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FSElite Original: Interview With PhotoSim Labs

INTERVIEW PHOTOSIM LABS

Earlier this week, new developer PhotoSim Labs finally released Bimini For Prepar3D. The long-awaited scenery covers a range of South Bimini and Cat Cay, with full renditions of South Bimini Airport (MYBS) and Cat Key Airport (MYCC). The islands themselves have also been faithfully recreated in immense detail with various custom buildings, hotels and much more.

The road to release was a long one. Photosim Labs’ sole developer and founder Bernardo Bersik took time to give us a detailed account of the processes involved in the development, why there have been some lengthy delays and more.

Photosim Labs Bimini is currently only available for Prepar3D v3 and v4 for USD $24.95 on the Photosim Labs website. The scenery size is about 1.6 Gb. Note that the FSX version is due for release early November.

Tell us who you are and what it is that you do?

My name is Bernardo Bersik, and I am a semi-retired person with a passion for airplanes that has not diminished with age. Learning to fly in real life unfortunately was not an option for me, as I do suffer from vertigo that develops suddenly and lasts for a day or two. I discovered flight simulator way back, around 1986(?), when it was just a few dots on a screen. Later on, I gave my son FS2004 for Christmas, and a couple of years later, gave him FSX, but alas, by then he had decided that he had no time for it, so that copy of FSX sat on my desk for a year or so, until one day out of curiosity I installed it on my old computer. That started a fascination that continues up to this day.

What inspired you to start scenery development?

I have always been interested in photoreal scenery, but did not like the lack of 3D immersion if you will. One day, I was adding some sat imagery to Eleuthera, with Art Poole’s Bahamas scenery, which is outstanding, and decided to start adding vegetation, just your basic FSX trees and autogen buildings. I liked what I saw, and in those days I went through the incredible and tedious work of adding each tree, one at a time to the area, eventually doing Cat Island, North Eleuthera, The Exumas, New Providence, and a few others. At first, my intention was to release it as freeware, and then I started learning how to create buildings, how to make ground textures, how to make my own grass, and vegetation in general. You don’t learn overnight, it is a long process of trial and error, of looking up tutorials, and truly, you never stop learning, perhaps that is my biggest fault, as I constantly tweak the work I do. As I tell you this, I just finished redoing Bimini’s airport West end with new grass textures that I feel look a lot more natural. To make a very long story short, What I want to achieve in scenery development is a high level of visual immersion. I understand that for a lot of us, flying mostly involves immersing yourself in the cockpit, but for me, the simulation becomes 100% more “real” when you see a 3D world out your window, and in the case of The Bahamas, flying VFR means recognizing accurately depicted hotels, buildings, marinas , even sunken ships, which by the way do exist in my scenery, as they do in real life.

This is your first ever product? How has the journey been? What challenges have you faced during development?

Ah, yes, the famous first product, the “baby”, the first child. Actually it is a learning experience much akin to being a new father, as much as my son would hate to hear that. First, you have no idea what you are doing or what you have gotten yourself into, then the wife suddenly demands more of your time. But seriously, the challenges have been numerous, among them the lack of accurate data, or learning Sketchup from scratch. It’s been literally a year and a half since I first opened Sketchup for the first time.

The scenery has gone through quite an extensive range of changes over the past few months. Why was that? How has that impacted the release?

I guess the changes have had to do with me learning new ways to create and develop. People don’t seem to realize that at least in my case, not only is this a one man operation, but I have a real life job that absorbs most of my time. Nevertheless, as much as my wife has threatened to serve me with divorce papers (abandonment she will claim), most of my free time is indeed dedicated to creating and developing scenery. Then there is something that I have not spoken about in public, which is that I lost about 2/3 of my data, basically all my trees made from scratch, all my custom created buildings, lots of ground textures, etc,  back on February of this year. I won’t get into details of the circumstances. It wasn’t that hard to “rebuild” so to speak, but it was a big setback. I did however learn that making just one backup of your important data is not enough. But the good thing that came out of it is that I developed a new way to layout my scenery, and that has helped in reducing FPS hit all across.

How has user feedback helped you shape the product?

I believe that there is no bad user feedback. Ok let me rephrase that, there is always a very small percentage that doesn’t quite understand everything that involves developing scenery, so you get the occasional individual who opinates in a negative and non constructive way. I have had to learn to ignore those. But by far the vast majority of feedback has been immensily supportive and encouraging, and I am extremely pleased at the feedback I have been getting from the people who now own the scenery. I am in constant communication with them, as I highly value their input and their contribution to making my work even better. Sometimes, when I don’t hear from them I worry, and reach out via messenger to make sure they are Ok and that my scenery is performing well. I doubt I will be able to mantain that level of communication once the release takes place, but I will always be accesible should someone have a problem with the scenery.

