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What follows is an HTML augmented version of my source document file: sd-mic01.txt (If you prefer to read off line or would like to keep this file as a reference you can download a text version here by right clicking on the file name and "Saving Target as..."). This is about a 13 page text document concerning my hints and tips using the Stunt Island Editor (SD).

Stunt Island Editor Program (SD.EXE):
Mic's Hints and Tips: Last updated:January 27th, 2003

Table of Contents
Introduction & History
Stunt Island Film Association
Get SI Tools and Claw Island
Intro: Mic' Hints
HINT: Wierd YZ Axes Coordinates
HINT: Drafting Supplies
HINT: Cheapo Drafting Table
HINT: Understanding Points
HINT: Polygon Facing Feature
HINT: Keeping Points in One Plane
HINT: Saving Often
HINT: Printing Points Lists
HINT: New Moves
HINT: MAKE-V Point Data Entry Inconsistency
HINT: Sizing your object to the SI World

If you are one of the handful of individuals left in this world exploring the inner workings of the 1992 Disney Software published: Stunt Island (SI) for IBM PC, you will eventually be drawn - if you are really dedicated (or nuts) - to the SI Editor.

A Little History:

Back in 1992 when SI was released, the biggest electronic forum for discussion regarding flight simulations of all sorts was the (once great and now long gone...) Flight Simulation Forum on CompuServe. SI was well received by the FS Forum and it was not long before members of the FS Forum arranged to have a person from the SI developers group to get on the FS Forum for a live - type in chat conference.

Early on in the FS Forum conference, there was mention of wanting some form of a "props and planes designer" (you can read an actual condensed transcript of this by clicking on the link below:

Stunt Island Conference: March 31, 1993

The idea of a props, plane, and scenery designer - already existed in 1992 for the state of the art flight simulation of its day: Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0b with its superb - Aircraft, Scenery Designer Add-On (and soon to follow: Aircraft and Adventure Factory. (You can click on the FS4 box graphic at left to visit the FS4 Webport here at Planetmic.com)

So, it was easy to see why users were asking for a designer tool for SI. Further - Stunt Island, MS Flight Simulation 4.0b w/ Add-Ons, and Domark's Flight Sim Toolkit (FST) represented to the flight simulation community, true "user empowering software". A concept that seemed to have hit its height in the early 1990s - unfortunately.

Anyway - to get back to the conference, the users repeatedly asked the SI developers for a designer tool set, but were told it was over their heads, a format beyond their abilities, and thus would not be forth coming... and so SI went off into history with no "Add-Ons" per say, except for several remarkable patches (of which Adrian Stephens of the Assembly Line must be highly commended for fixing).

Fast forward a decade - On occasion over the years, I still find myself coming back for a go-round with good old Stunt Island. Its still so darn fun, there's so much you can do... and it looks and sounds good even on modern machines - (although running in 256 VGA 320 x 200 video mode these days does require a tad bit of mental re-tooling to get comfortable with again.) SI is empowering software at its best! They sky's the limit! I love that type of freedom within a software construct.

In 2000, I was happy to find some new info. and activity on the web about SI. Further, and better still; an actual group of individuals into SI on Yahoo who have their own "SI Group". Cool.

Go to the Stunt Island Film Association (SIFA) at:

One thing leads to another; I find and download a zip file called "SI Tools". It is in actuality, the "in-house" developed object editor / designer for much of Stunt Island!!! Wow.

You can get the SI Editor here if you like:

Download: sitools.zip (159k)

I'm not sure exactly when the SI Editor appeared on the web, but I think it was somewhere in early 2000. In that summer, I spent a bit of time with the SI Editor (actually called SD.EXE or SD for short). The outcome of this work was a test file package called: Claw Island. This utilized SD to create a large prop object which is landable on top. You can download this package below:

Download: clawisle.zip (96k)

Also, during the past decade; I have spent a great deal of time working with another "create-it" program: Domark's Flight Sim Toolkit (FST) developed by Simis, Ltd. In a nutshell, FST lets you create stand alone flight simulator programs! And, you don't need to be a programmer to do it... Its uses a relatively easy to use, Windows based, series of program modules to create the basic components of a flight simulation. The result is stand alone DOS app. which can be zipped and offered to others.

