MegaSceneryEarth Usage Tips
(This document is a "work in progress".)
You bought MegaSceneryEarth scenery because you wanted the best visual scenery experience possible. If, when you first see your scenery, it's not what you thought it would be or doesn't look to be of the quality of the screenshots in our product pages, then you may need to perform some tweaks and/or follow the recommendations on this page for achieving the visual quality similar to the screenshots we show you at this website.
MegaSceneryEarth visual quality is a function of RAM (memory), hard drive performance, computer processing power, and some key FSX settings.
If you get all these squared away, you will enjoy the best visual experience possible with MegaSceneryEarth and other visual aspects of your Flight Simulator X.
Please also refer to the advice found here.
Let's tackle each of these variables that you can control to give you the best visual display possible.
1. FSX Settings
A. WideviewAspect or Add Some Zoom
The default FSX visual zoom setting is one (1). This is unrealistic in that our actual human ocular visual field is not correctly simulated by a default zoom level of one in FSX. When you view MegaScenery (or any scenery) with a default zoom of one in FSX it tends to look very blurred and low resolution.
There is a setting in FSX that is not actually accessible within the program options but is key to making the world around you look much more realistic in terms of peripheral vision and an appropriate zoom factor/aspect with which we see in everyday life and that setting is WideViewAspect.
How do you access and change the WideViewAspect? Well, it's in the FSX.cfg file. Under the [DISPLAY] section you will find a variable called WideViewAspect. The default setting is "False". Change it to "True" so that the line looks like this:
Then when you run FSX the next time you will experience a whole new visual aspect that is somewhat zoomed out to give you a much wider view of the world around you.
To learn how to access your FSX.cfg file, do a search on the internet, you will find some tutorials on how to do so. In general with Windows Vista, 7 and 8 and 10 you will find it in your C:\Users directory e.g. C:\Users\Main User\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\. By default the AppData directory is hidden so you will need to unhide it. In Windows XP it will be in your Documents and Settings directory.
You just need to use notepad to edit and save the file.
An alternative or in addition to changing the WideViewAspect setting is to fly with a zoom setting in all your views. About 0.5 to 0.6 is a good setting for widening your view aspect and making your textures look high resolution.
B. Settings To Maximize PhotoScenery Performance.
There are only a few settings that you need to worry about to ensure best display performance for MegaSceneryEarth (or any photoscenery for that matter). Here is a page that shows you what you need to set:
2. RAM (Random Access Memory) or Memory
RAM is important, not only to MegaScenery, but your entire FSX and computer performance in general. Why? The more RAM your system has the more hard drive data it can cache into memory. Your operating system remembers the most recent data it read from your hard drive and stores it in memory so that if the data needs to be accessed again, it can just read it from the memory instead of having to read it from your hard drive again. The more RAM you have the more data your system can cache and therefore the less it has to access your hard drive (the main bottleneck of PC performance).
In the old days (10 years ago) - 2 Gb RAM was considered entry level amount of RAM for reasonable system performance with 4 Gb being considered a lot of RAM. (32 bit operating systems can only access 3 Gb RAM so in actual fact the most your 32 bit OS could have used was 3 Gb anyway). These days 64 bit operating systems are ubiquitous in the marketplace and can access and make use of much more RAM. See this document for memory limits on Windows versions. Entry level systems ship with 8 Gb and more powerful systems 16, 32 or 64 Gb.
Bottom line is expand your system to as much RAM as you can afford or will fit into your system, or can be used by your system .e.g 32 bit can only use 3 Gb. There is a point of diminishing returns however such that you will see a pretty big overall performance difference going from 2 Gb to 4 Gb or 4 Gb to 8 Gb, however beyond that the performance increase is not as significant.
Here is the performance you can expect for each level of system RAM.
1 Gb - POOR
2 Gb - SATISFACTORY
3 Gb - VERY GOOD (32 bit OS limit)
4 Gb - VERY GOOD (need 64 bit OS)
> 4 Gb - EXCELLENT
3. CPU Processing Power
Not much needs to be said and explained here. The faster the CPU of your computer and your graphics card, the faster the high resolution imagery will render.
4. Windows Settings
Turn Off Superfetch
To improve Windows performance Windows (Vista, 7 & 8) has a feature called Superfetch which is a service that Windows that prefetches/preloads data into memory in anticipation that you might use it based upon previous file usage patterns. It does a great job of improving system performance when you are using your PC as a regular desktop PC but it can reduce system performance in instances when you are using hard drive intensive applications as it may try to preload data at the same time your application is loading data. This will reduce the performance of your application and in instance of flying FSX, it may compete with loading scenery from your hard drive.
