VI - Converting

Changing to the FS extended format

We have not yet dealt with alpha channels, file formats and so on, this way we will just follow the procedures now and later understand exactly what we are doing and how to use those alphas.

There are a few ways to convert the images you are editing to the EXTENDED format flight simulator recognizes. We will go through some of them here and depending on the image editor you have you choose the one is best for you.

 

From Photoshop

If you do not have Photoshop try to identify those steps in your image editor. There are a few important things here so keep reading...

Photoshop offers us the ability to save from the psd format directly to the 32 bit bmp format, including the alpha channels. This is very useful as we only need a 2 steps procedure by using the SAVE AS... command to convert it to the 32 bit bmp format and then use the DXTBmp software to convert it to the EXTENDED format FS understands.

This is how we do it:

Creating and Importing the Alpha Channel

Open the CHANNELS window using the menu WINDOW.

Once at the CHANNELS window create a new CHANNEL by clicking at the bottom of the CHANNELS tool box over the icon shown in the image below. Our new CHANNEL will be displayed at the bottom of the list and will be named ALPHA 1 by default. No need to change it. You MIGHT have noticed that the whole image went black. You are looking at the ALPHA CHANNEL. Notice too that the existing CHANNELS, the "RGB", "Red", "Green" and "Blue" ones, are no longer visible (they do not have the small "eye" icon to the left anymore). Click over each one of the CHANNELS to see only the red, green or blue channels from the image, or click over RGB to see all the CHANNELS again. When you are done click over the ALPHA 1 CHANNEL again.

 

Photoshop created this solid black ALPHA CHANNEL for you. Of course we will need to change it. Remember what I said at the beginning, the darker the alpha is the more reflection the textures will have? If we convert our file as it is now our aircraft will look like one of those "liquid chrome" starships Queen Amidala used in Naboo (I always thought they used too much alpha on those ships, tsc, tsc, tsc...). So we have two options here: Either paint this CHANNEL all white (and thus telling FS we do not want any reflections) or import the existing Alpha.bmp file that came with the paint kit. We will use the second option so open in Photoshop this file called Alpha.bmp that is inside the "Non DXT3 textures" folder.

Select the whole image (CTRL + A), copy (CTRL + C) and paste it (CTRL + V) over the ALPHA 1 CHANNEL in our PAI file. Make sure you have the CHANNEL ALPHA 1 selected before pasting.

The result should be like this:

 

This is as far as we will go now regarding alpha channels. We will later see how to create one from scratch.

Now deselect using CTRL + D (getting rid of those marching ants) and click on the RGB channel again.

Go to the menu under FILE and choose SAVE AS.

In the dialog box that follows choose the format as BMP and the name of the file as 7377_t_32.bmp. You may choose any name here, this is just a convention I use. The original name of the extended texture in the PAI model is 7377_t.bmp so I use the same name plus _32 to tell me this is the 32 bit bmp texture. So for now use this name 7377_t_32.bmp for us to have files with the same names. We will save this 32 bit file in the same "Non DXT3 textures" folder (but, again, it is your choice where to save it). Here is the dialog box with the correct settings:

 

After you have clicked on SAVE you have a second dialog box where you have to choose 32 BIT, like this:

 

Now click OK and you have your 32 bits textures.

Step 1 is completed now let's go to step 2.

Open the DXTBmp software.

ALWAYS, let me say that again ALWAYS get yourself used to uncheck the "INCLUDE WHEN SAVING" option from the "MIPMAPS" menu at the center right after opening the software. Make it a procedure: open the software, wait it load, uncheck the option, go do other stuff. We will never use MIPMAPS so get rid of them as soon as we start using the software.

 

Ok, now go the the FILE menu, choose OPEN, navigate to our "Non DXT3 textures" folder and open the 7377_t_32.bmp file we just saved. This is what you will see (image below). Notice on the upper right corner the alpha channel we have imported from Photoshop is there:

 

Now you have to go again to the FILE menu, choose SAVE AS and then the EXTENDED BITMAP option.

Another dialog box will open and you will have a choice here as to which format you wish to save your EXTENDED bmps. Take a look at the image below:

 

First thing you have to notice is the name of the file, 7377_t.bmp. You may overwrite the blank bmp file of the same name that came with the paint kit. If you do not want to for any reason just rename the original file like I did in the image above to something like 7377_t_original.bmp, but there is no real need for that (it is in the zip file anyway). Remember though that you have to rename the original file not the extended textures you are saving now or FS will not find your painted textures as it will be looking for the file named 7377_t.bmp!

The second thing you have to choose here is the format of the extended bmp you are saving. I did not mention this until now but in fact you have more than one extended format to save your bmps to...

The most common and used one is the DXT3 format. All the Altair aircraft textures are saved in this format.

The other one is the Extended 32 bit 888-8 format. When painters and developers refer to high resolution textures they usually refer to this format. It has more details than the DXT3 format providing better graphics but... it comes at a cost. The resulting file size is on average 4x bigger than the DXT3 format. There is only one Altair aircraft (until now 21st nov 04) that offers the option to download textures in the Extended 32 bit 888-8 format: The PMDG Boeing B737-700. Below is a comparison between the two formats. The two images to the left are in DXT3 format and the two images to the right are in the Extended 32 bit 888-8 format.

 

The advantage of using one or the other is the choice to have better graphics X less impact on frame rates as the DXT3 files are smaller in size.

In conclusion...

Since our aircraft is an AI plane that is designed to have the minimum impact as possible on the frame rates we will use the DXT3 format. But if you want to save your first work in Extended 32 bit 888-8 format to have a better looking plane, go ahead...

And... we are done.

