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Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

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Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Old 09-21-2005, 06:35 PM
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Default Importing Panos for G3 A Guide


This guide was written to help users get the most out of G3's new PhotoField feature. It goes beyond what the manual covers in order to help everyone make PhotoFields that look as good as possible. This includes aligning the sun, turning off the sun halo, aligning the horizon, and adding collision objects. This guide also explains what sorts of panoramic images work best with RealFlight and how to fix images that aren't ideal.

The Import Process:

Everyone who has imported a PhotoField into G3 is familiar with the import menu item ("Simulation->Import->Raw Panoramic Image"). This brings up a dialog that allows you to choose any image (.jpg,.tga,.bmp). It doesn't have to be panoramic, nor does it need to be a certain size. You can import a picture of your dog if you want to, but large 360x180 panos look best. Once you click the "Open" button, the process begins and you see a progress dialog as it converts.

Want to see what it's doing? Open up C:\Program Files\RealFlightG3\Airports\PhotoFields. You will see a folder by the same name as the image you chose. Open it up and you will see that as the import progresses, more files appear in this folder. Those are the converted images that you will see in the sim once the process has finished. They are normal .dds images that can be edited using Photoshop or Paint Shop. Once the conversion has completed you will also notice a .photofield file in C:\Program Files\RealFlightG3\Airports\PhotoFields\ This file tells RealFlight where the converted images are, and is required for the PhotoField to work in the sim.

Your New Airport:

The Importer doesn't just stop at converting your image to .dds. It also creates a new airport and loads it so you can see the results immediately. It might look great the first time if it's a good pano. Or it might look really awful. Either way, if you are looking to improve the PhotoField, there are several things you can do. I'll start with one of the easiest of them all.

A: Align the sun

Enter the airport editor ("Simulation->Edit <yourairport>"). In the dialog in the lower-left dialog titled "Properties" you will see two properties called "Sun Inclination" and "Sun Azimuth." Basically those are the two dimensions that the sun can be moved in. Inclination is how much higher the sun is than the horizon and Azimuth is which compass direction the sun is in.

You can see these directions best by looking at the image below. The black arrows show which way the sun would move if the inclination was changed, and the red arrows show which way the sun would move if the azimuth was changed. In this case, the simulated sun (in the middle of the four arrows) needs to move to the right (azimuth) and up (inclination) to be perfectly aligned with the sun in the picture.

Aligning the sun has several benefits. For one, the sun glare will coincide with when you actually do look at the sun. The shading of the aircraft will also be more correct and match the objects in the photo. Also, the aircraft's shadow will appear where it should on the ground, matching the direction of shadows in the photo. The overall effect is a more realistic lighting of the scene.

B: Turn off the sun halo

For most PhotoFields, the sun in the photo already has some kind of "halo" due to how cameras deal with bright lights (see image above). When the halo in the photo is combined with the simulated sun halo, the effect almost never looks right. Turn off the simulated halo by editing the airport and looking in the lower-left "Properties" dialog for "Sun Halo," and switching it to "No."

C: Align the horizon

The horizons on some panos aren't quite perfect. They will usually have a horizon that is higher on one half and lower in the other. This can be fixed by aligning the horizon of the photo with the horizon in the sim.

To do this, open the editor and look in the "Properties" window for the "PhotoField X Alignment" and "PhotoField Y Alignment" properties. These two properties are the two rotations you can use to align the horizon. When you change these, you are rotating the entire panoramic cube by the two horizontal axes (x and y). Use the "Render Terrain Heightmap" property and the Pilot Preview window to help. The "Render Terrain Heightmap" option (found in the "Properties" window) should be temporarily set to "Yes" for this so that you can see the sim's horizon as you rotate the photo's. The Pilot Preview window (lower-right corner) will allow you to see what's going on as you rotate.

Here is a step-by-step:

1. First, enter the airport editor through "Simulation->Edit <airportname>". Notice by looking at the pilot preview window (lower-right) that the horizon is crooked, as in the image below.

2. In the "Properties" window, find "Render Terrain Heightmap" and change this to "Yes." This changes the pilot preview window to show the game's horizon so that you can see what you need to do to correct the problem.

