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Scenery Review : KLAS - Glitter Gulch by Tom Curtis If planning a relaxing vacation then a city in the middle of the desert, satuated in extreme heat this would surely be the last place on your bucket list. But the title of Las Vegas is usually the first place on anyone's buccket list or any list for that matter in losing yourself to the world and all its problems. Las Vegas was created by mobsters to launder their ill gotten gains and to their surprise suddenly found out very quickly that Las Vegas would become their biggest cash cow of the century, if ever. History The first Las Vegas airport in this outpost area was the 1929 airfield (dirt runway, water well, and small operations shack) north of Las Vegas and was operated by the 1925 Western Air Express for Contract Air Mail (CAM) and was used by the Army Air Corps in the 1930s for training flights. This airport was named after Senator McCarren in McCarren Field, and this could cause some confusion in the fact that this is not the McCarren International (KLAS) of today, but it is in fact the current Nellis Airforce Base. KLAS was originally established by an American aviator called George Crockett, a descendant of frontiersman Davy Crockett, who established in Paradise another landing area called Alamo Airport in 1942 (which is a great name by the way) which became Clark County Public Airport, the title of McCarren Field from the old Las Vegas airport was then transferred in 1948. As Las Vegas opened up or the money rolled in a new terminal was opening on March 15, 1963, The terminal wasdesigned by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle who was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK (Idelwild). Terminal 1 handles most flights and today consists of a total of 96 gates in four concourses: Concourse A (A3, A5, A7, A8, A10–A12, A14, A15, A17–A23). One wing of the Concourse A (Gates A17–A23) is closed because those gates are currently unused. Concourse B (gates B1–B2, B6, B9–B12, B14, B15, B17, B19–B25), Concourse C (gates C1–C4, C5, C7–C9, C11, C12, C14, C16, C19, C21–C25), and Concourse D (gates D1–D12, D14, D16–D26, D31–D43, D50–D59) and was finally completed in June 1998 . Terminal 2 was opened on December 18, 1991, as “The Chartier International Terminal” and was used for all international as well as most charter flights into Las Vegas. It contained eight gates (T2-1 through T2-8), four of which were equipped with facilities for international flights. However Terminal 2 closed on June 28, 2012, and has yet to be demolished. Terminal 3 was opened on June 27, 2012 at a cost of cost $2.4 billion, and is used for all international flights as well as some domestic airlines. The terminal contains 14 gates in Concourse E (E1–E12, E14–15), with the easternmost seven gates (gates E1–E7) being used for international flights. A people mover system connects Terminal 3 to Concourse D. Gates E1–E3 have two jetways to accommodate large aircraft. The top five routes are - 1) Los Angeles, California (1,075,000) - 2 ) Denver, Colorado (892,000) 3) San Francisco, California (872,000) 4) Phoenix, Arizona (730,000) 5) Atlanta, Georgia (722,000). Top International routes is - 1) WestJet (Canada) 2) Air Canada 3) Virgin Atlantic Airways (UK) 4) British Airways (UK) 5) Mexicana (no longer operating) 6) Aeromexico 7) Philippine Airlines 8) Korean Air , Seoul-Incheon 9) Condor (Germany) 10) Sunwing Airlines (Canada). KLAS is a base for Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines and lately (2012) Spirit Airlines. (US AIR will be pulling out soon with its American Airlines takeover) The airport has a very large fixed base operator precence, notable for Personal Jet use and tourism related activity, most notable is Signature Flight Support, owned by BBA Aviation Services Group, provides services for private aircraft using McCarran and the “The Las Vegas Executive Air Terminal”, owned by Eagle Aviation Resources. Glitter Gulch Scenery - Ver1.2 created by Tom Curtis (Scenery4XP) Download 40.40mb Installed 123.70mb For Version X-Plane10 Installation Installation is easy in just download the scenery and expand the folder to your “Custom Scenery Folder”. One item that is important, There is a read me to install or update the “CustomSBDatarefs004” in your plugins folder. This for the Flag effects to work correctly in the scenery. Introduction If you are a regular user of X-Plane then Tom Curtis and his sceneries will be of no stranger to you. His “Inside Passage” and companion pieces “Final Frontier” and “Canadian Rockies’ are classics of their genre. His follow up in KSFO (San Francisco) is also a major work worth purchasing for any collection. Tom was really the ideal person to take on McCarran International because the scenery requires something unique in that just creating a standard destination Airport. The problem is that unlike say LAX which is mostly surrounded with the normal high density and semi-urban cityscapes and could be easily be surrounded by the standard default X-Plane scenery engine, Las Vegas is well Las Vegas!. The buildings are all iconic in the extreme, and some are even beyond that (Like a fairytale Castle for example), so no developer is going to get away with just creating McCarran Inter in solitude, for one the airport is part and parcel of the city itself, If you want KLAS then the rest of Las Vegas is also going to have to be part and parcel of