|Review Date||30th December 2006|
|Model||Clearview 4.6.0 Simulator|
Clearview is a flight simulator program which contains both airplanes and helicopters. This new simulator is marketed to people who have recently invested in an RC plane or helicopter and want to learn flying without significant initial financial commitment. Some of the specifications include photo realistic scenery and the promise of a highly accurate flight model for both airplanes and helicopters. ClearView is only available online via download and activation through SVK Systems website for a price of just $30.
The question is where this simulator sits in the current crop which range from free simulators like FMS to high end retail simulators like Reflex, G3 or Phoenix.
Clearview provides various model airplanes and some of the more popular model helicopters available on the market today. Each of these models has its own set of flight parameters designed to allow the model to be tweaked to accurately represent the flight characteristics of the real model. Clearview is no different to any other simulator in that there are a huge number of parameters that can be adjusted to change the flight characteristics of the displayed model. Some of these characteristics and parameters are explained on the website www.rcflightsim.com where the simulator can be purchased/downloaded. The simulator can be tried for free but will lock after 30 minutes. Once this time limit has been met a licence must be purchased in order to unlock the program for further use.
Clear view works with the same style of transmitter interface as the FMS simulator. The purchase price does not include the required cables to connect your transmitter to the computer. These must be purchased separately. The clearview simulator will work with a standard mono audio cable (or buddy lead) should you be using a JR transmitter. More detail on this later in the review.
The major features are as follows:
- Support for heli's and planes
- Fully configurable flight model
- Supports from 3d foam planes to Jets
- True high alpha angles simulation
- Refined flight model with autorotation
- 3d physics
- Advanced setup for editing all flight parameters
- Shadows and smoke
- Movable flight surfaces
- Doppler sound effects
In the screen shot above you can see the main menu headings. Taking these one at a time when I will briefly explain what each menu provides.
Allows the import of downloaded scenery or models.
Within this menu item all of the setup dialogs can be accessed. These dialogues allow for the calibration of the transmitter, setting up of the control functions, selecting flight parameters, modifying simulated servo speeds, changing the weather, modifying the model flight parameters and accessing quick setup for a specific model. This menu also contains the settings for slowing down time so that the model doesn't react as quickly. Also on this menu are the sound and camera settings.
This menu allows you to select different scenery's which provide a backdrop for flying. There are various different scenery's ranging from open grass, snow and ice, mountains and deserts.
Allow you to select the helicopter that you wish to fly from a predefined list.
Allows you to select a plane that you wish to fly from predefined list
Allows you to record your flight or playback previously recorded flights.
Plays some previously recorded demonstration flights
Provides access to help for the program
The simulation settings allow control of the main simulation itself. This includes setting wind strength, thermals, simulation speed. All of the calibration, model setup and controls configuration are accessed through this menu.
I will cover some of the main functions on this menu. Starting with the tx setup dialog.
As can be seen from this dialog I opted to use a PP Joy virtual joystick interface. It's important when using this type of interface to calibrate through the windows dialog first before calibrating within the Clearview simulation.
As can be seen from the screen shot above this dialogue allows you to set up the throttle, rudder, aileron and elevator. Each control is assigned to one of the control channels and there is a check box to reverse the channel if it is behaving opposite to that which is desired. This dialogue also allows the selection of which switches will provide throttle hold, gear, flaps or idle up.
I chose to use a virtual joystick as this was the cheapest method as I already had a buddy cable for my JR transmitter and this could be plugged directly into the microphone on my sound card in order to control the models within the simulation. The models can also be controlled via the keyboard or via a purchased USB interface cable. These cables are the same ones as used for FMS and can be found on eBay.
The next dialog is the helicopter setup dialog:
This is a quick setup dialog which just allows tweaking of the main controls that adjust the flight model for helicopters. A similar dialog is also accessible for planes. A more advanced setup dialog is also available but this one is simplified to give control over the main user configurable controls.
The next dialog is the servo selection dialog:
This dialog allows you to select what servos you wish to simulate in your model. This is a nice feature and one I've not seen in other flight simulators which typically just have a speed or rate setting for the control surfaces. Obviously selecting faster servos provides for a faster responding model.
The next dialog is the magic timer dialog:
This dialog is fairly self explanatory. It allows you to slow down or speed up time which gives you more time to learn and react to your model if you choose to slow down time. This is useful for learning complicated manoeuvres.
The next dialog is the advanced model setup dialog:
This dialog is somewhat complicated in that each flight parameter is listed and whilst you can change the values very easily a detailed knowledge of each parameter is required. Explanations can be found on the rcflightsim.com website but these only cover planes and not helicopters. So this limits heli configuration in any controlled manner to just the quick setup dialog mentioned earlier. This is a bit limiting to say the least.
