Getting the Most from your Single Monitor Setup

Race_Steam 2016-01-25 16-04-26-34

Spend any substantial amount of time on your preferred sim racing message board, and you’ll slowly notice a rise in the number of sim racers switching to triple screen setups. Claiming the popular monitor configuration brings increased visibility, greater depth perception, and a heightened overall sense of speed, those with a triple screen setup constantly push the idea that purchasing two extra monitors is a wise investment for any serious sim racer. However, for some, the move to a triple monitor setup simply won’t be on the horizon any time soon. Not everybody has the disposable income to purchase additional computer screens, nor does everyone have the desk space to accommodate such a setup, and some outright don’t believe three monitors will yield any tangible benefits. As a result, a large group of virtual motorsports enthusiasts still use the classic single screen configuration.

But as a single monitor user myself, there are indeed a few negative aspects that occasionally cause problems. The various field-of-view calculators do little to rectify the feeling of driving through a pair of binoculars. There is virtually no sense of speed, and racing in a pack, it’s necessary to bind Look Left and Look Right buttons to your wheel – otherwise your blind spot is large enough to warrant its own currency. Lastly, some cars, such as modern DTM entries, pin you so far back in the cockpit that 75% of your monitor is wasted on displaying the cockpit. As you’re already lacking visibility, you don’t need to stare at the dash.

Thankfully, there are ways to eliminate most, if not all of these problems.

GSC 2016-01-25 16-09-07-54

You can start by jacking up the field of view value to anywhere between 60 and 75 degrees. This is done primarily to increase the sense of speed, the equivalent of the hyperspeed cheat code in Guitar Hero. Yes, you’ll feel as if you’ve got tunnel vision. Don’t worry, we’re not done quite yet.

1

It’s time to bust open some INI files, and thankfully they will not cause mismatches when racing online. Now while most modern sims allow you to adjust the position of your in-car seat to move the cockpit camera to your liking, the extent of which you’re allowed to do so is severely limited. Even moving the seat as far forward as possible, with a high field of view, it still feels as if you’ve hit warp speed from the back of the Millennium Falcon.

The task at hand is to dig into the GameData/Vehicles folder of your preferred sim, and open up the specific INI containing the viewpoint elements of the car you’re intending to drive. In rFactor or Stock Car Extreme, you’re searching for a text file with the suffix “cockpitinfo”, while in Race 07, you’re searching for the file extension dubbed “inccar.” You’re looking for a line called Eyepoint, which contains three values resembling the X, Y, and Z axis of the cockpit view. The final number is the Z axis value, dictating how far forward the default cockpit eyepoint is placed. Add anywhere from -0.2 to -0.4 onto the default value listed. If the default value is something like 0.38, try 0.18 or 0.08. I understand adding negative integers is difficult, so here is a tutorial to help you get started.

The end result will be a dashboard view resembling late 90’s arcade racer Daytona USA, or the recent PS4 game DriveClub. The increased sense of speed and visibility should result in a very tangible improvement on your driving, giving you the main benefits of a triple monitor setup without actually having one. In particular, you can see more of the road ahead, and it feels faster, allowing you to judge distances better.

34170-daytona-usa-windows-screenshot-the-cockpit-view-shall-we-turn

But we’re not done yet. An entirely different file dictates the cockpit camera pitch, and this is something you’ll want to change on virtually every single mod. Taking a page out of the Codemasters playbook of racing game development, a substantial portion of cars in isiMotor racing sims have the default cockpit camera view pointing down towards the dash and steering wheel. Now unless you’re the type of mongoloid who drives while staring directly at the nose of the car, you’ll probably want to change this. Residing inside the INI file with the cam file extention or cameras suffix (depending on the sim), is the orientation offset setting. Changing this value to absolute zero returns the camera pitch to focus directly on the road ahead. Again, some mods will need it more than others. Race 07 suffers from the camera pitch problem the most, and in order to rectify this on the official SimBin content, you’ll need to decrypt it first. rFactor and Stock Car Extreme content rarely require this additional adjustment.

orientation

To make the same adjustments listed above in Codemasters’ DiRT Rally, you’ll need the XML Editor to decrypt the cameras.xml file found within each vehicle folder before you can begin adjusting it. However, you’ll be making the exact same basic adjustments you’d made above in the isiMotor sims, and they’re pretty easy to spot. There’s an option for a custom field of view setting for each specific camera, an option to change the tilt (by default it’s some crazy value like -3.57), and the ability to change Y axis and Z axis coordinates – camera height and camera closeness. I personally edit the dash cam as DiRT Rally’s numbers are much more sensitive to small changes and I’d like to be in the ballpark by default, but you can also edit the default cockpit view if you’d like to fine-tune with the seat adjustment buttons.

camerasxml

To their credit, Kunos Simulazioni have allowed for far greater adjustment of the in-car cockpit view using a specific “Driver Eyes” app included with the vanilla PC version of Assetto Corsa, meaning there is absolutely no INI fuckery required to get a decent single monitor setup cockpit view. It’s available right out of the box. Kudos to Kunos on this one. Less time spent fucking with INI files, more time spent playing the game. This is how it’s done.

acs 2015-11-28 13-53-24-05

Lastly, we reach the almighty iRacing, where EmptyBox has put together a camera editing tutorial, one which can be used to achieve the desired results discussed in this article. This is actually the exact tutorial I followed, and although it takes a few keyboard shortcuts some people aren’t aware of, it works as intended.

