Author Topic: X-Plane scenery - make it look amazing  (Read 4411 times)

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Offline Adrian Chitan

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X-Plane scenery - make it look amazing
« on: March 07, 2015, 07:22:48 AM »
A few days ago, I was still thinking that X-Plane scenery could never look WOW without some serious expensive corporate work from some dedicated company, and that the orange arable fields of the "plausible world" default scenery was here to stay. Luckily, I started digging deeper into the HD Mesh v3 that was published FOR FREE by alpilotX.

Now look at this piece of Austrian landscape, coming from the North from Salzburg for Innsbruck, just where the Alps start to show up:



Or this night time Geneva airport surroundings with perfectly placed streets (been there 10 times now so I actually know the layout of the city and airport - furthermore, I could also find city boundary sites like the CERN lab, my workplace in Geneva :D).



I can tell you that all this looks amazing, but for those new X-Planers, the installation and the sites can become overwhelming very fast (that's why I also didn't install it till now). So here's a step by step "tutorial". Bear in mind that the download times depend on your internet connection and that for the whole Europe area you will have to download in excess of 200 GB of scenery (I haven't yet downloaded everything and I'm over 150 GB). BUT, you have the option of just restricting your downloads to the areas you usually fly in so the download volume can shrink immensely.

Let's get into it:

1) get the required object libraries

For the amazing sceneries you must have the following external object sceneries: OpenSceneryX, R2 Library and FF Library (extended LOD version).

These you get from http://www.opensceneryx.com/, http://r2.xpl.cz/ and http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?app=downloads&showfile=12836.
As in the usual X-Plane manner, you just have to extract the files and drop the content in the Custom Scenery folder of X-Plane. That is all (almost, see the scenery_packs.ini file customization further on).

2) get the HD mesh (v3)

Go to http://www.alpilotx.net/downloads/x-plane-10-hd-mesh-scenery-v3/#Download and download your area of flight or all of them. There are a handful of download servers including a torrent server (works horrible). I found that the fastest server is Aerosoft's (downloaded all of Europe with multiple downloads at a time), and you also don't need to have an account, but do try and see what works best for you.

To install the mesh, you have to create a new folder in Custom Scenery (name it however you want though they say to use zzz_hd_global_scenery3) and put everything in there. The folder will contain an Earth nav data folder in which you will have all the segments you downloaded (e.g. +50+20, etc.). Customization of the scenery_packs.ini file is also needed (read on).

3) get the generation pack (World2Xplane)

Go to http://simheaven.com/experimental/ and get the world_models object library and then all the generated scenery you need. In the Europe folder you will find a by country generated scenery files while in the parent folder all the world is generated by larger regions. Again, extract and put the files in the Custom Scenery folder and you'll also have to customize the scenery_packs.ini file.

4) get the photo scenery layouts

Go to http://zonephoto.x-plane.fr/Cartes.php and get your needed photo scenery files. This make up the largest scenery bundle you have to download. On top of this, from a certain computer you can only download one file at a time (they will ban you for half an hour if you try to download more than one at a time). Furthermore, because the http protocol does not provide a stable connection for large downloads (largest files can be up to 1.7 GB), the french guys at zones photo X made a little java app that breaks the downloads into 10 MB segments. Unfortunately, the app is not recognized by the java plugin as being signed and safe so it blocks it. To unblock it, go to Control Panel->Java->Security tab and add a new Exception Site in the list with the address: http://zonephoto.x-plane.fr. Then restart your browser and it'll work.

Install them as in the usual way (extract the archives into the Custom Scenery folder). Again, you will have to customize the scenery_packs.ini file.

This will not only add photo scenery world bellow you (the scenery is made from Google Earth photos so you know it will look real but it will also have a time lag, Google Earth's photos being a little older) but will also place the roads exactly where they are and other landmarks.

5) get the osm_Europe scenery street pack

Go to http://simheaven.com/?wpfb_filepage=osm_europe-7z and get this file and install it in the usual way in the Custom Scenery folder. This generated scenery places the streets of Europe where they should be.

6) customize the scenery_packs.ini file (in Custom Scenery folder)

This file tells X-Plane in what order should it place all the scenery files you've installed. Because there are different types of scenery files (e.g. mesh overlays, realistic photo layouts, generated sceneries, object libraries, airport sceneries, etc.) there is a best way to actually place them and keep a logical order of how they should be placed on the virtual Earth.

The X-Plane manual says that the order should be:
- own airports
- original XP10 airports (the default airports that come with X-Plane from Aerosoft)
- regional sceneries
- addons
- libraries
- photorealistic sceneries
- HD mesh files

So before placing everything where it should be, start X-Plane. Don't load any aircraft and just quit. This had the purpose of letting X-Plane find all the new folders in Custom Scenery that you have placed and automatically putting them into the scenery_packs.ini file (so that you don't forget one 'cuz they'll be many). But X-Plane automatically places the new folders on top of the file so a little customization is needed.