the package. And that is what we have here with “Glitter Gulch”. The scenery is really set out in three parts: 1) McCarran International Airport (IATA: LAS, ICAO: KLAS) 2) Las Vegas cityscape 3) Henderson Exeutive Airport (IATA: HSH, ICAO: KHND) Tom has noted that their will also be a follow up package consisting of: KVGT - North Las Vegas Airport KBVU - Boulder City Municipal Airport KLSV - Nellis AFB KINS - Creech AFB KTNX - Tonopah Test Airfield (Initial home of the F-117 Stealth Fighter) KXTA - Area 51 Groom Lake Test Facility That will go on and fill out the remaining surrounding areas around the Glitter Gulch scenery. First Impressions The first thing you note is not the scenery package itself but the area around Las Vegas. It is an amazing scenerio of flat basin, surrounding mountains and man-made lakes. Flying around this area or as an arrival is simply a joy to behold. In close proximity is also the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon which are excellent areas to explore either by Helicopter or a General Aviation aircraft. This them makes both KLAS and Henderson both very strategically important as a destination or departure point. This makes this scenery even more welcome to any collection because of its diversity and usability for any simulator user. Before getting directly to KLAS I want to note the default scenery. The area of Las Vegas is very visual and to get the very best from this package it is worth considering on how best it is to set it up in X-Plane10. The problem is that if you put the Glitter Gulch package directly in the standard X-Plane default settings you get a lot of empty green squares, of which doesn’t really work for the scenery (or any scenery for that matter). Pump up your render settings to cover “objects” of which you need to have set to at least “mega Tons” (for all those roads and traffic) but you will also need to push out your “World Distance Detail” as hard as you can as well. The problem with this area is that it is circular in the middle of the basin, so if it is broken into patches it shows up very badly here. There are two options that are helpful, The first is SimHeaven’s photo sceneries: SimHeaven Sceneries Simheaven has excellent Las Vegas coverage, but be warned as it is a big download for a slow connection at 2.6Gb, and then it all expands out to 4.28Gb. Over the city area the coverage is excellent, but ruins the mountains in the distance by making then bright and flat. The photo tiling also puts a hard line on the edge of the photo overlay at where it meets the default scenery. Most simulator users love these photo sceneries but I don’t like the large block patchwork look they create from the air. The option I used here is John Spahns “Urban Maxx Supreme” in that at least it keeps the photo areas under the actual city areas and so blends in very well with the default X-Plane10 world, It does however create a pattern from a distance, but up close it is very effective with the surrounding default autogen “plausable world” KLAS - McCarren International Both KLAS and Las Vegas are really one big scenery. Before adding in the texture special effects, you can see the scenery package in its basic form here.... McCarren is a large airport with four main runways: 1L/19R 8,985 2,739 Concrete (ILS 01L) 1R/19L 9,775 2,979 Concrete 7L/25R 14,510 4,423 Asphalt (ILS 25R) 7R/25L 10,526 3,208 Concrete (ILS 25L) The runway setup is interesting, with Two Main runways 7L/25R - 1R/19L with 7R/25L - 1L/19R as secondary (smaller) runways. The interesting part is that three converage all at one point (lower left) and when departing you can hold from both sides of the taxiways F and D with also taxiway E between the the two left runways. Approach is visually exciting, but you have to watch the mountainous areas surrounding the city with using Runways 25R/25L. Las Vegas!... the cityscape works well from the taxiways. Lineage is excellent if a little confusing at certain intersections as points converge, missing though is main to lead up lines up to each gate. Gates are well stocked, but there are no moving docking airbridges. KLAS looks very spread out but in reality it is only two terminals and terminal one is split into two very different sections of Concourses A, B, C and D which set futher apart. Terminal One - Concourse A Terminal One - Concourse B Concourse B is almost a mirrror image of A with round satellite gates Terminal One - Concourse C Terminal One - Concourse D Concourse C is a finger concourse with the control tower set behind. Concourse D is set in a cross shape of four finger concourses. Set behind Concourse D is Terminal 3 which is the International Terminal. Terminal 2 is the old “The Chartier International Terminal”, of which Tom has depicted as being partially dismantled. A Large fuel depot is to service the airport set out just behind the old buildings. Quality of the terminal buildings are excellent, and the expansive glass (alway a very hard one to get right) is also well created with clever detail is also first rate. There is quality in the brick work and steel work, but the important details are in there as well as air-conditioning units and systems abound. There are few items of animation as well with aircraft being towed over the ramp to certain gates. Although still modern in look the central terminal, designed by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle, was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK and it is well represented here. The new KLAS (FAA) control tower is part of the package. and the modeling is first rate. It is easy to get confused between the ramp towers and the new version, but Tom has done a great job here. The Cargo area is also well produced with not just recieving buildings on the ramps but also warehouses behind. From the air the car parks look great, but they are flat on the ground which look slightly odd if you (like me) like to fuss over the aircraft before or after a flight. Western Boundry The western boundry is the main area that cover the fixed base operators and private jets. And they are all very well represented here. They are split into many areas, but the main are the Atlantic Terminal (Above right) Signature Executive Terminal (below Left)... Which is a really well laid out aircraft park. The JANET terminal (Above Right) "Which is all so very hush, hush and Military" Quail Aviation is very well represented, with many buidings and hangers.Gulfstream and the excellent Sands hangar. To note only a few as there is quite a few other hangars and ramps dedicated to helicopter tours and sightseeing and personal jet parking. Las Vegas The important backdrop of the Las Vegas skyline is very well represented, all your favorite hangouts are here and are all well recreated. I found that to get the maximum benefit I needed to have my “texture” render settings set to “very high” to bring out the excellent texture detail, with already pushing the framerate on the “objects” and “distance” This scenery will push a low powered computer to the limit. I found it still very usable for such a very large scenery and in context you will admit the package is very good, but this also in trying to get the maximum out of the whole package... and that has to come at a small cost somewhere. The “City of Sin” does look very good and you can pick out all the landmarks (The Convention Centre is behind the airport). Great signage certainly enhances the detail, but isn’t Houdini a bit.... well Dead!... But then again so is Elvis. The OSM (Open Street Map) networks in X-Plane10 are excellent and really make the city busy and flowing. Night Lighting Las Vegas is really a night bound destination and so the town only really comes totally alive after dark, and in this “Glitter Gulch” package it comes really alive here as well. The Strip buildings pop off the screen in bright colours as the city glows bright in the desert, It will certainly be interesting when Laminar Research update their nighting in the default autogen and introduce some medium buildings to compliment the iconic skyline set out here - I think then it will be a very good if not a great skyline, the laser out of the Luxor Hotel is good at night, but just a line in the sky in daytime... I’m not sure on that one? McCarren International is however sensational in the dark.... The HDR lighting is excellent, and when you get close up to the terminals the graphics and the texures are simply first rate. You can work around the ramps with ease in the dark, If you are coming to Las Vegas, then the Dusk, Night or early Dawn periods are certainly the best times to come. Henderson Exceutive Airport Henderson Executive Airport is a public airport located 11 nautical miles (20 km; 13 mi) south of the central business district of Las Vegas. It was originally known as Sky Harbor Airport, but was renamed in 1996 when it was purchased by Clark County to be used as a reliever airport for McCarran International Airport. Today it is primary a General Aviation and Private Jet (Executive) facility and storage. Henderson has two Runways: 17R/35L 6,501ft 1,982m Asphalt 17L/35R 5,001ft 1,524m Asphalt Part of the “Glitter Gulch” package is “Henderson Executive Airport”. If Henderson was a separate item than KLAS and Las Vegas then it would worth the purchase alone, It is an excellent scenery and more detail is allowed here because of its smaller footprint than the vast spead of KLAS. All buildings are as good a quality as anything that Tom Curtis has delivered in the past. Highlights are the central terminal buildings and offices. The buildings are very well constructed with great detail, carparks and cars are well executed and the scenery is just very well complete in every aspect. The only slight difference is the day glass is a bit flat and not dimensional like at KLAS. The Maverick Hangar and Control Tower are more highlights up at the Southern end of the airport, the flying American flag should work if you inserted correctly the new dataref plugin earlier. You will find the airport a large storage facility in most cases but the set out is excellent with a wide variety of hangars and aircraft shades. All the ramps are full of aircraft and helicopters to add to the visual appeal. Refueling areas are excellent (above) and to the North of the main ramp are more larger hangars (expensive?), offices and aircraft storage - and all air-conditioned for your comfort. Building construction and design is first rate and so is the smaller detailing. Fences, signage cars and nice tropical palm trees all to help fill in the desert location. Henderson Nightlighting The quality of the HDR night lighting is as good as KLAS, There full lighting on all over the ramps and in all areas it is well lit in abundance. The lighting detail here is excellent and very realistic, like KLAS, Henderson works very well in dark. Henderson Executive is top class scenery and a