As I’ve said at the top of the article, sim racers praise triple screen setups for the increased sense of speed, depth perception, and overall visibility that comes with the investment into two additional monitors. However, this investment isn’t always feasible for everyone. I myself don’t have the desk space to purchase a full set of monitors, and the majority of people will hit a wall when it comes to the cost of upgrading their setup – you’re multiplying the cost of a lone monitor purchase by three. So by cranking up the FOV into warp speed factor, and compensating for the tunnel vision effect by moving the cockpit viewpoint into a Daytona USA-like position, the tunnel vision is cancelled out by moving forward in 3D space, and you’re left with a single screen setup that mimics the benefits of a much larger triple screen configuration. It’s not perfect, and for some the hyperspeed effect might be disorienting, but it’s what I use, and it’s the adjustments that keep me satisfied with a single monitor setup.

Race_Steam 2016-01-24 18-59-33-71.jpg

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Getting the Most from your Single Monitor Setup

  1. Frankly, I’m 100% happy with 2160p 28″ panel at arms distance. Throw in head tracking and you’ve got plenty of visibility.

    I know you aren’t a fan of head tracking/trackIR but it does work. It increasing awareness, you can actually sight the apex naturally (look over the dash whenever you like, too) and you get increased immersion. I consider head tracking as a critical base feature for flight and racing sims.

    If you’ve only ever used head tracking with bad curves (look speed and progression feels unnatural, no natural glancing in close racing until you get used to it), you’re really missing out on the potential.

    I don’t even think about it. Glances to the sides and mirrors aren’t disorienting. If I don’t have it on, I immediately notice and it feels incredibly unnatural.

    Like

    1. Also, you’re right. The button glance is a workable solution for checking your blind spot. I find it way more disorienting (even when matt does it in his videos it trips me out for a bit).

      You have two better options as a single screen user: either make your own ir array and track it with something like a ps3eye (any high-framerate webcam should suffice) and facetracknoir to extrapolate the input ($30 total or less), or buy trackIR (~100-150 USD). Since I can test these two implementations side by side, I can tell you that custom IR system is surprisingly comparable. Not as good (much harder to use, a bit more latency and more CPU usage) , but still very functional and much better IMO than button glances.

      Like

      1. Actually, I’ll mail you a damned array, a modded ps3eye and upload some facetracknoir curve presets if you want.

        I get the feeling this is the only way you will test head tracking under the right conditions.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sounds good! I’ll start putting together a reasonable explanation.

        By the way, really nice article. Even if everyone doesn’t like the specific placement and FOV you prefer, it details exactly how they can get what they want. Excellent work IMO.

        Like

    2. Agreed. Could make an article showing the DIY versions of TrackIR. FreeTrack is old tho, Open Track is still getting updates all the time and works well (even has an option to track your cellphone)

      Like

      1. Also, there are multiple hardware options I forgot to mention. Accelerometers (usually in the form of a normal wii remote) are also valid PC headtracking inputs with the necessary software already available.

        I never explored accelerometers extensively, it looked like it would be more complicated and costly, though I don’t know if that’s actually true.

        Just to get the basic idea of how it will work, you can simply run facial feature recognition. It’s way less accurate, has way less range and tends to ‘drift’ over time (compared to DIY array), but it is a decent preview of how things will feel (at worst).

        I’ve had computability issues with Open Track and a few specific titles, though I think that has been resolved since. Is the cellphone-based tracking working from accelerometer data?

        Like

      2. @e123 that I don’t know, try asking the guy that made the tutorial in Youtube. The video name is Opentrack smartphone head tracking – Elite Dangerous

        Like

  2. Sounds like you should have bumper camera view or make that roof cam!

    A real race car cockpit is a very confined space with the view pretty much 40-44 degrees and the driver’s head/helmet approximately mid-windscreen and – depending on the real life car – about 50cm to 70cm from the dashboard.

    The modern LMPs are a great example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro1yEkiEgbs

    Di Grassi has an eye level camera view in F1 car in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3DY7HIjXMc

    FOV is in itself is part of the challenge that racecar engineers and race driver’s face in real life racing. A proper seat fitting can take hours, and much of that time is spent adjusting driver POV inside the car.

    Personally I try and get a similar POV shown in the (Di Grassi) video with my one screen rig. He surely has more peripheral vision (to the right and to the left) which is where triple screens would be cool…. but you can live with one screen for sure.

    IMO that arcade racer POV you show above is simply wrong from a sim perspective.

