Part II – Configuring Multiple-Monitor Set-Up

In Part II, let’s spend some time discussing monitor hook-up and configuration. In short, for a typical flight sim installation, a single gaming graphic card with multiple outputs is the best solution. What kind of card? In short, as of this writing NVIDIA 1060 and up is a good choice. Note, for multiple monitor configuration, video memory is important with 4GB a minimum. Here is a link to the current NVIDIA graphic card line-up.

Typical modern graphics card supports from three to six monitors. For example, an nVidia GeForce GTX 1070 (a popular choice) supports up-to four monitors. See the connections on the back of the card below:

NVIDIA Graphic Card Ports

The card features one DVI port, three HDMI ports and one DisplayPort. The DVI and HDMI port are shared so you can have a maximum of four independent connections.

To configure the system in a multi-monitor set-up, install the drivers that came with the graphics card and then simply plug the monitors or TVs individually to the corresponding ports on the back of the graphic card. You may have to buy adapters that go from the DisplayPort to HDMI as they DisplayPort and HDMI are physically slightly different plugs. Alternatively, you can also purchase DisplayPort to HDMI cables and connect your monitors or TVs directly:

HDMIvsDisplayPort.png

After connecting the monitors, it is time to configure the monitors. First, open the NVIDIA Control Panel. You can do this from the pop-up menu when you right-click on the desktop.

First, under the Display category, select “Set-up multiple displays.” Next, Check the box next to the inactive display you wish to activate as a secondary display and click apply. Note, if your display is not shown, click “My display is not shown…” to force display detection. You can drag the green boxes around to match the physical arrangement of your displays, and choose which one is primary by right-clicking on it and selecting “Make Primary.” The primary display will have a “*” in the top right corner on the display as shown below:

Step 1

Now that we have the displays enabled and organized in the right order, we can work on getting the Surround mode enabled so that the entire multi-monitor set-up will function as one large desktop. In the Surround mode, the resolutions of monitors get added together to form a single virtual monitor or desktop. Therefore, three 1920×1080 monitors in the surround mode will have a 5760×1080 resolution.

Next, under 3D Settings, select “Configure Surround, PhysX”. Select “Span displays with Surround” and click “Configure”

Before Bezel Compensation

You will now be able to confirm the display layout and order and perform a very important step called “bezel compensation.” Bezel compensation, as the name suggests, allows you to virtually “remove” the bezels of the adjacent monitors. The bezel correction is performed via adjusting the two “roads” as shown below so that they seamlessly flow from one display to the other. Use the up/down buttons on the bezel correction window until the road lines up perfectly from one monitor to the next. You can link the bezel correction to have the same factor for both monitors or adjust these individually.

BezelCompensation

After Bezel Compensation

In the example above, the bezel compensation for each monitor is 80 pixels and the resulting horizontal resolution is 5760 + 2×80 = 5920 pixels. This will be the resolution you will set in the flight sim so that you will achieve a seamless view across all three monitors. Below are the corresponding display settings for Prepar3D and X-Plane 11.

Prepar3D Settings

 

X-Plane 11 Settings

Note: X-Plane allows use to set-up each of the three monitors individually which is a great option for cockpit builders (e.g. for an enclosed cockpit with physical windows) where a dedicated monitor will show a view from a window. In the simple GA installation where an external view is comprised of a joined set of monitors, this option did not seem as flexible as the Surround option above as any small adjustment to forward view made the side monitors lose their location with the forward view one.

 

 

 

Flight Sims and Multiple Monitors

Part I – Single TV vs Multiple Monitors. Does size Matter? Purchase Considerations

One of the more frequently-asked questions posed by prospective flight sim users is about multiple displays. New flight simulator users are often overwhelmed (and perhaps confused) by the plethora of options available with respect to optimal quantity, sizes, placement, and configuration of monitors or TVs to use with a flight simulator. Therefore, it is appropriate to devote some time discussing various hardware aspects of the visuals used with a flight sim set-up. We will try to present the reader with substantiated justifications for opinions shared here. The following recommendations assume a single-person simulator as opposed a dual student/instruction station and is focused on a reasonable simple and cost-effective general-aviation set-up vs. elaborate jetliner cockpit.

