Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Aircraft Review: Flight1 Pilatus PC-12 for FSX

Well aside from spending a lot of time making videos, I also fly a lot just for the hell of it, which I guess is the point of flight sim after all.

So, starting today I'm going to do a quick review of any new aircraft I buy, and since I just picked up something truly fantastic, I'll start with that.

Short review: The Flight1 FSX Pilatus PC-12 quite simply KICKS ASS.

Full review:

If you don't know what this plane is then I'd recommend checking out its specs on Wikipedia. It goes by the nickname "The Swiss Army Knife" and it is very deserving of that moniker. It's a single engine turbine powered 8 seat go frickin' anywhere and FAST airplane. It'll do 270 knots at 30,000 feet and land on any surface in less than 700 feet. It is the ultimate "Courchevelian".

The flight1 model of this beast for FS9 was pretty good but the FSX version of it improves absolutely everything by quite a margin. The VC is one of the best I've ever seen and boasts RealAir quality smoothness in the gauges. The avionics are a truly complete set and are just excellent for IFR work. The night lighting in the VC is also quite beautiful. Any developer that takes the time to backlight gauges perfectly for night flight, thus not requiring me to use the dome light, wins.

The flight model is spot on and has one rare quality among single engine props made for FS: The vertical stabilizer's twist/incidence actually perfectly counteracts the torque of the engine at optimum cruise speed, just as it should in a real aircraft. This seems like a small thing but short of the RealAir Spitfire or Iris Texan II, I've *never* seen a developer get this part of a flight model right. Even RealAir's own SF260 doesn't do it correctly, amazing as that plane is.

The external model is equally beautiful and the textures are sharp and clear. The bump and reflection mapping are also just about perfect, not too shiny, not pitted or overdone in any way. The soundset is, well, soothing. I love the sound of that turbine in cruise, and all anciliary sounds are custom made and well done. Only sound that bugs me is the autopilot disconnect alert as it is just a little too loud. Easily fixed. The thing that stands out most about this aircraft is its consistency. The VC, flight model, sound, external visuals, avionics and gauges all feel as if they were carved from the same block of granite. That kind of consistency in quality both technical and visual is very very rare. Most planes excel in one or two areas and fail horribly in others. This is quite an exception. By the way it comes with 5 repaints. Three of them are rather 'corporate' looking (and you know how I feel about THAT shit), but at least two are refreshingly funky. ;)

Basically I love everything about this plane and I highly recommend it as a purchase. If you want an SUV for the sky that can cover 1200nm without refueling and look *damned good* doing it, then this is the plane for you. Keep in mind that I'm a fighter/warbird/helo kind of guy, so for me to say all that about a large general aviation aircraft means I'm particularly blown away.

On the issue of framerate performance I expected it to give much more of a hit than it did, and I have to say that the hit is much less than the FS9 version's was. I do recommend that you have at least a dual core machine for flying this thing though. Those gauges do take some cpu power to run, but the configuration program it comes with allows you to disable the FO's multifunction displays, and that buys you quite a bit of fps back, around 4 or 5. It degrades my FPS no more than say the Iris Tomcat does, so that's pretty good considering its complexity.

The only real negative I can bring up about this plane is that it won't work in shared cockpit mode, but that's something we've come to expect from aircraft with such complex gauges. There is hope though, ACES recently released the data to allow developers to synchronize local variables in shared mode. Fingers crossed.

The only bugs in the mix are a slightly annoying beacon flashing effect in the VC, a somewhat difficult to read lower GPS panel in certain sun angles, and a slightly odd interior reflection map on the windows. As well I found the default eyepoint position in the cockpit more suitable for a Hobbit than an Elf, but again that was easily fixed. None of these little issues are showstoppers mind you. This bird lives up to its hype and is totally worth the $30 asking price!

Verdict: Buy it right the hell now.

Here's where to get her:


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The dumbest peripheral EVER...