If you would like to learn more about FST, just click on the picture to the right and you can visit a section of this site all about an FST simulation I created (as well as download a working version). The project was called:

On of the basic components of FST is its Shape Designer sub-program. Here the FST developers created a complete elegant 3D CAD type program to create objects. If you are unfamiliar with CAD programs, in essence, it uses a moveable (in X,Y, Z axes) grid to assist with polygon placement. You use different tools and views to draw the object in a pseudo 3D environment. (Click image at left for larger view.)

All objects are made up of polygons and lines which consist of points (sometimes referred to as vectors). As one works with the FST Shape Designer, the object can be viewed from a variety of perspectives. The FST shape designer interface gave users a level of power never before encountered and was released in 1993.

While the learning curve and limitations of the FST shape designer were certainly a factor in its usability, many unique and otherwise - very difficult to create - custom objects could now be constructed for use in a simulation; giving it a unique feel and look. Further, these objects could be used and traded with other FST sim users and incorporated into different projects. To date, literally tens of thousands of FST shape files (called *.FSD files) exist (with new ones continuing to be created).

So, having my head - tightly wrapped - around one interface for the creation of 3D objects for inclusion within a flight simulation (FST's Shape Designer); gives rise to some interesting comparisons, learning curves, and discoveries when utilizing another, rather unique and refreshingly new approach to the same task.

Okay, back to the SI Editor (SD). SD seems to have been first developed in late 1991 as an in-house interface for - somewhat - non techies to create objects for SI. The simulation has about 800 stock items included within it, thus it is doubtful that one individual made them all. The programmers no doubt made this interface so others could be drafted to the task without hard coding abilities... poof: SD was born.

It's very interesting to compare SD with the FST Shape Designer for in many ways at several levels, SD is actually more fluid, easy, and enjoyable to use - while initially looking a bit confusing and or primitive relative to FST's tool. Appearances can be deceiving and this is certainly true with SD.

SD is actually a pretty darn good little DOS program (for its day), well laid out and highly functional. Included within the SITOOLS.ZIP package is a bit of instructions (in the form of a text file) written by Adrian Stephens in Nov. of 1991. It's a tad outdated as the program seems to have been refined in 1992 into 1993. SD does more than this document states. However, that being said; you should print this thing off and read is slowly about 3 times before ever attempting to use SD.

Next, I would strongly suggest you study Doug Armknecht's SI Tutorial file. (I think Doug is one of the founding members of the SI Group on Yahoo. Thanks so much to Doug for all his efforts over the years on SI!) His tutorial is quite understandable; a bit more than Adrian's description of SD features. So, with a modicum of effort, you can be up and operational with the editor. You view Doug's Tutorial below (or save it by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Target As..."):

tutorial.txt

Right, well not wanting to cover the same ground as Doug, I am simply supplying a bit of my own experience and use with the SD. So, here we go with the Mic's SD Hints portion of the program:

Most of the below has come out of my work with the SD editor trying to build a rather detailed model of the Graf Zeppelin (a German airship from the late 1920s that was very successful - unlike its successor, the infamous: Hindenburg).

Always remember, when using the editor, that it was designed as basically an internal tool, it was never created for release to the masses... So give it a break if it isn't perfect - nothing is...

SD allows the user to perform a series of tasks:

In regard to "shape creation" for inclusion in the simulation they are (SD actually does other stuff too but not listed here):

  1. Place points in 3D coordinate space.
  2. Connect points to create polygons and lines.
  3. Color polygons and lines with a variety of colors and styles.
  4. Lets you define the size and ground point for an object relative to other objects in the SI world.
  5. Lets you save out, load, etc. your work.

One of the first areas of confusion for new users to SD is its rather technical, "non conventional CAD" type approach to point placement using a group of "vector director" buttons. For the advanced SD user, these buttons are a boon, and a real time saver. But, for a beginner, they are confusing bust; so much so it can chase the new user away in terror. (Not really - but hang in there).

The salvation comes in the form of one little button called: MAKE-V.

This allows the user to simply enter the X, Y, and Z coordinates to create the desired 3D point. And then comes the question as to where to put what and where do you get the numbers from?

