Introduction and Downloads
Part 1:  Setup
Part 2:  Saving and Animating the Props
Part 3:  FS2004 Import
Part 4:  Setting Up Landing and Taxi Lights
Part 5:  Conversion to FSX
Part 6:  Editing Materials and Textures
Part 7:  VC & Appendix


NOTE:  I have found that this process can easily lead to displaced parts, so be sure to do these steps in the following order, including Exporting the model after each step.  If you still get displaced parts, refer to Part 5, Step 16.


0.  First we need to check that this plane does not  have a rotation= line in the aircraft.cfg file, which will cause the props to not rotate properly in FSX and later.  Open the plane's aircraft.cfg file by double clicking it (if asked, choose Notepad or Wordpad).  Look for the propeller section, and see if there is a line that starts with rotation=, like this entry for a twin engine aircraft:

rotation= -1,-1

If this line has any -1 values, the props will not rotate properly.  Just delete the entire line, it's not needed.  If the props end up rotating in the wrong direction, just reverse the animation of those prop parts (See Part 5, Step 22).

1.  Props in FS consist of three separate parts - prop_still, prop_slow, and prop_blurred. Most jet fan disks use the same system, but are called N1_still/slow/blurred.   There are several different ways people deal with this; in my planes the prop_still parts are detailed propellers used for stopped and very slow rotation, the prop_blurred parts are solid round disks, and the prop_slow parts are wedges cut out of the blurred prop disk (the number of wedges is the number of prop blades).  We will import our plane with the engine0/1/2/3 variables set to 0 so the plane displays the prop_still parts.  So we need to isolate the prop_slow and prop_blurred parts from our model, export them as FSX files, and later merge them into our  plane before we convert it to FSX.  We do this one prop type at a time.
2.  Click Import, set the drop down box to type FS MDL, and browse to your aircraft's MDL file, in the plane's Model folder.  Click it and click Open.  Do not open the copy.  In our example I will Import the dc6b.mdl file found in the FS/SimObjects/Airplanes/DC-6B CB-16/model folder.
3.  When the Set Condition Variables box pops up, set the prop0/1/2/3_still variables to 5000.  If it does not, this is probably not an FS2004 format aircraft.  Upon import this will display the slow props.  You can leave the rest of the numbers unchanged.

set variable slow


The Hierarchy Editor Explained

4.  We will start by exploring the Hierarchy Editor.  Note that these images are just examples, and do NOT directly relate to the DC-6B example slow props - that will come in later steps.  Click the Hierarchy Editor button and click the Highlight Selected checkbox.  You will see a tree diagram of your plane's parts on the left.  Each time you click a line in the tree diagram, that part (or group of parts) will turn red on the aircraft display and the properties of that line will appear on the right.  NOTE:  The pictures below show a plane with stationary props (propx_still = 0).  Yours will look different since you set them at 5000 (slow props).  Refer to #7 below for your prop's appearance, but learn how to use the Hierarchy Editor here.

Hierarchy Editor

The tree diagram appears something like this:

SceneGraphNode       --- this is the master master node - everything is connected to this node.  It is sometimes referred to as the Tick18 or Ambient node.
   SceneGraphNode    --- This is the master node for this animated group of parts.  The animation is sometimes defined here.
      SceneGraphNode --- This node includes another SceneGraphNode (not all do) - The animation is defined here if not in the first SceneGraphNode.
         ModelPart         --- These are the parts themselves (there can be one to many ModelParts within this node).
         ModelPart         --- There can also be further SceneGraphNodes and ModelParts as branches of the second SceneGraphNode, for complex animations.
   SceneGraphNode    --- This is the master node for this (typically) non-animated group of parts.
         ModelPart         --- These are the ModelParts for this node.  Again, can be one to many ModelParts.

Let's explore how the Hierarchy Editor works.  In the DC-6B example image above, I have clicked on the prop group of parts for engine #1 (called engine0 in FS code).  You can see that in this case the master SceneGraphNode for the part contains the animation, assigned to engine0.  This is not a valid FS animation definition, and we will need to change it later to prop0_still.  The prop is a complex part with the hub the first ModelPart below the master SceneGraphNode (note the red ring behind the spinner):

Hierarchy Prop Hub

and the three SceneGraphNode/Model part groups below this are each prop blade.  These use the lever_prop_pitch animation definition so they twist as the prop pitch is adjusted.