Ok I've seen some *really* stupid peripherals come to market in my 20 years of flight simming. The Aura "interactor" comes to mind (a backpack with a subwoofer in it), followed by the nearly equally stupid bass kicker chair. Seen some really stupid joysticks too, but THIS piece of junk takes the absolute cake. The only person who'd ever buy such a thing is the sort of 'wingviewer' who sits at their PC with a captain's hat on and refers to their wife/girlfriend as "stewardess".... once.

The price? $1200 USD!

Here are some other flight related things $1200 will get you:

1. An intel QX9650 Penryn 45nm processor, and blistering FPS.
2. A whole ton of quality FSX aircraft and scenery addons.
3. About oh... NINE *real* flying lessons.

Even Airbus (aka boring airplane makers), and just about every general aviation aircraft manufacturer thinks yokes are stupid! Are you listening boeing? For the record the goddamned STICK (not yoke) goes on the right, the throttle on the left, the engines in the fuselage, and the missiles on the wings.

Yeah I know, it's *just* a controller and I'm an opinionated bastard. :)

Lotus out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Group photo!

I've been wanting to get around to this for a while now but FS-Recorder was giving me grief over it. No longer, beta6 fixed it. I proudly present the members of the Lotus Films actors guild. :)

Enjoy! (click on image for full resolution shot)

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I can hardly believe it. When I started the month long project that was to become "Vectors" I thought it might do well, but I never imagined it would hit 100,000 views.

It is so very Stella Artois time. ;)

My thanks go to everyone who gave their free time and effort to the movie and to everyone who watched and left a nice comment, not to mention Aces and the addon makers like Iris and Alphasim who gave us the fine simulator and aircraft needed to pull it off.

Cheers all!

(downs Stella #3...yum)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Unity: Remixed

"Unity", being a commercial video, used licensed music of course. However, had I been able to choose from *anything* in my library to accompany it?... ;)

The video is rather large (17 mb) so it may take a moment to buffer. Enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Damn I love Sweden...

This has absolutely nothing to do with flying but I'm totally smitten by this video and song. Can't explain it really, I just love Sweden, all of it, even if it means random attacks by gangsta gnomes in Stockholm. ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stella Artois, Airplanes, and the Lofotens...

So what happens on my server after we've had a few pints and find ourselves cruising around northern Norway in FSX? Well, if we stumble upon an airport with a 1200 foot runway like this one in Svolvaer... :)

Pilots: Futureflyer, Juliet, Scooter, and Flagstaff.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hollywood Dogfighting...

Awhile back Pebble and I were asked about the possibility of doing some previsualization for a film in which a sport plane was to be chased by a fighter through downtown Los Angeles. Happily I accepted the task, primarily because one thing I loathe is seeing unrealistic aviation in hollywood films. If you're going to do it, do it correctly guys. Personally I think 99% of the technical directors in LA should be shot, they wouldn't know realism if they were sucked into a jet engine, but that's just me. ;)

Anyway, although that project never got off the ground, I learned a ton in the process of making this film, which demonstrated the realism we could achieve, at least in flight paths. Vectors wouldn't have been very good at all if I hadn't taken this on first, and unlike that film there's no trickery here. Enjoy!

Pilots: Pebble in the Turbo SF 260 Marchetti, Myself in the F-18.

Music: Gardner & Thomas - Propaganda (love this frickin track!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Iceland Project...

Yup, I'm making FSX scenery now too. :) Iceland... the land of Irish Monks first, then Vikings, and now the most beautiful women in the entire world... by far. I've seen most of the world, so trust me when I say that. ;) It's the land of the Elves for me, loved every second I spent there a few years ago, and it is by far the most neglected country in all of FSX, so I felt it was time to give it an upgrade. It's roughly the size of England and Wales put together, so it's not something I'm going to finish anytime soon. I've been learning to use FSXKML, which I have to say is one seriously elegant tool. It interfaces almost directly with google earth (can't believe I finally found a use for that stupid thing), and once you get your head around their interpretation of SDK scenery work, it's quite easy to use. I have the entire coastlines finished for the country, in very high resolution (what a zen experience it was tracing those out!), and I'm now working on lakes and rivers. After that I'll be tackling the landclass, ships, marinas etc, and all of Iceland's 200+ lighthouses. Given Iceland's insanely variable climate the landclass part is going to be interesting.