Can you explain to us some of your favourite parts of the scenery?

Wow, my favourite parts? It may sound vain, but there are many, from small quaint docks with people swimming or kajaking, even ducks going around, to several seaplane docks spread around the islands and small coves, to big hotel resorts, to sunken ships, to small and medium sized airports where you can fly in with your favourite GA plane or a medium sized commercial aircraft. I mean there is a lot of detail all over. I, for example, like to hop in a helicopter, which until very recently had no idea how to fly, and go from one island to another, or fly from South Florida to Bimini, watch the clouds part, and all of a sudden there is this magnificent display of islands and the waters around it, exactly as it is in real life.

What were some of the harder parts of the scenery to develop?

For me it was two things, custom buildings and “3D” grass textures. The first one because data was so hard to come by with pictures or dimensions, even for the airports. It kind of became a detective job. The grass textures have evolved considerably since I started. You should see my collection of grass options, its huge!!, but I wanted to have an abundance of grass, visually speaking, but also make sure the FPS hit was manageable.

Can you give us some behind the scene looks at things like reference photos etc. How did they help development? Did you have people at the airports also help you with the finer details?

Yes, of course. Like I said, you become a detective. For example, there are a few buildings in Alice Town, Bimini that I wanted to model but for which I had no data, except for Google earth, so from people contacting me from The Bahamas about the scenery, there were two or three who were extremely important to my work, going around taking pictures for me. Just recently for example, I posted some pictures on Facebook about St. Croix, USVI, and a day later I got a message from the Airport manager at STIX, offering any and all data I need, so I am pleased to tell you that St. Croix will be out by Thanksgiving.

Was there a moment during development which made you think “wow, I think people will enjoy this”?

Yes, absolutely. Even early on, with my first version of Chub Cay (MYBC). Up to that point I was still serioulsy thinking of the scenery as freeware, even with all the time and money spent on developing. After I took off and flew around, then came for a landing, that’s when I realized this was special, and I truly enjoyed that moment. Funny thing is, I have gotten that exact reaction from people who now own my scenery, and that makes all the hardships, the threats by my wife to divorce me, its all worth it, and it is kind of therapeutic really, it makes you forget your pains, your worries, your wife, no, just kidding, but I truly enjoy what I am doing.

What do you hope people will enjoy most about the product?

The immersion, the feeling that you are truly there, the realism, the multiple options to land in small airports or bigger ones, but also the beauty of The Bahamas. I fell in love with it back in 1989, and will always have a special place in my heart. Now that they are going thru such terrible tragedy, I hope we all find a way to help and support.

What’s the future hold for your projects?

What is good about me having taken so much time to get here, is that developing new projects should not take too long given all that I have learned NOT to do. As I mentioned before, St. Croix, USVI is around the corner, a new set of Bahamas scenery comes out in one month, it is absolutely finished. I had done about 50% of Grand Bahama airport in Freeport, I even posted some pictures on Facebook a while back, but I need to put that one on hold while they rebuild, and I am doing Eleuthera next, all three airports there, But by far, the biggest project is the island of Cuba. I already have the sat imagery and have started creating custom buildings. Initially, it will be divided into three sections, and the westernmost section will be developed and released first. Release is expected early next year for the first section, and all airports for civilian use of each section will be included. One thing that I need to mention is that we are starting to work on converting to Xplane, we have gotten a lot of requests, and I have been contacted by a number of people who have started helping me in converting the scenery.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would, but my wife is demanding my presence at the kitchen, and by her tone of voice, it cannot possibly be to show me a beautiful dish she cooked. Thank you to those who have also picked up a copy and I look forward to continuing development.

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Photosim Labs Bimini is currently only available for Prepar3D v3 and v4 for USD $24.95 on the Photosim Labs website. The scenery size is about 1.6 Gb. Note that the FSX version is due for release early November.

Tags : AirportBiminiInterviewPhotoSim LabsScenery
Calum Martin

The author Calum Martin

I have been an avid fan of Flight Sim since the release of ‘2000 and have developed my love for aviation ever since. I have the knowledge and experience to really deliver an excellent aviation community. Although no real life flying experience, I have a good understanding and always learning more and more.
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