Lastly there are the view settings for controlling the camera and viewing angle:
The camera mode selection dialog boxes provide the ability to customise the way the model is followed by the camera within the simulation. The camera mode of direct, artificially intelligent or dynamic control how much freedom the model is given in terms of where it is positioned on the screen. Direct camera is the most restrictive in that the model is always kept in the centre of the screen. The other two modes provide a more natural view of the model. The zoom mode controls how much of the field is in view. 50° gives a wide angle view where as 25° gives a much more zoomed in view.
The next dialog box is for setting up the simulation weather:
As can be seen this dialog box allows for a fairly extensive control of wind and thermals but there are no facilities to change the cloud cover or define whether it is sunny, overcast or otherwise. This is similar to other simulations that use photo realistic backgrounds. User definable weather conditions are usually only available in graphically generated sceneries.
This dialog box allowed you to select from several different provided background scenery's. Some of these are more photo realistic than others. Included amongst the background selections is a gym which provides an indoor flying environment. I have included below some screen shots showing the different sceneries.
This dialog box allows you to select from one of several pre-installed model helicopters. There are a number of scale models represented plus some of the more popular 3-D pod and boom models. The most realistic model I found to be the Raptor 90.
This dialog box allows you to select from one of several pre-installed model airplanes. There is a reasonable selection ranging from scale models through to basic trainers, 3-D models and foamies.
Flight Recorder & Demo
The flight recorder allows you to either record or playback previously recorded flights. This is a very straightforward function in that you specify that you wish to record your flight, give your flight a file name and when you are ready press F11 in order to start recording. You press F12 to stop recording. Recorded files can be shared between Clearview owners. The demo function is just a playback function for some provided demonstrations recorded using the flight recorder.
Transmitter Stick Display
One last feature worthy of mention is the ability to turn on a transmitter display. This display shows what the transmitter sticks are doing what you are flying. If you make a flight recording you can do so with the transmitter sticks on display so that the person watching the recording can see what was happening on the sticks.
All simulators have sound effects and these at worst are implemented as an annoying buzzing. Moving up to some of the better simulators sound effects are included for blade noise and movement of the model through the air (such as the whistling noise that gliders make).
The sound effects in Clearview are actually quite good and varied in nature. Stereo sound has been implemented as well as doppler effect. I did notice one strange bug (which may be down to my sound hardware) where if the model was directly above me it didn't matter how high it was it still sounded very close and loud.
Downloadable Models & Sceneries
Clearview does have quite an extensive set of downloadable models and background sceneries. These are available from several websites and there is also some compatibility between FMS and Clearview to allow reuse of some of the extensive models available for this simulator. It should be noted though that the quality of some of these downloads with regard to their flight models can be somewhat poor. Conversely there are also some reasonably good ones, you just have to try them and see. Here is a link to one of the main download sites <here>
Most of the basic functionality I would expect to see in a quality simulator is represented within Clearview. However, there are some functions missing that I would have liked to have seen. The most important of these is a training mode for helicopters. This allows you to learn the controls one at a time whilst the computer takes care of the other controls. Similarly some of the newer simulators also include training modes for airplanes, specifically for learning how to prop hang.
As I am reviewing the simulator specifically from a helicopter point of view I would also like to have seen more models represented. The most popular models are 50 sized and this particular class of helicopter is not represented at all. I was pleased to see the inclusion of a T-Rex 450. Obviously you could download a 50 class model but it would be nice to see an included one of 'known quality'.
I think my main disappointment with regard to the functionality was the interface for modifying the model flight parameters. Whilst the basic quick setup does provide easy access to some of the main controls I found myself wanting to dip into the more advanced settings. As mentioned previously there are no easy dialog boxes to explain how the advanced functions work or what values can be used. On top of this there is no explanation on the website for helicopter configuration parameters. Airplanes do get an explanation for their advanced parameters via the online manual on the website.
Most pilots will try to reconfigure models on a simulator to make them fly like their own model. I didn't feel I was able to do this with the Clearview simulator and the information provided.
I do like the inclusion of both indoor and outdoor environments to fly within. I also liked the inclusion of a transmitter display which can also be incorporated into recorded flights.
Clearview implements sound very well but the smoke effects are very basic.
Clearview does provide a multi player function and this was something I was not able to test. However, it is a nice option although in keeping with other configuration within Clearview you do need to be somewhat technically minded in order to make it work. I also found this to be true in setting up the transmitter controls where a reasonable knowledge of Windows is required in order to calibrate the transmitter correctly. Fortunately the online manual does go into detail with regard to transmitter setup and calibration of controls and I feel the documentation here is probably some of the best provided with the Clearview simulator.