3. Change the "PhotoField X/Y Alignment" properties to see what effect they will have on the horizon in the pilot preview window. While doing this, also pan around the scene by clicking in the pilot preview window and dragging to the left or right. It is essential to look around like this because otherwise you might get the horizon to look like it's aligned in one direction, but it's actually not aligned when facing another.

4. Once you have the horizon properly aligned (see below), set "Render Terrain Heightmap" back to "No." so that the ground in the photo appears instead of the sim's ground.

For some panos, a perfect alignment is impossible. This can be caused by the image being distorted or the image in the horizon being higher/lower than the center. For problems like these, refer to the section titled "Correcting Bad Panos."

D: Add Collision Objects:

A photofield may look good in a screenshot, but what happens when you fly into a tree or a fence? Adding collision objects to match the objects in the scene will allow the aircraft to collide with objects in the photo, go behind them, and cast shadows onto them. This adds a lot the the overall experience, enhancing the illusion of "being there."

To add your own collision objects, you will again be using the built-in airport editor. Click "Simulation->Edit <airportname>" and you will see something like the image below. The main window shows the airport from above, with the grey texture being the invisible, collidable ground now seen. The lower-right window is the pilot preview window that you've used in sections above. Those two windows are going to be your tools in placing collision objects that match up with the scenery.

For this example, I am using the PhotoField "Sod Farm" that came with the 410 patch. I've removed all collision objects because that is how your own PhotoFields will start out object-free. Following is a step-by-step procedure for adding a collision object so that the plane can crash into the photographer's mini-van without anyone having to call AMA.

1. Click and drag on the pilot preview window until the van comes into view.

2. Zoom in on the van a bit using the mouse wheel or +/- keys so that your pilot preview looks like this.

3. Now click on the Objects folder, found in the "Folder Listing" window in the upper left corner. Your Object Pallete will now show available objects to add to the airport.

4. Expand the "RealFlight G3" folder, then "Vehicles," then click on "Minivan," then click "Add." You now have a minivan in your airport. You can see the van in the main window.

5. Your next goal is to move the van around so that it is visible in the pilot preview window. Click and drag on the pink box surrounding the van. Move it in circles until it comes into view.

6. Now move the van away from the pilot spawn so that the bottom of the van object matches the bottom of the van in the picture. Don't worry if it's too small/too big. The important thing here is that the bottoms line up.

7. Now use the "Orientation" and "Scale" properties in the "Properties" window to get the object to the right size and lined up with the van in the picture. In the image below, the fake van is slightly smaller than the van in the photo so that you can see both. It should be scaled just a bit bigger so that it covers the entire van in the image.

8. Turn off shadows for the van by changing the "Cast Shadows" property from "Yes" to "No." This will ensure that you see the shadow in the picture rather than the simulated version.

9. Finally, make the van invisible by changing "Render To Depth Buffer Only" to "Yes." This option is also found in the properties window.

10. Now save the airport and return to the sim and you should have a van you can collide with and go behind.


Of course, for you this may not be a van; it will probably be something else like a barn or a tree. The above steps can be used for anything. All kinds of shapes can be found in the "Object Pallete" so look around and be sure to notice the ones in "Depth Buffers," since those are the most useful for outdoor settings.

You can use this same technique for indoor PhotoFields. If you import a pano of a gym but then find that you don't like being able to fly infinitely in any direction, just add "walls." In the image below you see 4 tables, turned on their sides, scaled to 4000%, and then lined up each table's edge with the bottom of each wall in the photo. The view from the pilot's perspective can be seen in the lower-right pilot preview window. It looks pretty strange in the editor, but it works great. The "walls" surround the pilot and match exactly with the walls in the photo so that when they are made invisible, the aircraft will collide with the walls if it gets too far away.

Correcting Bad Panos:

It may not be fair to call a pano "bad" just because it doens't work in G3, but by "bad" I mean images that you've imported, tried the steps in the "Align the Horizon" section above and still can't get the horizon to match up. You could just leave it be and fly with it anyway, but it won't look right. If the horizon is too high, your plane looks smaller than it should and vice versa. The problem magnifies the further away your aircraft is. With a good horizon, you won't have those problems.