HINT: Wierd Y and Z Axes

Something important to remember about SD's 3D space coordinates system:

There is a serious "unconventionality" with the coordinates system along the Y and Z Axes (as compared to how it is utilized in most other 3D CAD applications). That being the cube is rolled over 180 degrees along the X-Axis. This has the function of reversing the positive and negative numbers with respect to zero for these two axes (X numbers remains the same).

Usually, the coordinate system for 3D space grids puts Y positive above zero and negative below. Z is usually positive towards you (in front of zero) and negative away. This is not the orientation you should use for correct shape orientation with SD. If you do the object will be created upside down and facing the wrong way (nose towards you) when you go to use them in Stunt Island.

So to review, Y has negative values above zero, positive below. The Z Axis has negative numbers towards you (in front of zero), positive away; only Y and Z number values will be reversed. The X - axis is still negative to the left of zero and positive to the right.

Click on the picture below to view a the drawing of SD's 3D space coodinate system.

When you create any object for inclusion in the simulation, its orientation for simplicity of use should be that it faces its back towards you along the Z axis: meaning for example - the nose of an airplane will be the furthest away from the (0,0,0) center point along the positive Z axis. You should see negative Z values at the tail.

Additionally, its a good idea to have the object's center longitudinally position along the Z-Axis.

For example: a stick stuck through the round end center of a beef hot dog, and out straight through other round end is "longitudinally positioned". Also, the wing should be longitudinally skewered though the X-axis as well perpendicular to Z.

Having a mental picture of the 3D space, numerically - in your head - is huge. Take a little time until you can "think" where any X, Y, Z point series will be...

Example: 5000, 2000, 0

Do you think, a series like the above might be a possible position for a point that has to do with a spot under the right wing of a plane? If you said, "Yes", you'd be correct.

How big is SD's 3D space for your points? Adrian (SD's creator) says we should limit the total cube to 32000 x 32000 x 32000 units.

That's 16000 units along each axis either side of zero. For example the X-axis will go from -16000 on the far left, to 0 at center, to 16000 at far right.

You can of course build things within a smaller numbers cube, but a bigger cube scale will yield more possible points for details (as decimals in number are not allowed).

For my Graf Zeppelin model, I used a scale of about 20000 x 20000 x 20000. Along the Graf's Z axis, she runs from 7800 at the bow through -7800 at the tail tip. How did I come up with these figures? Read on...

HINT: Drafting Supplies

You can make really accurate objects with SD by following the below simple techniques. You don't have to be the master of every vector button on the editor, but you do need some graph paper and a tad of drafting talent ...and time.

Right, now head off to your nearest office supply superstore (I like OfficeMax) and pick the following goodies (if you don't already have them of course). They're not very expensive, maybe 25 dollars for all...

  • A good mechanical pencil with .05 tip ( ...get some extra lead while you're at it).

  • An Engineers Scale Ruler. This is very important. It looks like a 3 sided 12" ruler and has different scales on it labeled: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 (these are marks per inch). I have a Helix #18171. (Important: Don't confuse this with the similar "Architect's Scale Ruler" - this is a different beast and will be useless for our task.)

  • Next, we need some nifty Quadrille Graph Paper. I've got a white pad here made by Mead, 80 sheets - measures 11" x 8.5" and is 4 squares to the inch on one side, 5 squares to the inch on the other side. It was rather cheap.

  • If you want some really great (but expensive) paper, you can buy an Engineer's Computational Pad. I like the Ampad brand which makes an 8.5 x 11 in. 100 sheet book (stock #42-142). It has a sharp 5 x 5 quadrille special graph grid and is light green in color. One side is grid and the other is left blank. What makes this stuff worth more money is that every fifth line on the grid is a tad darker, so you have larger primary blocks and then sub-blocks within them. This makes finding and counting points a bit easier. Also, its more professional looking, printed finely... go for it.

  • The other paper you will need is good old Tracing Paper. It actually seems to be getting a bit tough to find in today's modern era of scanners and copiers. It's usually lurking with the art supplies and is also on the expensive side. Get the spiffy French stuff if you can find it.

Other supplies which are really handy include:

  • A pen like eraser stick.

  • A compass for drawing circles.

