With Microsoft Flight Simulator’s multiplayer function and capability, flight simulation has become the social activity many enthusiasts have desired for many years. Part of that social interaction is the ability to record and replay flights and share videos across the community, but this is where many simulators, including MSFS, have limitations.
However, thanks to developer Fabio Merlo, there is a solution to recording, replaying, and rendering videos from popular simulators such as P3D, FSX, and most notably for this review, Microsoft Flight Simulator. That solution comes in the form of Flight Control Replay.
What is flight control replay?
Flight Control Replay gives the user the opportunity to record flights simply and effectively. Live flights can even be rewound a few minutes in case of failures or mistakes, allowing pilots to practice manoeuvres, patterns, and approaches without restarting the sim, or going back into the menu. More importantly for some, these saved flights can be replayed and rendered into MP4 videos so they can be shared across the community, or just viewed for private use.
We are grateful to the developer for providing a copy to review, but, as usual, this review will express our true and honest opinions of the product. As previously mentioned, this review will focus on use with Microsoft Flight Simulator, though it can be used with P3D and FSX.
Installation is an easy affair, at least for the main application, but it must be noted that some other prerequisites must be installed for Flight Control Replay to work. Some of these depend on what simulator you are using, but all will need Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, Microsoft DirectX_Jun2010_redist, and Microsoft VisualStudio 2008 C++ redist. Also required is a codec for rending the video: Codec x264vfw x64 f. All these and specific ones for each sim are listed in the accompanying PDF, with links to their sources.
It is a requirement that the tool is run with Administrator privileges, and that Simconnect is also installed.
My initial experience with Flight Control Replay was extremely frustrating. I found it difficult to use, and it caused a few headaches with MSFS in the form of increased stutters and frame-freeze. I had to close down the simulator and start again. However, once this was expressed to the developer, he responded quickly with an updated version that ran much more smoothly without FSP drops, stutters, and crashes. The developer has to be given credit for this.
However, it still took me a while to get used to using the tool. Don’t get me wrong, once figured out, it is easy, but the documentation does take some reading to get used to everything.
The interface is clean and simple, with large buttons for the main record, play, stop, and rewind /forward. But when I used it at first, on clicking record, the interface would disappear, causing me to think it had crashed. I was unaware it was still running in the background.
Navigating the menu is simple enough, but it helps to read the manual to get used to all the features.
Getting into it
Once I had a hang of this tool, however, I began to appreciate its use and see how valuable it would be moving forward. I successfully recorded a flight and then reloaded the flight back up. The replay is remarkably smooth, and given that you can then swap camera views and move around the cockpit as if the flight was live, it is a powerful feature. This is especially so when recording a video, as you can then get the best views for your finished work. I have posted my first attempt at a video produced by Flight Control Replay below.
With the video rendering, it is useful to note that the FPS achieved during recording is not reflective of the finished piece. The previously mentioned codec allows for a smooth video rendering. However, while recording the video, I found that my FPS dropped very low, and everything moved painstakingly slow. I am assuming this is a consequence of turning the FCR file into MP4 while in playback mode. I noticed this was the only way I could record into MP4 and not as a live flight. But as I was in recording mode, I could sit back and let it do its thing. Also, the rendering did depend on what settings are used through the menu and what speed is selected. Further use may perfect my abilities in rendering the videos.
Using Re-Live InstantReplay was effective too. This is simply done by selecting the LiveReplay button on the interface and then manipulating the slider to where you want to go back. I know this would be a useful feature in the future, as when a crash does occur, you can reload your flight where the crash stopped it.
Another useful feature is sending the data to Google Earth and seeing your flight through this powerful app. The data is saved and exported easily, and you can even set this up to automatically save it as a KML file. I did like this feature a lot.
There are some features I have not used as yet. PlayAsAI, for example, has not been explored enough to give this feature a review. However, there were some options unavailable to those using Microsoft Flight Simulator. I couldn’t save a screenshot through Flight Control Replay, which is disappointing. Admittedly the developer is aware of these limitations with MSFS, but I hope future updates deal with these limitations for what is a popular simulator.
That being said, the developer has provided a tool that is sadly lacking in Microsoft Flight Simulator. How this product develops will be interesting to see, especially if Asobo implements a similar feature within the sim. In the meantime, I would recommend Flight Control Replay, but take my advice and really read the manual.
Flight Control Replay is available from simMarket, priced at EUR 14.40 (excl taxes).