Monday, September 25, 2006

Real water is really shiny!

Still too busy to do much flying or blogging, but I just wanted to jot down a quick thought. I was running alongside a pond this morning, looking accross the water, and I realized that real water is really shiny! OK, so what? Why am I bringing this up? Well, a lot of people have claimed that the water effects in FSX are too bright and shiny. I have felt that way myself on a few occasions. But the real thing is very bright. Squint your eyes and you can see that in many situations the water is as bright as the sky.

So why are we not so convinced by the FS version, and think it is too bright? I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that we have gotten so used to darker water in FS that the new, brighter version looks too fake. Actually in any visual representation we tend to think of water as a darker blue. Ask a child to draw a sea picture, and he will likely make the sky "sky blue" and the sea something darker.

The second possibility is the old issue with the limited contrast available on the typical computer monitor. Specifically, there is not enough of a range of contrast in the darker end of the contrast curve. I think we might find shiny simulated water too distracting because of the limited depth in the dark terrain detail. I hope my explanation makes sense.

I am looking forward to getting FSX and getting accustomed to the new water paradigm.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Too busy to fly

With work and family and marathon training, I've had practically no time for flying. Site visit statistics suggest I have a few regular readers, so I feel compelled to have an entry at least once a week.

I've been reading all the forums, trying to get more juicy details about FSX. Things have quited down quite a bit now that the demo has been out for a while, and the Beta NDA has been lifted. Still, lots of good info is coming out. It seems the changes "under the hood" are pretty significant, and we will see the fruits of those changes over the next few years. See this thread for example, on Avsim.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Like a tonic

Ok, I know I've written about the joys of flying the pattern before. But I am going to write about it again, because it continues to amaze me. With all the buzz about FSX, it's reassuring to be able to get so much satisfaction doing something basic in FS9.

I have had precious little time for flightsimming now, so what I've been doing when I've had a few spare moments is to get up and fly the pattern at my local airport. You'd think you would get bored of this after a while, but I never do. Since I usually use real world weather (when it is VFR weather, of course) the experience is never exactly the same. That one variation alone is enough to keeps it fresh.

Whenever I make a good landing, I watch the replay from the "tower" (no tower at this airport). I always have a feeling of "this is really cool" when I see myself coming over the trees. After a year and a half of really serious simming, I am stil impressed by the technology which makes this possible. OK, call me easy to please.

For my money, this is the best thing to do when you only have a half hour for simming. Trying out a new download or a location you've never been before can be a lot of fun, but it rarely compares with the contentment I feel after making a few good landings down a the local airport.

Do you have a favorite pattern to fly? If not, I suggest you seek one out. It's good if it has some personal interest--such as being close to your real-life home, or where you grew up, or a favorite vacation spot. It also helps if there is a bit of challenge. The runway should be not much longer than the minimum required for your favorite type of plane, and if there are obstructions nearby, all the better.

Get out there and fly!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My take on Real vs Sim

OK, now that I have extensive experience in real-world flying I can make some comparisons. Wait a minute-- I only have the half-hour intro flight. But first impressions are very important, and my intro flight was nothing but first impressions, so I can offer this fresh perspective.

I've spent a lot of time wondering how close or far I was from the real thing, when flying the sim. Here are some thoughts.

View: the panel (in the 172) sits much higher than a car dashboard, but you can still see the runway very clearly. I've never understood why I always have to "raise my seat" in the sim to get a similar view--why does the default view not have the runway visible? I know what I am supposed to see now. Anyway, I understand why it is so difficult to present all this on a computer monitor that is typically too small, and not tall enough. The ideal monitor for flightsimming would be square, I think.

Ambiance: I have heard people comment how small these planes are. Fortunately I got to fly in the 172, not the smaller 152. Perhaps because I was prepared for small, I thought the 172 felt pretty roomy, all in all. It is more snug than a small car (for example, my Ford Focus feels much larger) but I did not feel cramped. As for the noise, the engine was loud, but it was possible to hold a conversation without the headphones. The cockpit felt spartan but rugged. The airspeed indicator looked less real than the one in the simulator. I mean, the face looked like a piece of carboard! But I trust it did the job.

G effects: After I brought up the subject of turn coordination, my instructor gave a little demonstration of slip and skid, and I finally got the famous "seat of the pants" feeling of which I have read much. But, I was suprised how slight this feeling was. Still, I can imagine that it is enough of a sensation that you could coordinate turns based on it (along with the all-important look out the window). Much more noticible was the feel when a large throttle change was made. I had not previously appreciated this. Though, I must say, this is modeled well in FSX, at least from the demo.

Ease of flying: It seems much easier in the real thing, mostly because of the view. Much easier to know where you are in relation to the airport. I think with all the visibility and other feedback it would be a breeze to do a VFR flight in good weather.

Landing: I often wondered if something is left out of landings in the sim. When I make a good one, there is no real bump. But I was amazed at how smooth it felt in the real thing. No doubt this had something to do with my instructor's skill, but still, there was no bump at all. Those landing gear are very well designed. The wheel noise (also the flaps)is much louder in the sim, but I accept this is a reasonable accomodation.

(I could probably say more if I had time. I have to add on a personal note that I won't have a lot of time for this blog in the next couple of months. I am training for my first marathon (see my other blog) and the training is getting more busy. I will not have much time for the FS blog or even (alas!) FS'ing.)