Homemade HOTAS Desk Mount

I decided to make up a desk mount for my HOTAS, so that I could position the stick in a more natural location without having to gorilla-arm it.  The design is very straightforward – it’s a drill vice with a couple of pieces of steel bracket and soft-grip vice jaws to avoid marking the desk.  Total cost under $30.

If you want to replicate this, the spacing of the holes for the Warthog stick are 60mm apart, and are M4 metric screws.  Remember to leave enough clearance so you can push the stick the whole way forwards and not catch your fingers on the vice anywhere.

DCS A-10 Warthog Tutorial Reference

I’ve been putting in some time on learning to fly again in DCS A-10C Warthog. Fortunately I seem to have had better recall of prior learning than I thought I would, but it’s still definitely not a trivial process.  So, I thought I’d link various documentation, websites and tutorial videos I came across for anyone trying to learn the same thing.


I’ve got a Saitek X52 Pro stick and throttle.  I can definitely, definitely recommend the Saitek, and I’d also strongly recommend using this profile.  It’s adapted from others I’ve seen around, and it works well for me.

I also use a set of Saitek rudder pedals, but I’m not convinced they are actually required.  EAC on the A-10 takes care of most of the rudder work, so you could probably get away with just the stick twist rudder on the X52 pro, and then manage wheel brakes with a key assignment somewhere instead of using the toe brakes on the pedals.

Lastly, I have a TrackIR5.  TrackIR makes a massive difference to the experience.  If you have a webcam available, you may be able to use FreeTrack or FaceTrackNoIR instead.

I would consider head tracking to be more important than pedals, to be honest, so if you’re only going to buy a couple of pieces of gear, get head tracking and a stick with separate throttle (trust me, you’ll need the buttons).

Official Documentation

  • DCS A-10C Warthog Flight Manual – This is your bible.  Every system is detailed in gory detail, and it provides all the information you need, although not really in an easily digestible form.  Keep this on-hand as reference material.
  • DCS A-10C Warthog Quickstart Guide – I didn’t find this to be of too much use, but give it a read anyway.

Third Party Repositories

There’s a whole bunch of info available on the ‘net.  Here’s some of the bigger repositories of info I’ve come across;

Wow, that’s too much!  Just get me in the air!

Ok, I totally understand.  Let’s just do the basics.

  • MemphisBelle’s Quick Start up Manual – Good picture guide for how to do a cold start.
  • Lobo’s Normal Checklist – Includes some steps that are optional in a game.  Don’t try and read this thing the whole way through, just refer to the checklist for whatever task you’re doing at the time.
  • Ramp Startup Video Part 1 and Part 2 – These are recordings of the ingame tutorial.  Watch it in Youtube first.
  • Do the tutorials!  They’ll run you through basic operation of most systems.
  • If you’ve never flown anything before, take a read of See How It Flies.
  • Go and get DRAGONs Training Pack.  This is a well executed set of training missions which provide you with a playground (if you hang around the Easy waypoint) giving you plenty of room to practice without having SAMs shooting you down all the time.

After the above, and going through the ingame tutorials, you should be able to get in the air, find waypoints, shoot some stuff, and hopefully land.  From there you can hit the references above to find out how to do more advanced stuff.

Good luck!

Triplehead FOV with DCS World 1.2.4

I did some work on getting triple-head going properly in DCS: World 1.2.4 (7680×1440 with three 2560×1440 monitors).  I’ve tested that everything seems to work fine with the A-10C Module.  Also looks fine with the F-15 (so probably everything in Flaming Cliffs 3), and the Ka-50 Black Shark. The Ka-50 viewpoint is a little buggy and will try and zoom out a LONG way when you enter, so just press * to zoom in until it looks normal.

A-10C Cockpit
A-10C in DCS World 1.2.4
Cockpit of a F-15C
F-15C in DCS world 1.2.4
Ka-50 Cockpit in DCS World 1.4.2
Ka-50 in DCS World 1.2.4

In order to set up, you’ll need to do the following;

  • Apply the diff file from here to your DCS World setup.  It’ll go and change a couple of files in minor ways.  You can also get a ZIP of these files already changed suitable for DCS World from this link:  TripleheadFOV-
  • Copy autoexec.cfg from here into your C:\Users\<username>\Saved Games\DCS\Config folder.
  • Copy SnapViews.lua from here into your C:\Users\<username>\Saved Games\DCS\Config folder.

The diff allows use of customized snap views, and sets the default external viewing angle to 120 degrees (maths as to why this is right can be found at this link).  It also hardcodes the screen width for some UI elements to 2560×1440, and pushes the radio chatter windows across one screen so that they render on the middle screen and not on the right.  And lastly, it modifies Server.lua to allow the widened FOV for the Ka-50.

The autoexec.cfg sets the maximum fps to 60, to avoid issues that tend to happen with microstutters on SLI.  The SnapViews.lua contains recalculated viewing angles for all default snap views such that they are corrected for triple-head FOV, as per my prior post on the topic.


