David on Displays

David: Putting Myself On Displays

Displays are important. And as biased as we are about motion simulation, they're arguably more important than motion: It's a lot easier to drive without a motion platform than it is to drive without a monitor.

So what kind of display should you use, anyway? Here's my personal take on the important, unimportant, and really important parts of getting information into your eyeballs — whether or not you're sitting in a motion system.


...is actually pretty far down the chart. It's nice, sure, but I can assure you that when you're hurtling down the Watkins Glen back straight at 140, car shaking, hindquarters wobbling, and eyeballs jumping, you're not going to be reading the copyright notices on the road signs.

As long as the resolution is sufficient for you to get a feel for the shape of the road, you're OK. And that's partially linked to FOV — a big FOV lets you get away with lower spatial resolution, since the FOV is closer to real life. If you jam your whole vision down into monitor size in front of you, you'd need to have really sharp eyesight. You don't need to be Chuck Yeager if you've got a viewport bigger than the inside of a Bic.


Yeah, it matters. Not 'crushing blacks' (having black be black and dark gray be black' is an obvious help - seeing ninjas hidden in the shadows of armco can be crucial. Less commonly, dark hillsides generally have mottled bits on them, and if they go away, so does one more sense of position on the track.

Sense of position is what we're really after.

Also bad is crushing whites — the song doesn't go, "seas of green.....skies of blu-no-now-it's-whiite...". A blasted-out nuclear white sky is rough on the eyes. Your competitors' paint jobs are bad enough — don't make it worse.

Color accuracy in general is nice to have. You can have all the cool equipment in the world, but driving around in a magenta haze is going to mess with your head, even if you don't notice it consciously.

Motion response and delay

People make a big deal out of this, but I'd actually place more importance on the above, within obvious limits. The days of super-smeary LCDs are long gone, provided you stay away from the bottom-of-the-barrel. Your eyes are relatively lousy at motion detection. You're only showing 60 frames per second; unless you're doing 3D, having the display switch between those frames in .01% of the time it takes to display them does little for your experience.

Overall delay is much more significant (and it's my biggest beef with the TVs you need for big-FOV, high-ambient-rejection 3D display). If you put even a good LCD up against an old busted CRT, and display the same screen output, the mouse cursor on the LCD will look like it's on a rubber band.

In short, it's all a hot mess, and obsessing about any one spec is counterproductive.But in the end, oddly, I've found that this is tolerable. The Sony TV we use as of early 2014 has significant lag, even in 'game' mode. But you've got 100ms lag from your wheel to the game at least — possibly 400, from some consumer wheels I've seen — and your brain (unless you're Kimi Raikkonen or Sebastian Vettel) provides some as well. In short, it's all a hot mess, and obsessing about any one spec is counterproductive.

Fast steering response is more important than fast visual response — you can (and do) predict what will happen to your car in the next 100ms. This is particularly true of racing sims, where you'd darn well better know what will happen, display lag or not. You can bet that the aforementioned F1 drivers don't wait for the car to get unsettled in a corner before they start to correct. For first-person shooters, such lag would be crippling, but we can live without it when not dodging sliding cars or attacking ninjas.

Unless you're getting a TV as a monitor (in which case, obsess over it and make it your first-level litmus test) don't worry about it.

You down with FOV? Yeah you know me!

So, yeah, FOV. High FOV is important.

First and foremost: it allows you to run a realistic in-game FOV. You want 1:1. A 24" monitor with 1:1 is unbearable, since essential bits of information are lost off the sides. Three 24" monitors will give you a pretty good shot at it.

You don't run three monitors to use a 150 degree FOV instead of a 100 degree FOV.

You use them to run a 100 degree FOV correctly.

Read that again. Did you read it again? I bet you didn't. I said to read it again, not to chuckle and think, "He just wants to know I was paying attention". That's not what I meant, because if I meant it, I'd have said, "Chuckle because I just want you to know that you know that I want you to be paying attention." But I didn't. I meant, "Read it again". Read it again. I'm not joking this time.

When it comes down to it, the main goal of a racing simulator is to help you position yourself in the world you're being shown.OK, good. The goal of a triple monitor is not to get the mirrors into your view or to get peripheral vision of trees flying by. Try putting a racing helmet on and peering out to the side to see rushing trees. Nuh-uh. You don't see jack out the side of a racing helmet. Unless you want to pretend that the 2 inches of sweaty foam padding there is really ninja-hiding vegetation whipping along, ignore the idea of super peripheral vision being terribly important to racing drivers. It only matters if you're Jenson Button and you're racing Sebastian Vettel in the wet, and then you're pretty much out of luck regardless, so it doesn't even matter then.

Now, if you're a real driver, you can move your head around a bit (though HANS devices limit this significantly), so yes, your effective field of view is expanded somewhat. Gaining that by sacrificing realistic FOV is not worth it. Learn to drive without having to crane your neck around at the dude next to you. He's going to hit you anyway. Accept it and move on.

Why? Because your brain will thank you, that's why. If you've ever put somebody else's glasses on, you've got an idea what it's like to run your monitor at a non-matching FOV. You're used to it, sure, thanks to other kinds of gaming. But you're also used to Katy Perry and reality TV. Familiarity doesn't mean you should just acquiesce to wrongiarity.

When it comes down to it, the main goal of a racing simulator's hardware is to help you position yourself in the world you're being shown. There are a bunch of ways that happens; the two big classes are sight and motion. The value of motion is, obviously, self-evident, and thus no discussion is necessary here. So we'll talk about vision, especially since that's what the damn question was in the first place.

continue to part 2

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