Simulation of "NIGHT VISION" in ESP/FSX (lack of)


    As a real worl pilot, who loves to fly at night, I have always been dissappointed with the way that FS renders night scenes.
    MSFS might simulate the actual light levels, but they seem to fail to take into account the limited dynamic range of monitors,  and more importantly,  make no attempt to simulate the NIGHT VISION effect that a pilot would experience in real life at night.
    The result is that the lighting "perceived"  by the human eye  in FS, at night, results in an image that is far too dark.
    As we know,  at night,  in the dark,  the human  eye adapts and goes into a "Night Vision" mode,   and greatly increases its ability to see  dark levels, and to distinguish object at those low levels.
    No doubt there are many ways that a Flight Simulator  could be programed to Simulate this effect,  but one easy approximation,  is to increase the Gamma,  as the scene gets darker.
    I do this in FS  ( 2000 - FSX),  increasing the Gamma  at night,  until  I see a more representative simulation, of what I  would see in real life, at night.
    Adjusting the Gamma work surprisingly well,  for the outside view,  but is not desirable for any inside cockpit views.( They tend already to be too BRIGHT  in any case at night ---   where is that Instrument Lighting "VARIABLE" dimmer control ??   :)
    So, the ideal might be a GAMMA control  for external views,  while maintaining internal cockpit views  at "normal" gamma.
    The addition of a simple slider control,  1-3  (?),  that is the gamma correction multiplier,  that is applied as the outside scene gets dark,   would be a great addition,   and maybe something along there lines might be considered in future version of FS  (or  at least ESP !! )
    In the meanwhile, it seems to me that there might be a technical possibility to have an external program, interface with Direct X,  and at least have a Manually operated Slider,   that would change the gamma  of selected views,  ie  Outside views. ??
    How technically possible is this,  or  can anyone suggest of better ways to achieve  the simulated effect of "Night Vision"   when operating at night.  ?
    Actually,  the more I think about NIGHT Vision Simulation,  the more I realise waht "could" be done,  to simulate  this is in ESP.
    ( Including temporary loss of Night Vision,   when Blinded by another vehicles lights  etc,   and the recovery to optimum Night vision thereafter ... etc etc)  -- all making for a far more "realistic"  simulator.)

    Tim  -- hope you are reading this  :)
    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 4:08 AM

All replies

  • I found your analysis very interesting as I also noticed myself that night textures were a bit too dark in general. 

    I'm not from MS unfortunately, but I think there is probably a work around, by increasing the gamma directly in the texture database. By modifying the night texture directly, you will not affect the cockpit of your aircraft.
    Maybe some artists could help you there?
    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 11:11 AM
  • Not only would this be great, but I would like some ideas on how to "simulate" NVG (night vision goggles) in X-Plane there is a simulation mode of NVG with the inherent green speckles and I think it would be great to be able to emulate that here in FSX. It is also shown on the instrument panel, so that anyone that wants to try and fly with NVG only needs to use "plastic" view limiting pretend goggles to get the aproximate 40 degrees of view and making judgement of approaches rather difficult and causing one to constantly look from side to side to figure out the speed and altitude!

    Any ideas?

    Thanks Steve
    • Edited by SOS Steve Thursday, December 18, 2008 5:51 PM
    Thursday, December 18, 2008 6:52 AM
  • A difficulty MS would face if they put native IR support in ESP is that any simulation of a "sensor" immediately classes the product within US ITAR restrictions.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008 1:29 PM
  • That's interesting and now you have me wondering how EA games put out "Comanche" and that series with many of the missions at night with "night vision" and X-Plane has had a "night vision" view for the past several years. I also see my son playing XBox military games with night vision and sniper scope "in green" in the same games. I don't think that "painting a screen green and adding sparkles constitutes a violation of any regulations. Otherwise there are a lot of violations out there allready!However I'm not a "legal expert" either and maybee there are a lot of issues out there that are either being ignored or no one noticed!

    The reason I am interested is that the helocopter simulator we build is used by air ambalance and police dept's for training and I have received several requests for simulating rather than using the real NVG units as they don't keep "spares" on hand and it takes a set or two "out of service" when training.

    I too am not only a "real world" pilot but also am a certified flight instructor and commericial pilot as well.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008 5:25 PM
  • NVGs are infra-red, they just intensify the natural light levels that are there, (so you might still see shadows.)  I don't believe ITAR covers NVG simulation.

    Infra-Red is simulating the thermal discharge of objects and displaying that as artificial colours or brightnesses.  There are essentially two ways of doing this: one is that you just have a generic heat texture that you apply when in that mode and the other is that you actually model the thermal properties of the objects mathematically.  ITAR restrictions are different for the two. 

    I also think that ITAR has a different view of games as opposed to commercial simulation platforms, but the boundary is rather blurry.  When you model a sensor properly, it is calibrated and its performance can be described accurately so you can model the exact performance of real world sensors.  Games don't do that, they just estimate roughly what such an image might look like.  But you couldn't use it to train an operator for using the real thing because you can't establish metrics on the training accuracy if you can't scientifically describe the differences between the simulation and the real thing.


    Thursday, December 18, 2008 7:47 PM
  • I don't dissagree with that. I understand the "real world" calibration and traceability (in another life I was chief engineer and dir of engineering of major TV network) but for general helicopter training and learning (or sharpening of pilot skills) for obstical avoidance when landing on roads etc near accidents (medivac) or general low level flying looking for suspects etc (police helicopters) the only requirement is giving the "general green screen" will do just fine. In this use of an FAA certified AATD (Advanced Aircraft Training Device) the only thing needed is to save the departments money and by turning the screen green and using "fake" goggles allows the pilot (or observer) to learn the skills to avoid terrain and trees, poles, cell towers, etc and get used to flying with limited "angle of view". When they do this, it has been shown to be very valuable before taking the pilots and observers into the real equipment. Remember that the AATD is NOT real world either, it is a nice simulation!

    Friday, December 19, 2008 4:38 AM