We’re pleased to announce the SilverLining Sky, 3D Cloud, and Weather SDK version 3.0! Free evaluations are available at our download page for integration with OpenGL and DirectX-based applications on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
High-Resolution Cumulus Clouds
SilverLining 3 adds a new CUMULUS_CONGESTUS_HI_RES cloud type, which offers the best of both worlds in rendering techniques for puffy clouds. SilverLining’s strength has always been in the quality of the experience of flying through cumulus clouds – since they are truly volumetric and composed of many small particles, you really get a sense of their structure and depth when you get up close to them. But, these small particles all shared a single texture – meaning clouds looked great up close, but lacked detail on a larger scale when viewed from afar.
Some flight simulators take the opposite approach, and use large photo-textures of clouds that are billboarded to face the viewer at all times. This results in clouds that look great from far away, but necessitates fading them out and replacing them with fog as the viewer approaches the cloud and the illusion falls apart.
SilverLining 3′s hi-res cumulus clouds offer a hybrid approach – clouds are still composed of many voxels, and toward the bottom of the clouds they behave much as they did before, with individual puffs spinning with the wind – although with higher resolution. But, as you approach the top of the cloud, puffs are represented by high-resolution images of larger cloud structures. The result is volumetric cumulus clouds that look great from any distance, with only a modest performance cost.
If you like your cumulus clouds the way they are, there’s no need to do anything – our legacy CUMULUS_CONGESTUS cloud layer remains supported and continues to work as it always has.
New Towering Cumulus Clouds
We’ve also added a new TOWERING_CUMULUS cloud type. SilverLining has always offered anvil-shaped cumulonimbus clouds, but it’s been missing clouds that are in between developing from cumulus congestus to cumulonimbus. That’s where towering cumulus comes in – they are essentially cumulus clouds that are very large and tall, representing storms in the process of formation.
For flight simulators or other applications with viewpoints above the clouds, this new cloud type is an important tool for creating realistic stormy conditions.
More Control over Cloud Placement
We’ve added the CloudLayer::AddCloudAt() method, which lets you create an empty cumulus cloud layer and position your own individual clouds within it. This sort of fine-grained control is useful for developers simulating specific weather systems and frontal boundaries, or for game designers who want complete control over cloud placement (for example, placing individual clouds around a mountaintop.)
Less Popping, Better Visuals
There’s a long list of other features in SilverLining 3 – popping artifacts from clouds re-sorting as the camera yaws are greatly reduced, ambient light has a more natural color, we’ve tweaked the appearance of the cumulus clouds, we’ve improved the placement of stratus clouds in geocentric databases, and more. The complete release notes document all of the changes, but as usual we’ve been careful to maintain backward compatibility, so updating won’t break your existing integrations.
SilverLining is an important part of training, gaming, and simulation applications for hundreds of customers around the world, and we’re proud of how far it’s come. Get the free evaluation of SilverLining 3, or update your maintenance plan for access to your new licensed SDK.