HOW TO play helicopters as AI traffic

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HOW TO play helicopters as AI traffic

Postby Stoopy » 09 Dec 2006, 14:57

Alrighty Gents.....here it is, it may need some changes and tweaking based on comments, so bear with me, Bottom line is, it's not as hard as it may look, but - I get wordy becuase sometimes it's better to have too much info than not enough. I will re-edit this based on your comments and results.

Also: The example shows this being done to the stock Bell 206. Well, turned out to be a bad idea, since that helo has a problem showing animations as a recording. ALL other helos (except the Robinson) seemed to work great, although that doesn't include everything out there. So this example is only an example, you can follow it and apply to a "real", quality downloaded helo and it should work great, or follow it explicitly and experiment with the Bell....but the rotors won't turn in the recording of that one. Anyway here you go:

Recording and playing back Helicopters with FS Recorder

As we know, making a recording of a helicopter with FS Recorder is very possible - it's just playing it back that causes the simulator to crash. This is due to the fact the FS9's (and FSX's) lack of capability to use Helicopters as AI (computer-generated) traffic, and the dependancy FS Recorder has on using the AI routines of the simulator. So the trick is, to make a duplicate "Kind-of" AI Helicopter that the sim can use without crashing, and that FS Recorder can thus use as well. This is done by "cloning" the entire folder of the helo you want to use, then modifying the files slightly to make a tweaked "AI Helo" that is dedicated for that purpose. This only has to be done once per helicopter type you want to use. The second part is, since you use the REAL non-tweaked helo to record your flight, and FS Recorder 1.3 or 1.31 embeds the aircraft type into the the recording file, you must "tweak" the recording file to use the AI helo instead. This last part is a temporary workaround until version 1.4 of Matthias Neusinger's FS Recorder is released, which will allow much easier modification of the recorded aircraft name (THANK YOU MATTHIAS!)

Now for the caveat: It ain't real simple but also ain't impossible, obviously. If you're determined to to do it, you can...but it's not user-friendly at this point and requires a certain level of tech savviness, because the "tweaking" requires some small but specific changes. And remember, for now at least, you need to "massage" each recording file before you can play it back, or the sim will crash when you try to replay a real helo recording. The good news is, you don't have to go through all the trouble of making a true AI helo, which can be an involved subject - just a few tricks have to be employed so it works with FS Recorder.

To review the steps, they are:

1) Duplicate or "clone" the helo you want to use...this is as simple as copying and pasting it's folder in the FS aircraft folder, and renaming it.
2) Replace the .air file for it with one for a fixed-wing non-helo aircraft, and also make some minor changes to the aircraft.cfg file
3) Fly the REAL (original, non-tweaked) helo in the sim, and record the flight with FS Recorder.
4) Modify the FS Recorder .frc file you created, substituting the original "real" helo name with the dedicated-AI helo name.

Lather, rinse, repeat steps 3 and 4 for any additional recordings you want to make with your helo. If you want to use another, different helo as well, then perform steps 1 & 2 for it to "prep" an AI version for use.

Tools required: "Stranger's" cool "Rename It" tool to modify the Recorder files just slightly after recording them:

http://www.fs-recorder.net/download/dow ... d=renameit

Download and install, and create a shortcut to it somewhere very convenient becuase you'l be using it quite a bit (once per helo recording).

Step 1: Make a duplicate folder of the helicopter you want to use with FS Recorder:

Easy enough. Navigate to your FS9 "Aircraft" folder (or SimObjects\Rotorcraft" in FSX), right-click on the the folder of the helo you want to use, choose "copy", then right-click again, choose "paste", then right-click one more time on the new folder name and rename it to exactly the same name as the original except put the letters "AI" at the end.

As an example, we'll use the stock Bell 206b. Copy the Bell206b folder, then paste it, then rename it, getting rid of the "Copy of " at the beginnging, and adding "AI" at the end, so it appears as shown here:

Image

The contents of both the folders should be identical at this point.

Step 2: Modify the files of the AI version for FS Recorder:

Two files need to be changed: First, the .air file needs to be replaced with a suitable one. Then, the aircraft.cfg file need to be modified slightly to make this a new AI helo with a name and other parameters that indicate that.