I have created a bad pano for this section.

As you can see, the horizon is higher than the middle of the image. After importing the image into G3 and opening the editor, you can see this confirmed (see image below) and can do nothing from here to fix the problem.

At this point you have two options for editing your image. You can add pixels to the top of the image, or take pixels away from the bottom. Either way, your goal is to get the horizon in the photo (the black line) to be in the middle of the pano. Use your choice of image editing software to get this done. I used Paint Shop Pro, but almost anything will do.

If you want to try option one, you will need to add pixels to the top of the image. But how many?

To answer that, there is a measurement you need to make: the distance from the bottom of the image to the horizon in the image. In this and most images, the horizon is kind of wavy and it's hard to tell exactly where it is, but a close approximation will do. My measurement is 285 pixels above the bottom. That means that the distance from the horizon to the top of the image should also be 285 pixels, making the entire image 570 pixels high. Since the image is currently 500 pixels, you need another 70 pixels added to the top.

The math sounds more complicated than it is. If it helps, go read it again and try following along with the image itself.

After you've added your extra 70 pixels, color the new section blue to match the sky. See below:

Import it into the sim and you'll get something like this:

To fix the pano using option two, you will need to remove pixels from the bottom. Measure the distance from the top of the image to the horizon. In this case it's 215 pixels. Multiply that by 2 and you get your new image height: 430. That means you need to remove 70 pixels from the bottom (same amount as in option one). The result will look something like this.

Removing pixels from the bottom means you don't have to color anything, but you are deleting part of the image that may have looked nice (like the little red airplane in the example

For your own images, I recommend modifying the bottom of the image rather than the top, since the bottom half isn't where you usually fly your aircraft! You could also try both taking some off of the bottom and adding some to the top.

So that's the pano guide. Please post your questions, comments and suggestions right here. You have the added benefit of asking the guy who wrote a good deal of the PhotoField code, so don't be afraid to get technical.

Mods, if you think this will help many people for some time to come, please make this a sticky.[/size]
Old 09-21-2005, 08:00 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Excellent information...thanks!

Old 09-21-2005, 11:48 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

This is great! Thank you!
Old 09-27-2005, 06:02 AM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

You can find new pano scenerys under www.rc-sim.de under the section BETA-Uploads or Realflight->RealflightG3->RFG3 scenes. I've finished 2 pano's. "Heliteam Waldbuettelbrunn" and "Marktplatz Heide, Version 2" with Crash- and 3D - Objects....
Old 09-27-2005, 08:01 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Those look great! I really liked the distant windmills at Waldbuttelbrunn. And Marktplatz's 411 scenery objects? That has to be a record.

Very well done.
Old 07-12-2006, 12:48 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Great guide and information. My Panos tend to have a problem because I can't seem to get the right and left side to match up perfect. WHen I create the Pano in PhotoShop CS the left and right sides aren't on the same horizon line so when I import them into G3 you can notice a miss match where they wrap around and connect. I've tried starting the pano at different places but the resulting pano always seems to miss match the ends ? SO far the only solution I have to make sure the joining point for the Piano is behind be so its not as noticeable and then to match the ends together in photoshop by adding /removing something to ends. Any idea on why this happens on my Panos.

Another thing I've noticed is that since our field isn't perfectly flat and slopes down or up in places > as I fly my plane out far on the field I will crash into the ground while I'm still in the air or Fly when I should be on the ground. Is this a fact of life in Photo Fields?
Old 07-13-2006, 01:55 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Bravo Bravo[sm=thumbup.gif]
Great Job. I think I can make a photofield now.
Old 12-07-2008, 02:13 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

-deleted- the wrong thread- sorry
Old 01-04-2010, 02:19 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Thanks for the instructions, working on it now.

Old 07-21-2011, 12:15 PM
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Default RE: Importing Panos for G3 A Guide

Hello, pulling my hair out trying to create our clubs field as a photofield for Realflight..   I am unable to see the pics in this example, any ideas... Thanks All...

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