the auto responded mail address tell_fs@microsoft.com Cheers,Jason

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Jason,Just like to know if you can tell us if scasm compiled BGL:s will be supported anymore.They were as I understand it already slated for a phase out in FS9.Bjorn :-)

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Hi Bjorn,But what do you call a SCASM BGL? As you might know SBuilder uses SCASM to create its LWM/VTP BGL files and these are completely according to the Fs2004 standards. On the other hand you can also use SCASM to compile a BGL file that is of the Fs5 standard.So I think it is wrong to talk about a SCASM BGL, we should be discussion which scenery commands will still be supported. If you then compiled them with SCASM or FreeSC or BGLC does not matter.But I am indeed also curious to learn how much of the older (Fs98/Fs2000/Fs2002) code will still be supported. On one hand I hope as much as possible, as a lot of users still use older API macros etc. But on the other hand it would be good if we could clean up the old stuff a bit. A lot of the confusion for new scenery designers is the load of tools available. And that is mainly because they can choose for each tool designed since Fs98, all still work, but some don't support the latest features etc. If we could clean all those old tools, the world would become a lot simpler for new designers :).

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Hi Dick,Some good points. Although Jason on his blog mentioned increasing from 256 to 512 to 1024, it might indeed be a bit to quick to conclude that the underlaying techniques remain the same as the current ones.I guess we have to wait till the new FsX is there before we can really say how we can use the higher resolutions.

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Hi Arno.If Jason expects 1 meter/pixel textures to ship, I think we'll see it. :)I expect nearly all of our tools will need modification. I'm hoping the design team breaks a few "rules" and pushes FSX into some new areas of scenery design. The community is in much better shape to move forward than it was at the start of FS2002. Most designers are quite sophisticated in their understanding of converting GIS data to terrain in the sim. Gmax users have a good grasp of the nature of that tool... and concerning scenery objects we've seen a lot of progress with new concepts of attaching effects, platforms, etc... I'm ready for some new things!I'm also hoping to see a better system of dynamic movement ( and animation ) for objects. I hope the old Dynamic Scenery will be gone, and replaced with something a bit more flexible. And we need something nicer than tick18 for objects. The more the team can include, the better!And to Jason... many thanks for the info you can give us.Dick

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Hi Dick,Yes, I agree with you. Although it will hurt a few people that are still using the old Fs98/Fs2000 tools and macros, I really hope that they will clean up (and remove) some of those older commands. This would make things a lot easier for us in the end. Now there are just too many tools we can use. Almost any tool designed since Fs5 still works. That makes it very confusing for scenery designers, especially as not all tools work together that well.And of course I am also very happy with all the information Jason is already able to give us. It is really great to have a more direct link with the designers of FS.

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