Any pilot flying in your simulator will expect to have an external view through the cockpit windows. And the regular monitor you use in your PC is not enough. Your cockpit is much wider than the place you have in your computer desk, and you’d want to provide a flying experience as immersive as possible.
One of the cheapest methods to do it is using several monitors. You can arrange them in an horizontal array of three, which would provide a view field of more than 3,000 pixels wide. The main cons of this approach is that the monitor array would have the height of one monitor. You’d have to put it very close to the cockpit windows but even so the monitor frame could be seen by the pilots. You can use high resolution TVs as well, but with similar results.
There is a better alternative to monitor arrays, but it’s a little more expensive: using projectors. A projector is able to project the external view in a distance that goes from 1 meter to 3-4 meters. At that distance, the projected image can be 2 meters height and 3 or 4 meters wide. That’s enough for the pilots to see the external view without noticing any frame or corner outside the projection.
Even if you can afford it, there are a few things you can do to make your projection even better. For instance, you can use a curved projection screen that improves the space feeling. And, of course, you can arrange several proyectors in a horizontal array as you would do with monitors. But, with projectors, you could cover the whole 180 degress of the fieldview. That’s how you can get the most immersive experience for your cockpit respect the external view.
Perhaps you are worried about the space. Many of us only have a small room to deploy out cockpit. If that’s your case, you’d be happy to know that you don’t have to refuse a projector. There are some special kind of projectors, known as short throw projectors, that can project in very short distances. They are specially useful for rooms with reduced space.
External View & Simulator
And finally, a trivial question. How does it fit with the simulator? Anything you must do is connect your external view device (monitor or projector) to the PC your simulator runs into, and configure that output in your operating system to be the main display. In case you are using more than one device, the thing is a little more difficult.
You can acquire some specific hardware to split the display signal into multiple monitors. There are some products that do that, but they are not cheap at all specially if you are interested in digital devices using DVI or HDMI connectors.
You can also take advantage of the multiple display outputs of your graphics card, and use the ability of the drivers to combine two outputs into the same desktop. That’s what ATI Eyefinity or Nvidia Surround technologies do.
In the case of projectors, the thing is even more difficult. Aligning the projected output of each projector is not a trivial task. But again, there are some software products aimed for that.
Once you get your displays ready, you only have to designate that output as your main desktop and run your simulator. It will be used as the main screen. There you can setup the sim in cockpit 2D view and remove all the cockpit gauges to have only the external view.