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Announcing SkyMaxx Pro v5


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It is with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement that I get the opportunity to announce SkyMaxx Pro v5 to you today! Version 4.0 was our longest major version run, and it's time to turn the page to Chapter 5. A release date is at the bottom of this post:)
We have wanted to bring what v5 has in it for years, but it just wasn't feasible till now.

With that said, SkyMaxx Pro v5 brings GPU ray-casted clouds. Internally, we attempted GPU ray-casted clouds many versions ago, but the performance was just not there. However, they will now be the fastest clouds we offer (you read that right...faster than v4!), and they also feature the most complex, realistic lighting effects of any cumulus cloud layer offered (you will still have the option to run v4 style particle-based clouds). It is now possible to draw volumetric cloud formations to the horizon with v5.

These are true 3D, voxel-based clouds with physically-based cloud growth. 3D textures do consume a fair amount of video memory, but modern video cards generally can handle the load without a problem. Technology has finally caught up with this approach, and thus SkyMaxx Pro v5 is here.

These new volumetric clouds use a novel approach to split the computational load of lighting between the GPU and CPU in an optimal manner, resulting in framerates we never thought possible for true 3D voxel clouds. We’ve also come up with some clever ways to minimize the complexity of the shaders without introducing visible banding or slicing effects in the process. Our approach also minimizes texture lookups within the cloud shaders, which is also key to maintaining fast performance.

Volumetric, ray-casted clouds are especially valuable in VR setups, where the rotation of particle billboards can be very distracting while flying near a cloud. Volumetric clouds do away with billboards entirely, leading to a smooth experience as you approach and fly through them. And the per-fragment lighting, including full Henyey-Greenstein phase effects, leads to stunning details both outside of the clouds and within – especially at dawn and dusk.


So, to re-cap, SkyMaxx Pro v5 brings:

  • GPU ray-casted clouds
  • The fastest performing clouds we have offered
  • The most complex, realistic lighting effects of any cumulus cloud layer offered in the SkyMaxx Pro series
  • It is now possible to draw complex volumetric cloud formations to the horizon with v5
  • True 3D, voxel-based clouds with physically-based cloud growth
  • No more rotating clouds, where the rotation of particle billboards can be very distracting while flying near a cloud (especially in VR)
  • Virtually unlimited layers are still possible with Real Weather Connector in use


With SkyMaxx Pro v5 we will be introducing an updated version of Real Weather Connector to go with it. This update will be free of charge to existing Real Weather Connector users.


Some previews. Be sure to click on the image for full size!

Clicking them once more in the popup will allow you to view the image in original size form.

I have elected to do a series of flights with real world weather, and am including a series from each of these flights...


Flight 1: KACV - KSFO

An easy flight down the coast, and while KACV was overcast (as it usually is), the weather did start to break around Santa Rosa, CA. This provided a nice variety of clouds on the way down to San Francisco. I really enjoy how the sunlight interacts with the clouds, especially ascending up through the layers. Between the new per-pixel lighting and the lack of billboard rotation, flying through these is a really nice experience! For reference, cruising altitude in these shots is 36,000ft. Important for those who used to complain about feeling like SkyMaxx Pro v4 was not acceptable at high altitudes.















Flight 2: KSFO - KFAT

This flight I decided to fly into the Central Valley of California. There were some weather fronts in and out of various areas of the flight, and they were pretty cool to fly through! Having Real Weather Connector installed allows me to see the distant layers and fronts I'll be flying over, and makes for some scenic cloud boundary lines. Not much else to add, so enjoy! :)











Flight 3: Random Shots

I am including these images because I just liked the perspectives they provided. Slightly different than what I've shown here, some nice mountain blending included. I just liked them, so why not? :)




Low Light

For good measure I wanted to provide some evening and morning pictures. These show a little bit of the per-pixel lighting playing with the clouds from the direction of the sun. While more subtle in these shots, there are moments where this can be more pronounced and spectacular! It's especially cool in sim, and where the sun is lower (rising or setting). Intensity changes based on sun angle. The first picture is the sun rising, the second is setting. Though the sun is behind the mountains, you can see how clouds closest to the mountains are lit brighter than the others.





Information on upgrade eligibility:
SkyMaxx Pro v5 will be a paid upgrade for all current SkyMaxx Pro v4 owners. Those of you who qualify will receive a 50% off ($19.95 instead of $39.95) upgrade discount which will be valid for 60 days from the time SkyMaxx Pro v5 goes on sale. After this, the product will go to full price for all customers. We do not make exceptions to this, so if you want the promotional pricing, you need to get in on it while the 60 day window is in effect!
Information on release:
SkyMaxx Pro v5 will be released next week on Friday, January 22nd, 2021 @ 12PM Eastern (USA - New York Time)!

Vulkan & Open GL:

We will support both Vulkan & Open GL. There will not be a separate cost for these products.

What about Metal?

Mac users will be able to run SkyMaxx Pro v5 in OpenGL, as has also been the case with v4. When it comes to Metal, we have no viable option to bring custom cloud rendering. Laminar has looked at this previously, and the bridge we need to allow this is just not made available by Apple. Additionally, Laminar Research is not yet prepared to open up an API for Metal. As such, we can only offer OpenGL use until this changes (if at all). If it's any consolation, every screenshot above was taken on a Mac, and I am happy with the performance. :) SkyMaxx Pro v5 is enough to make me not fly in Metal, which says something (as much as it pains me to wish we had Metal support).
Thanks to everyone for their continued support in this amazing product!
See you in the skies...next week!

