Configuring FTNoIR PointTracker
While FTNoIR is considerably easier to get going than FreeTrack and offers a range of new features like better filtering and an automatic model calibration routine, it can still be a bit confusing to get set up if you're not sure what all the settings do. This guide should hopefully get you up and running with a minimal amount of difficulty.
Begin by downloading the latest version of FTNoIR from their site at Sourceforge:
At the time of this writing, v1.70 is current and includes the PointTracker plugin. You will also want to download Hotfix 1 at the same time.
Install FTNoIR with its default settings, and then install the hotfix.
Next, somewhat counter-intuitively, we also want to download and install FreeTrack. This is because there is currently no way to adjust your webcam's exposure settings from within FTNoIR. The developers are aware of this and working on a solution, but we can use FreeTrack to work around this in the meantime.
Again, download and install this accepting all default settings.
Launch FreeTrack by right-clicking on the shortcut that was created and selecting "Run as Administrator."
Select your webcam from the drop down menu and then click on the "Camera" button below it.
The next window is going to be different depending on your webcam's driver software. The controls shown are for a Logitech C110, but the general idea is going to be the same for any webcam; you want to disable autoexposure and manually lower your camera's exposure setting so that your IR LEDs show up as distinct individual points. You may need to play with the camera's brightness and contrast settings as well. This is going to vary based on your camera and ambient lighting situation.
Keep in mind that the brightness of your LEDs will change as your batteries discharge. Fresh batteries will require a lower exposure setting, so you'll need to eventually raise your exposure some as they become weaker.
Once you have your exposure set correctly, you can close FreeTrack. You do not need FreeTrack running for FTNoIR to work; we're only using it to configure the camera.
Now launch FTNoIR. You'll see a drop down box labeled "Tracker Source." Click on it and select "PointTracker 1.0." Go ahead and click Start in the section labeled Go! and then click "Settings" in the source section.
You can leave the general tab as-is and go ahead and click on the camera tab. You can generally leave the defaults here as well, but if FTNoIR is having trouble distinguishing your individual LEDs, you may need to tweak the threshold values a bit.
Now click on the model tab. This lets you tell FTNoIR what type of IR clip you're using along with its dimensions.
You'll also note that there is a calibration section at the bottom of the window. To use this, click the calibrate button, and then rotate your head through the full range of motion you want to use while still looking at the screen while sitting up straight. You'll notice that the X, Y, and Z values will change as you do this. After those values have more or less settled in place, click the calibrate button again to lock them in.
FTNoIR uses this information to calculate how far the model is offset from the center of your head, providing more accurate tracking. This is something that had to be done through manual guesswork with FreeTrack, so it's a nice addition.
Click OK to dismiss the camera configuration dialogue. In the main FTNoIR window, click "Options" in the top menubar and then select "Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts."
This is where you set your shortcuts to recenter, start/stop, etc. I have the default TrackIR setting of Shift+F12 to recenter shown here, but you can set it to anything you'd like.
Now we have just a few more quick things to configure and we're ready to go. Smoothness is set to 1 by default, I like it about midway, but any value is acceptable as long as you're happy with the smoothness of in-game tracking. I also found that I need to invert the Yaw and Pitch axes to get appropriate tracking in-game.
Verify that the Game Protocol dropdown is set to the default FreeTrack 2.0 protocol.
Note: by default, the Freetrack 2.0 interface will send input to the game using both the FreeTrack and TrackIR protocols. Some users have reported needing to explicitly pick one or the other to have head tracking recognized correctly in-game. This option is found by clicking the Settings button in the Game Protocol section.
Go ahead and click the Curves button in the lower right and then launch DCS.
In DCS, from the main menu go to Options. In the System tab, make sure Resolution is set to your monitor's resolution and uncheck Fullscreen. This will cause the game to run in windowed fullscreen mode, making life easier since we're going to be alt-tabbing between DCS and FTNoIR for the final step.
Return to the main menu and launch an Instant Action session. As soon as the sim has loaded, you should immediately see the camera begin tracking your head movements. At this point, you'll want to alt-tab back to FTNoIR and begin adjusting your curves settings. This part comes very much down to personal preference, so you're going to have to play with it a bit until you find a combination of settings that you like. The settings shown in the image above are just a couple of quick changes I made from the defaults and haven't been tweaked much yet.
A few pointers to get you started:
- Setting a very flat curve near the center of the curve will help you avoid jitter when you're trying to look straight ahead. This helps keep your HUD from bouncing around.
- You'll notice a red dot moving along the curve as you turn your head. Take note of where that dot stops moving as your turn your head; you'll generally want to set the curve steepest at this point to get full range of motion in-game.
- While you'll use a lot of yaw and pitch, roll isn't particularly useful in DCS, so you'll probably want to set that axis on a fairly flat curve. Similarly, X and Z translation are extremely useful, but Y translation can be a bit annoying, so you may want to flatten it out, as well.
- FTNoIR can send input values to DCS that exceed the limits of the in-game view port. When this happens, you'll see the camera snap around and appear to be backwards. Here is a video demonstrating this happening. If you run into this issue, watch the FTNoIR window and make note of where the red tracking dot is on the curve when this happens. Click on the top right corner of the curve and drag it down to that point. This sets a limit on the values FTNoIR will send DCS and prevent the wrap around. You can see what this should look like on the pitch and roll curves of the screenshot above.
You should now have a fully working FTNoIR setup. It's just a matter of tweaking your curves to your liking from this point out. Enjoy!