Parhelia Solution

The Matrox Parhelia video card has the capability to have three 3D acceleration outside views. This card is a great addition to make a surround scenery setup.
The latest Parhelia drivers have good support for FS2004. Setting things up requires some tweaking, but there is good info on the Matrox support forum for getting FS2004 performing well.
Keep in mind, the Parhelia card cannot match the screen performance of the current video cards. Compared to my other Nvidia Ti 4200,  Matrox is a step backward. However, the ability to have left, center and right view seamlessly performing together makes up for its shortcomings. 

With the Matrox Parhelia in the AGP slot, you can add another video card in a PCI slot. I used a cheap 32Mb ATI card. With the Parhelia in spanning mode, Windows now sees 2 displays. When starting up FS2004, the scenery + cockpit view comes up on the Parhelia screens. The cockpit can be undocked, resized, and dragged to the ATI screen. Other screens like GPS and radio stack can also be added, undocked, and dragged to the ATI screen.
The result is an entire unblocked scenery view, and a fully equipped cockpit panel view on a separate monitor. I find that best scenery view result are obtained when setting the zoom at lowest level: around 0.3. This view setup can be saved by saving the flight after setting things up.

Setup with Parhelia scenery view on 3x 15" LCD panels . (Panels taken out of their cabinets and placed next to each other in a foam / metal structure. Below is the cockpit with one 18" LCD panel for the undocked gauges.

The advantage of the Parhelia solution is that you can get by with one PC driving the whole system. Frame rates are still decent on my ASUS P4PE  2.4GHz  512Mb system. Not all sliders at max, but still a nice well filled scenery. 

The Parhelia view makes doing traffic patterns much easier. Still I find the need to do some extra panning during a pattern. In cockpit view as well as virtual cockpit view, the HAT switch will simultaneously pan all three Parhelia screens. In most Piston aircraft, I find flying with virtual cockpit view the most convenient, as the freedom of panning left/right and up/down always lets me get a good view of the landing strip. I have set a dedicated joystick switch for resetting the view. As you already have the cockpit panel in good quality on a separate view, the virtual cockpit is not really needed anymore. It can be deleted by editing the aircraft file with a hex editor. See Software enhancements.  In  some freeware planes the virtual cockpit is of such good quality, that I keep it in, as it gives an extra feeling of flight, especially the smaller GA planes and gliders.

For an enhancement of this setup, see Parhelia with fresnel lens


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