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Tuning your GPU for VR-Vantage

Many IGs are targeted to one environment. IGs designed specifically to provide the correct cues to high-flying-fast-jets don’t do so well in first-person-shootouts. Truck driving simulators don’t generally render the water well enough for maritime operations. Part of this is due to the choices in the content and part is the tuning of the IG and the graphics processing unit (GPU).

We’ve designed VR-Vantage IG to render beautiful scenes in any domain "“ air, land, and sea "“ and to fit into your simulation architectures. Version 2.0 has concentrated on both beauty and performance so you can get the most out of the graphics card.

Graphics cards these days are awesome. They take a steady stream of data and turn it into beautiful pictures rendered at upwards of 60 times each second (60Hz). To pull it off, the GPU computes color values for each pixel on your display. A 1920x1200 desktop monitor has over 2 million pixels and at 60Hz, thats 120 million color values. A lot of processing goes into each pixel so that collectively they form a beautiful picture. AAA game development houses do the work to configure the graphics card for all their target platforms; you, as a system integrator, have to do the same thing for your training customer. 

This article points out ways you can setup VR-Vantage to maximize your customer’s experience and discusses particular uses cases that benefit from particular GPU 3D settings.

On the water

A long time ago a sailor told me "water is the color of the sky." So true "“ water is a naturally reflective surface. The sky, light from the sun/moon, and light from objects near the water all add to the color you perceive. Water is also a dynamic moving surface that is affected by wind, gravity, ships, and helicopter rotors. 

VR-Vantage has settings that make water really shine. First load a terrain that has water, like MÄK’s Hawaii terrain. If you don’t have access to the internet load "Ala Moana.mtf". This terrain has a subset of the Earth data installed with VR-Vantage 2.0 for the specific purpose of providing off-line access to a warehouse site on the island of Oahu, set into the Earth model. Don’t stray too far from the site as the data falls off pretty quickly. If you are connected to the internet load "VR-TheWorld Online - MAK Earth.mtf". With this, you can go anywhere.

Here are a few of the settings you can control in VR-Vantage:

  • Settings > Scene Settings > Environmental Conditions has a whole section of parameters to control the sea state of the water surface based on wind and current.
  • Settings > Display Settings > Render Settings dialog has settings to modify the way things render. 
  • Settings > Display > Observer Settings dialog has a list to choose from, including: 
    • Dynamic Ocean "“ This is the main on/off switch for the dynamic water. 
    • Ocean Spray, Wave Splash, Rain Splash "“ These are all screen effects that occur when your observer is close to or penetrating the water surface.
    • Enable Ocean Planar Reflections "“ This one is relatively expensive, so use it when you need it.
    • Ocean Planar Reflections LOD Scale "“ Turn this up to remove the reflections of distant land forms from the water while keeping the ship’s reflections.
  • Settings > Experimental Ocean Utilities has some cutting edge parameters to really increase the fidelity of the water rendering. Try setting Ocean Qualities to Best when you are really close to a ship "“ notice the increased detail in the water? 

Close up views of ships make aliasing very apparent. Make sure that you have tuned your graphics cards anti aliasing settings. If you notice crawling on the horizontal edges of the ship, you should try raising the GeForce Antialiasing "“ Setting. If the thin lines like railings and wires shimmer, try raising the GeForce Antialiasing "“ Texture setting.

On the ground

For rich expericences in driving vehicle simulators and first-person shooters, Dynamic Lights and Shadows are particularly important.

VR-Vantage has a whole dialog for managing shadows: Settings > Display > Shadow Settings. Since each type of shadow casting has a different performance profile, you can choose which items in the scene cast shadows (entities, props, terrain, clouds, etc.). But the main setting is the first one, Enable Shadows.

Controlling lights is more straight forward. If you have lights modeled into your database, just enable them in the Settings > Display > Observer Settings dialog by checking Dynamic Lights. VR-Vantage uses Forward+ lighting algorithms to increase the nunber of lights that can be drawn in a single frame. Use Settings > Scene > Environment Data and Time to change to night time. I like the look of  7:45pm on June 1, 2008.

If you are modeling the use of binocculars or cameras, depth-of-field (DOF) effects in the Settings > Display > Observer Settings dialog will keep your target in focus and blur the forground and background. You can control the focal length or depth of field values or set to auto-focus on the Settings > Display > Render Settings dialog.

If your simulator is driving on a road, rolling down a railroad track, or landing on a runway, then you’re close to the ground and viewing geometry at a low gazing angle. Textures that represent the road, railroad tracks, or runway markings are laid flat and extend into the distance. If you see blurring in the distance then Anisotropic filtering is the GeForce setting you should be checking. Turn it up to 16x and look for the improvement. If your frame rate suffers, take it down one notch at a time until you find the right balance. Have a look at this NVIDIA GeForce Guide.

In the Clouds

Clouds make scenes look real. VR-Vantage has many types of clouds for many tasks. If you are doing air-to-air dog fights or bombing runs and clouds are critical for blocking visibility of your targets, then you need full-fidelity 3D clouds. In VR-Vantage try Settings > Scene Settings > Environmental Conditions > Cloud Cover = Cloudy or Partly Cloudy. Press F2 twice to see the performance statistics graph. Look at the GPU settings as you change cloud types. You will notice that some clouds cost more than others. Choose the best look for your application then save your scene for next time: File > Save Scene As.  If you notice a large impact to the GPU performance, try reducing the GeForce Antialiasing - Transparency. If the performance is still not good, choose a simpler cloud type.

If you want to model the Lens flare on your cockpit window turn on Lens Flair in Settings > Display > Render Settings.

Low Flight

If you’re flying a helicopter in an urban environment, like MAK’s Hawaii streaming terrain with 100k+ extruded buildings with flat roof lines, you might see shimmering effect that occurs when lots of roof lines are fighting over the same pixels on the screen. This effect can be controlled with the GeForce Antialiasing "“ Setting and Antialiasing "“ Texture. Have a look at this video clip to see how the settings affect quality and GPU performance. The first part is using a Cloudy environment. The second is Mostly Cloudy.


To make all your scenes look beautiful, you can control the Advanced Lighting and Shading by first turning it on in Settings > Display > Render Settings. Then try the Ambient and Diffuse Scale sliders; the effects will be obvious and dramatic.

Enjoy impressing your boss and your customers with VR-Vantage. If you don’t have VR-Vantage 2.0 request an evaluation copy here.

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