Free Money? No! A Blog post about Flight Simulator X

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A blogpost, that I might add, which has nothing to do whatsoever with free money in any way shape or form.

In the bunco squad we call this "bait and switch."

Sim-Outhouse got a few screenshots of FSX the other day, and one of the fellows who frequents over there (MCDesigns; aka "Michael") noted...

"Still concerned with the prop blur on the bell..."

...which is in reference to the fact that the Bell 206B we model has two blades, while in the screens it looks as if it has four. You can see a different version of the "more than two blades effect" at the FSInsider site. In the example just linked, it would appear that there are five blades...

So what's up with that? In an image from the previous version of FS you can see that we modeled  the two blade effect. (hat tip to Avsim for the image).

Here then is the repy I gave to Michael:

"Hi Michael,

We've done several versions of the Bell over the years, and one of the things that's felt particularly anemic to my eyes has been the prop effect.

We've always used a two prop blur effect, and the thing is, it just doesn't look like what you see in real life. Sure, when you see a photo of a 206 prop, you see two blades.

We've tried a few different effects, and have settled on the effect you see reflected in the shots floating around. I know that it looks a little off in a static screenshot, but I hope you'll like the result when it's in motion, in the sim."

So what do you think? Should we model to what people might expect-- the reality as seen from a photo? Or should we err on the side of what we think looks more real in action? I think that there are valid reasons to do both, but at the end of the day customer expectation has to play a part.

In the next couple of months I'll get some video out that shows the effect in motion, and that should help folk make up their minds. But in the meantime, don't be afraid to chime in. What do you think?


Here's Michael's answer:

"Very true Jason, a real pic looks pretty much like 2 blades with even less of a blur than in the current texture and when spinning, looks like the new blur. I am a heli fanatic and have repainted nearly every model that has been in FS since FS2002 and the rotor blur has always been something I am very critical off. If the new one is still based on a texture, then we can alter it for personal preference once it's released, so no worries."

And you can read the whole thread here.


  • Hi, been reading these blogs for a while now, but thought I'd jump in here.

    While on the subject of the 206 i've noticed in all the screens released for FSX theres alot of 206 paint schemes, Im guessing these will have something to do the missions?

    What I'm wondering, as I do everytime a new FS is announced is :), will we be able to give helis 2 engines as easily as we do fixed wings?

    Im a heli-nut just in-case you don't know :)

  • I think you should go with what a human eye sees, not what a camera sees.
    So the 4 or more bladed thing looks better to me.

    That's like some airplanes we download on the internet, some have a propeller that you can clearly see when it's spinning at full thrust.

    I remember a comment I got during a flight I did with a friend of mine. He told me "but, you sure we still have a propeller ?? I don't see it anymore !"
    He was right, in this aircraft (Robin DR400), at full thrust, you *don't* see the propeller, I don't remember even seeing a transparent ring...
    The cameras on the other hand, clearly see the propeller ...

  • Jason:

    Well, the difference between screen captures and what is seen real time in the sim is often very different, much the same as a photo of an aircraft or helicopter opposed to a video or seen by the naked eye.  It all depends on the end user, sure.  I say to those who often take screen captures, modify the blur to represent the two blades.  To those who are not interested, leave it as default with the multibladed blur.  The CES demo briefly showed the effect, but it will be better to see footage captured straight from FS X before I make a final judgement myself.

    Jason is an art guy, so he's not the right person for flight dynamics issues.

    Mike Schroeter really needs a blog doesn't he, Jason? :-)



  • Comparing apples to ... err ... apples.

    In my oppionion, photo/video/Direct3D/reality/meta-reality are basically all the same. It's the exposure time that makes the difference.

    So you cannot accurately compare FS screenshots with real life photos. Real life photos's exposure times depend on brightness level. FS screenshots's expure times (=framerate) depend on the hardware. It would be probably little more accurate to compare FS screenshots to video captures.

    HELL ... do not make a rotor that is designed to look good on static screenshots.

    So, if possible, generate a blade algorithm that scales to the framerate (=exposure time).
    It should be doable to create a phreakin' phase phunction that ~somehow~ calculates which arcs of the rotor-texture have been covered how many times by the rotor blade.
    The final look is then composed by human perception.

    At least for me this problem is something to solve entirely with a math textbook; not an artist. Never mind ;)

  • Hmmmmm...... ultimately it will depend on how many users see (and 'observe'!) real helicopters versus just photos and tv movies of them.....

    ..... and how large is the percentage of customers that really cares !

    Not an easy one to answer ;-)

    My calculated guess would be that most FS buyers will not have noticed what a real helicopter blade looks like when spinning :-)

  • 4 blades

  • Cool Jason, my 15 seconds of fame, LOL

    Either way, I'm sure I'll be happy with what is decided, but if I was to vote, then realistic in flight would be my choice. I am an art/visual person as well and visuals are important to me, but realism takes the forefront.

    Looking forward to the video!

    BTW my offer to help take new screenshots still stands ;-)

  • Jason, wanted to add this, is it not possible to increase the animation speed for a 2 blade blur to have it look correct in flight, yet still like real 2 blade blur photos in a stop motion pic?

    Just a thought as I have experimented with this in the past with the prop_anim_ratio=-1.76 part in the CFG with good results.


  • I agree, make it look best while moving.  And siding with Alan Devins can we hope to see the helicopter getting a little more attention in the turbine dept?  Ability to have dual engines, or a true turbine startup.

  • I don't think the new rotor blur looks realistic at all. I've spent my whole life around the JetRanger, and one thing sticks out most: The JetRanger has a two-blade main rotor. That's a fact that cannot be denied. And everytime I see a JetRanger (or any other helicopter) flying overhead, I can clearly distinguish how many blades the helicopter has for a main rotor system. I have never seen a case where the JetRanger's rotor blur looks any different than what was previously depicted in Flight Simulator 2004.  

    The only time that "4-blade blur effect" will ever look real is when (and it is long overdue, IMHO) Flight Simulator decides to include a Bell 407 into the default aircraft lineup.


  • They must really be keeping you jumping over at MS.  You used to post all the time but now nothing for over a month.  I still keep checking in here now and again.

    BTW, I agree that accurate visuals in flight is the way to go.

  • Is 'MCDesigns' really authorative enough to comment... he calls a rotor a prop! Personally I think the blur should be as it is seen in real life by the naked eye, this is a simulation after all... but I think you'll be forever explaining it to users.

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