It turns out that any .air file from a regular prop plane should do the trick. Let's go grab one from a plane that doesn't fly too fast and that everyone should have...the Piper Cub! Go to the "Piper_J3Cub" folder in the "Aircraft" folder, right-click on the file " Piper_J3Cub.air", and choose "copy". Then navigate back into the folder of your new AI helo, right click, and choose "paste".

Now, rename that .air file to the correct name of the helo .air file (which is still in the AI helo folder) but also add the letters "AI" just before the period and filename extension (don't add it to the very end of the whole filename, just add it at the end of the first part of the filename, as shown below. Simple!

Image

Image

Image

Next: Double-click on the aircraft.cfg file to edit it and change the entry values in all of the [flightsim.x] sections to correspond to the AI naming you will need. For the Bell, the new entries look like this (and maybe I changed more than I needed to, so this perhaps can be trimmed don - but it works):

(note that we're adding the letters "AI " just at the very END of entries such as "title", "sim", "ui_manufacturer" "ui_type" and "ui_variation")

Image

For helos with multiple repaints and additional [fltsim.2], [fltsim.3], [fltsim4] etc.entries, the same changes wil need to be applied in those sections as well.

Save the file and that should do it.

Step 3: Go record the file and "tweak" it for use!

Load the REGULAR, unmodifed version of the helo (NOT the new AI version if it shows up in the aircraft menu, unless you want weird results and a helo that might fly like a Piper Cub) and record a short flight with FS Recorder...save the recording as usual.

Step 4: Now, change the recording slightly before playing back so it uses the fake "AI" helo instead:

The objective here is to open the recording file you just created and change the name of the REAL helicopter you just recorded, and, just like the edits for the AI helo, simply add the letters "AI" to the end to trick FS9 and the recorder into playing back the helo recording with the fake AI helo so FS9 won't lockup! Easy huh? Well, let's start:

Fire up Stranger's "Rename It" tool that you downloaded from the link way above and installed. Navigate to the folder where you store your FS Recorder files, click on the file for the recording you just created, and the name of the original aircraft you recorded it with wil be shown in the entry field toward the ottom of the applet window.

Image

Modify the aircraft name to represent the name of the new "AI Helo" we made - in our example, we go to the end of the filename and simply add the letters A and I so the name is now exactly conforming to everything else we've been doing ("AI" at the end).

Image

That's it....save the file using "Save As", give it a slightly new name (since the tool protects the original recording file by not allowing it to be overwritten) and you're done. Actually pretty easy huh?

After you verify it works, you can delete the original recording file that still has the original helo name in it.

Step 4: Go back to FS9 (or FSX) and play the tweaked FS Recorder file as either "Play as Traffic" or "Play"!

Oooops...one more word on that. This seems to work with every single downloaded helo I've tried it on, but for whatever reason, in proofing the above with the STOCK helos, I found an odd thing having to do just with the stock Bell 206b OR the stock Robinson R22. For whatever reason, the rotors don't turn and the sound is not right on the Bell, and the Robinson just don't work...it still crashes. This does not happen with any other helos this has been done with. Don't know why yet (suggestions are appreciated). Since it's just the stock Bell 206 anyway, chances are any real helo nut won't care about this, but it's a concern. So far this seems to work with everything else.

There is some good information out there on the topic of AI Helos, check Hovercontrol.com, and odds are that playing with different variants of modified .air files (such as the ones from Holger Sandmann for AI helos) may resolve specific issues with any individual helis, but the topic isn't simple and goes somewhat beyond the scope of this how-to for FS Recorder.

Comments and questions appreciated, I'll update with clarity when and where possible.

Image
Last edited by Stoopy on 17 Dec 2006, 21:33, edited 3 times in total.
Stoopy
 

Postby noisy » 09 Dec 2006, 17:34

Well done, Stoopy =D> .

Two minor mistakes I found:
...The left pane will contain a ASCII text representation, ...

...What you see on the left is pure hex data representing the actual binary contents, what you see on the left is the same thing but translated...