great addition to the package, if the other to coming add-ons are as good as this airport then this whole area is going to be very well represented. A note on departing using Henderson 17R and 17L, make sure you have a good high angle of departure. The ground rises up quite quickly from the end of the runway, it is quite a deceiving view from the cockpit as it doesn’t look as steep as it really is, a lazy departure will find you scraping the expensive underbelly of your precious GA along the ground or doing a wheels up landing on the rocks! Summery Any scenery from Tom Curtis is great value, and “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” is no exception. You have to understand that these big projects are not for the faint hearted, and for a single developer like Tom it is a major achievement to cover all the aspects delivered here. Because it is so widespread in its scope there will be small areas that are not covered, KLAS is a huge airport and alone and is a big project to cover, but Tom has been able to do an excellent job in doing so. As mentioned at the start of this review is that the city skyline of the iconic Las Vegas is as important as the airports themselves as here one cannot really exist without the other. The only real minor point with KLAS is that using photo underlays can create blank areas that look great from the air but look odd on the ground, These underlays can and do create slightly unattractive visuals like in this case the over bright green golf course. And because of the huge size of the airport you can’t cover all these areas with small details. In most cases Tom has certainly done great detail in the small stuff, but the flat carparks and other small airport infrastructure of small buildings and the really fine detail is missing. However it is to be noted in that where it counts like in the excellent western boundary fixed base area it is very well covered. The other consideration is to make the scenery really work is that you have to work your render settings to their X-Plane10 limits, you need the textures on “very high” at least and objects on “Too Much” to get the Las Vegas excitement working - and having the “distance” detail at the highest settings is needed to create the sprawl of the city. Anyone one with the headroom to do this is going to really get the most benefit from “KLAS - Glitter Gulch”. I am not saying it is framerate killer, because the actual scenery is excellent considering its breadth and scale. Tom Curtis is a really good quality 3d designer, his work is always first rate and he doesn’t disappoint here, KLAS is excellent in the the quality of the airport and its terminals, great detail and perfect renditions of the infrastructure, airport layouts of runways and lineage is also very good and detailed. Without doubt the nightlighting and night textures are highlights. The Las Vegas cityscape also delivers as every major icon is covered, it is a consideration on far you can go with hotels and motels or the “Chapel of Love” before you start wasting work time on excess, but a few more basic buildings (hotels) would really finish off the area to its perfection. The whole “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” package is already great value, and with the addition of Henderson Exec, it then becomes exceptional value. This airport is excellent in the GA/PersonalJet category and make a ideal base for exploring the area. This scenery will certainly fill in a big area in the X-Plane envionment, and it has to be part of your collection. It is great value as well and with that “KLAS - Gutter Gulch” does tick all the right boxes. Price US$24.95 and “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” is now available at the .orgStore : KLAS - Glitter Gulch Developer site: Scenery4XP Review By Stephen Dutton Copyright©2013:NewBluePublications Published 31st July 2013 Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle
X-Plane 10 : HD Scenery v2 In the matrix that makes up Laminar Research, the scenery is mostly the work of Andras Fabian (AlpilotX) and Albert Laubi who is the texture artist in that with Ben Supnik (main Guru) create the virtual X-Plane world that we use and fly around. The creation of scenery is complex and is methodical in practice to create. In a very basic form it is textures laid over a mesh base. The mesh is created out of irregular sized triangles that hold information. Each of these triangle patches represents one type of terrain and X-Plane is different in the way that the mesh and these textures are all arranged on to the .dsf (Distribution Scenery Format ) tiles that we load continuously as we transverse an area or move across the world. Since X-Plane10 was released the amount of information created on to the .dsf tiles has been significantly increased. The biggest inclusion was the data of the OSM (OpenStreetMap) project that creates all the roads, building placements and the structure that highlights the complex world around us, the bonus of OSM is that it represents the real world data and that gives X-Plane the way to mirror the actual infrastructure and road networks in use in real time, and this is important for a flight simulator in the use of VFR rules (Visual Flight Rules). The main criticism with the release of X-Plane10 was the amount of data in OSM available was only very basic and that the actual textures were also very basic and still related in reality to older X-Plane simulator versions. People point to sceneries created by say ORBIX and other scenery developers and note “Why can’t we have that?”