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  • Cameron changed the title to Announcing SkyMaxx Pro v5

Excellent news, thank you for the update. I too had a feeling that something was brewing in the good old Maxx laboratory - atmospheric alchemy!

I have been looking at the previews with eager anticipation, and they seem to be very impressive, especially the improved draw distance.

Will different cloud types be included in the initial release, for instance cirrus, tcb’s (anvil types), and stratiform types?

Is there any news on the anticipated technical specifications regarding GPU requirements?

Santa might have been generous in many ways, but sadly not in the GPU department!



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Hi @Fab10,

Thanks for sharing your excitement with us. 

36 minutes ago, Fab10 said:

Will different cloud types be included in the initial release, for instance cirrus, tcb’s (anvil types), and stratiform types?

Old cloud types are not going away. Cumulus based clouds is the focus of volumetric, but you can still expect to find the old types as well. And, you can select to turn volumetric fully off. We also let you select between volumetric and our other cloud styles for overcast as well. I'll let @sundog expand on this more(he's likely asleep right now). :)

36 minutes ago, Fab10 said:

Is there any news on the anticipated technical specifications regarding GPU requirements?

So far we've tested these on a GTX 1070, 5700XT, and a RTX2800. All of these yielded good results. The above shots were all taken on a 5700XT in OpenGL on a Mac. I loaded it up with the hi res ORBX NORCAL, medium object, full cloud draw, HDR high setting. Even on this side (Macs can be known to underperform in OpenGL), I achieved an average of 40-45 fps in these flights. These clouds perform faster than previous versions of SkyMaxx Pro. I can certainly hear my GPU working harder though. ;)

What kind of GPU are you working with? Frank sent me some shots on his 1070 achieving 60fps, but I need to also be clear that I'm not trying to make claims, just references. This is why I loaded my Mac up with scenery people would use.

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Thank you, I appreciate your reply.

I have a GTX 1080, so hopefully it will be able to render these wonderful new clouds.

SMP/RWC has always been my personal benchmark and go-to cloud package.

Presumably, it will still dovetail nicely into FSGRW?

Anyway, this is all superb news and a great tonic for a dim time, and it has already brightened up 2021 - it is, after all, a Happy New Year!


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3 minutes ago, Fab10 said:

I have a GTX 1080, so hopefully it will be able to render these wonderful new clouds.

I'd say judging by @sundog's 1070, you'll be okay. :)

4 minutes ago, Fab10 said:

Presumably, it will still dovetail nicely into FSGRW?

Yes! Nothing changes there. Full integration for FSGRW and ASXP.

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6 minutes ago, Aleksandar said:

Interesting new design direction....but solely based on the included photos, I don't find myself convinced why I would get this to replace my default clouds.  Perhaps more information with photos and post-release reviews will help.  I look forward to seeing more.

I think this ultimately comes down to:

1. Do you want 3D volumetric clouds that are not based on billboard 2D graphics (like default), look realistic as you fly through them, and dynamically interact with sun and moonlight?

2. Do you want more cloud layers for real weather than X-Plane can provide by default (limited to 3)?

3. Do you want to be able to see sun rays and have a custom sky box atmosphere model?

4. Do you want to see cloud types not offered by X-Plane (requires FSGRW or ASXP to see these added cloud types)?

If you answered yes, then it's worth your consideration. If you're happy with default and don't find value in these things, then you're probably right. These aren't for you. :)


Regardless, you have the option, and that's a great thing!

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I had wondered what was happening with SkyMaxx and now I know. Things certainly look good based on the screenshots and information provided, personally I will be making the upgrade on day one. Performance was always an issue for me with v4 which is one reason I pretty much stopped using SkyMaxx as much as I liked the cloud coverage provided it was limited in draw distance without killing frame rates.

All the best with the launch and any future updates. See you on the 22nd :)


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3 minutes ago, dresoccer4 said:

I've never used any weather addons in XP but this looks interesting. Is there a larger description of what this software is and isn't capable of so I can make an informed decision?
For example are there different cloud types/heights/precipitation/etc?

Thanks for more info!

SkyMaxx Pro has been on the market for many years and is easily the highest bought software in the sim over that course of time. The current v4 product page should give you a pretty good idea about what it is: https://www.x-aviation.com/catalog/product_info.php/skymaxx-pro-p-138

Keep in mind v4 will be phased out next week when we release v5 as shown above.

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14 minutes ago, mvolling said:


In this version, did they solve the issue of shadows?
For example in v4, when the shadow is intensified it takes out even the brightness of the instruments of the plane, it does not only affect the environment.

When you set cloud shadows all the way up, you are telling SkyMaxx Pro that you want cloud shadows to completely block all light from the sun. So, if a cloud shadow falls over your cockpit, it will go black. Set it to a more realistic setting, like the default of 0.5. That said, I know that the shadows don't affect the terrain as strongly as it should - this is a limitation of X-Plane's HDR pipeline that prevents us from totally blacking out the terrain. Disabling HDR will give you darker shadows if that's the look you're aiming for.

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