Comet 4 Cockpit

Hybrid 2D/3D

Over the last few weeks, work has moved inside the Comet, to upgrade the cockpit from "just a bunch of gauges", for testing, to something that's as close to being in the pilot's seat as possible. The plan is:
  • First, to provide a standard 2D cockpit for X-Plane v.8; 2D cockpits are necessary anyway, and I think they're the best to fly.
  • Secondly, to upgrade the standard cockpit to v.9, with a larger panel and more accurate gauges and equipment.
  • Finally, a full 3D cockpit will be treated as a separate project.

Most people I talk to prefer using a 2D cockpit because the mouse moves the pointer directly, and the instruments are clear. Both things are important when things get busy. The big disadvantage with 2D cockpits is that tight overall dimensions mean shapes have to be distorted to fit everything in and keep it legible. Windshields have to be reduced to the height of letter-boxes, and equipment from the pedestal or overhead panel finds itself crammed into new nooks. A 3D cockpit adds a new dimension, but it can be confusing to use.

There were several false starts. I took crisp, new photographs of Mike Pyment's real Comet 4 cockpit (see article dated 30/01/2008), but I could not get a pilot's eye view without using such a wide-angle lens that the picture was distorted. I also tried creating a simple, illustrated version, like the panels that come with X-Plane, but my skill in Adobe Illustrator is not high enough, and it didn't have sufficient "Comet-ness".

Currently, I am developing the cockpit interior in 3D, with the intention of taking a snapshot for 2D. It has the advantage that I can position the "camera" exactly where I want it, and I can distort the size of the instrument panels to suit the 2D world. As a bonus, I can gradually introduce 3D elements into the mix for side views, even before a full 3D version is available. It's taking time to build the cockpit interior, but every hour spent is contributing towards the eventual 3D upgrade.

GMM-P (19/02/2008)
Updated (29/03/2008)

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