Howto:Improve scenery in your area, or area of interest

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Flightgear uses many ways/systems to create environment visuals. These systems have a huge number of different points where someone can change the way the environment looks. The huge number of points mean there are things people can improve with almost no time spent learning and little time spent on skills. Flightgear has some extremely powerful systems that, once learned, allow a small amount of time to vastly change how large portions of the world look.

Firstly, an overview of the visuals Flightgear creates: Terrain is a mesh. It is 'painted' with colours and details down to the centimeter scale - procedural texturing. It can then be optionally overlaid with additional 3d detail. Objects can be placed on top of the terrain - vegetation, buildings, roads, and even ships on the sea. Objects are also meshes that can be 'painted' with procedural textures. If you don't know what a mesh is, look at this mesh of terrain with objects like roads on top. Terrain and land-type drive weather physics experienced by your craft. Weather (wind) can move things like trees or grass. Weather physics can create visible cloud structures and formations. Volcanic activity creates different clouds and affects weather physics. Clouds have defined 3d structure and also use textures. The process of creating what you see in various situations can be influenced and changed by people at various points. Some points require more learning than others. The process itself can be changed and improved, though this is generally more involved.

The wiki Scenery Portal has more detailed information, and you can ask questions in the Scenery forum. It's possible to search the forum using google for better search results: put "" before the search term(s).

Where the things you see in-sim when flying come from

Object Examples Source
Where to get contributions reviewed Notes
(month/year written)
Trees & plantations & bushes

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Regional definitions FGData: textures/trees

Regional materials: docs/README.

Thread asking for photo contributions
Seasons & snow
Screenshot gallery


Flightgear-devel ML

Vegetation makes a huge difference to visuals. Multiple layers of vegetation are possible - see Hawaii. Vegetation size, distribution e.g. forest clearings or thinning on mountain slopes, seasonal variation etc. can be set in regional definitions. Photographs used to make textures need to be GPL2 compatible - CC0 or CC-BY-SA 4.0 are examples. Possible sources of photos: (search example with 20-500 results), or public domain image sites, or photographs personally taken, or online photographs where the creator was asked permission. Google earth & streetview photos are not compatible. (May 2020)
Small plants & Grass: type 2 1 ,

2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Regional definitions FGdata: textures/trees (Grass blades) Regional materials: docs/README.
As of FG 2020.1 this type of grass needs to be turned on by editing/uncommenting a text config file. Instructions: Forum , wiki. This type of grass uses the same principle as trees. It is suitable for multiple types of small plants, flowers, etc. in the same field. This is an ALS effect. Doesn't look good under Default/Low-spec or Rembrandt. (May 2020)
Grass overlays (Airport keep, lawns in Iceland) 1 Regional definitions (Grass shape & properties) FGdata: textures\terrain (Grass colour map only) Regional materials: docs/README.

Reaction to rotorwash

Use in scenery

Modify effect (texture)]

Each grass blade is simulated and reacts to downwash. This is short grass, i.e. limited in height. It's used for airport keep. It's also used suitable in suitable places like lawns (see iceland), or grassy hills. (May 2020)
Terrain overlays (Volumetric/3d terrain detail) 1 ,

2 , 3

Regional definitions FGdata: textures\terrain (Grass colour map only) Regional materials: docs/README.


Use in scenery

Modify effect (texture)]

Overlays can provide a huge amount of volumetric detail.
Birds (bird flocks) 1 ,


Regional definitions (Random objects) FGData: Models/Effects/Birds/ (textures) Forum topic Summary Use in scenery Bird flocks are placed as a type of random object in regional material definitions. Place object-group linking to Models/Effects/Birds/birdswarm.xml. They need ALS and need random scenery objects to be enabled on in menu > view > rendering > Random scenery objects. (May 2020)
Waterfalls 1 Global models database (XML text file uploaded via webform - along with standard particle texture file) Models database: Example xml files

Webforms to submit/update 3d models (XML text file & texture)


WiP Gallery

Global models database review


Waterfalls are a static scenery object that emits a stream of water (particle effect). The properties of the waterfall can be set in an XML text file and added to the Global scenery models database. (May 2020)
Volcanoes 1 ,


FGData: Models/Volcanoes/<names> /.. Description & locations See the volcanoes topic on forum for more information. See FGData for examples. (May 2020)
Models database: Random scenery objects Material regional definitions: density / distribution Global models database Regional materials object-group & objects: docs/README.