To turn off Superfetch, simply run services.msc from the RUN dialog in your Start menu. It will bring up a list of services that Windows runs. Scroll down to Superfetch, right click and select stop. To permanently turn it off, right click on Superfetch and select properties. There you can turn it off permanently by setting disabled or manual. You can always turn it on again.
You will find with Superfetch disabled that your photoscenery will load better than ever before.
Note: Superfetch is a feature of Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10. Windows XP does not have Superfetch so you do not need to worry about this feature with Windows XP.
5. Hard Drive Performance
The thing that can bog down MegaSceneryEarth scenery from displaying crisp and clear textures is hard drive performance. To get the best display performance, you want to minimize the hard drive bottleneck such that files can be read from the hard drive as fast as practically possible.
If you are using an SSD (Solid State Drive), hard drive performance won't be an issue at all since SSDs give you file read performance approaching that of memory. i.e. very fast! So you won't experience the physical hard drive bottleneck that you will with physical hard drives. That being said, MegaSceneryEarth occupies a LOT of hard drive space and being able to afford to own and/or fit the amount of SSD drives you need to to store all the scenery you might own might not be possible and you might need to settle for traditional hard drives which are much larger and affordable. You will be able to fit the entire USA on a 2 Tb drive (About $90).
Here are some tips for what you can do to maximize hard drive performance and minimize loading times for the tiles/textures into memory for optimal display
A. Where possible, put MegaSceneryEarth on a separate hard drive
The system bus on today’s modern PC has a much higher throughput than hard drive data transfer rates. This means that you can read two sets of different data from two hard drives simultaneously at maximum data transfer rates compared to having to read those same sets off the same hard drive. Reading from the same drive, file access needs to be queued and a lot more file access delays are introduced whereas reading from 2 separate drives can occur simultaneously.
When you are flying Flight Simulator, your hard drive is often accessing files from the system drive while concurrently accessing MegaSceneryEarth scenery files so often MegaSceneryEarth file access is delayed waiting for other operations.
When your scenery data is on a separate drive, the MegaSceneryEarth files that are accessed while you fly are not competing with file access from your system drive.
The result is that you are giving your MegaSceneryEarth files the best chance to load as quickly as possible in order to display the highest resolution scenery.
A.1. External USB3 Hard Drives Are A Great Option!
A great investment if you are running out of hard drive space on your internal hard drives are external hard drives. The small portable ones are fine too. Ensure they are USB3 and plugged in via a USB3 port on your PC. You will get performance that rivals internal hard drives. A 4 Tb drive as of February 2018 will set you back only around $120 to $150 and is a perfect and invaluable companion for users building up a large collection of MegaSceneryEarth. The entire Lower 48 USA states takes up around 2.0 Tb, so a 4 Tb drive should give you plenty of space with plenty of space left over.
USB2 is a slower older technology and you will not get the performance you need. So ensure you use USB3 and connect via USB3 port. If you are running a slightly older system that does only have USB2 ports, look for a USB3 interface card that you can add to a space slot on your mother board. Go for a 4 port one for future expansion and ensure that you have a slot in your PC to suit. These usually require PCI Express slots. If you don't have any spare PCI Express slots then ensure that you purchase the correct card that works with a regular PCI slot.
B. Optimize MegaSceneryEarth file placement on your hard drive and defrag them
Did you know that the speed at which files are accessed and read from your hard drive is highly dependent upon where those files exist on your hard drive and how scattered your data is across your hard drive? File access speed can vary by up to 600%.
The owner of MegaScenery knew this was a problem many years ago and back in 2005 created a product specifically to address this issue and was originally conceived to help users of MegaScenery get the best display performance possible.
The product born out of needing to solve this problem is called UltimateDefrag. UltimateDefrag enables you to optimize placement of files on your hard drive so that they are in the best place on your hard drive for file data transfer performance (the outermost positions on the circular platters of your hard drive) and to confine them close together for fastest seek times. The end result is file access performance up to 600% that of a non-optimized hard drive.
It also defragments fragmented files that are created as you add and delete files to your hard drive.
We recommend that you use UltimateDefrag to optimize your hard drives for MegaSceneryEarth and Flight Simulator performance. The difference in performance is clearly apparent as you see your Flight Simulator load faster and your highest resolution scenery pop into place as you fly.
Contrary to popular belief, this does not improve framerates. What is does do is minimize file access delays thereby making your scenery display high resolution images faster. It cures a phenemonon known as “the blurries”.
It is a good idea to do an UltimateDefrag optimization each time you add a new scenery area or any other add on to your Flight Simulator.
You can purchase UltimateDefrag Here.
