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FSXA Best method of creating taxiway lights?

What is the general consensus on the best method of creating taxiway lights for FSX? Our current method appears to be what impacts frame rates the most in our scenery.

The current method involves creating a low poly model of a taxiway light, then adding a blue "BGL light" to it, then placing that model over and over a zillion times as needed around the airport.
 

Gaiiden

FSDevConf team
then placing that model over and over a zillion times as needed around the airport.
Always fun :p Part-way through that process myself at the moment... *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* (ad nauseum). Too bad there's not an easy fix for this part ;)

I think it is the light effect more than the model that drags down the frames. That's just a suspicion of mine though
 
Take a look at this thread: Click!

I think FX lights are the best solution, there's also a wiki page concerning them.
Or cross planes and apply a light beam to them, make them appear at night.
 
Do you think that the performance problem comes from using the BGL light? or could it be the fact that I'm using so many instances of one MDL? Would it help at all to just make all of the taxiway lights into one MDL?
 

arno

Administrator
Staff member
FSDevConf team
Resource contributor
Hi,

I think both. Hundreds or even thousands of instances will cost some performance. But the same applies to so many light commands. Although I think it is the lights that hurt most.

Using effect files might not be much better if you place so many.

Some years ago I just used polygons with an emissive colour as lights, that did not hit performance much. But it probably looks less nice.

Send from my phone using Tapatalk, so excuse the short sentences and possible typos
 
Some years ago I just used polygons with an emissive colour as lights, that did not hit performance much.
Now I know Jon won't like this because he's our satellite imagery guy, but I had thought of possibly not having a light effect at all, and just making the taxiway light model itself have a night texture that shows the bulb lit up. Then, have a light blue splash on the satellite image. As a real pilot, I would actually think that this would look more realistic than what we currently have. There simply aren't big glowing "orbs" of light around each light in real life. However, this doesn't solve the problem of having hundreds of instances of that model. Would having them all in one .MDL file be more performance friendly?
 
Now I know Jon won't like this because he's our satellite imagery guy, but I had thought of possibly not having a light effect at all, and just making the taxiway light model itself have a night texture that shows the bulb lit up. Then, have a light blue splash on the satellite image. As a real pilot, I would actually think that this would look more realistic than what we currently have. There simply aren't big glowing "orbs" of light around each light in real life. However, this doesn't solve the problem of having hundreds of instances of that model. Would having them all in one .MDL file be more performance friendly?
This is what I used on the FSX version of our PHL scenery (that is on the verge of release finally!). The model is basic. They were placed within max and exported as larger MDLs. With all the other stuff going on in the scene the perf hit is negligble if at all. And more to the point they look better IMO than the glowing orbs you speak of. Since the 'light' and the ground splash are textures they will fade in size as distance increases as perceived in the real world.
Cheers,
Ian
 

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They sure add realism when they look real. The ones at ORBX at Diamond Point are brilliant.

Cant the BGL model have LODS's so that it turns into just a light at like 75, 150, 200 feet, etc?


Its like doing rivets on a plane. Horrible to go through, but after a while, the payoff on detail, you learn to live with it.


I always try to setup ways of production. For instance, you could create a landing light, then use Array tool and bing! you have a row of 50 or 200 units, done, all lined up along a runway. Next, clone those, move the clones to the other side, done. Takes a min. Make them all one single object, done. One BGL file, one giant object of lights.
 

arno

Administrator
Staff member
FSDevConf team
Resource contributor
Hi,

Combining them in one MDL will help. If the airport it big it might be better to have a few MDL, one for each section of the airport. But combining will be better than a lot of placements.

In FSX LODs might actually hurt the performance more, since you loose the drawcall batching. I think for lights you would have more benefit from the drawcall batching actually.
 
Ian, first off, glad to hear that PHL FSX is soon to be released, been following that project for a while. That method looks really neat! My only question would be, how does that work during the daytime when the light is obviously not supposed to be on?
 
mdm248111 said:
and just making the taxiway light model itself have a night texture that shows the bulb lit up
I tried this, and they JUST don't show bright enough as they shrink with distance FAST.... thus the need for an effect or halo, or X-plane (not the sim, the object) to put a glow on.

mdm248111 said:
There simply aren't big glowing "orbs" of light around each light in real life.
because of the distance issue, the surrounding glow is to show the 'blue' at a farther distance as a real light WOULD show from a-far... I use an attached effect I modified for the blue, as well as the texture used for the effect for the shape I wanted. I also use only ONE emmisive, to hopefully narrow the performance hit all the effects pose... being I dont have large airports, it doesnt seem to hit frames... I never tried this with large amounts of effects.

mdm248111 said:
However, this doesn't solve the problem of having hundreds of instances of that model. Would having them all in one .MDL file be more performance friendly?
Thus, the conundrum.... LOD's can be applied to take care of a distance draw, but, if you use drawcall batching for performance, it eliminates the availability to use LOD's... I personally tried the drawcall batching, and didnt like the way it displayed the lights, as they faintly flickered at distances (even with mips), and caught too much eye attention, I liked how the LODs drew them at a realistic distance... My airports aren't that big, so I don't have a ga-jillion of them to deal with...

Putting them all in one MDL will help with placement, but placing that model correctly, especially if its split up into many such subbed model sets, may pose issues with sanity (placement accuracy)... if you make ALL the lights in one model, it will have ref point draw issues, I think, I havent tried this lately, but its an all or nothing kind of 'decision' by your viewpoint in the sim... Lately, I make lights and such small objects single mdl's and place them with LODs for draw efficiency. Personally, I think this works best...

