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Optical Acuity


Merlin-27
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I've wanted to start a discussion about this for a while and after flying this weekend I began wondering what the general consensus is on the topic.

 

When flying the DCS P-51D in combat, situational awareness is obviously a top priority. As in RL accounts, this can make all the difference in an aerial engagement. However, as we all know, computer monitors and the human eye are not at all equal in capacity. There lies the big challenge for sim developers and in this case I think ED has done a great job creating a very realistic environment. That being said, spotting enemy aircraft can be very very challenging in-game and it makes me wonder how it compares to the real deal. Naturally, it should be challenging but not impossible when you are looking for an aircraft you know is nearby. I have 20/15 vision myself, but I feel pretty blind when I'm focusing on each pixel hoping to see something.

 

Like I said, we will not see PC visuals on par with the human eye anytime soon, but what is the best solution to overcome this hurdle? I hate to suggest anything that is obviously an artificial aid to spotting i.e. external views or labels or padlocks but I'm hoping to eventually use my eyesight to my advantage as was the case with most successful WWII combat pilots.

 

Also, due to my love for authenticity, I prefer not to use skins that help the contrast. Been there and done this and it doesn't seem to be a much better solution than using labels or such.

 

It's interesting how you can see tracers from what seems to be 30-40 miles away but aircraft are invisible beyond 10-15 or less.

 

Just my thoughts.

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I also have trouble keeping track or aircraft that I have already spotted. Of course, that is realistic, but in my opinion DCS is somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to LOD transitions that keep aircraft visible. Rise of Flight and Falcon BMS are both superb in this respect: aircraft are always visible on the monitor at all aspects and appropriate distances. I put DCS in second place here: aircraft can sometimes be hard to view at close range because of their aspect or position below the horizon, but mostly it is very good. Then there is Clod, where things just disappear entirely and it is unplayable.

 

Who knows, maybe aircraft are too easy to spot in the first two sims I listed. In real flight picking up aircraft is not easy. Even with two of us at the controls, I've been pretty surprised at how close other aircraft can be before we spot them.

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i think DCS did pretty good in regards of spotting contacts..

now due to my real life flying experience, i know that it can be very tricky to spot planes...and im talking about planes with strong coloured paintings without any camouflage...

i already had it twice, that i was really surprised how late me and my flight instructor saw another plane coming at us.in the wrong situtations, a plane really can pop up suddenly right in front of you.

 

to my understanding, our eyes work the way, that if you focuse something, you will see it cristal clear(as long as you have healthy eyes), but this way you wont notice motion that good.

for spotting moving objects, its rather beneficial, to use your perhipheral view.the image is blurry, but you will notice movements better.

 

having said that, one can improve pretty quickly....although my experience is still limited, i noticed definitely a improvement in spotting other planes.

 

for combat flight sims, i would recommend a real procedure of looking around....for example to always start at the left rear view,and end at the right one...the sequenz is not important, but its important that you do it always the same way...this way you can make sure to have the whole visual range covered, and situational awareness is granted...


Edited by 9./JG27 DavidRed
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I'm not saying it's terrible in DCS... but as a place for some refinement.

 

to my understanding, our eyes work the way, that if you focuse something, you will see it cristal clear(as long as you have healthy eyes), but this way you wont notice motion that good.

for spotting moving objects, its rather beneficial, to use your perhipheral view.the image is blurry, but you will notice movements better.

 

Rods and Cones :)

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Generally, I found it considerably easier to spot aircraft when I was flying real aircraft, but there are some situations where it is more difficult. As David said, sometimes you can be looking right at something and not see it. In the sim, that doesn't happen (unless your RL eyesight is poor or the aircraft is only a tiny pixel), because our RL eyes are focused at a fixed distance at all times, on the monitor a couple of feet away. But, in general, spotting real aircraft is much easier, because they appear so much larger than they do in the sim (unless you're at high zoom level in the sim, in which case you've lost all peripheral vision, and are thus again disadvantaged compared to reality).

 

I can't speak for camo aircraft, but small white-painted aircraft (in the real world) are easy to spot against the ground in normal weather conditions, even at the distance of a couple of miles. Against the sky, it can be harder, but they're still easily visible at 5000 feet distance (to the point where you almost can't miss it), unless they're coming straight at you. YRMV; not only do different people have different eyes, but the way one's eyes scan and focus can be different from person to person as well.


Edited by Echo38
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In my experience in real life I find it very hard to spot other small aircraft (small Cessnas, Pipers, etc.) when they are more than about 3 miles away. They are just too small, and tend to blend into the background too well.

