Reading some of the forums here in Avsim I read a name I had not seen before…”NLS”…and an A380??? Wow…don’t know where I had been hiding, but a quick search showed a lot of things a Flight Simulator enthusiast could be very impressed and excited about.
So naturally I contacted Olli Braun and he was kind enough to have a quick chat with us, Avsim folk, and I am very happy to introduce him and NLS to our audience:
1 - Olli, thanks for talking to Avsim....can you please tell us about
yourself? Where are you from? What do you do?
- I am 31 years old and I live in southwest Germany. In my regular "other"
job I run a small film production company where I produce commercials,
image films, 3d animations for TV broadcast clients and also full feature
films and visual effects. We have been doing our first short feature film,
which was a zombie comedy in local accent for the last 1.5 years and it
has just been released for cinema 2 months ago. Now things are getting a
bit back to normal where I can find more time for flight simulator
2 - How did your love of aviation and coding begin?
- I have always been an aviation enthusiast. That’s why I started to fly
gliders when I was 14. Two years later, I started to develop a freeware
A320 panel together with Christian Kögler, who is my project partner ever
since. The panel was a huge success in download numbers, also here on
AVSIM. For FS98 times, it was already a big leap with fully custom Airbus
3 - Is NLS your first venture into virtual aviation and coding?
- Actually, no. Like I said above, the freeware A320 was the first "real" FS
development project. After that, Chris and I decided to produce a complete
Airbus package, called "Airbus Unlimited" in 1999. It featured fully
custom made gauges and displays and also APU, electrical and other
simulated systems. For the time, it was very advanced. It included the
A320, A330 and A340. However, we decided to sell it via our own website
only and not through a publisher so it didn't spread out that wide. But
some of you might still remember it.
After Airbus Unlimited, we decided to move on to the next project called
"European Giants". At the time I was still learning 3D design and I tried
the first implementation of virtual cockpits into FS2000. Although not
real time 3D, it looked very promising. At the time, Airbus came up with
their first concepts of the A3XX which later became the A380 and I was
extremely fascinated by it. I tried to gather all information I could get
and I planned to include the A3XX into European Giants as well. However,
due to my studies and education I didn't find time to continue with the
project and we scrapped it.
After my studies, I earned a degree in 3D Animation for TV production and
I worked in a production company in Munich for a couple of years. However,
the will to do another project for FS never passed so in 2007, I decided
to start an A380 project. At first it was only some kind of experiment
where I tried to see if I can apply the knowledge I got from my regular 3D
Animation job into FS Design so I purchased FSX with the SDK and tried. I
must say, it worked out pretty well and I started to model the first A380
exterior model and virtual cockpit. At the time, Björn Comhaire from
Simcheck got in touch with me and asked me if I could provide the 3D
models for his A300 project. We both agreed and so I developed the A300
models and in the meanwhile I carried on with my A380, trying to improve
At the time, I was still employed at the animation production company
where Lefteris Kalamaris and Andrew Wilson from Flight Sim Labs contacted
me and asked if I could provide the 3D models for their upcoming SSTSIM
Concorde so we agreed to do so on behalf of the company I worked at.
However, I quit the job in 2009 and got self-employed with Next Level
Simulations and therefore, the development of the Concorde models was
discontinued from my side and passed to someone else at Flight Sim Labs.
Having set up NLS officially, I got back in touch with my former project
partner Christian Kögler, who then agreed to code and program all the
displays, systems and gauges for the A380.
4 - Who else is in the NLS team?
As for the development side, it's only Christian Kögler. He is known for
having programmed the code for the Ready For Pushback B747-200 along with
many other projects. Also, we rely on a number of testers, who are active
A380 pilots and aircraft mechanics.
5 - The 3D coding of the Simcheck A300....a favourite of mine...can you tell us about that project? What exactly was your involvement?
- I have created all the 3D models, animations, textures and system core
interfaces between the 3d models and system core. So both, the external
models and virtual cockpit. The emphasis in this project didn't lie too
much in visual fancy, it was more focussed on good systems simulation,
flight dynamics, fast framerates and a good "feel" of the aircraft. It was
pretty much straight forward with no graphical experiments and I think it
worked out pretty well in the end.
6 - Let's talk about your current project...the Airbus A380.. Why the A380?
- Like I said above, I was always fascinated by the A380. From the day,
Airbus announced their A3XX concept, I was very excited. Back in 2005 I
have made a short animated film about the A380 for my animation class and
that was actually the first A380 I've modelled. You can still find that
film on youtube. From a today's standpoint, the model is horrible and
inaccurate but you have to start somewhere. The first real FSX Version was
started in May 2007 then. The models themselves have been discarded and
completely redone 3 times now. I think we are on a good way now.
7 - What are you trying to achieve? What level of complexity and detail?
Failures? Individual engine performance? What is in the package?
- Of course we are trying our best to remodel as much as we can. Although we
don't want to make any false promises that we might not be able to hold up
in the end so we keep it down with feature announcements. The A380 itself
is extremely complex with all its systems. It’s probably the most advanced
and technically complex commercial aircraft in the world and FSX is not
really "made" for this. So all we can do is try and see what we can
achieve. However, what you will NOT see, is any sort of fantasy system or
display that has been done as compromise. Everything you do see will be at
least visually 100% accurate according to Airbus Manuals. The only
variable in it will be how deep it will actually go. We will see in the
8 - Will it be for FSX only? or P3Dv2 as well?
- It will be developed for FSX natively but we are also looking into
Prepar3D. I haven't looked into it yet to be honest but we are considering
9 - Has it been difficult to obtain the documentation required for such
- Yes, this was probably the most difficult part. It took many years but we
have all resources and full reference material available that is required
for the A380-800.
10 - You stated a few months ago that the project was on hold
indefinitely due to other work commitments, what is the current status of the
- I can't make any details on which system is done and what not but it's
underway! Chris has already done most of the displays and primary flight
instrumentation and he is now working on the "deeper" systems like the
flight management system for example. The visual models however are closer
to be finished.
11 - I was disappointed to read another company allegedly used
screenshots of your work to promote their own company. Has this issue been resolved?
- Yes, I was very disappointed to see that. Primarily not because they are
using our work with their credit, because they could tell it's theirs all
day long if they want to... but they wouldn't be able to release it, so
what’s the point? What really made me angry is the fact that they were
promoting a non-existent project in order to rip off people. Using our
screenshots may have brought up some sort of connection between Genuine
Simulation and NLS, so that was the main issue that bothered me and which
has been the driving force why I took action on this. Facebook had been
notified of copyright infringement and Facebook finally forced Genuine
Simulation to delete all copyrighted materials from their page.
12 - How do you feel about the project now? Do you believe it can be
finished and released?
- Short answer: Yes, of course. I am absolutely convinced, otherwise I
wouldn't do it.
13 - Would you consider a partnership with another developer to finish
- As for external resources, why not? For example, we have contracted TSS
(Turbine Sound Studios) to provide the sound sets for our A380.
Development wise it’s very difficult. The source code for the systems is a
very sensitive thing. Many years of development and innovation have gone
into this - so giving it away or sharing it with somebody requires a very
high amount of trust. For the time being, we are fine developing it on
14 - What will happen to NLS after the A380? Where to for you?
- The A350 is certainly something to aim for. Having the A380 systems as
basis is a good start for an A350. But let’s focus on the big fattie first.
Olli, it has been a pleasure to meet you, thank you for your time. We wish you the very best for your project and any future endeavours.
There you have it folks, remember the name, I have a feeling NLS will be well known to quite a few of us in the future.