Slartibartfast would probably just laugh at me, but here's a preview screenshot of the Akranes peninsula so far, work in progress is on the top, default scenery on the bottom.

Lastly a fun fact for you: The oldest surviving democracy in the world is not the United States believe it or not. It is in fact Iceland. Amazing eh? Their fully democratic parliament, the 'Althing', was founded in 930 AD and functions virtually unchanged to this day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Okay, just what is it about TNCM anyway?

Lately I've been noticing a *lot* of Princess Juliana airport FSX videos on Youtube. I scan the new arrivals daily and I keep noticing this one damned airport showing up again and again and again. I blame FlyTampa. What's the fascination?

Here's something fun to try. Search youtube for "FSX+TNCM" (the airport's icao code).

148 videos!

Now search for: "FS2004+TNCM'

299! WTH!

Can someone explain to me why there's such a TNCM fetish among simmers? Yes it's a pretty airport, if airports can be called that, yes people can get blown over by jet exhaust and wake turbulence on the beach short of the threshold, yes it's in the caribbean, and yes I know it was pretty much the only airport in the FSX demo, but COME ON. Do we need 447 videos of Juliana? No, we don't, one would have been sufficient really.

There... are... other... airports.... 27000 of them in fact.

Rant over. ;)


Back to the fun stuff...

So Acceleration adds a moving carrier eh? Too slow! Beat em to it a couple months ago. The following movie was our first attempt at landing on a moving carrier in FSX. No big trick you say, carriers could move in FSX before. Yeah they could, but they weren't synchronized in multiplayer, and they still aren't, even in Acceleration. This one however is. It's pilotless and it's doing about 35 knots off the coast of Wellington. Don't ask me how, it's witchcraft. ;) Enjoy. Oh... and the poor soul in the Texan who had *obviously* never landed on a carrier before shall remain anonymous, for now. I'll blackmail him with this video at some point, hehe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Accelerate or Decelerate? Get the addon or not?...

So here's my rundown of Acceleration after a week's hard use. For anyone who's on the fence about it, read on, I'm going to give you a comprehensive list of the plusses and minuses.

Accelerated (the good stuff):

-DX9 Performance is definitely up. New autogen batching etc worked well.

-The F-18 is great overall. The hud kicks ass, sooo nice.

-The P-51 is there. That's all. I don't like em.

-The EH-101 is there. See above.

-The water rendering options are waaaay better. Low 2.x is just water. Mid 2.x is reflected clouds only (yay), High 2.x reflects clouds and terrain but not autogen (yay!), and Max 2.x reflects everything. That's how it should have been set up from the start.

-Multiplayer Fixes, LOTS OF EM. Canopy/exit animations now show correctly in multi, as do airbrakes and tailhooks. Awesome. Been waiting for that for six years. Landing gears no longer get out of sync when someone appears to pass through terrain. Wicked.

-Multiplayer lobby screens no longer jump around like a jack russell terrier. You can actually select a game or add people to your contact lists without feeling like you're playing whack-a-mole. Nice one.

-The Missions are great, assuming you can get the EH-101 which is used for most of them to behave like an actual helicopter (see below).

-Smoke effects no longer detach from your aircraft at low altitude.

Decelerated (the not so good stuff):

-DX10 is a disaster for most people, myself included. Could be FSX, could be drivers, could be Vista, could be all of the above. Whatever it is, help is needed urgently.

-Flashing clouds. It doesn't happen often but clouds aren't as stable anymore on quick track-ir movements.

-Landclass issues. I've seen fields of crops on the PEAKS of the alps, not in the valleys. This is with default landclass data, so either Sp2 models some extremely ambitious farmers or something's seriously porked there.

-Sloping water/rocks bug is back. They fixed this in Sp1, but the 'Thames river bug' is back in Sp2. That's going to put a small dent in my Iceland vector project.