 

Since P-51s and FW-190s are a bit bigger, I'd figure 5 miles would be about the furthest I'd expect to easily spot them, which is about what I get in DCS. So I think the visibility of aircraft as it is now is about right. In my opinion. :)

 

--NoJoe

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I think first of all in reallife you dont have micro or macro framratestuttering which is in the sim anyhow good system you have. Another important thing is that in a graphics (not video) based sim like this when the objects get down to certain size the view of the pixels starts to be seen as flickering dots. On top of that especially much of the scenery in current DCS World often have these small flickerings which unless you have an unlimited AA and resolution possibility. Most of this happens in the range which we need to see things well. All this is different when looking out the cockpit in RL. In real life you do have virations for sure, but its different anyhow.Technology could take us there eventually, but not yet. But to spot things is all difficult anyway also obiously depending on backgound contrast colors. And current scenery doesnt look that real in my opinion. That i guess is one of the reasons why to be a combat pilot you need to have a Eagle's vision and of course in colors :).

 

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Generally, I found it considerably easier to spot aircraft when I was flying real aircraft, but there are some situations where it is more difficult. As David said, sometimes you can be looking right at something and not see it. In the sim, that doesn't happen

 

This is more of what I was getting at. Even when you know where to look a lot of the time the aircraft is invisible and quite often indistinguishable from the ground scenery...even with non-camo paint schemes. I've had to spot aircraft while flying in RL as well and a well trained scan will help for sure, no argument there.

 

To explain further where this came from, this weekend I was at an outdoor music festival which was situated fairly close to an airfield that has a few flyable WWII restorations. During the musical performance a P-47 and P-51 flew overhead, which of course hijacked my attention immediately. I'd say they were at about 1000ft and I watched them for great distance. I noticed fine details even when they became dark grey near the horizon. Boy, would I love to see that well while flying combat, I thought :)

 

I think first of all in reallife you dont have micro or macro framratestuttering which is in the sim anyhow good system you have. Another important thing is that in a graphics (not video) based sim like this when the objects get down to certain size the view of the pixels starts to be seen as flickering dots. On top of that especially much of the scenery in current DCS World often have these small flickerings which unless you have an unlimited AA and resolution possibility. Most of this happens in the range which we need to see things well. All this is different when looking out the cockpit in RL. In real life you do have virations for sure, but its different anyhow.Technology could take us there eventually, but not yet. But to spot things is all difficult anyway also obiously depending on backgound contrast colors. And current scenery doesnt look that real in my opinion. That i guess is one of the reasons why to be a combat pilot you need to have a Eagle's vision and of course in colors :).

 

You bring up a bunch of good points. The flickering and studdering takes away from your peripheral recognition for sure. Maybe that is the bulk of what I'm talking about. It may be an issue that is beyond simulation. In RL if you attempt to examine an area your immediate focus generally creates a bit of a tunnel view which sharpens that view. Maybe somewhere down the road our current "zoom" will turn into a smooth transition to a focus mode. The human eye is a tough thing to out-engineer.

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I'm with Xracer--aliasing is one of the "big three" discrepancies between sim and reality regarding visibility, the other two being eye focus and zoom/FoV (with its problems of apparent image size and such). There are others, but these are the ones which are, I think, the most responsible for the problems.

 

When I was beta testing for Rise of Flight, I kept complaining about certain changes to the graphical engine because they increased aliasing (jagged edges on lines, or "jaggies") on my system. When the entire ground is sparkling or "shimmering" like this (something that the real ground doesn't do), it becomes harder to see another moving dot amongst all those moving dots. What I mean is, in real life, the ground is more or less stationary from your perspective, if you're flying straight and level; thus, any dot moving across the ground (or sky) will draw your brain's attention, because the contrast between its speed and the speed of everything around it causes it to stand out. But with aliasing in sims, the virtual ground isn't stationary like that--it's mostly a chaotic mass of frantically-sparkling dots, and so it's harder to spot yet another moving dot amongst the other moving dots than it is to notice such a dot in the real world.

 

The CEO of 777 Studios couldn't figure out why I was complaining so hard; he thought that the jagged lines were just an aesthetic issue. But it wasn't; it was enormously affecting my ability to spot other aircraft, and since other users in multiplayer sometimes had much less aliasing (because they had different graphics cards), it was an unfair & unrealistic disadvantage in competitive virtual air combat. People were getting the drop on me when they wouldn't have been able to if we'd both had the same computer specs & graphical settings (and when they wouldn't have been able to in real life, for that matter).


