Sundog Blog

Posted by Frank Kane on 4th May 2016

New Course on Spark Streaming and Scala

SparkStreamingCourseYou may know that in addition to Sundog Software, I also dabble in producing online courses on Udemy.

Today I launched my latest course: Taming Big Data with Spark Streaming – Hands On! If you follow that link, you’ll get a special discount on it.

Spark Streaming is a hot technology for processing and analyzing massive streams of data as they are generated. For example, clickstream data from a fleet of web servers, or sensor data from an “Internet of Things” application. Spark Streaming lets you receive, transform, analyze, and store this raw data across a cluster – making it a highly scalable solution for processing big data as it happens!

My course includes almost 6 hours of video content, and lots of hands-on examples. As a bonus, it also includes a crash course on the Scala programming language. By programming in Scala, you’ll get access to all of the newest features of Spark Streaming. And that’s important, because it is still an emerging technology that’s evolving quickly.

If you’re interested in learning more – please check out my new Spark Streaming course!

Posted by Frank Kane on 23rd April 2016

We’re in Game Engine Gems 3

Game Engine Gems 3 coverWe just got our copy of Game Engine Gems 3, containing 22 chapters of new techniques in graphics and rendering, physics, general programming, character control, and artificial intelligence. I’m proud to be the author of chapter 2: “Realistic Blending of Skies, Water, and Terrain!”

In my chapter, I cover the challenges of creating cohesive outdoor scenes and applying atmospheric effects in a consistent manner to the terrain, sky, and water. Distance affects the appearance of these elements in different ways, and getting it right is tougher than you might think. Inconsistent application of fog and visibility effects is surprisingly easy to do, and it can really break the immersion in your scenes. This chapter shows you what not to do – and some solutions for creating believable scenes that handle visibility effects correctly for land, sky, and sea.

I’m just starting to sink my teeth into the rest of the book, but I’m already seeing things I can apply in Triton and SilverLining to make them even better. It’s an advanced book – you’ll need to be comfortable with math and software engineering to get the most out of it. But if you’re an experienced game or simulation engine developer, there’s stuff in here that will make you even better. Check it out on Amazon.

Posted by Frank Kane on 16th April 2016

Check out this new SilverLining / SkyMaxx Pro fan video.

Thanks to X-Plane flight simmer redpiper1 for putting together this jaw-dropping video of our cloud technology in action!

This video features our plugin for X-Plane called SkyMaxx Pro, which uses our SilverLining Sky, 3D Cloud, and Weather SDK to inject 3D clouds into X-Plane.

No words necessary – just watch it!

Posted by Frank Kane on 15th April 2016

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane Launched!

We’re proud to announce the launch of Real Weather Connector, and add-on for the X-Plane flight simulator!

Real Weather Connector (RWC) works with our SkyMaxx Pro add-on to position cloud formations exactly as they appear in real life. Real Weather Connector uses raw METAR weather reports from around the world to construct realistic cloud conditions surrounding you, with unmatched precision. Complex weather systems can now surround your plane, and you can see distant weather fronts and fly into them seamlessly. It was just released this morning, but already the initial reaction is quite positive!

It’s quite honestly a very hard thing to explain, but a pictures says a thousand words, and videos even more. So check out these images of Real Weather Connector in action, courtesy of Jason Row and Dave Robertson. Real Weather Connector provides extremely immersive clouds, and in flight simulation, that’s a huge part of the scene. To learn more, visit the Real Weather Connector product page at!

Click the images below for full resolution.

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Real Weather Connector for X-Plane

Posted by Frank Kane on 9th April 2016

SkyMaxx Pro 3.1 for X-Plane Released

We’re proud to announce the latest revision of our popular add-on for the X-Plane flight simulator, SkyMaxx Pro 3.1! You can read the official announcement at

A major innovation in this release is the illumination of clouds from your plane’s landing lights as you fly through them! SkyMaxx Pro 3.1 also includes a lot of performance improvements, and a new “soft” cumulus cloud representation. SkyMaxx Pro 3.1 is also required by our upcoming “Real Weather Connector” add-on for X-Plane, which will enable realistic depictions of real-world current weather conditions in X-Plane.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, so have a look at some screenshots from SkyMaxx Pro 3.1, courtesy of Jason Row (click for full resolution):

SkyMaxx Pro 3.1

SkyMaxx Pro 3.1

SkyMaxx Pro 3.1

SkyMaxx Pro 3.1

Posted by Frank Kane on 9th March 2016

Celebrating 10 Years of SilverLining

FireworksBelieve it or not, it’s been 10 years since the SilverLining Sky, Cloud, and Weather SDK was first offered to the public! What started as my personal hobby project has since turned into the de-facto real-time sky and weather library in the visual simulation field, with hundreds of customers around the world – and a real business that continues to grow today.