Hierarchy Prop Blade

There are two types of properties we will be changing in the Hierarchy Editor, animations and visibility conditions.  Both are displayed in the Property box at the right, if present. Animations are often assigned to the SceneGraphNodes (but can also be assigned to ModelParts), while Visibility Conditions must be assigned to the individual ModelParts.

A ModelPart inherits the animation from the SceneGraphNodes above it.  Thus if the SceneGraphNode has an animation for the propeller (prop0_still), all the ModelParts underneath that node will also be so animated.  If a SceneGraphNode or ModelPart under that SceneGraphNode has an animation of its own, that animation will be added to the original animation.  The example above is the twisting prop blade (lever_prop_pitch) attached to the prop hub (prop0_still).  The prop both rotates and twists.  The same concept applies to visibility conditions.

5.  To miake identifying parts easier, turn off the textures by clicking the Colored Render Mode button in the bottom row.
6.  Open the Hierarchy Editor and type in prop into the search box at the top middle.  The slow prop parts will be listed.  Check the Highlight Selected box if not checked.  Click on them and confirm all slow props are there (it will turn red).  Prop0 is the leftmost prop, when you are sitting in the cockpit looking forward.  Now select all of them, using a left click on the top part and a Shift click on the bottom part.

find engine

7.  With all the parts selected in the list above, click the pencil to the right of the search box (Clear Search) and the entire list will re-appear.  Your parts will still be selected.  As we discussed earlier, a node consists of one or more SceneGraphNodes and one or more ModelParts.  Normally, all these parts will be together.  If not, we will deal with that below.  Ignore the black and white checkerboard in the images below.

find engine 2


8.  While there are several different ways of isolating props, most depend on a specific arrangement of SceneGraphNodes and ModelParts in the nodes.  I'll describe a single procedure that should work for most planes - we will Remove everything that is not the prop parts.  Let's go back to the image of our prop parts (the image above).  Note that the DC-6B example above only has one ModelPart, but in the image below I wanted to make it clear to you below that a SceneGraphNode may contain more than one ModelPart and all of those are to be considered as part of the prop part.  The first job is to remove everything BELOW the node that is highlighted.  Do not remove any portion of the last prop node, including any SceneGraphNodes or ModelParts, just the nodes below them.  Start by clicking the SceneGraphNode below the bottom prop part:

multiselect start

9.  Now scroll down to near the bottom of the file and  while holding down the Shift key, click the bottom ModelPart or SceneGraphNode attached to the same vertical line as the SceneGraphNode you click on in the image above.  All nodes between the prop part and the bottom of the file should be highlighted (if there is a Crash Tree at the bottom of the file, do not highlight it).    If the slow props ever turn red STOP!  You have selected something wrong.  Once you're sure, press the Remove button.  Repeat this for each vertical line of  parts below your slow prop parts.  There is often a list of ModelParts at the bottom of the file, remove those too.  Do NOT remove the Crash Tree if present.  

multiselect bottom

Your bottom prop node should now be at the bottom of the listing, except for the crash tree (if present):

select parts

10.  Click on the SceneGraphNode above our bottom prop part, because we need to delete nodes until we find the next slow prop node above that.  Luckily they are often listed together, so click on the SceneGraphNode directly above the bottom prop part, and see if this is a slow prop part.  In the case of the DC-6B all 4 are together, so that's easy and we can move on.  If they are not all together, remove any SceneGraphNodes between the slow prop parts.  Do this one by one - click on the SceneGraphNode of a given node.  If it is not a slow prop part (i.e. it doesn't turn red), then press the Remove button.  If it is a slow prop part, skip it and keep moving upward until you have all of  the slow prop parts together.

