When was the last time you made an approach into an area that was so nice, yet lacked that one thing: buildings other than autogen? That medium sized city with only houses just did not seem right. Or that approach to runway 09 with obstructing autogen right before touchdown. That, and to populate the scenery of small airstrips, is where I think Instant Scenery by Flight1 will come in handy.
Prior to autogen, I used these types of applications quite often, making my own little make believe airports. Now the airplane in flight is used as a point of view, it does not have to be on the ground to make an object placement. Instant scenery can also be used to hide autogen, as I will explain later.
Placement applications with earlier FS versions are available, and some are freeware, yet, for FSX, this is the only one that I’ve seen so far. In Flight 1’s forum, I’ve read that it is quite similar to a certain (unnamed) earlier application programmed by the same author that created Instant Scenery for Flight1. You will see the similarities. Still, I think that Instant Scenery is the most up-to-date object placement application available to this date for FSX.
Although the one download is good for installing in both FS9 and FSX, I am limiting this review to FSX as it is my primary and only FS version. Version 1.03 is compatible with the Acceleration Expansion Pack.
Take note, there is a demo version available. Although it only works within a 55 nm radius of Seattle, try to hide autogen on approach to KSEA and you will see one benefit of Instant Scenery.
Installation and Documentation:
Unwrapping to your folder of choice follows Flight 1’s usual procedure for purchase/re-install after download and installation from the Window installer with nothing particular to report. At one point you are asked to check the paths for either FS9 and/or FSX. The application itself is installed elsewhere than the Flight sim path, where only the .dll is placed. This makes use of the infamous dll.xml for FSX. Version 1.03, at the time of review submission, is recommended.
Using Instant Scenery:
Instant Scenery’s User Interface (UI) is accessible from the menu bar under add-ons. Upon first use, IS initializes and loads the default libraries of objects from data already in your scenery folders.
In the upper left corner of the UI is a scrollable listing of available object libraries. You can make more libraries available by checking some more boxes on the options page, for instance, “add-on global libraries”, many of which are available as freeware from the AVSIM file library (do a search for objects under scenery design for FS9).
You have to activate these additional libraries in your FSX library editor before they become visible in the library listing for Instant Scenery. (This is thoroughly explained in the manual). There can be too many in the list if you check off all the boxes, as some developer’s scenery objects are then made available, and sometimes each type of their objects has its own library entry. If this becomes a nuisance, you can find what custom object you were searching for and then revert to a shorter list using the options page for further work on your scenery file.
Objects are chosen from a list of models. Thumbnails are available but are not entirely necessary, because as you highlight each model in the listing, it is drawn on the scenery you are working on and can be scaled to size on the spot for better inspection or resized to taste. If you don’t want that model, highlighting another makes that one now visible.
Thumbnails are convenient for choosing from a large block of model’s drawings, but these are not available right away after activating a new object library you have found on the internet. Instant scenery does have a mechanism for creating thumbnails, but it is cumbersome and requires a bit of technical work.
I have set up a saved FSX situation that I revert to for that sole purpose, because your airplane has to face north at around 1000 feet, with a certain pitch that allows for image viewing… a bit complicated for the uninitiated but fully explained in the manual, which must be read carefully in order to get this to work. Even the time of day is important to make the screen receptive to making thumbnails. This requires some patience and technical effort.
The library maker:
There is a library maker with which you can compose your own listing of objects making your own sub-set library. It will take 3D objects, such as those made in gmax made elsewhere, and combines it or them into a model library you can use and share with others (while respecting other’s copyrights if any). Once made, a library can be re-opened for modifications. Simple to use, but it is best to consult the manual for instructions on its use.
Earlier in my review work, I encountered a problem in that I noticed that once I used it, it renamed the *.bgl FSX file extensions to librarymaker.documents. This problem has since been repaired in version 1.03 of Instant Scenery, and any previously made errors can be repaired using instructions found in the forum at Flight1’s site.
Project walk through:
I’m always finding little things I want to add to the scenery. For instance, I am presently at Sept-Isles in Quebec, Canada (CYZV). This city is very well positioned thanks to Flight 1’s Ultimate Terrain X for Canada, but there is a large railyard on approach to RW09 where there obviously should be ships loading up the ore for which this city was built.