Help on submissions

Defining regions & land-classes Help These are objects that are randomly placed depending on type of terrain - land-classification/land-class. They are common-pool objects located in the Global models database (shared objects). A few seem to be left-over in FGData. For example farm buildings can be placed over terrain classified as "agriculture". Examples of objects: Icebergs on polar oceans, silos, cottages in woods, signs of logging operations, big equipment, ships & boats over oceans, objects on beaches, common manmade historic objects like cairns or ruins. (May 2020)
Models database: Landmarks / unique buildings / special custom buildings / objects 1 Global models database Webforms

Help on submissions

UFO: Testing, Placing & exporting created models

Desired landmarks
(maybe out of date)

Help Flightgear's global model database stores models. Terrasync will fetch these models and distribute to to users. Updates to the database, once validated, automatically update scenery seen by users. See wiki: scenery portal and the scenery forum for modelling help/tips. (May 2020)
Models database: Shared models Global models database Webforms

Help on submissions

UFO: Placing & exporting models

Help Shared models in the Global models database that are re-used a lot. See entry above. Shared models can be placed one by one, or mass imported from a STG text file. Shared models are also placed by OSM2City and Project3000. (May 2020)
OMS2City: Complicated buildings created by OSM2City 1


OSM map contributions FGData: Textures/OSM2City (atlas) OSM2City scripts Documentation OSM2City project

Areas with OSM2City

Ongoing OSM2City worldbuild (2020)

Forum OSM2City makes complex buildings using floor plans and other building info available in the Open Street Map (OSM) database. Updating this database for an area will result in improved scenery. The complex buildings are output as a mesh that's textured based on a texture atlas (May 2020).
OSM2City: Simple common buildings placed by OSM2City OSM map contributions Forum See entry for complicated OSM2City buildings. These simple buildings are instanced. Updating the OSM database will result in better scenery. (May 2020)
OSM2City: Complex objects & buildings from global objects database placed by OSM2City Global models database: shared objects OSM map contributions Updating the appearance of shared models can have a huge impact on the way large areas of the world look. See entry for shared objects for details. Updating the location data in the OSM databse will improve scenery. (May 2020)
Clouds Screenshot
FG data: Textures / Sky FG data: Models/ Weather (cloud structure) docs/


Background info on weather & rendering: 1 , 2 , 3

3d structure,
Forum Clouds also hugely impact the flying experience compared to time to improve them. Suitable photos taken from the air can be made into textures. More cloud types than currently exists can be added - both structure and textures. See international cloud atlas (permalink), wiki cloud type page This is a link to a Wikipedia article, the navigation bar on the left for the WMO cloud atlas website and gallery. The AW page describes how clouds are used in the weather system. (May 2020)
Colour & appearance of terrain geometry 1 Material regional definitions FG data: Textures Regional materials: docs/README.

Old overview (2012)


Capabilities & examples
Big gallery

Use in scenery and new textures


This is only a rough entry - it should be expanded. This covers the colouring of the terrain with detail in the scale of kilometers to centimeters. This is achieved by procedural texturing systems which use regional definitions and textures in a variety of ways. It includes sea and sea ice. It includes seasonal change. It includes water puddles and snow on ground. It includes agriculture, rock, sand, cooled lava, cliffs etc. Includes light point density when seen from far away. (May 2020)
Land classification data (land-cover, land-use) Shapefile server (in future) OSM land cover/use database Scenery portal: terrain

USA: using NHS & NLCD data

Forum Place holder entry. Involved contribution with scripting - ask in scenery forum. Flightgear uses land classification data from multiple sources to determine what type of terrain detail to paint on the terrain mesh, and what type of vegetation and objects to place. Multiple sources can be used to build improved land classification data: land-cover from national databases, OSM data like beaches & cliffs, water body databases, land use data bases. There is a new world build planned (May 2020), and it's intended to have a land classification shapefile server starting with WS 2.0 data so improvements can be submitted. See this guide to create high quality data for USA on par with data for CORINE Europe. The Australian scenery project is working on scripts to combine multiple data sources for Australia. Land classification quality controls weather physics. (May 2020)
Terrain mesh Terrain elevation data sources (DEMs) Scenery portal: terrain Forum Place holder entry. Involved contribution needing scripting - ask in scenery forum. The terrain mesh is a surface on which terrain colours & details are 'painted'. It is a polygon mesh made from available terrain elevation data sources (Digital elevation maps). Improving the resolution and accuracy of the terrain elevation data for the next scenery world build will result in better scenery. Terrain elevation data controls weather physics.

Help on submissions. (May 2020)