C. Invest in some SSD based hard drive caching software.
Another great option that lets you benefit from the huge storage of mechanical hard drives and the speed of SSDs is hard drive/SSD caching software. What this software does is effectively turn your hard drive into a hybrid drive by using the SSD to cache the most frequently used data. When data needs to be accessed from the hard drive, it looks to the SSD first. If the data is on the SSD, then it reads it from the SSD at SSD speeds instead of the hard drive. Clever right?
If you are running a 4 Tb hard drive as your main hard drive then you could accompany that with a 256 or 512 Gb SSD. If for example you use a 512 Gb SSD, then the 512 Gb of most frequently accessed data makes its way and stays in the cache that is on the SSD. As you use your computer, data will get swapped in and out of the SSD cache but generally the most often used data will stay in the SSD cache.
Some great SSD caching software is PrimoCache. You can get PrimoCache here for just $29.95. We use it on ALL of our internal PC's for both MegaSceneryEarth development as well as general office use and of course our flying machines.
Some Additional Tweaks You Can Apply
Here are some tweaks put together by Dean Bielanowski of PC Aviator Australia.
Getting the BEST out of MegaSceneryEarth Visuals
To ensure you are seeing the best photoreal texture quality with your new MegaSceneryEarth package, it may be necessary to make some adjustments to your FSX display settings, as well as to your video card settings to ensure these elements are not the cause of "degradation" of the MSE textures.
Use this information below as a GUIDE ONLY. We do not claim it will work for all video cards, or for all users. But if you are not seeing the same level of detail and clarity in MSE states that you see with our screenshots, then you will likely need to tinker with your settings to achieve best results.
It might be worth trying out several adjustments primarily to potentially make the scenery render in full resolution. We found this REALLY helped produce the best views...
1. In your FSX.cfg file, change LOD_RADIUS from 4.5 to at least 7.0 or 8.0. (make a backup of your fsx.cfg file before adjusting of course in case you want to revert later). This will result in slightly longer initial load times, but the scenery will render much sharper further into the distance... It makes a big difference. The radius number you use will depend on your PC and video card specs somewhat, but try not to exceed 9.0 at the very maximum. 7.5 seems a good option for those with GTX560+ or GTX660+ cards.
2. If you have an nVidia card, go into the nVidia control panel and set your Anisotropic Filtering to 8x. We found at 16x or above that this setting tends to smooth off the textures a little more, whereas 8x retains the full clarity. Might differ for your card but just tinker and see what works best.
3. Naturally, the higher your FSX screen resolution is, the better. Ideally you would run at 1920x1080x32 if you card supports it. If not, choose the highest resolution available. Because MegaSceneryEarth doesn't use resource consuming autogen, your video card should have no problems being set to its highest resolution level and running MSE scenery smoothly in any of the MSE states/regions.
4. The best zoom factor to use in the cockpit view is 0.40. Any higher tends to cause slight blurring of the textures.. The higher the zoom, the worse the blurring gets. 0.40 is the best compromise.
And lastly, here are our nVidia graphics cards settings, for your reference only. We dont guarantee these will give you the best results, but feel listing them might give you an option to see MegaSceneryEarth 2.0 sceneries how they are made to be best seen.
Ambient Occlusion: Performance
Anisotropic Filtering: 8x
Antialiasing - FXAA: Off
Antialiasing - Gamma Correction: On
Antialiasing - Mode: Override any application setting
Antialiasing - Setting: 16x CSAA
Antialiasing - Transparency: Off
CUDA - GPUs: All
Maximum pre-rendered frames: 3
Multi-display/mixed-GPU acceleration: Compatibility performance mode
Power management mode: Adaptive
Texture filtering - Anisotropic sample optimization: Off
Texture filtering - Negative LOD bias: Clamp
Texture filtering - Quality: Quality
Texture filtering - Trilinear optimization: Off
Threaded optimization: Auto
Triple buffering: Off
Vertical sync: Use the 3D application setting
Other Items To Consider
MegaScenery doesn't do anything to upgrade visuals of 3D objects or airports. The 3D objects and airports are default FSX airports. You do not see any changes to your scenery until you start flying and look down at the ground below.
MegaScenery is designed for low altitude and high altitude cross country flying. The nature of bitmap photoscenery is that the lower you are the blurrier the scenery becomes. Before the days of 50 cm source imagery that meant that when you were below around 2000 feet the scenery was quite blurred. We're happy to report however that with 50 cm source imagery, you can get as low as 500 to 1000 feet and the scenery, although it is blurred, is still quite good and enables you to clear identify ground objects. Still better than artificial scenery in our opinion.
Generally though - flying above 2000 feet will give you better clarity, so plan and do your flying at altitudes above this to enjoy high quality, clear eye candy while you are flying.
We trust that you find this document informative and helpful. We'll add to it as pertinent items come up.