Taking Good

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Taking Good

During the course of development, over a thousand screenshots were captured, during which time the photographic staff learned a lot of helpful techniques.  You can benefit from our experience by checking out the tips below.

Tips From Our Photo Staff:

Use the Highest Resolution Available.  This helps reduce the "jaggies" and results in a more detailed picture.  This is especially important for screenshots which are to be printed out.  Images can always be reduced in size for posting on the web or e-mailing to others.  Our later screenshots were taken using a screen resolution of 1600 x 1200 (see the "Tips & Tricks" section for how we did this.)

Sharpening.  Many graphics packages have a function for sharpening images.  This can be a useful tool for improving the quality and realism of screenshots, especially after resizing images, which tends to blur images quite a bit.  Sharpening can sometimes add a surprising amount of realism to an image.

Change the Lens "Focal Length".  This is a big one!  Just as a camera can have a wide-angle or telephoto lens, the "lens" setting in Train Sim can also be adjusted.  This is done in the "camcfg.dat" file in the "global" subdirectory using the "FOV" variable for each view.  The default value of FOV for each view is "60".  This is a very wide angle lens (higher values are wider angle lenses in this case).  Try using much lower values, such as 25 to 35.  A "near head-on" shot using an FOV of 15 can produce a dramatic effect.  The trackside FOV can also be modified.

Multiple Lenses.  Our staff modified the file so that the external view selected with the "2" button had one "FOV" value, while the external view selected with the "3" button had another.  This allowed lenses to be changed at the touch of a button.  (We also modified the "camcfg.dat" file so that both the "2" and "3" views defaulted to the lead car in the train.)

Use Lighting Effectively.  Effective lighting is important when taking screenshots, just as it is in conventional photography.  For most photographs, it is best to have the sun "behind you", or a little to the side.  Taking early morning or late afternoon screenshots can be interesting, although the sunrise and sunset colors in Train Sim are a little intense for some, especially since these colors last for hours.

Save Good Locations.  If you are approaching a section of track which provides a good background for screenshots, be sure to do a "quick save" using "F2".  This will allow to make multiple passes, if necessary, to get that perfect shot.  If you plan on getting really serious about screenshots, you might consider using the MSTS Activity Editor to create train "starting points" which are near your favorite screenshot locations.

Clean Your Screen.  Be sure to clear the screen of all windows and other indications, such as frame rate displays.  Also make sure you remember to move the mouse pointer out of the shot.

Unlock the Camera View.  Keying in <ctrl-shift-9> allows the view direction to be controlled by holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse around.  This provides a great deal more flexibility in framing shots.

Variety is the Spice of Life.  Try different types of weather, different clouds, different angles, etc.

Disable Derailments.  If you are planning on taking a lot of screenshots, you may need to ask yourself whether you want to be a photographer, or an engineer.  If you are spending a lot of time trying to get that perfect picture, it may be frustrating to derail frequently.

User Contributed Tips:

Take Shots from a Scale Height.  The realism of trackside screenshot is often enhanced when taken from a realistic human height.  Unfortunately, the trackside perspective in MSTS is too high.  You can overcome this limitation by selecting screenshot locations, such as near bridges, that allow you to get a lower, more realistic perspective.

by: Martin Soilleux-Cardwell - United Kingdom

Sun/Moon Silhouette.  Set the time so that the sun or moon is just above the horizon. Move the camera so that the sun is right behind the engine, and snap away.

by: Brett Cotter - Raleigh, NC ("wowkid" on Train-Sim.com)

After-the-Fact Cropping.  As an alternative to using <ctrl-shift-9> to crop your shots, you may also want to consider using graphics software to do the cropping after taking the screenshot.

by: Brett Cotter - Raleigh, NC ("wowkid" on Train-Sim.com)

Did we miss some great screenshot techniques that you have used?  Let us know at judd2@juddspittler.com, and perhaps we can add them to our list.

 Judd Spittler

Questions?  Comments?  We are always interested in hearing from you.