This short article is intended to provide you with some guidance when starting with post processing mods for FSX. We’ll start by going through what they are and what do they do. I will let you know about the various mods I know about and provide some useful links as well as the configuration files I use.
So, lets get started.
What are Post Processing mods?
In a nutshell, post processing mods are modifications to the rendering code of the FSX engine. Essentially, they take the image that your graphics card would output to the screen and apply additional processing to display graphical effects that were not originally included with the program. The effects that are available depend somewhat on the mod you are using, but most of them are common: HDR, bloom effects and color corrections.
To give you a motivation to read the rest of this article, lets see some side by side comparisons right away.
Obviously, the right part of the screen shows the same shot with the modification applied. As you can see, it makes some difference.
So, how do I install it?
It depends, really. There are multiple mods available, and installation instructions are different for each one. However, be warned: if you are not comfortable with changing some files in your FSX installation and possibly running into situations where your sim does not start, these mods are probably not for you. Most of the time, however, you will have no problems if you back up your files as you go. If something goes wrong, just recover your backups and you’ll be fine.
I will provide a small overview of the various mods, and I will provide some links with instructions on how to install each of them. A word of advice: most of the mods are installed by copying files to FSX directory, so it’s quite easy to make a mess out of it and start mixing up files from various mods and sure enough…. you will run into problems. So try to install one at a time, keep track of which files are installed. And then, if you want to try another one, remove the installed files, restore your backups and then install the new mod.
There are three main post processing mods for FSX that I know of:
This has been the first of these mods. It has been created originally for GTA San Andreas, I believe, and then adapted to many other games – one of them being FSX. Essentially, to install this, you have to place a .dll file in your FSX directory, along with a configuration file. That’s all there is to it.
- Installation files (link to the original GTA San Andreas mod)
- Configuration file specifically for FSX. This is a link to a forum post detailing installation instructions and contains a configuration file that you can use with some very good results.
- Documentation on how to tweak the configuration files
Note #1: ENB Series does not work with DX10 Preview.
Note #2: There is a possibility that your sim becomes unstable when using ENB. Personally, I never had too many problems with it and could fly for hours and hours without crashes.
Note #3: The latest versions of FSUIPC seem to contain a workaround / fix that helps with crashes related to ENB mod.
Another generic modification, used in many games. Installation should be quite simple as well, since you only need to copy the files to the FSX directory. However, this mod involves more files, so you should take care to keep track of them so you can remove them (and restore any backup copies) if you want to uninstall the modification. Another catch is that this should only work if Antialiasing is disabled in FSX (you may keep it enabled in your graphics card control panel).
Personally, I could never use SweetFX because it did not seem to play very well with my setup. Apparently, it had something to do with using two screens, it did not seem to like that. Anyway, forgive me if any of the information I provide here is incorrect about this mod.
- Download and installation instructions (this is generic for many games, but don’t worry, the same procedure applies for FSX)
- Forum thread with some information and settings files from some users.
- Apparently, there are some graphical configuration tools for this, such as SweetFX Configurator.
Note #1: From what I read, it seems that SweetFX will work with DX10 Preview, at least on some systems.
nVidia FXAA Injector
This one seems to work only for nVidia cards, and apparently was originally developed to inject a special kind of post processing antialiasing effect, called FXAA. However, it also supports many other effects and comes with a graphical configuration tool. This is my current favorite and it’s the one I used to post all the screenshots on this article.
Installation for this one is a little different. You should just unzip the contents of the package to any folder (links below) and then run the FXAA_Tool.exe file. It will allow you to select the FSX directory and it will install the modification automatically. This tool is also used to change your settings, if you want to.
- Download of the latest version. As of December 2012, the latest version is FXAAToolSVN112.zip, but newer versions may appear.
Note #1: Remember to disable Antialiasing in FSX when using FXAA. Otherwise, you will not see any effect.
Note #2: FXAA does work with DX10 Preview.
Ok, got it installed, but how do I tweak it?
Settings for post processing mods are found in a configuration file somewhere. For example, if you are using ENB Series, you should find a enbseries.ini file in your FSX directory. That is where your settings are stored.
Depending on the mod you are using, you may have to restart FSX in order to see your changes to the configuration. I had to restart FSX to see any changes in ENB Series configuration, for example, while switching from fullscreen to windowed mode seemed to do the trick with FXAA. However, because there are a lot of parameters to tweak, if you don’t want to try each of the effects, it’s probably best to find a preset configuration file, really. Just search around in the interwebs and you will certainly find many presets by various users.
Since I could never get SweetFX to work, I can’t help you with that one, but I will be sharing my configuration files for ENB Series and FXAA. Both of them are pretty discrete, as I do not like the washed out look that some presets look. Instead, I prefer to use them more for color correction, especially when using ENB Series. With FXAA, as you can see in my screenshots above, I went a little farther and used some of it’s bloom and technicolor effects. Its personal preference really.
All done, do you like the results?
Installed, tweaked… It’s done! Now go flying and enjoy the new look of your simulator. Leave me some feedback below, let me know if it has worked out for you.
Until next time, happy flying!