Edited by Echo38
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I'm with Xracer--aliasing is one of the "big three" discrepancies between sim and reality regarding visibility, the other two being eye focus and zoom/FoV (with its problems of apparent image size and such). There are others, but these are the ones which are, I think, the most responsible for the problems.

 

When I was beta testing for Rise of Flight, I kept complaining about certain changes to the graphical engine because they increased aliasing (jagged edges on lines, or "jaggies") on my system. When the entire ground is sparkling or "shimmering" like this (something that the real ground doesn't do), it becomes harder to see another moving dot amongst all those moving dots. What I mean is, in real life, the ground is more or less stationary from your perspective, if you're flying straight and level; thus, any dot moving across the ground (or sky) will draw your brain's attention, because the contrast between its speed and the speed of everything around it causes it to stand out. But with aliasing in sims, the virtual ground isn't stationary like that--it's mostly a chaotic mass of frantically-sparkling dots, and so it's harder to spot yet another moving dots amongst the other moving dots than it is in reality.

 

Yes! This is specifically something I've been thinking about. Some objects on the ground are very sharp looking. Super high contrast.. in cities and such. When in the background, that is the easiest place to lose another aircraft for me. I haven't tried, but does anti-aliasing in the settings make a big difference there?

 

...it was an unfair & unrealistic disadvantage in competitive virtual air combat. People were getting the drop on me when they wouldn't have been able to if we'd both had the same computer specs & graphical settings...

 

Sound like the words of a Lagg3 pilot. :lol: I kid I kid.

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At what zoom level?

 

Oh, good point. I guess that's what I see at a slightly zoomed in level (I set zoom to TrackIR Z-axis, so I don't have an exact measure). And I do run with antialiasing on.

 

--NoJoe

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The Falcon series attempted to solve this issue with something called "Smart Scaling." Once you are within visual range of something you should be able to see in real life, the 3D model is enlarged just enough for you to see it as a speck, and then when you get closer the model returns to it's standard size. In my experience it works well, especially for spotting ground targets.

 

My main gripe with DCS is that I cannot see ground targets until 2~3nm out, which is much too close to setup an attack run.


Edited by Nealius

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The Falcon series attempted to solve this issue with something called "Smart Scaling." Once you are within visual range of something you should be able to see in real life, the 3D model is enlarged just enough for you to see it as a speck, and then when you get closer the model returns to it's standard size. In my experience it works well, especially for spotting ground targets.

 

My main gripe with DCS is that I cannot see ground targets until 2~3nm out, which is much too close to setup an attack run.

 

The only problem that I think is to do with this is that judging a closure rate is very difficult because the aircraft appears to remain at it's modified size until you get close and you realize you're gonna shoot miles past. that may be my crap flying though. :D

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It also presents the problem of relative object size--if you artificially inflate the object size to try to account for the small apparent image size resulting from a low zoom level, then--at least in theory--sometimes one of those inflated objects will be obscuring something that it should not be. In other words, if two objects are close to each other and very far away from you, then you will be able to see both if they are at their true size, regardless of your zoom level (as long as they are within render distance); however, if the object size is "blown up" via smart-scaling, then one of the objects may be hidden behind the other, where it would not have been in reality.

 

Of course, the actual occurrence of this would be pretty rare, I would think. But, it's another potential problem with the scaling. Another is that it could actually swing the pendulum too far--going from unrealistically hard-to-spot to unrealistically easy-to-spot. This is because of the focal distance issue we touched on earlier. In real life, you can miss seeing an aircraft even if you're staring almost right at it, because your eyes might not be focused at the right distance. Our monitors are 2D and our eyes are always focused on them, which can sometimes make it easier-than-life to spot large distant objects.

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Everyone has the option to turn off smart scaling in Falcon 4 if they don't like it or find it unrealistic. I have never noticed any strange effects from it, and I have a lot of hours logged in Falcon BMS.

P-51D | Fw 190D-9 | Bf 109K-4 | Spitfire Mk IX | P-47D | WW2 assets pack | F-86 | Mig-15 | Mig-21 | Mirage 2000C | A-10C II | F-5E | F-16 | F/A-18 | Ka-50 | Combined Arms | FC3 | Nevada | Normandy | Straight of Hormuz | Syria

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The Falcon series attempted to solve this issue with something called "Smart Scaling." Once you are within visual range of something you should be able to see in real life, the 3D model is enlarged just enough for you to see it as a speck, and then when you get closer the model returns to it's standard size. In my experience it works well, especially for spotting ground targets.