-Vsync is no longer available through the fsx.cfg. It can be forced in the driver in DX9, is totally hosed in DX10. That's a DX10 showstopper for me right there. No Vsync no play.

-All sorts of texture problems, even on correctly compiled pure FSX aircraft. Most of these can and will be fixed, either by users or developers. I'll fix the ones I care about.

-Light effects on the external models can cause all sorts of weirdness texture wise in the VC. On my SR-71 the afterburner lights turn my artificial horizon into a mirror...umm... Haven't even begun to figure this out yet.

-The EH-101 flight model... is.... crap! To be remotely flyable it has to be run on lowest realism settings. It wanders, the engine surge, hovering is hopeless. Keep an eye on the guys at Hovercontrol, my bet is they'll fix it before the developer can.

-F-18 Afterburner effect is a cartoon in motion. I can and will fix that. The rear landing gear is ridiculously high and out of proportion to the chord line of the aircraft. Again I think I can fix that. Just what photo were they working from I'd love to know.

-The P-51 sometimes catches fire in multiplayer for no reason, even with engine damage disabled. It also has some sound issues when two of them are in a session.

-SP2 multi is not backwards compatible with SP1 multi. Doesn't bother me, but the lobbies are looking a bit like a ghost town at the moment, we'll see how it goes.

That's it for now. Overall I like it... I think. ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Format C: never felt so good...

Back in action! XP rocks I have to say. Vista is... umm... how to put this nicely... unfinished. To put it honestly though, it's crap. When their own Windows Media Player in it can't even play movies of their own Windows Media Format without screen tearing one has cause to worry. That was my first indication that things were not about to go well. The other was the bird that smashed into my window and died just after I installed Acceleration. That was the moment my week of insanity started. Next time I'll pay better attention to the universe's little signs. Oh well XP wasn't exactly awesome until about 2 years after it was released, so I have high hopes for Vista. Some parts of it are really quite elegant.

I'll never refer to XP as 'bloatware' again that's for sure. Compared to Vista it's a lean long distance runner. Anyway, Vista rant over, it's great to be back and able to make movies without feeling like I'm about to have an epileptic fit from all the stuttering. At least I'm ready now for DX10 if and when they actually get FSX working properly in it. On the plus side I have an 8800 ultra now and a wicked new 700 watt PSU. On the downside I lost an entire week of my life from fighting with a single piece of software. I guess I must like it or I wouldn't bother. ;)

Aside from the DX10 debacle Acceleration is actually pretty good. There are lots of silly little problems with it like any release, and some I can fix myself, some I can't. Not gonna worry about it though. Overall performance is up even in DX9 and that's what counts. The F-18 is quite well done and easily has the *best* HUD ever made for any version of FS. I'll be finding a way to knick that and put it in the rest of my fighter collection right away. At least they fixed my #1 gripe with FS since 2002, and that's gear synchronization in multiplayer. Make one mistake and they got out of sync for the rest of the session. There's no excuse for not fixing that for SIX YEARS when it's just a simple variable type change (Toggle -> Boolean), and would take them all of about 2 seconds to do.

While fixing that they also managed to fix lots of other sync problems, spoilers, canopies, tailhooks etc. Go ACES! They're copping an absolute thumping on the various community forums over this DX10 stuff though. I really wouldn't want to be in their shoes. Never seen so many threads locked in one day. The people are that pissed. They've spoken, they want an SP2a. I hope ACES delivers just that. I think they might have to. If these are the final code bits for FSX then the multiplayer community could very well be split in two: Those who can't deal with Sp2's issues and those who can, and that I think would be pretty sad. :(

Fingers crossed.

-Lotus out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Oh yeah, Firefox. Forgot about that one. They like to do things differently, really just to annoy anyone struggling with their basic html skills. ;) Movies should be now working in browsers other than IE. Sorry 'bout that.

The Dailies...

