I started up my sim and set the track to Silverstone Circuit. It was just how I remembered from the last time I played. Corners were much more flowing, the track seemed much narrower, and the sense of speed was much higher than it was in real life. That’s when I started playing with the FOV. I used a triangle calculator to calculate what my FOV should be based on my monitor width and how far away I was sitting from it. The difference the new FOV setting made was shocking.
The track transformed into a carbon copy of the track I had just visited in the real world. It was just like being back in the UK. The track was as wide as I remembered, the turns were as tight as I remembered; if I had practiced like this, it would have been almost as rewarding as driving the real thing. After that, I started thinking of how a change in FOV could make such a huge difference. Here’s what I concluded:
First, we need to look at what the FOV is and how it’s used in racing sims. The FOV is the degree value of the visible area we can see. In sims, it’s usually calculated by either the monitor width/height and the distance of the user’s eyes to the monitor. This creates a triangle, with the monitor width as the base. The opposite angle, the point where the the eyes are located, is the FOV. The sim uses the FOV to calculate the appropriate angular size of the cockpit to give the user a realistic view.
So why does all of this need to happen? When driving in a sim, we use the cockpit view, and how we see out of it determines how the view corresponds to the real world. A real car is much bigger than the monitors we all use, and so the area we can see (and see out of) is also much bigger. Using a realistic FOV simply makes the car the size it would be in real life relative to where you are sitting; albeit restricted to the area of your monitor. In simpler terms, if you are sitting 2ft from your 24in monitor, setting a realistic FOV would be like sitting in your real world car, looking out of the windshield, and holding 21”x12” box 2ft in front of you to look through. It doesn’t give you much room to see, but everything is still in proportion.
-With only a 21”x12” box to look through, the FOV is narrowed significantly. But this is what the sim racer’s view should look like on a 24” monitor from 22.8” away.
Many sim racers stray away from a realistic FOV because visibility is compromised, but by widening the FOV, other problems emerge. I mentioned earlier that racing sims use FOV to create the right angular size for the cockpit and environment. When you adjust the FOV to create a wider-than-correct value, the angular size is skewed (think of looking through binoculars the wrong way), making the cockpit and objects smaller than they normally would be. What you are essentially doing is taking the right sized monitor for your distance and FOV, and moving farther away from it until it appears to be the size of your actual monitor. Imagine driving your real car from the back seat (and if you don’t have a back seat, from your trunk). If you’re sitting 2ft from your 22” monitor and bump the FOV up to 95° in order to see more, it would be the equivalent of sitting nearly 3ft away from your normal seating position in your real car!
-With your current seating position, would you rather be driving the car in the foreground or background?
So now what’s the solution to the FOV dilemma? I run, and suggest running, the most realistic FOV for your setup. Even if it takes away a great deal of your vision, the tracks will be more realistic; the experience as a whole will be more realistic, and that’s what sim racing is about. If you want an extra wide FOV in order to see more, there are two solutions:
Option #1: Get a larger monitor. I made a handy chart to help you size.
-These figures were calculated based on a 16:9 ratio for monitor size, and eye distance of 22.8”. A wider monitor and closer eye distance will allow for a wider FOV. A narrower monitor and further FOV means a narrow FOV
Option #2: Go multi-monitor. Running 2 or 3 (or more) monitors could be the most cost effective way to get the largest viewing area possible. Running 3 22” monitors will give you more horizontal viewing area than a 65” monitor, for a fraction of the cost. The only down side is a lack of vertical visibility, but the windshield generally fits nicely within the constraints.
-View from a 57” monitor with 22” multi-monitor setup transposed on top. The red box is the center monitor and the yellow boxes are the two additional monitors.
I’ve found that adjusting my FOV has improved the immersion and realism of all the sims I have tried. It has even helped my real world racing. If you are a sim racer trying to make the jump to real world racing, make sure you adjust your FOV in game so you aren’t surprised when get on the real track. iRacing is the only sim I know of that will automatically calculate your FOV based on screen width and eye distance measurements. Other sims require you to figure out the angle on your own. I believe rFactor uses vertical viewing angle, while most others use horizontal angle. I’ve used triangle calculator websites like http://ostermiller.org/calc/triangle.html (base of triangle is screen width or height, the other two legs are the distance from your eyes to the outside edge of the screen on either side. The resulting top point angle is the FOV) and http://www.csgnetwork.com/righttricalc.html (side a is distance from eyes to the center of your monitor, side b is the width/height of your monitor. The resulting Angle 3 is half of the FOV, double it to get your in game FOV) to find the FOV angle. GT5 also has a simple FOV adjustment: while on track, pause the game, go to the options, and you can adjust FOV to three settings: wide, zoom, and extra zoom.
I hope this answers any FOV questions. Thanks for reading and happy racing!
To my surprise, I have learned that GT5 actually has a proper FOV adjustment setting. This can be found by going into options, then the Multi Monitor setting. Set the Multi-Monitor Enabled Mode to “Server”, then select Monitor Layout as “1X1”. Finally, got to the Adjust Angle of View setting. A smaller number gives a narrower field of view from the default 100. The number is a percentage of GT5’s default viewing angle of 82 degrees, where as 50% = 41 degrees and 100% = 82 degrees, etc. Using this adjustment allows for the FOV change to occur on all driving views, not just cockpit. Try it out!
-All images from iRacing http://www.iRacing.com