Project Auch/Gers (LFDH) Airport

N_Molson

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A small project to get better with surface tiles and understanding how it works, use that knowledge in other bigger projects and hopefully to be useful to others. Auch/Gers (formerly Auch/Lamothe) is an airfield straight north of the Auch city, west of Toulouse. It features a 1900x30 meters paved runway, which is huge given there's currently no commercial airlines. The airfield is open to private pilots, including buisness jets, and also features a gliding school.


AuchGers007.jpg

First the Earth HD textures are Level 13 global coverage. We can go up to Level 19.

So I tried to use Jarmonik Terrain Toolkit, on a separate install with the D3D9 Client version that works with it. It can be be useful, but no magic, it has issues lining up the tiles in a seamless way. What it does very well are the calculations that gives you the long/lat data translated in the Orbiter texture folder system, and even visualize those "squares" in-game. Which is something. The feature I miss is the "auto-blend" with surrounding lower/higher resolution tiles, but that's something we can do "by the hand".

I don't recommend using the import tool. And after all, we don't really need it once we have the correct data. I copy down the long/lat data then add faint markers in Google Earth. Then adjust view, print screen, paste in an image editing software, then crop and resize to 512x512 pixels, DDS (DTX1 seem to work) format. From there if that work has been done properly, the tiles should display in-game as expected. So far I've been rather successful doing it that way, the tiles match nicely. Here the runway is Level 16.

AuchGers002.jpg
 

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4throck

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The feature I miss is the "auto-blend" with surrounding lower/higher resolution tiles, but that's something we can do "by the hand".
Terrain Tool does that. You can control edge blending, and it generates all the needed levels, both down and up! :salute:

I don't recommend using the import tool.
No, you should REALLY use it, because it does blending and level splitting / merging! (y)

There's a trick there, I'll explain:

1) On Terrain Tool first export the area you want to change. Levels or number of tiles are not important, just select the area you need (can be a single low res tile, it won't matter). You get a single merged image, tile aligned, that will be the base of all your modifications.

2) Open the exported image on your image editor. Resize 2x, 4x, etc, to roughly match the resolution of your satellite picture. Paste your satellite picture over the resized image, and manually align/rotate/stretch as needed. Save as PNG (it's possible to use alpha channels to aid with edge blending...).

3) On Terrain Tool select the same area as in step 1 (can be a single low res tile, it won't matter). Import your large PNG into that area and adjust edge blending and refine alignment as needed. The tool will take care of slitting down to higher levels. If your imported image is really large, it will go down to 19. Lower levels are also handled automatically.



Here the runway is Level 16.
Looks nice, but if you follow my steps you can get rid of that seam on the right edge, and go down to level 19 with little effort!

;)
 
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N_Molson

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I absolutely don't get how I'm supposed to get seamless joints with Terrain Toolkit. It seems to arbitrary resize and move the tiles at will, it results on a complete mess on my side. The only method that works for me so far is the arithmetic one : line tiles exactly by the numbers.

I have the feeling I have no idea how to use Terrain Toolkit, but that's not easy without documentation. Very very frustrating, just having the feeling I'm wasting time on something that acts randomly. ?

@4throck : now are you saying I should make a "collage" of my area, then bake it into Terrain Toolkit ? Fine, but I don't even have the smallest idea on which tile at which resolution I'm going to do that. And then, having the textures actually aligned with the locations they are supposed to represent looks like roulette to me. I don't even know if I must resize the tiles to 512x512, or let Terrain Toolkit do it.

Also I see things like "min long/lat. ; max. long/lat" etc... OK, but are both of those point "included" in the square I'm supposed to cut ? It might seem a detail but one pixel off and the whole thing looks like crap.

So please if you have more specific advices it will be invaluable, but right now I'm in the dark.
 
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N_Molson

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OK some progress I think, so I assembled a big level 14 "plate" made of 2x2 squares, and managed to import it properly with Terrain Toolkit. The key was to select all the squares at once. No big seams and it blends well in the background. Let's try level 15.

AuchGers003.jpg
 

4throck

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The key was to select all the squares at once.
Yes, that's the trick! I tried to explain it, but sometimes it's difficult to put into words!

Now try this:
Take your big level 14 "plate" and resize it 4X (add some fake detail just for testing). Import it on TT just as before and export.
Do you get the higher resolution levels ?

On my machine, this works with single images up to about 20000 x 20000. Beyond that, it hangs, but that's enough to reach LV19 over a decent area with a single import...
 

N_Molson

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Some significant progress, made a "lvl 15 plate", then a "lvl 16 plate". Each "plate" is a bit smaller ; I'd like to make the old town level 19, it is reasonably small (pop. 20k).

Also I'll need to find some better heightmaps, the landscape is quite interesting in reality.

AuchGers004.jpg
 

N_Molson

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@4throck : do you know how to make Mask tiles ? What's the format ? I'd like to have that river and other farms reservoirs look like water.
 

4throck

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Never tried them! From Orbiter's SDK manual:

4.2 The Mask layer
The Mask layer contains the planet water mask (for rendering specular reflection of
water surfaces) and the night light texture, if applicable, in a combined 512x512 pixel
DXT1 texture file (1-bit transparency). The RGB channels of the texture provide the

night light information, while the 1-bit alpha channel provides the water mask (alpha=
0: water, alpha=1: land). Due to a limitation of the DXT1 format, pixels with alpha=
0 do not contain RGB information. Therefore, night lights cannot be defined on
water surfaces.
A planet with neither night lights nor specular reflection surfaces does not need to
provide a Mask layer.


I'm really guessing here ;) , but I think you might be able to create the mask based on the surf tiles, tile by tile.
On your photo editor, you need to add an alpha channel to the image, and paint water on that channel as 0....

Good luck!
 

N_Molson

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Ideally I'd like to have specularity without the "ripples" or waves added by the D3D9 client (they are great for sea, but makes little sense on small quiet waterways/fishponds like in Auch)
 

N_Molson

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How did the locals react to the futuristic spaceplane? :ROFLMAO:

Well, it's OK as long as you use Runway 36 for takeoff and don't go sonic immediately, I guess it is a bit noisy :) Agreed we need more planes in Orbiter.

Level 19 airfield, note the Pyrenees mountains in the background (natural border with Spain, not far from what you see on real life, depending a lot of atmospheric conditions) :

AuchGers008.jpg

The big hangar in the foreground is labeled "Amac Aerospace" on the official chart. It will be perfect to house spaceplanes :)
 
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N_Molson

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What sources would you guys recommend for high-resolution elevation data ?
 

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Agreed we need more planes in Orbiter.
well I have
A4E Skyhawk, Aero A-242, FA-18A and T-38
and that's enough for me
especially considering that this is actually a SPACE sim ;)
 

N_Molson

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I see, as it was a different install I was using the default elevation file. Replaced it with the 16Gb one and bingo, the topography looks much more like the real thing with those typical low hills ! Even the cathedral in downtown is atop some kind of terrace as it should be (y)

AuchGers009.jpg
 
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