 

My main gripe with DCS is that I cannot see ground targets until 2~3nm out, which is much too close to setup an attack run.

 

 

This sounds like an interesting way to approach the issue. The key would be, like Echo said, to find the happy medium. I def don't want it to be too much of a crutch, but as realistic as possible. As a side note, I tried turning up MSAA on a few flights last night to its max and I'm not entirely sure if it was a placebo effect, but I felt like things looks a little more discernable and properly blurred. I need to do some more research on the impact on my FPS but it seemed pretty smooth.

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The only problem that I think is to do with this is that judging a closure rate is very difficult because the aircraft appears to remain at it's modified size until you get close and you realize you're gonna shoot miles past. that may be my crap flying though. :D

 

One word:

 

Offset.

 

If you don't have any offset, you aren't going to be able to accurately judge range or closure, and will likely end up overshooting. With offset, the line of sight change will help your brain figure out how much faster/slower you are going. Managing those overshoots from there is a matter of judgement and experience.

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Here's a good example of "visual acuity" in DCS. The 190D-9 in the image consists of 3 pixels, and they are faded-grey. Pretty hard to spot without the smoke trail.

3pixels.thumb.png.57e80c163cb7ae9516c349798c1966f1.png

P-51D | Fw 190D-9 | Bf 109K-4 | Spitfire Mk IX | P-47D | WW2 assets pack | F-86 | Mig-15 | Mig-21 | Mirage 2000C | A-10C II | F-5E | F-16 | F/A-18 | Ka-50 | Combined Arms | FC3 | Nevada | Normandy | Straight of Hormuz | Syria

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I just did a little test in Falcon BMS with and without smart scaling in a dogfight against an AI Mig-29. The main difference I can see is that smart scaling fills in extra pixels when the opponent aircraft is at an aspect that would otherwise make it nearly invisible. There was not a detectable difference in the aircraft model at long range (in both cases very hard to see without changing the FoV).

 

I haven't made a test with ground vehicles, but maybe I'll do one later. So far it seems like "smart scaling," whatever it does, bridges that gap between PC monitor tunnel vision and a more natural field of view.

P-51D | Fw 190D-9 | Bf 109K-4 | Spitfire Mk IX | P-47D | WW2 assets pack | F-86 | Mig-15 | Mig-21 | Mirage 2000C | A-10C II | F-5E | F-16 | F/A-18 | Ka-50 | Combined Arms | FC3 | Nevada | Normandy | Straight of Hormuz | Syria

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This is an excellent topic, I'm having very hard time identifying any P-51 or FW-190 unless they are zooming past me and I can hear them or If i see the dot accidently by having a cloud in the background for contrast etc...

 

I think that it should be handled better somehow, there are many aspects of real life identification that are missing.

For example sun reflections off canopys and silver panels that shimmer or eye focus as mentioned here.

Some of these are modeled in IL-2 Cliffs of Dover for example, IMHO visualization is modeled very good there.

Also, in WWII Online they use Icons/Labels but whats nice is that only once you look at a certain spot for a few seconds only then you start seeing the Icon/Label, maybe something like this can be done with smart scaling and contrast play in DCS (not with Icons/Labels).

 

Unfortunetly at the moment any event I run with P-51s is with the modded label addon so that we can actualy find each other and any bogies.

 

I really do hope there'll be improvements.

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This is an excellent topic, I'm having very hard time identifying any P-51 or FW-190 unless they are zooming past me and I can hear them or If i see the dot accidently by having a cloud in the background for contrast etc...

 

I think that it should be handled better somehow, there are many aspects of real life identification that are missing.

For example sun reflections off canopys and silver panels that shimmer or eye focus as mentioned here.

Some of these are modeled in IL-2 Cliffs of Dover for example, IMHO visualization is modeled very good there.

Also, in WWII Online they use Icons/Labels but whats nice is that only once you look at a certain spot for a few seconds only then you start seeing the Icon/Label, maybe something like this can be done with smart scaling and contrast play in DCS (not with Icons/Labels).

 

Unfortunetly at the moment any event I run with P-51s is with the modded label addon so that we can actualy find each other and any bogies.

 

I really do hope there'll be improvements.

 

This is funny because once Xcom DOES see you... you better hope you already had a plan formulated. :) I was actually laughing when flying with him because there were some incredibly tense moments where we knew we were very close in proximity but neither of us could get a visual for a while. Getting that visual information right is SO crucial and I agree, even some hints like reflections, glimmers, etc would make a difference.

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