x+s+r // efhf helsinki malmo

Helsink Malmo hdr

Back in 2010, when Xp10 was still just an idea and all the possibilities were just beginning to bounce around in our heads, a new developer popped up on our radar. TruScenery. They specialized in scenery development – in Finland – and came out with a few small GA airfields that were really quite stunning. We’d never seen this level of detail in X-plane before and suddenly, for the first time, we could see just what X-plane’s real potential was going to look like. You could say that TruScenery was, for a while, X-plane’s version of Orbx, in that they gave us our first taste of hyper-detailed scenery.

Then they released EFHF Helsinki Malmi and the event was a little like a seismic shift. The lighting, the textures, the overall visual quality of the scenery pack was, well, the experience was almost overwhelming. Nowadays that may sound a bit silly, especially if you’re new to X-plane or came over from the FsX world, but EFHF marked a real paradigm shift…away from simple textures and into the world of hi-def rendering.

And all that happened almost eight years ago.

So, we haven’t been flying around Finland as much as we’d like recently, but that goes along with reviewing files all the time, though we did enjoy the revised freeware EFHK Helsinki file enough to think it the best freeware file of 2017. Then a few new Finnish airports came along, namely EFVA, and those revived our interest. Still, it had been, literally, years since we’d opened EFHF Malmi.

How would, we wondered, that file look today? In Xp11?

EFHF hdr

So, we puttered over to TruScenery’s site and checked to see what the latest version was and got that onboard, then fired her up… Look at the image above. What do you think?

First, we ought to get the background out of the way?

The airport is, literally, right in the middle of the city of Helsinki, Finland, and located just seven miles from the new international airport – EFHK. Here’s the regional context, and note the proximity to cities like Stockholm (ESSA/ESSB) and Tallinn (EETN), as well as St Petersburg (red star).

Southern Finland GE

Also, note how EFHF is surrounded by the city, and the location of EFHK. The city is located on the Baltic, though the sea is typically frozen over most of the winter.

Helsinki GE

I believe that’s a kind of go-cart track located in the tiny forested area in the image below.

EFHF GE

And here’s the satellite view of the terminal area, followed by an image from the ground.

EFHF Terminal GE

EFHF term real

It’s hard to look at the airport now and realize this was once, back in the 1930s, Finland’s gateway to the world. This was THE international airport. Today it’s a GA airfield, it’s NAV information deleted and the facility is under the axe. The city has taken over and wants to tear it down, build apartments on the land…but a popular uprising of sorts has risen up…as it seems many people in the country don’t want to lose this airport.

All of which leads us to how the file looks now, in X-plane 11.11; so let’s take a look.

EFHF 1

The current version is 1.4 – dated 2014 – so the file was last updated for later versions of Xp10. While the objects do not have the latest PBR and HD materials, there is some HD lighting, though it would be an earlier version, so look-over the following images and you decide. Is this a bad looking file in Xp11? Or would it be more appropriate to say this file was a little ahead of its time?

EFHF 2.png

EFHF 3

The area around the airport was, in v9, as flat as a billiards table, and highways were rudimentary affairs that look nothing at all like those in v11. When I look at the image above this is indeed a plausible scene…approaching the airport via a local highway early in the morning, and you can imagine signs of life popping all over the distant hillside.

Or in the deftly rendered fog, and this is stock Xp weather rendering with no help from SkyMaxx.

EFHF 4

And we take such fuel tanks (above) for granted these days, so it’s perhaps easy to forget most such objects did not exist, and Laminar’s objects library did not even exist. Even OpenSceneryX had less detailed objects back then, so this little fuel scene was indeed considered ground-breaking. Did it influence later events? Hard to say.

Below…a gratuitous mood shot. Sorry, but note the little streak of light above the SSG E-jet’s door? That’s from an HDR light source, I do believe, and HDR rendering.

EFHF 5

Besides the interesting original 1930s architecture, the main terminal building in the file has always interested me because of the textures used for both the structure and the windows. Concrete, glass, and steel, the holy trinity of modern construction, is well presented in this model, and I doubt anyone could do better today. You gain a much better appreciation of this when you look at the interaction of sun and shadow on this building.

EFHF 6

EFHF 7

EFHF 8

Yet for some reason, this building excels in low light. If you don’t have this one and fly around the Baltic, well, think about getting this file onboard. As I said, this has long been a favorite around Chaos Manor, and our guess is this file will become one of yours, too.

EFHF 11

If you head over to the TruScenery site, I’d recommend you create an account and sign in, because then you’ll be able to look through the interesting collection of freeware they’ve got for you. Two such files I’d really recommend are a Helsinki orthophoto as well as an OSM dataset for all of Finland. The next three images are from Helsinki, from the area along the waterfront, and note the smooth road network and appropriate buildings in the area.

Helsinki ortho 1

Helsinki ortho 2

These derive from OSM (Open StreetMap) data, and this interplay between ortho and object placement is critical to the success of any ortho-imagery set-up. Below, a railyard that includes both passenger and freight cars, first in Xp…

Helsinki ortho OSM 1 rail

…and then via satellite imagery. Fairly close approximation, don’t you think?

U-bahn yard

Below, approaching EFHK – with the freeware scenery file removed; the real interest here being the highway and warehouse areas around the airport. Note that OSM tries to fill in the airport area, but what got me was the circular highway interchange beneath the 407.

Helsinki ortho EFHK OSM

Compare this with satellite imagery:

EFHK highway

Better than good accuracy, I’d say. So, consider adding these two freeware goodies if you haven’t already. There’s also the payware Helsinki VFR package, and I’d have it loaded if my poor, overstuffed SSD had enough free space. As this is becoming an issue I smell a new storage solution coming on the spring breeze…

So, the last two images today are of the 407 over EFHF – and this time highlighting the integration of TruScenery’s airport file with the larger Helsinki ortho and OSM data…and yes, that excellent terminal, from overhead this time.

EFHF Over407 1

EFHF over 407 2

Yup, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not particularly objective about this area. After all my travels around the world, northern Europe remains my favorite place to spend time, and the Scandinavian countries are near and dear to me. That’s doesn’t entirely explain away my interest and appreciation of this file, however. TruScenery’s EFHF was a groundbreaking airport for X-plane seven years ago, yet I think it holds up well even now. A few tweaks to lighting, perhaps, and maybe a few surface textures, and this file would approach perfection on any platform.

You’ll find all these at the TruScenery site (here), including the EFHF file, as well as the ortho and OSM files. In the next day or so we’ll look at few more files from this team while we look at a few other new releases.

As always, thanks for dropping by. We’ll see you next time. – C

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