Get the HD Mesh folder (zzz_hd_global_scenery3) entry and place it at the end of the file. The mesh file remakes the whole world placing land elevation at they are in real life while shrinking the tile surface to give you better world granularity and much better looking mountains, hills, plains, etc.

Get all the Zones Photo X folder entries and place them just above the HD mesh folder. This adds a Google Earth photorealistic sheet on top of the mesh and gives you real life scenery for VFR altitudes flight. The objects on this sheet have no height so everything is bi-dimensional. But even from 2000 ft (maybe even lower) they look perfect.

Until now, the world is bi-dimensional. So get the object libraries addons folders entries and place them above the Zones Photo X folder entries. They are: R2-library, FF Library, OpenSceneryX and world_models. They don't actually place anything in the virtual world, but provide the objects for the generated scenery.

Now we'll place the generated scenery, so move all the World2Xplane folder entries after the object library entries. This adds 3D objects (houses, buildings, landmarks) to the world where they should be (cities, towns, etc.). The objects were defined in the libraries so W2XP just tells X-Plane what should be placed and where.

Next comes the street placing so move the osm_Europe folder entry on top of the w2xp entries.

After this you should have the default Aerosoft airports and finally any custom airport scenery you downloaded.

That is all! Save scenery_packs.ini and you're good to go. You will see that X-Plane takes a longer time to load up but the results are amazing!

The drop in fps is minor or mostly not at all so you should make this change. After I've done this, I don't look to FSX/Prepar3D anymore, because X-Plane now looks much much better (I didn't make to many pictures yet because I want to first install everything, but everything already looks superb - the above pictures are just a sample without the photorealistic files which I'm getting right now).

Cheers and I hope this helped.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2015, 07:26:36 AM by Adrian Chitan »

Offline Adrian Chitan

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Re: X-Plane scenery - make it look amazing
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2015, 08:06:40 AM »
Just to let you see what you get by installing these FREE (donation ware) scenery add-ons. Last evening I did a flight from Berlin-Tegel to Geneva (EDDT-LSGG) in a King Air C90B (Carenado). I stepped on my usual flying procedure a little bit and didn't fly with real "Date & Time" because it was dark and I wanted to take some pictures of the scenery bellow. Nevertheless, even the night time scenery looks amazing because now all cities and towns and villages are exactly where they are supposed to be and you can actually see an increase in light density where a city/town/village is and that gives a very realistic feeling to the whole world (not to mention that all high-ways are lighted). All pictures were taken from FL200.

I have to mention that I haven't yet downloaded all the photo realistic scenery tiles. I still have about a quarter of them to download (Mid to Southern Europe) but till now, uncompressed, they add up to 536 GB(!!!). My RoG G74SX came with a 700 GB HDD so I'm nearing the limit now. Luckily I almost only have X-Plane on this drive (movies, music and pictures on an external HDD with Windows and other "widowsy" stuff on the SSD drive). So the volume of scenery IS kind of a problem.



This first image shows a little bit of German plains through centre Germany.



This image also shows some the plains of Germany but this time we're nearing the mountains in the South of Germany with more forests appearing. Realistic as hell!



Time has passed and we're above the high plateaus of Switzerland.



Approaching Geneva, we're seeing hills coming up. How good does that look. And because of the HD Mesh we can be sure that those hills actually exist in reality exactly where we see them.

I know your keen eye will notice the different colour texturing on the lower part of the picture. As I said, photo realistic textures are converted from Google Earth and as you know Google Earth pictures were taken at different dates with different lighting. That is why some areas can look a little bit darker that others. But this is visible only if you fly at high altitudes where the visibility is larger than normal VFR flights and you can see more than just one or two tiles.



Again, the hilly part of Western Switzerland.



Mountains (the Alps) begin to show up.



Leaving the Alps to the left, we are approaching lake Leman (in the distance).



Heading towards the airport, all the towns on the lake coast are depicted, with X-Plane generating lights and 3D objects for them.



The short mountains around Geneva Canton. The HD mesh puts the mountains where they should be, the photo realistic layovers make the textures as they should be and X-Plane auto-gen puts in trees or buildings where forested or populated areas were defined by the layouts. It is quite amazing. Unfortunately, I don't have the auto-gen to the max because that would melt the CPU.



This is the Salev mountain chain and it's to the North of the airport. Having been there, I can tell you that it looks amazingly real.



Again, the Salev. I can't get used to how real this looks (we have descended into "VFR altitudes").



Look at the shadows on the Salev. WOW!



The abrupt part with forested areas...



Even the ridge on rwy 05 approach is perfectly depicted.

Conclusion: even with low graphics settings, the scenery looks amazing and I get decent fps.

Offline Bogdan Ghincea

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Re: X-Plane scenery - make it look amazing
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2015, 09:05:04 AM »
Looks amazing. Very documented photos as always from you. The entire mash scenery is kinda big but if you have space it worth it.

Offline Adrian Chitan

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Re: X-Plane scenery - make it look amazing
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2015, 09:07:49 AM »
Yeah, they are BIG. Though the mesh is actually just 30-40 GB. The killer is the photo realistic layover. But as you said. If you have the space, get it. :)

 

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