FOV Adjustments for TripleHead Setups

Many games appear to do horrible things with the viewport when you are using a display with a strange aspect ratio – such as a triple head setup.  The aspect ratio of my setup is 48:9, which plays merry hell with viewports in flight sims that are designed to look ‘normal’ with a 16:9 setup.  The usual result is that views are horrendously thin vertically.

Anyway, I did some trigonometry (which is probably a bit broken) and came out with a formula that lets you convert a FOV figure that’s intended for a normal aspect ratio and convert it to an FOV that’s appropriate for a triplehead setup.

\displaystyle \theta = 2 \tan ^{-1} ( 3 \tan \frac{\alpha}{2} )
\alpha = original FOV
\theta = new FOV

Using this, the result that you get is the ‘original’ view, instead of being spread horizontally across three monitors and then the vertical component being hopelessly thin will be spread across only the center monitor.  This means that you’ll see extra stuff on the left and right that wouldn’t have been in that viewport normally, but the vertical view will be normal.

Doing this in something like A-10 with the left and right MFCD’s works great – the MFCD appears on the central monitor and pretty well fills it, which is what you’d expect.  Without adjusting FOV, you just get about 1/3 of the MFCD into the display.

A conversion chart appears below for those who don’t want to do math;

FOV Conversion Chart
Standard FOV Triplehead FOV
20 55.76
30 77.59
40 95.03
50 108.88
60 120.00
70 129.09
75 133.04
80 136.67
90 143.13
100 148.75
110 153.72
120 158.21
130 162.33
140 166.16

75 degrees is included here because that’s the default FOV for a lot of the DCS simulations.  The triplehead FOV of this (133 degrees) winds up being very close to the value that I figured out by eyeballing it (which was 135 degrees), so I’m fairly happy this is accurate.

IR Head Tracking with FreeTrack

I’ve recently been learning to fly in DCS: A-10c Warthog, deciding to stick to just one flight sim until I get good at it.  What I’ve been interested in is whether a head tracking system would be useful, and whether I’d like it.  The TrackIR 5 head tracking system runs about $200, which is a bit costly for an experiment – particularly if I didn’t like it.

First, some background.  A head tracker is a system which monitors your head for movement, and then can be used to shift the point of view in a simulator appropriately.  Some work from facial recognition, but most work by having either infrared reflectors or emitters in fixed positions on a harness on the user’s head, which are then monitored by a camera.  The TrackIR is one such system, and has high compatibility with many simulators and is quite popular.  But it’s expensive.

Enter FreeTrack.  FreeTrack is a free system which uses (slightly modified) Webcams and a head harness made with some infrared LEDs to implement a head tracking system.  I decided to make myself up a really cheap FreeTrack setup to see whether I liked it at all.  Total cost?  About $20.

The Hardware

I went down to my local games shop, and was lucky enough to pick up an old-style Playstation 3 Eye for $9 (!!!).  The PS3Eye is ideal for this sort of thing since it can be easily disassembled and turned into an IR camera and can do decent resolution and framerate (320×240 @ 120fps).  I ripped out the IR filter lens inside the camera (wrecking the filter in the process), and replaced it with a piece of cut-out developed photographic negative.  The black part of a photographic negative is quite opaque to visible light, but nearly transparent to infrared.  I only used one layer, but in hindsight I probably should have used 2-3 layers of film.

For the headset, I simply used three IR LEDs in series with a 220 ohm resistor and a 9V battery.  This means the LEDs will have about 40mA going through them, which is within their spec.  Those are mounted onto a hat (photos will be forthcoming) so that two of the LEDs are on the corners of the visor, and the third is in the middle at the top of the head, all pointing towards the camera.  I then covered each LED with a thin layer of Blu-Tac to act as a diffuser.  Blu-Tac is surprisingly permable to IR light.

The Software

Firstly, I got drivers for the PS3Eye from here.  Secondly, you’ll also need FreeTrack itself.  Setup here is quite easy, follow the instructions you can find at this link.

When FreeTrack is running, mess about with your sensitivities.  You will probably notice that FreeTrack will crash if you just hit Start.  Click on the tabs that let you select the framerate, and the Stream button that lets you view the settings for the camera, and it’ll be fine when you hit Start.

Assuming it all runs, you’ll now need to get it running in your flight sim.  We’ll assume you’re using DCS A-10c like me.  Download the Eagle Dynamics DLL‘s from the FreeTrackNoIR project (another head tracker) and then drop the files into a ‘headtracker’ folder under (I assume that the root of your DCS A-10c install is in C:\A10C for brevity);

C:\A10C\bin\headtracker    <-- put 64 bit DLL and files here
C:\A10C\bin\x86\headtracker     <-- put 32 bit DLL and files here On starting up A-10, it should ‘just work’. The Test

It’s impressive.  The level of immersion provided by something so simple is amazing.  You will definitely want to enable deadzones for all the axes though otherwise it’ll look like you have the shakes.  But once you get it tuned right, it’s amazing.  Just being able to naturally look out of the cockpit is incredible.

It’s impressive enough that I’ve just ordered a TrackIR.