All you do now is move your 7377_t.bmp file to the texture.alt folder of our PAI 737, confirm that you are replacing it and we can now see how it looks like either in FS2004 or in FS Repaint.

 

But we wil do that later as we still have to go through the other ways to convert your psd files to the extended format.

 

Using Image Tool and saving in PSD format with the alpha channel

The other way to save those textures if you are not using Photoshop BUT ARE ABLE TO INCLUDE THE ALPHA CHANNELS AS WE DESCRIBED ABOVE, is by using Image Tool. You may use this method even if you use Photoshop but do not like to use DXTBmp. Here is how we do it.

Save your file in a PSD format and open Image Tool.

In the menu under FILE and then OPEN, navigate to our "Non DXT3 textures" folder and open the 7377_t.psd file you just saved. If your image editor does not allow you to save in the PSD format you may also use the TARGA format that we will talk about in a while (but that you can still use in this method as you can see in the dropdown list below).

 

After you have loaded the PSD file you will have something like the image below. Notice on the upper right corner that you have a 32 BIT FORMAT image with an ALPHA CHANNEL.

 

Now you go again to the menu in IMAGE then choose FORMAT and then the option DXT3. The software will do it's magic for a second and you will now have a DXT3 image.

Now you go to the menu and under FILE choose SAVE AS. A dialog box will appear and you choose the file name 7377_t.bmp and the format BMP from the drop down list as shown below.

One IMPORTANT THING here is to choose SAVE AS and not simply SAVE or you will overwrite the PSD file by mistake but with a DXT3 format. Take care with this specially if you are using Photoshop and do not want to use DXTBmp but Image Tool as you will overwrite your original PSD file and LOOSE YOUR ENTIRE WORK!!! Pay attention to what you are doing.

 

Make sure you are saving in the DXT3 format (upper right corner) with the correct name and the correct choice of a BMP file.

And that is it, all you do now is move the 7377_t.bmp file to your texture.alt folder in your PAI aircraft within FS9.

 

Using targa or bmp format with the alpha channel

Another method is using the TARGA format that allows us to save the alpha channel. You may use an alpha channel with this method or not, as you will be able to include it later in DXTBmp.

The first step is to save your work in the TARGA format using a file name like 7377_t.tga. This can be done from most image editors including Photoshop. If you do this from Photoshop be sure to FLATTEN your file fist and then make sure the alpha channel is included (BACKUP your original psd work/file first before using the FLATTEN LAYERS command. More than one painter have lost his/her entire work while doing this and overwriting the FLAT image over the original file - including me of course...).

Once you have saved your work into this format you will open DXTBmp and in the menu under FILE then OPEN you will select the TARGA WITH ALPHA format and navigate to the TARGA file you have just saved.

After opening it you will choose in the menu FILE then SAVE AS then EXTENDED BITMAP and then finally in the dropdown list from the dialog box that follows the options DXT3 or Extended 32 bit 888-8 format as you wish using the file name 7377_t.bmp.

 

And that is it, all you do now is move the 7377_t.bmp file to your texture.alt folder in your PAI aircraft within FS9.

 

Using bmp files with Image Tool and DXTBmp

Suppose you do not have any of the above image editors and can only save your work into 24 bit BMP format or any other without the alpha channel (including the targa format).

The procedure here is very similar to the previous method except that you will have to include the alpha channel later using DXTBmp.

The first step is to save your work in the BMP format using a file name like 7377_t_24.bmp. This can be done from most image editors including Photoshop.

Now you will have to use Image Tool to open your file and convert it to a 32 bit image. In the menu go to FILE then OPEN and then navigate to the 7377_t_24.bmp file we have just saved. Notice below that after you have opened it it will appear on the upper right corner that you have a 24 bit format image with no alphas.

 

Very well, now we have to transform it to a 32 bit image. Go to the menu and under IMAGE then FORMAT choose 32 BIT. Notice after converting that on the same upper right corner the image is now in the 32 bit format, like here:

 

We will now save this file in this new format and then open it in DXTBmp.

In the menu go to FILE, then SAVE AS and then choose the format as BMP and the file name as 7377_t_32.bmp this time.

Once you have saved your work into this format you will open DXTBmp and in the menu under FILE then OPEN you will select the EXTENDED BITMAP format (yes it is correct, you have to choose EXTENDED BITMAP format) and navigate to the 7377_t_32.bmp file you have just saved.

After opening it you will choose in the menu ALPHA then IMPORT ALPHA CHANNEL, like in the image below. Notice on the top right corner that the alpha channel is still empty (white).

 

The software will ask if you are sure that you want to replace the existing alpha. Click OK.

Then in the dialog box that will open navigate to the file Alpha.bmp that came with the paint kit and is also inside the same "Non DXT3 textures" folder. When you open it you will notice that the box on the top right corner will now show the alpha channel.

 

Now you just have to go to the menu and choose FILE then SAVE AS then EXTENDED BITMAP and then finally in the dropdown list from the dialog box that follows the options DXT3 or Extended 32 bit 888-8 format as you wish using the file name 7377_t.bmp.

And that is it, all you do now is move the 7377_t.bmp file to your texture.alt folder in your PAI aircraft within FS9.

 

In conclusion

Those four methods are the most commonly used to convert textures to the FS EXTENDED FORMAT. I think the first one is the simplest and although from this page it seems a complicated procedure it is in fact really quick.

If there is something here that you did not understand please use the forum so we may help you.

 

The final work

And now that you have mastered the convertion process, let's see our work in FS.

Here is a final look at the aircraft in FS2004. Not bad for an AI aircraft isnt' it?

 

We will now move to another aircraft, a non-AI model this time and learn a few more trick...

Well done!!!

 

 

 

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