The success or failure of a simulator comes down to the accuracy of the flight model.
It doesn't matter if the scenery is photo realistic or if the models are beautiful, if they do not fly correctly the simulator is not doing its job. Clearview has photo realistic scenery, the models are quite nicely presented although I have seen better but what of the flight model?
If you are a beginner who is new to the hobby and looking to learn how to hover, circuit and progress on to basic aerobatics then the flight model is good enough to deliver. However, you may be initially hampered by the lack of training modes as mentioned earlier. However, putting this to one side this simulator will save you from a number of crashes that may otherwise turn you away from the hobby.
If you are well past the learning phase and are inspired to become a intermediate to advanced 3-D pilot, I start to have some mixed feelings and reservations as to whether the flight model is good enough for this type of training.
There are those who believe that a simulator is only required to learn how to hover and circuit. Maybe also learn how to inverted hover and this may be the limit of their aspirations not everyone wants to do 3D. For them, ClearView provides quite a useful learning tool without breaking the bank.
For me as a 3-D pilot I rely heavily upon my simulator as a training aid to learn all of the advanced 3-D manoeuvres that my machine is capable of. I therefore require a highly accurate flight model which will teach me how my model will react when I put it into very unnatural orientations. This is where Clearview really starts to struggle. The flight model really isn't accurate enough to simulate advanced 3-D manoeuvres. Cyclic pitch reacts okay but model inertia and collective pitch function are not correct. I found the Raptor 90 to have the most accurate flight model of the ones provided stock.
I believe there is some significant work to be done around proper parameters settings related to the advanced 3-D flight model for helicopters in order to elevate Clearview to the level of the best of commercially available simulators. However for hovering, circuiting and your basic sports flying it's fine.
One parameter I did discover through communication with SVK systems was that you can change the gyro to be a 'super quality' gyro. This vastly improved the way the tail responded and allowed the simulator to fly far more accurately than it had done up to that point.
I should point out that autorotation's are implemented quite well in Clearview and this was one area of advanced flying that I did find to be suitable for training purposes.
Whilst this review is heavily biased towards helicopters, I would like to point out that the airplane flight model is actually quite good. Although I should add that I am not a particularly advanced model airplane flyer, so my point of view is from a much less experienced fliers perspective.
You will need at least 1GHz CPU and 32 MB 3D video card that provides support for OpenGL 1.3
|Good graphics and sound|
|Capable flight model for a beginner / sport flyer|
|Indoor & Outdoor environments|
|Some nice ideas, like servo selection|
|Low PC specification required|
|Fight model not best suited to 3D training|
|No training modes for beginners|
|Advanced model configuration is unexplained|
|User interface needs some work around usability, particularly for advanced model parameters|
|transmitter connection cables must be purchased, the simulator price includes software only|
|Transmitter setup is quite involved|
Clearview has left me with mixed feelings as to whether it is a simulator which I would recommend. Model helicopters are very difficult to fly and therefore a large number of "would-be pilots" give up before ever mastering the controls.
For many of these pilots, Clearview represents a low cost solution that will help them to progress past the frustration point in learning to fly today’s RC helicopters. Those pilots who successfully master the basic controls could continue to use Clearview to develop their skills into sport flying and the beginnings of basic 3-D.
To move onto more advanced 3-D training, a more accurate flight model would be required in order to learn the necessary skills and transfer them quickly to the real machine. In this instance I believe the pilot would be moving off of Clearview onto a more capable simulator. However, you would have to pay more to get that realism in a high end simulator.
Clearview doesn't have the polished interface of high end simulators and most of the development effort has been put into the flight model, graphics and sound.
SVK systems have rightly pointed out when reading this review that their flight model is highly configurable and it may be just parameter tuning that is required to improve things, there are over 120 different flight parameters within the overall flight model.
Having pointed out these facts Clearview is definitely not a bad simulator and it's target market isn't really the 3D flyer. Value for money is good considering what you get for your $30. The flight model will carry a pilot from early stages to sports flying, bearing in mind that it doesn't have training modes for the very early stages.
One also needs to take into account what budget the buyer may have in mind for their simulator and what type of helicopter they are flying. Someone flying a Blade CP may not be interested in spending a lot of money on a high end advanced 3D capable simulator when both their choice of helicopter and aspirations for flying are not in that direction.
Overall if you are looking to only invest a small amount in a simulator and are not into more advanced 3D, then Clearview offers a viable solution that meets that profile. It fills the gap well between the free simulators and the top brand name commercially available products.