Cockpit Visuals

Monitor

The most basic of the display options. If you have a PC, you have a monitor, so everyone will be able to apply this bacic setup. The monitor you already have is the best budget solution for anyone, however....


For a simulator anything less than 21" is really inadequate. Ideally you would have a 29" to 31" monitor (or even larger ?). The resolution needed is really more up to your personal needs/preferences, although I personally think 800x600 is the absolute minimum for decent flight-simming.


A smaller monitor is also made more eligable through the use of a Fresnel lens. Depending on the quality of the lens it can magnify the image up to 1.5 times.


Multiple Monitors

With the coming of WIN98 and the new generation of 3D accelerators, multiple monitor set-ups have become possible for sim setups.


You could use this to enlarge your range of view by placing monitors beside and/or above you. Or you could use an extra monitor for a Head Down View into the cockpit to read your instruments. Options are many and only limited by your own imagination.


Of course this option would be best used with sims that natively support the use of multiple monitors. Luckily many new sim-developpers have recognised the new potential and are starting to support it slowly but surely.


Projector

One of the most beautiful but surely the most expensive solution.

To get an acceptable resolution on a big screen (or wall) you will get nothing below a price of $3000. If you're willing to pay the price however, this is probably the best solution. Really really rich dudes could go for the ultimate setup, which would be multiple projectors for a full round view and.... (sigh)




TV-Converter

A lesser but affordable alternative for a large screen would be a scan converter to connect to a TV-set.


The image quality is obviously much less then through a monitor since TV's offer far less pixels. This can produce some problems with the legibility of your HUD information. There's a lot of quality differences between individual scan converters. So here's what to look out for:


- scan converter should have an S-VHS output (therefore your TV needs an S-VHS input)


- scan converter should need no software drivers and be a hardware-only product - look out for the resolutions the converter supports


- it would be easy if your screen settings were stored after power-off, so you don't have to reconfigure every time you start up.


The new generation of video cards have almost all got a standard TV/Video-output, so the need for a separate converter is quickly diminishing. If you still have to buy a new video card, buy one with a video-out connector and worry no more....


Fresnel Lens

This is a budget solution for small monitors to seem larger. The fresnel lens is placed in front of the monitor and enlarges the image. A 15" monitor will seem to be 21".

Another advantage of the fresnel lens is that it changes the focal point. This way you seem to be looking THROUGH the screen instead of AT it, creating an illusion of real depth. No loss in color and brightness will occur, but the sharpness does fade a little bit. Sometimes just enough to make letters on the screen illegible and thus making a HUD useless. It all depends on the quality of the lens. Prices can start at about $ 15,00 up to ... say $ 50.000 ??


This picture illustrates the basic concept of a fresnel-lens. It is in fact a flattened version of a normal lens. It is cut circular, each ring cut in a similar shape of that section of a "normal" lens.

It takes a little effort to get the distances (Monitor-fresnel & You-fresnel) right. It depends on the focal point of the particular fresnel. Another idea I came across surfing the web, was to only place a fresnel lens over the part of the monitor that shows the "out-the-window" view, leaving the gauges and controls unchanged. This way you have to refocus every time you change your view from outside to inside or vise versa (like you would have to do in a real airplane!). Another benefit of this method is that the gauges an controls remain easily legible.


Cutting the fresnel lens to fit is however not always as easy as it might seem. Depending on the material used for the lens it may be wise to have it cut by a professional, using a special saw that does not break or splinter the entire lens!!


Fresnels are also widely used by visually handicapped people. This is also a good place to start looking for one. One organisation to aid the visually handicapped I know of in Holland, sells them at very reasonable prices. They can be reached under the number 013-5285666 (NL).


My personal experiences with my fresnel lens (which I bought at the aforementioned organisation) are very good! The HUD of Falcon4.0 or Janes F15 stay perfectly legible, whilst being enlarged considerably. Instrumentation suffers little in sharpness. The focal point effect is one that is not as profoundly noticed but more so if you take away the lens. It's not something that gives you 'instant depth beyond belief' but more a little additional sense of realism.


Head Mounted Display

Head mounted display's or virtual reality helmets/goggles are one of the best visual gadgets to achieve total immersion into the sim.

There are many different kinds and some offer real 3D imaging (meaning you really see depth (if supported by software)) and even head-tracking (your view changes to match your head movement) which is absolutely perfect for situational awareness in dogfights.

Try this link: http://www.iisvr.com/