    If one is pedantic (as you are) about physics, tyre models and all the pretend race car realism bullshit – then POV should be equally important to attain the simulation Valhalla we sim nerds constantly seek.

    So, in a nutshell, you (the author of this article) hunt down the ‘perfect’ pretend race car physics and related nuances, yet your ‘driving’ view which you are proposing (and no doubt use) is straight out of an arcade sim and totally ‘unrealistic’ which in turn negates your whole ‘realism’ crusade.

    A bit like shooting yourself in the foot 😉

    Like

  3. Sounds like you should have bumper camera view or make that roof cam!

    A real race car cockpit is a very confined space with the view pretty much 40-44 degrees and the driver’s head/helmet approximately mid-windscreen and – depending on the real life car – about 50cm to 70cm from the dashboard.

    Appears links are ot allowed on comments on PRC, nevertheless here goes:

    The modern LMPs are a great example Search You Tube for: Audi R18 e tron quattro Le Mans winning car test drive onboard camera

    Di Grassi has an eye level camera view in F1 car in this video. Search on You Tube for: First Time Ever Eye-Level Camera Formula 1

    FOV is in itself is part of the challenge that racecar engineers and race driver’s face in real life racing. A proper seat fitting can take hours, and much of that time is spent adjusting driver POV inside the car.

    Personally I try and get a similar POV shown in the (Di Grassi) video with my one screen rig. He surely has more peripheral vision (to the right and to the left) which is where triple screens would be cool…. but you can live with one screen for sure.

    IMO that arcade racer POV you show above is simply wrong from a sim perspective.

    If one is pedantic (as you are) about physics, tyre models and all the pretend race car realism bullshit – then POV should be equally important to attain the simulation Valhalla we sim nerds constantly seek.

    So, in a nutshell, you (the author of this article) hunt down the ‘perfect’ pretend race car physics and related nuances, yet your ‘driving’ view which you are proposing (and no doubt use) is straight out of an arcade sim and totally ‘unrealistic’ which in turn negates your whole ‘realism’ crusade.

    A bit like shooting yourself in the foot 😉

    Like

    1. I agree. Correct or close to correct FOV makes it so much easier to brake later and consistently hit braking points and the track doesn’t get pinched and narrow looking. I have a 27in 16:9 monitor that is about 24inches from my eyes and projectimmersion calculator says my correct FOV is 31 degrees but I was so accustomed to running an FOV of 48 degrees, 31 seemed really weird. Over the last week or so I started dropping the FOV by 1 degree per day and am now very comfortable at 35 degrees and my laptimes have come down considerably.

      My favorite track/car combo for a long while has been the stock ISI Renault Megane at Mid Ohio with chicane. At the old FOV of 48, I was running 1.26.3xx’ish times and had the AI strength at 106% and 45 aggression and now with the 35deg FOV, I am turning 1.23.2xx’ish laps and I run the AI at 112% strength and 65% aggression.

      Being able to see more is nice but not at the expense of lap times and braking points.

      Like

  4. Ultimately “sense of speed” in the graphics is an arcade feature; if you want to drive well, a realistic FOV gives you realistic ability to see the track ahead. IRL sense of speed is from your other senses – sound and motion – most people don’t play at realistic volumes and on buttkickers so they don’t feel the difference between 100 and 200km/h the way you would in a real car.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To be honest I haven’t understood the Eyepoint thing. Isn’t it the same as changing seat position? Also I’ve always used the classic FOV tutorial, so I try to use the lowest FOV as possible. I should use 32, but it’s too much: I prefer 42 on my 19″ 16:10 monitor plus seat adjustments.

    Like

    1. I add that lower the FOV until only a tiny bit of the tire (in open wheels) is visible, so I know how much track I’m using. In theory on a closed cockpit I would lower it even more, but right now I’m accustomed to 42 degrees FOV.

      Like

  6. In a single 27″ monitor, I use 64 FOV on iRacing (horizontal IIRC), and on AC/rF/etc, the equivalent for my monitor is 39. Feels perfectly fine. I also try to be sitting in a logical position inside the car, while trying to have the dashboard (speedo, etc) visible.

    Like

  7. I use swingman :)), I get scared having low fov in pack, don’t see my braking points. In race07 I used allot roof cam it was the perfect combo now r3r doesn’t have it or what is now not suitable so swingman it is

    Like

  8. Another option anyone can afford is the ghetto triple screen route. I bought 2 old 4:3 Dell monitors from Goodwill for 20$ to go with my 22 inch and the necessary hdmi and display port adapters. Loads of added visibility and saved space as the added 4:3 monitors don’t need that much extra desk space. All for the total cost of 40$ to upgrade to a triples setup.

    Like

  9. so is the general consensus that I’ll be faster with a lower field of view. i have read about how you can sense changes in direction better.

    aren’t there settings in the game that can enhance the sense of motion – under/oversteer. can’t they be combined with the default fov for fast driving.

    hitting brake points doesn’t seem that hard with anyview. sensing under/oversteer or judging angles is a different matter and I may try 32 fov

    Like

The comment box is not a toy.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s