  • A clear triangle set for drawing lines.

  • Perhaps an inexpensive clamp on crane lamp if you like to work late into the night.

  • A magnifying glass (or get the above lamp with a magnifying lens incorporated)

  • Clear scotch tape

Okay, take this stuff home get to work. You're going to need some place that will serve as a dedicated work space for a while...

HINT: Cheapo Drafting Table

If you can't find the desk space, you can get by purchasing one of these new wide ironing boards - don't laugh (Walmart has them). Just remove the fabric cover and plank it over with something flat (a thin sheet of good plywood - sanded and sealed - works well). Attached it to the flat and expanded metal base of the board with nuts, washers, and bolts around the edge). Set it up and you've got a portable stand up drafting work station. You can even clamp on your crane lamp! Better yet, you'll feel like a Pro.

HINT: Understanding Points

Now, what are you going to make? If it's an aircraft there are many books available that show aircraft in three plan views; Front, Top, and Side (or Profile). You don't need all of these views, but it can be very helpful. If the picture of the object you wish to make is small, you are going to have to blow it up some how, either scan it or copy it to enlarge it to the point where it takes up most of the 8.5 x 11" paper, but not over.

For example: My initial tracing was a from a profile view of the Graf Zeppelin in an civil aviation history book. It was a big book and the picture of the Graf measured about 8". I carefully traced it onto the tracing paper, and since it was big enough already... I didn't need to make it any larger.

Next thing to do is to cut out your tracing in a rectangle and place it on a piece of quadrille paper. For the graph paper, I used an 8.5" x 11" piece at the 5 square to the inch scale. I positioned the tracing so that one of the darker lines on the quadrille went through the exact longitudinal center of the zeppelin. (Yup, I'm using the good stuff.)

This gave me a profile or side view of the "Graf" on "graph" paper! (Don't get confused...)

The next job is to choose a "point or unit scale" for the paper. Looking at the sheet I notice the Graf nicely fits within 8 larger blocks of the quadrille or a total of 40 squares (remembering that there are 5 small squares to each larger block).

Now its time for a bit of math. I want to keep the line numbers kind of even and easy to count - but as large as I can for the SD editor. I decide that by making each (5 x 5 squares) larger block equal 2000 pts. = each individual graph block will be equal to 400 points; and , I can have an overall length of around 16000 points for each axes; that's half the limit of the SD editor but acceptable.

Next, I find the exact center of the Graf on my tracing (though both axes) utilizing the engineers ruler at a high scale and place a small dot. Then, I place it over what will be the center on my graph paper. So, I have a profile view here and I will use this view to generate some points. I tape down the tracing onto the quadrille before continuing.

In this profile view, I have the zeppelin bow facing to the right side of the sheet (the positive Z dimension) and I am using the sheet in the landscape view (11.5" dimension on the bottom).

Lastly, take a moment and label the graph papers major numbers and axes. Positive Z is to the right where the bow is, negative Z is to the left where the tail is.

Negative Y is above the zero center line (that goes through the nose and tail) and Positive Y is below the center line. You can also label the major (dark) lines: For Z: it would be at 0, 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000, and the opposite for aft of center. The zepp is not too tall compared to its length so it fits within 1000 pts. either size of Y zero.

Now it's time to get some data points...

In the profile view we are looking at a "Z by Y" perspective of the object. You don't know exactly what the X will be for most points, but some you can easily figure out, remembering that X positive is right side (object facing away), and X negative is left side (object facing away).

Plotting points. Using my fine mechanical pencil, I put an ever so fine dot on the tracing paper at the bow and stern; then its a simple matter of plotting the points and writing them down. I use another piece of lined note paper and divide it up into five columns. In column one I put the point number, in two, three and four: X, Y, and Z coordinates. The final column I reserve for notation.

For the bow I count up that it is almost 4 large blocks (on +Z forward of 0) but not quite, its one tiny block short. So, its: 6000 + something. The something is 4 full smaller blocks and a tiny bit of the 5th small block. The smaller blocks are easy to figure out:

Since each larger block is equal to 2000, and is further divided into 5 smaller blocks; I know that each smaller block is equal to: 2000/5 = 400. Thus, each small block is 400 units.

