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Creating Thumbnails for FSX Aircraft

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I’m sure anyone who has created a new aircraft with FS Design Studio for FSX or has created a new variation of paint using FS Repaint has noticed there is no preview or thumbnail for the aircraft when you select it in FSX, or the worng one if you use FS Repaint. Today I’d like to cover a few ways that you can create your own thumbnails.

The preview of the aircraft in the FSX is basically an image file called thumbnail.jpg. This file is saved in the Texture folder for the aircraft. There are a few different ways you can create a thumbnail.jpg. All methods involve taking a screen shot of the plane, then saving the image in the correct folder. You can reference the Capturing The Screen post to see how to take a screen shot if needed but I’d like to cover a bit more about it here.

The thumbnail.jpg file can be any size, but you need to realize that Flight Sim will resize the image. The thumbnails will always be rendered at 256 x 128 pixels. Even if the image is a full screen shot at 1024 x 786, it will be drawn at 256 x 128. This can, and will in most cases, cause a distortion of the image. It’s best to use a paint program with crop and resize features to set up the image at the correct size.

The basic steps needed to create a thumbnail preview of your aircraft are:

  1. Load and fly it in FSX.
  2. Use Spot view to put the camera outside the plane.
  3. Choose an angle that best shows off the plane. Remember the final image will be small and you’ll want to be able to tell what the plane is by looking at the thumbnail.
  4. Set the correct zoom level. You don’t need to make the plane fill the screen necessarily, but you don’t want it to be a tiny spec either.
  5. Snap the screen.
  6. Load the screen shot into your image editor.
  7. I recommend using the Crop feature of your paint program to crop the image into an approximate rectangle. Remember the final size will be 256x 128 pixels, which is exactly twice as wide as it is tall.
  8. Once cropped, resize the image. If your program can maintain the proportions or aspect ratio of the image, you can resize it to 128 pixels tall. Once you do that, check the height of the image and make sure it is larger than 256. If it’s smaller, the image will be stretched in FSX. If it is smaller than 256, undo the resize. This time resize and set the width to 256 and check the height. This time the height should be over 128 pixels.
  9. Once you have the image locked into one of the desired sizes, use the Crop feature again to crop it to exactly 256 x 128.
  10. Save the image into the FSX’s \SimObject\Airplanes\<your aircraft folder>\Texture (or the Rotorcraft\<your aircraft folder>\Texture folder) with the file name thumbnail.jpg.

Now you can open FSX and select your plane and see the preview.

I have a few other notes I’d like to cover on this topic.

Felix noted in a comment on the Capturing the Screen post that you can press the V key while in FSX to take a screen capture. This does work quite well. You can set up your screen in FSX (spot view) and press the V key. FSX will pause for a second while the screen capture is created. After that you can minimize FSX (or close it) and browse into the My Documents folder on your computer. Under My Documents, open the My Pictures folder. In here will be a folder called Flight Simulator X Files. Open this folder to see the screen shot(s).

NOTE: There is also a Flight Simulator X Files folder under My Documents where the flight plans and saved flights are saved. Be sure you got into the My Pictures folder under My Documents. (My Documents\My Pictures\Flight Simulator X Files)

If you take multiple screen shots this way, you’ll notice the file names are in order. The file name is created using the following template as best I can tell:

<year>-<month>-<day>-<hour (0-24)>-<minutes>-<seconds>-<unknown>.BMP

An example file name would be: 2008-9-9-15-17-34-783.BMP From this I can tell that the shot was taken on September 9th, 2008 at 15 hundred hours (3 o’clock), 17 minutes and 34 seconds. I’m not sure what the 783 is.

Once you find your screen shot, you can load it and edit it as discussed above.

Posted with the permission of Adam Howe and Abacus Publishing.

For more information, visit Adam Howe's complete Flight Simulator Design Studio design blog!