Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sweetfx...How sweet it is!

Sweetfx at work!  View out of Ant's T28D window.

After smooth sailing I decided to upgrade my FSX.   I wanted the view out of the virtual cockpit to look more realistic. This involved the addition of ENB, Sweetfx, and Shade.  Unfortunately, what followed was 2 weeks of playing around with settings, software, forum suggestions, and a lot of frustration.  Luckily this venture ended with my FSX  running and looking much better than before.

 Milviz B407 over Scotland with Sweetfx enhancing the view.

All of this started with the addition of ENB right after Christmas.  ENB was very easy to add by copying the ENB files to the main FSX folder. This free plug-in could be activated by clicking on Shift F12.
ENB added a lot of contrast to the image in FSX.  My feeling was that ENB was very useful for flying during the day. The cockpit appeared darker depending on the angle of the Sun.  ENB was also good at making distant scenery look more realistic and darker.  Unfortunately, the use of ENB led to crashes to desktop! The last straw was when FSX crashed right after I completed a flight for Intercity Virtual Airline in the Q400. I was still able to submit the flight, but the data was incorrect.

Flying Ant's T28 Trojan with Sweetfx at work

To be honest,  ENB never created a crash to desktop unless it was activated. The crashes on my system appeared to occur when switching between windowed mode and full screen. I had to switch modes to  access to the virtual ACARS system.   Unfortunately ENB had to go and was quickly removed from my FSX directory.  But I may give it a second chance at some point in time.

Lancair off a Hawaiian Island.

This was followed by the purchase and installation of Shade for FSX. Shade added different shadow and lighting textures. While the effect was subtle, it did produce better shadowing especially during sunset or sunrise. Shade did not created any problems on my system. Shade was user friendly and came with and in depth manual.

Shade at work creating nice shadow detail.

Then came the installation of Sweetfx.  This freeware program has been used successfully in various games from Skyrim to Rise of Flight. Sweetfx features effects such as enhanced light, contrast, HDR, and color saturation. I decided to use the GUI program “Flightfx” developed for “Rise of Flight”.
This program allowed me to quickly change the Sweetfx settings in real time.   Flightfx uses Sweetfx 1.4 but may be compatible with the newer version Sweetfx1.5.  (Don't quote me!).   To install I simply downloaded Flightfx and copied the relevant Sweetfx files into the main FSX folder.

Sweetfx placed in spiltscreen mode to check settings

Flying in FSX with Sweetfx provided a very realistic environment and visuals! Color saturation and contrast were greatly increased along with some HDR and light bloom effects.  Sweetfx really added depth to the FSX world.   After using Sweetfx my feelings were that it would be hard to fly without it! The ground and sky looked so much better!   The online Sweetfx database provided a list of preset files for FSX from other users.  I tried a few of the presets for Sweetfx1.4 found on the Sweetfx Settings Database.  The preset created by user Firestorm was my favorite.   Firestorm's preset was copied to my Flightfx settings folder and then checked in Flightfx.


FSX page at the Sweetfx Settings Database

Firestorm's settings for Sweetfx1.4 and FSX

 But there was a dark side though.  While the benefits of Sweetfx were tremendous, the shimmering of detail was out of control. Once high above the ground the shimmering was not such a problem. But the runway lines and airport details were disturbing to look at! I tried everything from different Nvidia Inspector settings to Sweetfx settings.  On top of this, FSX was not running as smooth either!  This was obvious when I tried to land the Realair Duke Turbine at TNCM and it lagged on landing!

Duke Turbine landing at TNCM  

Pages and pages of Avsim forum information were read to no avail. The shimmering simply could not be eliminated.  The use of the anti-aliasing filter in FSX removed most of the shimmering.  Unfortunately the FSX AA filter also eliminated the effects produced by Sweetfx too. Finally after 2 weeks of playing around I thorough in the towel.  It was time to go  back to my original FSX setup and Nvidia inspector settings. This called for watching the Matt Davie's 2013 Youtube Tweaking guide on youtube and following his suggestions for Nvidia inspector.  It is important to note that his suggestions were take from one of the developers working for PMDG.  I did this and everything was back to normal.

Smooth flying after takeoff with Sweetfx and redone Nvidia Inspector settings.

For the fun of it, I decided to try Sweetfx one last time. To my surprise, “THE SHIMMERING was GONE”!  Yes there was some shimmering but the amount was very low. Infact there was less shimmering then when I first started messing around with my FSX. On top of it, my FSX  ran smoother. As in no micro stutters when taking off in the NGX from a payware airport.

Smooth takeoff in NGX.  NO micro stutters!

At this point, I am as happy as a clam. My conclusion is that when I first setup my system following Matt’s youtube guide, SOMETHING WAS SET INCORRECTLY in Nvidia inspector.  As of now,  my FSX looks much better with the use of Sweetfx and Shade and runs smoother!

The Realair Duke Turbine over Scotland.

While I did not get much virtual airline flying done, I have much to be thankful for.  The view out of the cockpit is more realistic and gone is the cartoon look of default FSX.  On top of this, there is no micro stutters when taking off in the NGX.  On another note, Active Sky Next and FTX Global have continued to impress me with each flight.   As an added bonus I was able to pickup the Real Air Duke Turbine for a lowly $21 on sale during New Years Eve!    How relevant because 2014 is going to be a great year for flight simming!

Realair Duke Turbine, a real bargain at the current price!