The question that is asked most often is, “Are multiple (smaller) displays better than one large one?” The following may be a highly biased answer but in our opinion (supported by feedback from hundreds of customers) multiple displays, irrespective of the cost and space considerations, are always a better bet than a single (even very large) display. There are several reasons for this. First, and you have to trust our word on this one, multiple displays offer a much better sense of immersion vs single monitor or even a large TV. By having the external view span most of the user’s visual field, the sense of flight and being inside the cockpit is greatly enhanced. Even with a triple monitor set-up arranged in an angled “U” shape, a good portion of flight simulator user’s peripheral vision is covered by the left and right monitors. Interestingly, while larger monitors are better than smaller ones, a good level of immersion can be achieved with just three 27” monitors. Correspondingly, based on our research, going much beyond 40”-42” in size for a triple installation offers little additional benefit from the immersion perspective although undoubtedly increases the “wow” factor from the onlookers.

The more pragmatic (pilot-specific) aspect of triple monitor set-up is the ability to look through the left (or right) “windows” while making turns from a downwind leg to base leg and from base to final. During a standard traffic pattern, pilot glances through the left (if in the left or standard traffic pattern) or a right window (for the right traffic pattern) periodically so that he or she can appropriately start the turn. Having the left and right monitors and setting up the cockpit view appropriately, allows the user to see the runway over the shoulder just like in the real aircraft. This is very useful during primary instruction when a student is learning to fly a proper traffic pattern as well as in advanced instruction where students are practicing, for instance, circling approaches.

Of course, users with single monitors set-ups will be quick to point out that using a hat switch or a Track-IR system allows user to quickly change views and that is of course true. The problem is that every time a view is changed, in our opinion, the sense of immersion is instantly lost and therefore, the flight sim experience is compromised. Lastly, the switched view approach does not prepare the flight simulator user for the expected view when flying physical aircraft.

The next logical questions that comes up is, “How many displays should one have?” We found that triple displays (we are discussing external views only) are often sufficient to provide an excellent immersion while keeping cost and space considerations to minimum. Of course, having five external monitors would be better but we are reaching, to borrow an economic term, a law or increasingly marginal returns.

Some may ask, “What about curved displays?” We think that they are a nice and modern, albeit costly, upgrade. Again, triple “traditional” display set-up will offer more immersion than a single curved one, at least at current level of the curved technology where the level of curvature/wrap-around is pretty minimal.

Lastly, let’s discuss the VR as an alternative to conventional displays. VR as a technology for gaming and an alternative to traditional displays is definitely here to stay and probably will have a very significant impact on the future of flight simulators. The immersion factor is obviously unparalleled, the space and cost savings can be significant. Why isn’t everyone abandoning monitors or TVs and jumping onto VR platform then?

Irrespective of the biological factors (nausea), there are few obstacles that remain to be solved for VR to be a serious alternative for flight simulation. First, the graphical resolution of today’s VR hardware does not quite match a high-quality monitor or TV set-up. Second, the virtual-physical interface in an aircraft cockpit needs improvement. Currently, the support for interaction with physical switches or controls is still in its infancy. A glove-like or (even better) glove-less controller that would allow the user to naturally interact with the physical world is a research subject to every VR hardware manufacturer. However, the implementation seems, as of today, a lot more difficult than anticipated. While for general-purpose gaming the VR hand-held controller is probably sufficient, it is a deal-breaker for achieving sense of realism in the flight sim. In sum, flight simulation needs a “merged-reality” solution. Otherwise we are back to the mouse-clicking solution from the legacy flight sim days.

 

Now that we’ve explained the benefits of multiple displays, let’s offer few practical words of advice on physical monitor or TV selection. In short, try to find monitors or TVs with as thin of a bezel as possible to achieve the optimal “wraparound” effect. Second, if you are planning to mount your monitors or TVs, you need to ensure that the monitor has a VESA mount which is a standardized four-hole pattern on the back of the monitor and TV. TVs, especially large ones, all have the VESA pattern on the back since they are meant to be hung on a wall but the monitors do not always have the VESA pattern so you must check prior to purchase.

