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Aircraft 3D Models With Textures

This howto explains how to add 3D aircraft models to FlightGear, and how to animate and position those models. No C++ programming is required, but the user will need some knowledge of FlightGear's property system and XML markup, and will need to understand the coordinate system FlightGear uses for its models:

Aircraft 3D Models with Textures

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The easiest way to load a new model is to set the property at startup with the --prop: command line option; for example, to use a 3D aircraft model that you have installed in $FG_ROOT/Models/, you could invoke FlightGear like this (under Unix-like systems):

When you want to set a 3D model permanently as the default for an aircraft rather than specifying it on the command line, you need to edit an aircraft settings file. In the $FG_ROOT/Aircraft/ directory there is a series of files ending in -set.xml, such as c172-set.xml, dc3-yasim-set.xml, and beech99-uiuc-set.xml. When you start FlightGear with the --aircraft option, it reads the properties from one of these files; for example

Loads the properties from $FG_ROOT/Aircraft/dc3-yasim-set.xml into the main FlightGear property tree. These files are in the same XML property-list format as $FG_ROOT/preferences.xml and the FlightGear save files. There may be many XML files with different startup conditions, sounds, panels, 3D models, etc. for any single aircraft type, so you are best off copying an existing one, renaming it, then changing the value inside the path element inside model inside sim:

Now for the interesting part. FlightGear allows you to animate models by having parts rotate or spin in response to property changes. When animating your model, it is very helpful to find an aircraft with parts similar to yours and use it as an example. Cut and paste the code into your wrapper file and then edit to suit.

Welcome to the 3D Resources site!Here you'll find a growing collection of 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA. All of these resources are free to download and use. Please read the Usage Guidelines.

Our team's goal is to provide a one-stop shop for 3D models, images, textures, and visualizations. We offer these assets for your use, free and without copyright. We recognize that the site is only as good as its contributors and thank them kindly.

In the SDK we have included an entire aircraft project, the Robin DR-400, including its 3D model and textures. By following the steps of the aircraft tutorial the necessary development programs will be installed and at the end of the tutorial the DR-400 will be installed as an additional aircraft in the simulator.

Aerofly FS 2 works with just one 3D for an entire aircraft; there is no need to provide an external and internal model separately. The Aerofly FS 2 engine is optimized to draw only those objects that are in the view of the camera.

All textures must be square power-of-two images with a pixel depth of 24-bit RGB .bmp, 24/32-bit .png or .tif files. Bump maps can be 16-bit grayscale textures. There is no support for .psd files in the converter, the different layers for diffuse, ambient, .. have to be exported to the intermediate folder first. You can keep a .psd file assigned to a texture slot in the 3D software if it has the name as the bitmap file except for the suffix.

It is recommended to create all textures at a resolution of 40964096 or even 81928192 pixels, and use the appropriate converter setting to reduce the actual size used in the simulator. The smallest size recommended is 3232 pixels, the maximum supported texture resolution by the engine is currently 4096x4096px. The total compressed texture amount should be in the range of 150 MB to ensure compatibility with all platforms. The final texture resolution can be set in the 'model.tmc' file.

If necessary, refresh the texture assignments in the 3D modeling software to use the exported textures in the intermediate folder. Again, you can keep a .psd file assigned to a texture slot in the 3D software if it has the name as the bitmap file except for the suffix. The converter ignores the texture suffix, so you can change from .bmp to .tif without changing or exporting the 3D model again.

Aerofly FS 2 needs two models for the propeller. First is the static / solid model including the spinner / hub and the blades as separate objects. Second is the propeller disk, this is the blurred hull of the spinning propeller. The propeller disk needs to have a planar mapping from the front such that the disk fills the UV unit square. The corresponding texture is applied to the prop disk such that the bottom is at the center and the top is at the tips, left side is facing forward and right side is applied onto the back. Refer to the DR-400 example aircraft and the 'prop_color.bmp' for an example.

When you have collected all required files for an aircraft in the intermediate folder, run the aircraft converter: right click on the 'xxxx' intermediate folder and choose Aerofly FS 2 Aircraft Converter from the context menu. This opens up the converter window and the aircraft's internal name xxxx should be displayed. Start the conversion. If run for the first time, the converter will convert and compress all textures and render the previews. This might take some time depending on your hardware.

