Building in GMAX - exporting

In FS2004, exporting is a one-step process -- we just need to give the exported file a name. The Exporter (File:Export) will prompt you for a file name. First, however, you need to select the appropriate Save As Type, in this case Flightsim Scenery Object.

Now would be a good time to give some thought to naming these models, so that they are easy to keep track of. I normally export using the same name as the GMAX file, so that there's no confusion later. I normally have a single folder per project, which holds all the exported models (mdl).

Once you export, provided all has gone well:), you will end up with two new files in the folder you selected. One has a .mdl extension, and the other has a .xml extention. For instance, if you named your model 'skydiving' (which I did here) then you will end up with:

The mdl includes the actual model, ready to be place in the sim, and the xml file is a placement file. There are instructions elsewhere on how to alter the xml file to place the model where you wish, but I never use the xml file, so I won't cover that here.

Instead, I add the model to a Library. There are various library management and placement tools, but I normally use:
Library Creator XML by Arno Gerretsen, to create libraries for both FS2004 and FSX:
EZ Scenery to place objects in FS2004:
Object Placment Tool to place objects in FSX.

The process is usually the same whatever tool you use -- add the object to a Library, then place the object within the simulator. I normally place all the objects for one project in one Library file, which is normally named with the project name plus 'lib' to make it easy to track.

It is important to realise that when I refer to a 'library', here, I mean a specific collection of objects which go together to make one scenery project. This is different from the general way a library works in the simulator. You may come across a lot of libraries of objects designed to be mixed and matched with objects from various other libraries to make a particular, but more generic, scenery. The 'library' I end up with is normally not reusable in any other project, although the objects will appear in any object placement tool.

Exporting for FSX
There is one extra step when designing using the FSX Gamepack -- you need to give your model a GUID. This is an identifier which the simulator uses to keep track of your object. In FS2004, the Library Tool will assign a GUID, or the XML placement file which the exporter creates has a GUID included. However FSX works differently -- the GUID is exported as part of the model, so you need to assign it within GMAX. To do this, you use the LODNameTool, which is accessible from the 'FS Tools' menu which the FSX gamepack adds to GMAX.

This tool does a couple of different jobs, including tidying up LOD names, but here we just want to 'Create new GUID for this file', so just click on that button. If you have given your GMAX file a name (that is, you have saved it, which you definitely should have!) then the name will appear in the Friendly Name info box, otherwise you'll need to give it a name. This is normally the GMAX file name, which in turn you'll want to name the finished exported model.

TIP: Tracking your GUIDs
When you use a good object placement tool in FS2004, the Library will keep track of the file name of each object, so that you can choose objects by name. With FSX's Object Placement Tool, though, only default objects have names, everything else is listed as a GUID. To make it easier to find the right object, I keep a 'database' of object GUIDs. This is simply a text file with the name of the object and the GUID. I obtain the GUID by copying from the GMAX file properties, and paste it into the text file. Now when I use Object Placement tool, I just look for the first few characters of the GUID, rather than have to look at every object:) The GUID obtained from GMAX is shown in Object Placement Tool preceeded by a zero.

Now the steps to export are the same as with FS2004 -- File:Export, which will give you a box to enter a file name, and browse to the location where you wish to save the file. Again, you need to select the Save as type -- although this is now Flightsim Model. This differs slightly from the FS2004 screenshot above.

This time, however, you'll see this options screen. Don't worry too much about these, they don't fall into the scope of this tutorial.

Now when you click on 'OK' the exporter will create the mdl file. Note that no xml file is created with FSX, although you can use this method to place your object -- details are in the SDK documentation.

You can now add the mdl file to your project's library, ready for placement in FSX.

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