. Initially there was several reasons. One, most of these highly detailed sceneries where only created for a very small area, and with a concentration of a small landscape it is a lot easier to put in every rock and building - and you had to pay for it. Secondly, Is the fact that your computer could not run such highly sized scenery, a small portion yes, but not say a whole state or small country..... certainly not the whole of say, Alaska. On the surface it may look like X-Plane is running at a glacial pace, but that is not really the case. Andras has been putting out significant developments for quite awhile that will now soon start to show the progress that has been achieved. The first development was in HD (High-Definition) that you can download from AlpilotX site : X-Plane 10 HD Scenery Mesh They come in 10×10 degree areas that cover: “European” (9 downloads – each covering different regions) “Alaska and Canada West” (10 downloads) “USA West” (7 downloads – each covering 10×10 degrees, one covering 5×10 degrees) “Madagascar” (1 download) “Hawaii” (1 download) “Canary Island” (1 download) These sceneries are all experimental in context but at least will give up a lift up from the standard base areas that come with X-Plane. The next step was the release of a much higher density scenery that covered New Zealand : X-Plane 10 New Zealand Pro This release showed the potential of the HD when combined with the extremely high resolution base mesh (that is a bit higher than the other HD Scenery Mesh regions) with updated (and more detailed) land-class data (riverbeds, mines and morains which are entirely new – compared to the standard default Global Scenery. If you go to Juneau in Alaska, the current standard X-Plane scenery will look like this... From a distance it looks very good, but looking in closer it does look quite basic in that the textures are stretched and the detailing is quite average. The next step is v2. We got a first preview of the HD v2 scenery in July when Andras posted some scenery from Europe. This HD v2 scenery includes: Increased mesh density Improved forest representation (in Europe, reprocessed/improved raw forest land-class data) All new OSM data (streets, railways, power lines, water) Linear OSM rivers included (Tag:waterway=river) Some – minor – land-class tweaking (like strip mines or riverbeds etc.). Looking more closely you can see there is significantly more detail. The urban areas are far more complex and more natural, mountains and rocks have far more texture and detail, there is a more realistic feel to the scenery. Fields now look like fields and not just patches of green and the different types of textures have been increased significantly. More importantly is that the OSM data is far more denser, the areas look filled in with more autogen (Still too many mobile houses though), but it does look very good to what we have now. Andras has just posted another set of images (16th Sept 2013) and this time the scenery is focused on Canada. If you go back to the current default scenery you can see the difference in the v2 detailing, The images here are amazing in their shading and the far smaller rugged textures. Like Europe the grass areas here in Canada are again significantly different in detail. Overall on both sceneries it is the density of the forests and woodland areas that makes the most impact to the coverage of the landscapes. Instead of a trees you now have the realistic thickness of forests that has been missing from the current scenery. Areas to be covered by the v2 scenery is: Europe (this time, entire Europe) USA (complete) Alaska Canada (possibly not all of it, but definitely the South and West …) So why do we not have v2 scenery right now? There are two reasons. One, we needed 64bit in place to handle the larger sizes of these complex tiles. That job has now been done with the 10.22 (beta) and the 64bit is now stable. Secondly, is that the extra data and elements in new terrain textures are required to be in place to receive this scenery and that will be part of the 10.30 beta. When will the 10.30beta be released?... God Knows! But the work by Andras and Albert (plus some new .dsf cuts) will finally give the scenery the quality that we have hankered for, for so long. For more images of Europe and Canada and for any future release information then go to Andras Fabian’s (AlpilotX) web site: Alpilots l X-Plane Scenery Stephen Dutton 18th September 2013
Uwespeed is putting some finishing touches to his coming freeware scenery Santorini X-Plane. If you don't know Santorini then you are missing out on something really spectacular as Santorini is one of the great (If not the greatest) Greek Island destinations in the world. The scenery is highly detailed... But I won't bore you with pictures first as there are two really good YouTube videos that show you the whole island in a better light. Got your attention.... Here is more and watch out for the animated cable cars. The airport will be highly detailed as well, as Uwespeed went to Santorini himself to get all the details perfectly (lucky chap!) This will certainly be a great scenery addition for X-Plane but at this point no release date is noted. However it will be released in X-Plane10 only. You can check out the Santorini X-Plane development thread here: Santorini X-Plane 12th August 2013