To answer the forum posted question, I make taxiway light models with or without a lit base, and attach a blue effect with day/night dawn/dusk perimeters, and it works best performance and draw distance-wise, as well as the way it looks in the scenery, BUT this is subjective, and many may not like the way it looks and have another process and approach...
 
Ian, first off, glad to hear that PHL FSX is soon to be released, been following that project for a while. That method looks really neat! My only question would be, how does that work during the daytime when the light is obviously not supposed to be on?
Definitely many ways to skin this cat. Here's the way I did it - and it's not perfect either. I'm sure someone smarter than me could do it better!
I've attached the settings for the nighttime halo map and the texture sheet - which is for the light and the groundsplash. The alpha channel is pure black. The daytime halo map is a 16x16 black with black alpha. The taxilight unit model has a separate sheet and is drawn standard opaque. The downside to this method is that there is a halo glow during the day when the fog rolls in at under 1.5miles. This glow fades within a few hundred yards of the view point however. I've attached a view of this with .5mi visibility.
Cheers,
Ian
 

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jtanabodee

Resource contributor
I've attached the settings for the nighttime halo map and the texture sheet - which is for the light and the groundsplash. The alpha channel is pure black. The daytime halo map is a 16x16 black with black alpha. The taxilight unit model has a separate sheet and is drawn standard opaque.
Hi Ian,
I think this method works in FS9 but not in FSX. Since in FSX, only daytime alpha is used . Alpha in night time is not being use at all. Hiding at daytime and see it during the night is not working anymore in FSX.
May be I'll try to make a set of paralleled lightsat the width of taxiway and runway, using effect. Group them together like 10-20 lights and place them on. It will reduce work and less xml placement too. Adding some individual light on the corner or curve that are not the same.
Regards,
Tic
 
Hi Ian,
I think this method works in FS9 but not in FSX. Since in FSX, only daytime alpha is used . Alpha in night time is not being use at all. Hiding at daytime and see it during the night is not working anymore in FSX.
May be I'll try to make a set of paralleled lightsat the width of taxiway and runway, using effect. Group them together like 10-20 lights and place them on. It will reduce work and less xml placement too. Adding some individual light on the corner or curve that are not the same.
Regards,
Tic
Hi Tic,
It works fine I promise - I have 600+ sticks lit this way - the settings don't reference the alpha (which is black anyhow) it's the SrcColor blend setting which is using the diffuse. Like I said the only drawback is the fog low visibility interference during the day. But there are many ways to do this and this is only one. I preferred it for performance reasons (since there are so many of them in a larger airport) and it suits my aesthetics (which are dubious - ask my wife!)
Cheers,
Ian
 

jtanabodee

Resource contributor
Hi Tic,
It works fine I promise - I have 600+ sticks lit this way - the settings don't reference the alpha (which is black anyhow) it's the SrcColor blend setting which is using the diffuse. Like I said the only drawback is the fog low visibility interference during the day. But there are many ways to do this and this is only one. I preferred it for performance reasons (since there are so many of them in a larger airport) and it suits my aesthetics (which are dubious - ask my wife!)
Cheers,
Ian
I'll try that, thanks for the tips. It should work separating the light glow from the pole.
 
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jtanabodee

Resource contributor
Hi Ian,
First of all, I'd like to thank you for your work and your advice.
I think the material setting you show us is very good and helpful.
But I did an experiment to see how it looks in my Macau X, please see the attachments.
The first two pictures show the lighting with only texture without bloom. If I turn light bloom on, it would be a big hit to the fps.
The last two pictures show the lighting with effect.

For near vision, I think it is very good. But from far away, it is barely seen.
I attach the effect together with the taxi light. I think they look better in long range. I think in real life, this light is visible very far away.
I'm not sure if I missed something in your setting. I would be very good if you post your result from far away to see if those light clearly lit. So, I can know that my setting is not the same as yours.

To me, effect is the best way to go.
Best Regards,
Tic
 

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jtanabodee

Resource contributor
But I did light splash from your setting and it came out very good. I think it is almost the same as Bill's light but easier to do. It illuminates the animated vehicles passing by too!

 
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Hi Ian,
First of all, I'd like to thank you for your work and your advice.
I think the material setting you show us is very good and helpful.
But I did an experiment to see how it looks in my Macau X, please see the attachments.
The first two pictures show the lighting with only texture without bloom. If I turn light bloom on, it would be a big hit to the fps.
The last two pictures show the lighting with effect.

For near vision, I think it is very good. But from far away, it is barely seen.
I attach the effect together with the taxi light. I think they look better in long range. I think in real life, this light is visible very far away.
I'm not sure if I missed something in your setting. I would be very good if you post your result from far away to see if those light clearly lit. So, I can know that my setting is not the same as yours.

To me, effect is the best way to go.
Best Regards,
Tic
Hi Tic,
In this scenery I don't have as many straight lines of lights as in that shot but I feel as if the result is similar. I suppose it's all really just a matter of how your eye wants to read it. I feel that from that altitude and distance the first shots are more credible given the attenuation of light over distance - and they're plenty bright up close. It's all really just a matter of opinion and perception though isn't it? My belief trends toward a darker night and less like still photos with over exposed lighting. But the effect lighting is a good way to go.
Cheers,
Ian
 

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From my own experience the first picture is the way it looks in real life.
I'm always amazed at how little you see of the airport if your a couple of miles away.
You hardly see the approach lights if you're not on the centerline (in flight)

Steven
 
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