So, we have 6000 + 4 smaller blocks = 4 x 400 = 1600. 6000 + 1600 = 7600. We're almost done, but did you forget about the tiny fraction of the last block, where the point is? Its a fraction of 400... To find this number I used my trusty Engineer's Ruler. I rotate the ruler until I find the scale that is labeled 50 (meaning 50 lines to the inch - thus it exactly divides the large block of the quadrille into 50 points and the small five blocks to 10 each): on this scale the ruler will be exactly in step with the 5 graph per inch grid of the paper.

Placing the ruler up to the square with the dot, I can get one square divided by ten marks on the ruler. You need good eyes or a magnifier to see at this scale, yet I can see my bow point is at about half way through the small square. With the ruler, it lines up exactly to the fifth mark. Yup five... ouch, my eyes are blurry.

Okay, so the fraction of the small square is .5 and this is equal to .5 x 400 = 200. Add the 200 to the 7600 above and you have the correct value for the point along the Z axis: Z=7800. Y and X are easy to deduce as this position is centered on these two axes and thus yields:

Point #:X AxisY AxisZ AxisLocation
1007800 Bow

Point 1 is now ready for entry into the SD editor.

The stern is another easy point to get, but now the job becomes a bit more interesting...

Slicing up the sausage.

All 3D objects for SD will made up of polygons. You can think of the points as the anchors or corners to the polygons. The more complex the object, the more polygons. (SD probably has a limit to how many polygons can be in each object, but I don't know it yet.)

So, what you have to do is slice up any object you are making along one of its axes. For the Graf: its along her Z - Axis. At each place the hull changes, I will put a fine vertical line. These can be thought of as a series of bulkheads: I used seven of these to divide up the ship (not counting the tail or bow points). The more bulkheads you make, the more groups of points you will have.

You then place fine dots where the bulkhead line intersects the hull lines on the tracing paper. This gives you most all the other "outlining" points along the Z and Y axes. You should label each point with a reference number, and if you are careful you can use this reference number within the SD editor as well.

Since the zeppelin is symmetrical, I have chosen the octagon as its basic bulkhead shape. I know that each bulkhead will be made out of eight points (viewed looking down the Z-axis). Two "sets" (4 pts. total) of points either side of X zero at the top and bottom of each bulkhead, and another two sets of points either side (right and left) of Y zero on each bulkhead.

Once you plot a few points you will be surprised how easy it is to move along. Further, you will see a relationship between the points which will allow you to "extrapolate" or figure out other points by inverting sets of numbers, or simply keeping the same number set, but changing a value to negative.

If you like, you can create another view of the object with another tracing from a different perspective (perhaps top down). This will give you a Z by X perspective. You may be actually able to create this view simply from using your profile view and "widening out the object". Remember to keep X positive to your right and Z positive at the top of your paper - where the bow goes. (This should be the same as in your profile view). Finally, you can draw a YX view which would be the "end on" view from the stern of the object. This is useful for attaching things like engines or wings to objects.

As you complete a section of points you can enter them into the SD editor. Once you have the points entered, go to the poly button and connect the points to make your polygon sections. You should now be familiar enough with your object to know how its going to be put together. You simply stitch each polygon going from point to point.

More Math:

When adding small "Detail" polygons to a piece, you will probably want to know what the relationship is between the scale chosen and the actual size. Here's an example:

  • The Graf's over all length is 774 feet.

  • I have depicted it on a scale so that its furthest points apart are -7800 + 7800 = 15600 pts.

  • So, we know that 15600 pts. equal 774 feet.

  • Now, simply divide 15600 by 744 feet.

  • This yields 20.155 units per foot.

  • Since each small square on the quadrille is equal to 400 points or units (as explained earlier):

  • 400 pts. divided by 20.155 (pts. per foot) = 19.846' (approx 20 feet) to each square.
See how nicely that works out?

HINT: Polygon Facing Direction

Going around clockwise as the object faces you creates a polygon facing at you. Going around counter-clockwise creates a polygon facing away from you... This can really help you out at times.

After making a polygon, go to the "Filled" view and color its surface something other than the default white. Using different colors or opposing colors for different surfaces is a technique professionals use when objects are first created; you might also wish observe this procedure.