The next time you convert the aircraft, the converter will only converter will process only those textures that have been changed. You can always force the conversion of a texture or preview by deleting the generated file.

We use the following 3d modeling guidelines for the aircraft in Aerofly FS 2 and provide them for reference. These requirements are not mandatory and you can get an aircraft into Aerofly FS 2 without adhering to each requirement (none of our models adheres to all). However, experience has shown that these best practices make it easier for all people involved in the project and create models that run smoothly on all platforms. If you ever plan to release your aircraft for different platforms, it is strongly recommended to fulfill as many requirements as possible.

An aircraft model for Aerofly FS 2 includes the exterior and interior in one model. The overall polygon budget is 400k triangles and 200k vertices. The total compressed texture amount is in the range of 150 MB; this allows up to 2 GB of uncompressed textures at a resolution of 40694096. A unique, non-shared, non-degenerate texture mapping is required for ambient occlusion, illumination and texture baking. The mesh has a clean topology without T-junctions and long triangles. The dimensions are correct and the model is set up using generic units, where one generic unit corresponds to some metric unit.

The following guidelines should clarify what we consider being a clean model and should help to integrate a model into Aerofly FS 2. None of our aircraft models adheres to all items entirely, but this is what to aim for to have the finest aircraft in Aerofly FS 2.

This document provides detailed information on the creation of textures for aircraft in Prepar3D. It is recommended that this document be read in full before starting on a new aircraft project. A high level of expertise with Adobe Photoshop is required to author the textures, and a high level of expertise with 3ds Max to apply those textures to a 3d model.

The DDS format is required for aircraft textures. DDS (Direct Draw Surface) images are generally created using an NVIDIA plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, which can be freely downloaded from the NVIDIA website. The DDS format allows images to be compressed with greater efficiency and flexibility than formats such as BMPs. It is also more universally accepted across the real time 3D gaming industry and is supported and recognized by many more image modification and creation packages. It is hoped that users will have an easier and more flexible experience using DDS images than the previous BMP format. The DDS format allows for the use of Alpha channels and for mipping.

PSD files are very flexible and enable the application of a broad array of functions to be carried out on them within Adobe Photoshop. We recommend that painters use them as the original source format for their textures. We also recommend that these source files be retained in their original, layered form so that variations of the original texture can be created from them more easily.

Normal maps are RGB textures which are generated from grayscale height maps. Once generated, the Normal map cannot be edited (with much success anyway). The display engine uses the component color channels to define bumpiness on a surface. Ordinarily, each component color value (R, G and B) is designated as an X, Y and Z vector for the display engine to interpret and then render. In Prepar3D, this has been changed somewhat and as a result Normal maps are not the same as those output by the NVIDIA plug-in. Most Normal maps tend to be 32 bit images in order to reduce compression artifacts. The Normal maps used in the rendering engine reassign the Red channel as an Alpha channel and leave the Green and Blue components unchanged. This saves disk space and aids performance.

The emissive map is a light map in the sense that it adds light to areas on an object's surface which have been defined in the emissive map. Objects (including aircraft) are also affected by the lighting values in the rendering engine. When those lighting values become dark (at night), objects are darkened accordingly. In order to add the effect of light sources on surfaces, a painter will create and include an emissive map with the other textures for a given object.

The Fresnel ramp is created or edited in Adobe Photoshop and saved as a PSD with no Alpha channel. This map is then specified by clicking the button (circled above at top) and by defining the path to the map. The Fresnel ramp texture should be clearly named for file management and clarity, such as: Fresnel_Ramp.PSD / DDS for each aircraft.

Aircraft liveries all use the same model, but different textures. Since there is only one set of materials defined for a model (there is only one model file with the materials defined in it) the only way to allow for multiple textures to be displayed on that model is to give all of the textures the same set of names for each aircraft. In other words each texture folder for a given aircraft contains a set of textures which are named exactly the same way as the textures in other texture folders for that aircraft. If one were to browse the filenames of the texture folders for an aircraft, the texture files inside those folders would all look to be the same files, since their names are all identical to those in other texture folders for the same aircraft.


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