SilverLining has come a very long way in 10 years! It’s had literally hundreds of updates during that time. We’ve added support for new OpenGL and DirectX API’s as they’ve come out, all the latest compilers, and added entire new cloud types such as stratocumulus, towering cumulus, and an all-new approach to stratus clouds. Our cumulus clouds have gone from looking like impressionist paintings to looking real. And 10 years of accumulated bug fixes and refinement have led to one of the most stable, efficient software libraries you’re likely to encounter.

The original Sundog website

The original Sundog website

SilverLining has outlived many of the game engines we’ve offered integrations with in the past: Gamebryo Lightspeed, NVidia SceniX, and Havok Vision to name a few! It’s also spun off new products, such as BlueSkies and Skymaxx Pro. And, SilverLining integrations now come included with engines such as OpenIG and osgEarth.

Our continual effort on improving SilverLining combined with simple, affordable licensing and responsive technical support have kept this product thriving for the past decade, and we’re looking forward to what the coming decade brings! Already, there are some exciting new features in development to keep SilverLining on the cutting edge. Thanks so much to all of our customers for your loyal support!


Posted by Frank Kane on 3rd March 2016

Avoiding Pipeline Stalls with SilverLining and Triton

Stall WarningMany applications are sensitive to OpenGL pipeline stalls; where a “stop the world” call happens that requires the driver to synchronize the GPU and CPU. Because SilverLining and Triton are usually drawn near the end of your frame when everything needs to synchronize anyhow, this usually isn’t a big issue for us. However, preventing pipeline stalls can still reclaim some valuable performance. Here are some tips on avoiding stalls when using our SDK’s.
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Posted by Frank Kane on 23rd February 2016

OpenIG 2.0.0 Features SilverLining and Triton

OpenIG 2.0.0 with SilverLining and TritonOur friends at ComPro have announced the release of OpenIG 2.0.0, which now includes plugin support for our SilverLining Sky, 3D Cloud, and Weather SDK and our Triton Ocean SDK!

OpenIG is an open-source, cross-platform scene generator built on top of OpenSceneGraph, and it offers exciting features such as shader-based Forward-Plus lighting – enabling ridiculous numbers of simultaneous light sources in a scene. It also makes managing entities and cameras easy, along with many other features described at the OpenIG website.

ComPro has provided me with a few videos showcasing the technical capabilities of the SilverLining and Triton plugins for OpenIG. Here’s a general demo:

This next one showcases how they’ve integrated their Forward+ lighting system into SilverLining, allowing it to illuminate clouds from arbitrary light sources:

And, they even integrated Forward+ lighting into Triton, allowing light sources to illuminate the ocean water as well!

Note that although OpenIG itself is open source, its SilverLining and Triton plug-in modules still require a license for our SDK’s. These are deep integrations; not only have they integrated their lighting system into both SilverLining and Triton, they’ve taken care of all the hard parts of integrating our SDK’s into OpenSceneGraph for you. Things like reflections, height maps for smooth coastline blending, and support for logarithmic depth buffers are all there out of the box.

It’s very cool stuff! If you’re considering a new project built with OpenSceneGraph that takes advantage of Sundog Software’s technology, definitely give OpenIG a look.

Posted by Frank Kane on 22nd February 2016

Volumetric Decals on 3D Water

Volumetric decals in the Triton Ocean SDKA little-known but incredibly useful feature in the Triton Ocean SDK is volumetric decals – this lets you place 2D textures, with some limited animation capabilities, on the water surface. While decals are usually nothing special, they are when applied to a dynamically animated surface such as Triton’s water. A technique called volumetric decals (also known as deferred decals) must be used to project your 2D texture onto the constantly changing 3D water surface. Fortunately, Triton hides all of this complexity from you; all you need to do is give it a decal texture, a size, and where you want it, and Triton does the rest. Customers have used this capability for several interesting effects:

  • Jets from thrusters on ocean platforms or tugboats
  • Floating debris on the water surface
  • Custom rotor wash effects
  • Custom eddy and tidal stream effects
  • Films on the water, such as oil slicks
  • Custom ship wake effects

The only limit is your imagination!
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Posted by Frank Kane on 15th February 2016

Integrating reflections with Triton’s ocean

Triton 3D Oceans for UnityIntegrating reflections of your scene on the water is the biggest thing you can do to create realistic water with the Triton Ocean SDK. But, producing the texture map Triton needs for planar reflections can be a little tricky. Here are some tips for getting started.
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