Yesterday, we confirmed our report that Physically Based Rendering technology was coming to Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D. Specifically, it will be available as of update V4.4, which is planned to be released tomorrow November 28th 2018. To celebrate the new version of P3D, we spoke to Lockheed Martin’s Engineering Project Manager, Adam Breed, to tell us more about PBR, why it will benefit the community and how developers have reacted.
You can find out a little more about PBR, the update (along with the change log) and installation instructions on our original post from yesterday. For now, enjoy the interview and get ready to enjoy a brand new version of Prepar3D very soon.
Huge thanks to Adam and the team at Lockheed Martin for the time and reaching out to us with the information.
Many thanks Adam for taking the time to chat to us today. For those unsure who you are, could you give a brief description of who you are and what it is you do at Lockheed Martin?
Hello Calum, I am the Engineering Project Manager of Prepar3D. I am responsible for directing all aspects of the Prepar3D simulation program, including worldwide commercial product launches. In addition, I am responsible for leading multiple defense industry focused training and simulation efforts for the Training and Logistics Solutions (TLS) line of business within the Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS) business area, operating out of Orlando, Florida.
The first question I have to ask: Can you confirm if PBR (Physically Based Rendering) is coming to Prepar3D V4.4?
Yes, we are proud to announce that Prepar3D supports PBR materials starting with the Prepar3D v4.4 update.
Before I ask how PBR will impact Prepar3D, what can you tell us about what PBR is and why it excites you as a developer?
PBR allows content creators to develop the most realistic looking vehicles and scenery. Metal will look more like metal, fabric will look more like fabric. It also is a large component of doing higher-fidelity simulations for sensors and other systems that rely on the material properties of a surface. I am also excited that the inherent benefits of PBR will speed up photoreal-level content creation in the long run and allow people to visually feel like they’re sitting in a real aircraft – something that has always been a goal of simulation and training.
How will PBR impact the user’s experience with Prepar3D going forward?
It is another step towards more photorealism and blurring the lines between real and simulated worlds. Once content is updated to support PBR, it will be a large jump forward in realism. We are already seeing third parties updating their content.
How have developers reacted to the inclusion of PBR? Who’s most excited – scenery or aircraft developers?
I’d say it has been equal. It is a fair assumption that the process of updating aircrafts might be a little more simple as there are only so many materials that make up an aircraft. For a scenery developer, they will have many more types of textures and materials to rework, so it will take time for all third party scenery developers to fully update their products. Still, the third party developers were a driving force behind getting this included in Prepar3D and the updates we have seen during beta phases have blown us away.
Why now for PBR? I would expect a big update such as this to come along with version 5 or later, not an .X update?
You are right, typically a major change like PBR would be held to a future major release. Still, the main reason we did it in a point update was that we wanted to enable third parties to begin updating their content as soon as we could support it. Scenery and aircraft development can take years and we didn’t want to release a major version and then have users wait months or years until PBR content was updated and released. Prepar3D v4.4 is a major update to the engine and likely v4.4 is the most aggressive point release the team has done in our eight year history.
PBR is the next step in graphical fidelity within the simulator. Will you be making further enhancements and improvements for the VR users?
Yes, we are dedicated to making sure Prepar3D is the Virtual Reality (VR) flight simulator of choice. PBR will increase the visual quality of the VR scene, but we continue to iterate on performance and usability of VR. For instance, you will now be able to see tool tip 3D text in the VR headset, 2D panels can now be placed in 3D space, and users will now have a gaze selection mode. Additionally, we are starting to weave in Mixed Reality (MR) capabilities. You can now use the HTC Vive camera to create portals to see the outside world inside the VR headset.
Myself, the team and other members of the community have certainly noticed, and appreciate, the increased presence members of the Lockheed team in the community. How has interactions like FSExpo, Reddit and flight sim media outlet interviews impacted development?
Thanks, we have really enjoyed it as well and we are planning on doing more in the future. I’d say doing those events helps us keep focused on what is important to our users and developers. Each of those events inspire us to revisit capabilities or issues and help us shape our roadmap.
The Prepar3D team at Lockheed Martin have really modified the original ESP engine beyond anything we saw with Flight Simulator X from Microsoft. What was the most challenging change that you and the team faced and why?
It has been a really amazing journey up to this point. I’d say the main challenge still revolves around ensuring we are maintaining backwards compatibility as much as possible. Even when updating to PBR, we had to ensure we did not disrupt content that was developed over a decade ago. Still, on the other hand, maintaining backwards compatibility is such a big benefit to our users that we will continue to balance that challenge with every major revision as we move forward.
The current development cycle of version 4 of Prepar3D must soon be coming to an end as you look to the future. What hints can you leave us with to excite people about what’s coming next?
Prepar3D v4 still has a lot of life left in it and it will likely be the longest active release we have done. Still, I think users are going to be very pleased where the platform is heading. No hints just yet!
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We look forward to seeing you and other developers at FlightSimExpo 2019 in Orlando!
Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D V4.4 update is planned to release on November 28th 2018.