So I searched through our AVSIM library and came up with an object library for ships (there are some water objects in the FSX default libraries too). After having made the thumbnails as described in the “The library” above, I placed my aircraft about 6 miles on final inbound to RW09 at 1000’ and changed to 2D cockpit view, paused the sim, removed the panel using shift-1 (may be different on other a/c), chose a ship model and placed it where it seemed appropriate using the slew commands and those on the Instant Scenery UI (pictured below).
Once one object is placed, you must ‘add’ it to the scenery bgl for this area (‘Add Object’ button): this is the only “save” method, and has to be done after each object placement. If you decide to not keep the object, you simply replace it with another or leave Instant Scenery.
After the first placement is ‘added’, you are requested to name the scenery file unless you have already opened a previously saved one using the ‘Open Scenery’ button. A final picture of this scenery work is used as the title picture for this review. I made use of my scenery work to enhance the realism of the helicopter you get with the expansion pack.
An object can be moved or deleted using the Move/Delete Objects tab of the UI. When active, this mode places a red X where an object would be. By moving the X to another object previously placed and added, you can the effect movements or delete it, then save these changes.
When you place an object over a generated autogen object, the latter is hidden, which can be convenient or not in which case you can keep the autogen and a placed object using the options tab when in the Move/Delete page as shown to keep the autogen. Airport buildings placed by FSX are not autogen and cannot be hidden in this way, so you can only enhance generic airports, not change them.
What I can do though, is clean up the touchdown autogen that seems quite out of place at some small airports. These ‘hidings’ will not show until you restart FSX. Reusing Instant Scenery will make all those autogen reappear albeit temporarily again. There is an object, available by reading Flight 1’s forum, which is ‘invisible’ and is used to hide selected autogen: clever.
Since I could not figure how to use that invisible object, I used a small antenna that I then scaled down to 20%. I show those results below. I tried to replace a large area of trees using a scaled up helipad but it does not hide groups of autogen. There is mention of this working somehow; read the forum for ‘AFX and Instant Scenery’ at Flight1.
Adding FSDiscover POIs:
Now that I’ve made a nicer Sept-Isles harbor, will I remember it? Not if I keep on making more scenery additions. That is where another product of Flight 1's comes in handy: FSDiscover, a free demo of which is also available.
POI is short for “point of interest”. Since I have FSDiscover installed, I can now add CYZV as POI and when I fly near here, later I can remember that it may be of interest to land here again. This should prove to be a very handy bookkeeper of all my add-on sceneries, not just the ones made using Instant Scenery. I will be writing up a review on FSDiscover in the next couple of weeks. More on that later.
Sharing Scenery files:
Instant Scenery produces bgl files completely transferable from one FSX installation to another without needing to have Instant Scenery installed on the recipient’s system. There is no copyright restriction on the bgl file produced by Instant Scenery, as long as it is distributed freely. The objects used to make the file may have been borrowed from elsewhere though, and would require its own permission/discretion. Most objects are already available as native to FSX and do not require any permission. Consult the manual for full details.
Compatibility with Acceleration Pack?
Yes, as of version 1.03 of Instant Scenery. This version also now prevents bgl files’ extension names from being redefined as librarymaker.documents, which was very annoying in earlier versions such that 1.03 should be installed even if you never intend on getting the acceleration pack. There are instructions in Flight1’s forums to remove that filename association incase you have already succumbed to it.
Summary / Closing Remarks:
Although it may seem that there are way too many details, steps, technicalities etc… required for a fluid use of Instant Scenery, you do get used to it. Still, it helps if you have had previous experience using the slew commands, as Instant Scenery relies heavily on these.
What you do get with Instant Scenery, is a tool to place objects including individual custom, FSX, and autogen objects, and to save your results in a bgl file that can be shared freely on the internet while respecting any authorship of custom objects and model libraries. It allows for the creation of your own model libraries and the creation of thumbnails for preview of batches of other developer’s or your own libraries. It can be linked to an installed version of FSDiscover to mark points of interest in FSX, and you can also use Instant Scenery to hide obstructive autogen.
Regrettably, Flight 1 does not supply us with a bundle of custom objects. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen entire city block objects for faster town and industrial area buildup, and a usable invisible object for hiding autogen.
It is important to update to version 1.03, even if you do not intend to have the acceleration pack installed. This will prevent the renaming of your bgl files.
I close in remarking that version 1.03’s corrections were made available 2 days after the acceleration pack was out. This is usual for Flight 1, a highly regarded and remarkable company with loads of excellent products backed by the most outstanding support for customers in our flight sim world.
What I Like About Instant Scenery
What I Don't Like About Instant Scenery
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