HINT: Keeping it "Plane and Simple"

Another cardinal rule to remember is that all polygons must be created in the "same plane". By this I mean that if you could put your all points on a hard piece of cardboard, none would be above or below that plane. Polygons that do not have all their points in the same plane are considered illegal by the editor - causing display problems.

In the FST Shape Designer, when you make one of these, the designer will tell you "Warning: Badly Formed Polygon". SD does not do this. What it does do is make this new polygon and other polygons in your object disappear when you return to the Filled view.

Correct a badly formed polygon by going to the Filled view and checking after each new polygon is created (you can color it at the same time). If you don't see the new polygon, click on the UNSORT button. This will undoubtedly show you the polygon you just made. Delete this evil thing at once and your work will return to normal (and other vanished polygons will return). Go back to the Point / Line mode and then back to the Filled Mode, everything should be back except what you deleted.

If a polygon you are making is causing problems - there is always a solution. The easiest is often to cut the offending polygon up into triangles. All triangles by their very nature have their three points in a single plane. (This is why many newer 3D designing tools use a type of 3D mesh, created entirely out of triangles.

HINT: Saving Often and File Names"

Remember when using SD to save often; additionally, save under a different name. For the Graph, I started at GRAF01 and work forward. SD has no extension in its own file format, so GRAF01. is its name, not GRAF01."OCQ" or something. There is a different format of saving which creates a *.BIN format file: this is covered well in Dave's tutorial.

With a variety of saves, you can fall back if things don't go well. Remember that saving under the SAVE AS option is different than SAVE. SAVE saves an object to the file name that was initially loaded. If you want to save to the new name you will have to load the new "saved as" file name. Otherwise, the next save overwrites what you first loaded (which you might not want to do).

HINT: Point Printing

If you go to the Control screen of the editor, you can choose and save to a WRITE button. This will create a file with the name you chose but with an *.SOD extension. This file can be useful as it is your object in a form of pseudo code, written out in plain ASCII text. What's great is that the beginning of the file lists all the points you entered in a long column. You can cut this out to a text editor or spreadsheet and make good use of it...

HINT: New Moves

Both Adrian and Doug explain how to move your object in the editor. Lets review:

Left Mouse Button + Right Mouse Button at same time: Zoom in or out depending on mouse movement.

Right Mouse Button held down: rotate or spin object.

I have found If you make a circular movement with the mouse in this mode, you can cause one of the axes facing you to rotate about itself. It's good for say, you want to simply roll something over, but keep it the way it is facing towards you. Try clockwise or counter-clockwise circles.

Another undocumented feature: You can use the four arrow keys on the keyboard to move the "center of rotation" for all the above. This is - huge - very helpful for getting to a certain spot on a larger object. For the zeppelin, it allows me to really zoom in and center on the gondola, which is way forward in the front of the ship. This feature is invaluable and makes using the editor much easier.

HINT: MAKE-V Point Data Entry Inconsistency

Sometimes the numbers you type in will be accepted by the program slightly off (perhaps by a value of 2). You can see this when you hover over a point with the mouse as the point coordinates are displayed at top.

Example:

Entering:2007506600
Yielding1987486598

Yup, guess its normal for the editor and but will not affect your object in any negative way (unless you are working at a very small scale), however you sometimes have to do a bit of mental averaging to make sure your at the right point (coordinate wise). This is where having the reference point number sheet record is quite helpful.

HINT: Sizing your object to the SI World

Once you have created your object with the above process, you will need a way to scale this object to other objects in the Stunt Island world. While other object designers (like FST) have a hard wired connection between internal points utilized and the scale of the created object - SD does not. This is excellent. To set size use the SIZE button within the Point/Line mode menu.

With the Zeppelin, I simply click on the SIZE button, then on its nose, then its tail; this will yield a dialogue box with a number show the distance between the two points in feet (its usually really small to begin with). Type the new correct number into the box, in this case it is 774. Poof, your object is properly sized to the SI world. A big zepp!

Well, that's the end of my hints to date. You can check back on occasion to see if more has been added to this file. If you have any comments or questions I would be happy to discuss them, please email me.
All the best and happy creating with SD.

EOF

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