VESA

Lastly, let us address the question, “Should I buy a TVs or computer monitor?” Given dropping TV prices, many of the flight sim users are tempted to buy a TV in-lieu-of a monitor especially that one can often purchase larger TV for the same price of a smaller monitor. The answer is, it depends. If all of your sim usage is going to be dedicated for flight simulation, TVs are probably fine but keep in mind that TVs typically have lower refresh rates and input lag times as compared to monitors so playing fast-paced games on a TV will not yield the same quality and smoothness as on a gaming monitor. Also keep in mind that a pixel density of a comparable resolution monitor is much higher than on TV (ever wondered why text does not appear as clear on a large high-definition TV as compared on your monitor) so if you opt for some really large TVs and position them close to you, you may be disappointed. To sum up, either stick with quality monitors or keep the TV size reasonable (again 40”-43” seems like a sweet-spot for high-definition TVs for simulator use).

 

 

 

Product Updates

We hope everyone had a relaxing Thanksgiving. The Volair Sim staff is back in the office working hard. We wanted to give you an update on few things, most importantly on the Triple Display Stand. The good news is that it is done and we are kitting the first batches with scheduled shipments hopefully still before Christmas. For those who have not yet ordered, there is still time but act now as these are going quick!

Note: As we clearly specify in all of the product information materials, the stand accommodates three displays up-to 46″ in diagonal. So please do not ask us whether 3 x 55″ TVs would fit 😉

I hope you will appreciate the extra features we incorporated into the final product. For instance, the stand feet are now extendable for extra stability. You can get an early start on understanding the assembly process (which is honestly pretty minimal) by downloading the Volair Sim Triple Display Stand Assembly Instructions Rev1.1.

Triple Display Stands

 

With the popularity of the Avionics Panels, it has been a bit of a challenge keeping the product in-stock. We hope to resume shipments on these around Christmas so place your order now for priority shipment.

The Volair Sim cockpit chassis are in-stock but the inventory is getting low, so if you are wanting these for Christmas you must act now. Just like the Avionics Panels we will have more around Christmas but depending on your location, we may not be able to get these dispatched in-time for Christmas delivery.

Customer Example

Here are couple of photos from one of our customers. Brad is an aspiring pilot and plans to use the Volair Sim to complement his training as he progresses towards his Private Pilot certificate. Brad writes, “Thanks again. I just wanted to send one last pic of my Volair sim build; complete with every panel hole filled and in all its glory. I’m just as excited to fly my sim as I am to fly in real life! FYI: I added a dimmable RGB LED Tape Light to the underside of the top of the panel for the ability to see the switches and knobs more easily. For, $8.00 it really serves its purpose as well as making it look even better in the darker room. Take Care! ”

I think you will agree that the set-up looks really nice and we wish Brad many hours of fun flight simming and best of luck as he embarks on this aviation journey!

IMG_7930

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Yoko Yoke Compatibility

Some of you may be interested in the Yoko Yoke compatibility. Courtesy of Yoko and Michael from XForcePC, here is the quick and dirty on the Yoko Yoke compatibility with our cockpit and the Volair Sim avionics panel. The good news is that it fits with the following caveats:

  • You will have to drill new holes into our avionics table as the bolt pattern on the Yoko is not matching up with anything we have pre-drilled.
  • The dimensions are almost exactly like Saitek so the panel cut-out will fit but the face of the yoke will have to be placed immediately behind the panel surface given that our panel has couple of corners for the Saitek yoke (see below).

The yoke is pretty nice so for those that want to upgrade from Saitek it is a good alternative. It offers longer throw and is all-metal so it has a very substantial feel to it.

Yoko Yoke 2

Yoko Yoke Fitment Close-Up

IMG_8242 2

Yoko Yoke Fitment with Volair Sim Avionics Panel