A big part of what goes into my movies are the 'dailies'. I do a lot of little clips and vignettes that are tests for different effects I want to try in my main films or for finding solutions to new problems. These movies were a series of test shots for what eventually became the Iris Texan trailer and are sort of soothing and fun in their own right. In this first clip I was trying to get used to filming aircraft flying behind me, not as easy as it looks!

Pilots: Pebble, Jester, and Futureflyer.

In this second clip I was trying to solve some FSrecorder issues, and to generally see just how many Texans my computer could handle on screen at once (5 it turns out). I figured the Australian Air Force Roulettes demonstration team needed to visit Syndey, and of course to break some air regulations, always a neccessity.

Pilots: Me, me, me, me, me... oh and... me (camera). :)


-Lotus out.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Okay I take it back...

Vista DOES suck. If you're thinking of trying out the DX10 features of Acceleration/sp2, here's a little warning for you: It's a quagmire.

These are the casualties so far, aside from my sanity and general well being:

Vsync - totally down for the count. Even nhancer can't get it going. My eyes hurt.
AA&AF - erratic at best and performance sucking
Stuttering - you can have 2 flavours, continuous or all in one big lump every 30 sec, your choice.
Administrator mode - don't run *everything* in it? Kiss your track-ir goodbye.
Graphical glitches - just way too many to even begin to mention, sound too.

Going back to XP tomorrow. If you're going to try Vista, save yourself some headache and do it dual boot.

If sometime in the near future MS and Nvidia get their acts together on these bugs then I'll try it again. In the meantime, good riddance.

-Lotus (FSX's biggest and most thoroughly frustrated fan)


Even when I'm not filming... I'm filming. :) This movie is just a collection of random shots I put together a few months back, basically shows what my friends and I get up to between movies. ;)

The movie may take a minute to show up, please be patient.


Friday, October 26, 2007

A little venting....

Well here's the first little gem for any FSX fans who have decided to check out my blog. I made this short flick just before starting on Lament. My bud Pebble was having a bit of a downer day and around that time I was getting TRULY frustrated with the number of airliner FSX movies going up on youtube every day. Both of us were actually. I mean come on people, how many freaking videos do we need that show the wing of an airliner on landing? Yes, you can land an A320, congratulations, tell someone who cares.

It was time to get it off my chest. I didn't keep this on youtube for very long, just long enough to make my point. Here it is for posterity. Don't give me any crap about the quality, I bashed this out in an hour and got a laugh from Pebble which was my primary goal at the time. :)

Did Lotus pull a Steve Fossett?

Ok that was in bad taste. I really hope he's ok.

Lots of people have been asking me lately when the next movie's coming out. When it's damned well ready, that's when! Kidding. Acceleration has thrown me for a loop here. First it basically destroyed my FSX, then when I finally got it working it decided that it hates my videocard and starting CTDing on all menu actions, very annoying. Well I've had enough of the card too, so look for a little movie soon where my 7900GTO meets with an 'accident'.

I have a new 8800 ultra on order, picking it up tonight, yay. Hopefully that solves matters. Btw, in the process of trying to solve my Accel Pack woes I upgraded to Vista, and you know what... it actually doesn't suck. Well, ok, it does suck a little, but mostly minor things, such as, what in the hell did they do to the sound settings?! Talk about making access to bass and treble controls about oh 500 times more complex than needed. Ugh.

Anyway on to the movies. I have a couple ideas I'm bashing around with my wonderful friend and uber reliable copilot Pebble. The next movie will be somewhat downtempo I think, couple of ideas for that, but the one after, well, if things go according to plan (some BIG ifs in there) it will be the movie my fans have been waiting for and asking about a lot lately. :) Stay tuned on that one.

-Lotus out

Wake Turbulence - The Lotus Films blog

Well I've decided to give this blogging (what a stupid word) thing a try. This blog will be primarily a resource for my youtube fans, and for anyone else bored enough to browse through it. I will be adding lots of those little clips and side projects I do that are never quite good enough to become full 'Lotus' FSX movies. This will also be my unrestrained venue to let you all know just what I think of airliners and the people who love 'playing captain' in FSX. Unmoderated stick and rudder mayhem awaits!