Regarding the file format:
...This is called a NULL and usually represents some free space within the file, as long as what you are adding still ends with at least one NULL. You'll see a lot of these NULLS trailing the name of the aircraft, indicating that very lengthy names MAY be supported - but noone knows that for sure without seeing the code and file format spec of this file, so it's an assumption. Know what this means but tread lightly in this regard.

The maximum length available for the aircraft title in the .frc files is 100 characters (including the terminating null byte).
I have a description of the file format available for developers (it's not available as public download, those interested should contact me by email).

Regards,
Matthias
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Postby Stranger » 09 Dec 2006, 17:35

To get some tips on flyable to AI helicopter conversion take a look on following packages at http://www.hovercontrol.com:

aiheli_1 - aiheli_7
More_AI_helos
AI_heli_FS2004

Packages are well documented and contain tweaked .air and .cfg files that answer most possible questions including problem with non spinning rotors. There are 2 versions of .air file with 1 and 2 engines included stemme_as_helicopter_1.air and stemme_as_helicopter_2.air respectively.

The problem with AI sound in FS9 is well known and is not solved so far. Engine sounds are related to engine type which have to be "piston" or "jet" to allow model to be used in AI traffic and is same for all AI models of same engine type. FSX behaviour is untested though.

If anyone is interested and Matthias will allow to post a binary file to the forum I wrote a small utility, which simplifies renaming process and eliminates the use of HEX editor until version 1.4 will be ready.
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Postby Stoopy » 10 Dec 2006, 01:55

Yikes.....thanks for catching my errors, noisy.....I was writing this morning while the wifey was reading from the paper to me.....got to where I couldn't tell my right from my left I guess!

Good to know about the name length.....with that many characters, concern about the space available shouldn't be a problem. I left that part as-is and just corrected the right/left stuff.

And Stranger, thanks for the info. I did find the stemme_as_helicopter_1.air file in an AI Schweizer 300, done by Holger Sandmann. In the end, seeing his name in the file header, I had concerns about re-using it (or, documenting how to re-use it) without his permission. I haven't read the README yet anyway in that package so just erred on the side of caution.

And thanks for the tips on the AI packages too. I cruised the download section at hovercontrol very briefly and must have missed those. Will make for some good reading!
Stoopy
 

Postby Stranger » 10 Dec 2006, 06:59

Hi Stoopy,

As far as I know there is no problem with redistribution as long as original authors of .air & .cfg files are mentioned in documentation and files are not uploaded to a particular site (FSPlanet if I remember right), but consult the enclosed documentation in any case.

You might be interested in following conference containing topics related to AI helicopters subject:
http://www.fsgateway.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=43&board=299.0
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Joined: 20 Jun 2006, 09:21

Postby janber » 10 Dec 2006, 09:32

GREAT folks ... Thank you verry much !!! :D

For the hex Editor ... it was the same a got a couples of day's before ! Great :wink:

Just leurning "how to" use that one ! lol

Il do the hole day tests at this point ....

Many thanks ... :D :D :D

Janber
janber
 

Postby noisy » 10 Dec 2006, 09:41

Stranger wrote:If anyone is interested and Matthias will allow to post a binary file to the forum I wrote a small utility, which simplifies renaming process and eliminates the use of HEX editor until version 1.4 will be ready.

If you mail it to me, I'll put it here for download.

Regards,
Matthias
Matthias Neusinger
Author of FS Recorder
noisy
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Postby janber » 10 Dec 2006, 09:54

Ooops ... shall I waith Matthias? :shock:

:wink:

Bests

Janber
janber
 

Postby noisy » 10 Dec 2006, 17:46

OK, here's the download link for Stranger's nice little tool, which allows changing the title of the first aircraft in a .frc file :) :

http://www.fs-recorder.net/download/dow ... d=renameit

It can only be used on .frc files recorded with recorder versions 1.3x!

Regards,
Matthias
Matthias Neusinger
Author of FS Recorder
noisy
Site Admin
 
Posts: 987
Joined: 16 Jun 2006, 17:33
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Postby Stoopy » 11 Dec 2006, 12:39

That's a GREAT tool, just perfect....nice job, Stranger!

Will update the How-to with it as soon as I can, and get rid of the hex editor bit......much easier for folks this way!

Good stuff!!!!!!
Stoopy
 

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