Here is a part that is not a slow prop part - press the Remove button:

remove part

Here is a slow prop part - skip it and continue moving up:

keep part

Here is a demonstration of how it should look when you have all 4 slow prop parts at the bottom of the file - The selection is just for the demonstration, you do not need to do this.  Other models may appears slightly different, but should have the same basic structure.

at bottom

11.  Now that we have all our props at the bottom of the file, we can select all the nodes to almost the top of the listing.  If the slow props ever turn red STOP!  You have selected something wrong.  Click the SceneGraphNode above your top prop part:

multselect top start

Use the scroll bar to move up the listing, keeping track of the vertical line that your prop parts are on..  Holding down the Shift key, click the ModelPart or SceneGraphNode indicated below (it's the top ModelPart or SceneGraphNode of the vertical line your prop parts are attached to).  Check that the prop parts are NOT RED.  Press the Remove button:  If you are near the top of the file, see the next step.

multiselect top end

12.  Now scroll up to the top of the file and select any parts above your prop parts, but DO NOT include any ModelParts or SceneGraphNodes that start a new vertical line to the right of the one it is on:

finish deleting

13.  When you are done it should look like something like this (the number of prop parts will vary with the aircraft):

multiselect 5

14.  Close the Hierarchy Editor with the red X (all such editors are closed with the red X).


15.  Now we get to assign proper animations and visibility conditions for each of the slow props.  The animations can be assigned from either the Animation Editor or the Hierarchy Editor, the visibility conditions only from the Hierarchy Editor..  Since it's easier to do the animations in the Animation Editor we'll start there.  Close the Hierarchy Editor and open the Animation Editor.
16.  Type in prop0 into the box to the right of the Select Name Containing button and press that button.  Now all the entries for the prop0_still animation should be checked, and the rest unchecked.  In my DC-6B example, there should be 1.  Or just uncheck the other props so only prop0 is checked.
17.  Choose prop0_slow from the drop down box, and click the Assign Animation Type button.  

animation assign 1

The prop0_still line should change to prop0_slow.  Repeat steps 6 and 7 for any other engine variables in the list - prop1_stil to prop1_slow, prop2_still to prop2_slow, and prop3_still to prop3_slow.  With the DC-6B it should look like the following when finished.  Close the Animation Editor.

assign slow props

18.  Open the Hierarchy Editor.  The slow prop parts should be displayed - click on one and make sure the slow prop turns red.  Click on the SceneGraphNode and check the animation name.

animation 2

19.  Click on the first ModelPart below the SceneGraphNode.  The slow prop should turn red.  Click the word None under the words Visibility Condition and choose the same visibility condition from the drop down box as the animation in the SceneGraphNode above it..  For example, if a SceneGraphNode has an animation name of prop0_slow, then all ModelParts under that SceneGraphNode (and still within that node) should receive a visibility condition of prop0_slow.  Typically for slow and blurred props there will be only one ModelPart for each engine, but there could be more on complex aircraft.

animation 4

20.  Repeat this for all prop nodes in this listing, which should be the number of props on your plane.  All such ModelParts should end up with a visibility condition.  Only ModelParts get visibility conditions, not SceneGraphNodes.  Close the Hierarchy Editor.
21.  Choose Export Object (menu) and change the drop down box to FSX MDL Object (or another MDL format if exporting to another sim). Give it a name that makes sense to you.  I will use dc6b_props_slow.mdl for the DC-6B example.  Save into the same folder as your aircraft MDL file. A red error line may appear in the log saying that this is not a supported MDL type.  This has never caused a problem for me.  Don't worry about the other MDL files in the image below.

export object

22.  If you do not get a new MDL created or an error message, then it is likely your compile process is not working correctly.  This will need to be fixed before you can continue (see the LIMITATIONS section in Part 1).


23.  Now we get to do this all over again for the prop_blurred parts.  Import your aircraft MDL file again (in our tutorial it's dc6b.mdl)  into MCX.  When the Set Condition Variables box pops up, set the prop0/1/2/3_still variables to 10000.  When the plane loads, you should see the blurred props displayed.
24.  Isolate the blurred props as we did the slow props in Steps 5 through 14.
25.  Set the animations and visibilities.  Follow Steps 15 through 20 except for the blurred props this time.    In the Animation Editor prop0_still is assigned to prop0_blurred, prop1_still to prop1_blurred, prop2_still to prop2_blurred, and prop3_still to prop3_blurred.  In the Hierarchy Editor the visibilities are also assigned prop0/1/2/3_blurred, but to the ModelParts.
26.  When you have the blurred props isolated choose Export Object, check the drop down box is FSX MDL Object (or your sim's format), and save as something like dc6b_props_blurred.mdl.