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Reiza Studios Interviews: Niels Heusinkveld

Discussion in 'Stock Car Extreme' started by Patrick Giranthon, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. Patrick Giranthon

    Patrick Giranthon
    Premium Member

    Hi everyone.

    I have made some interviews of Reiza team. Enjoy ;-)

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    Part 1 :

    1 - Hi Niels. Poeple see sometimes your name in some videos, like the recent one for the Corvette C6. If we know that you are in charge of car physics, can you tell us more about you? Is it a simple hobby for you or a full time work?

    I'm really lucky that I can do simulator work full time now. Of course I work for Reiza Studios, but I also have some professional clients, both race teams and driver training simulators. I optimize the physics for them so the car handles better while using real data. This part of my business is still small but the potential is great and things are constantly improving. On my website http://www.h-engineering.nl you can view some brochures I made for my software.


    2 - Can you describe your cursus in the real life (studies, professional works) and in the sim world? Did you work for other sim companies?

    I studied mechanical engineering and technology management. I spent my first few working years in more social environments, as a job coach for people with ADHD or autism. Trying to help them find and more importantly keep a job. I had simpler jobs before that, mainly administrative work in fun and social places. That meant I could focus on vehicle dynamics and simulation in my spare time, as these jobs were not stressfull and I was always home at 17:30.

    In 2010 I went all simracing. A company nearby ( http://www.gpsim.eu ) makes F1 entertainment simulators but also planned to do simulators for police / ambulance. For this the physics engine was lacking and I work with the main programmer to fix bugs and implement better models for tires, suspension etc. This went very well and it paid off in the F1 simulator too. Also in 2010, Game StockCar development started. Finally I made GP2 and GP3 car models for Arden in the UK which really transformed their simulator into a useful tool, which made me positive about doing 'pro' physics work in the future. Now it is 2012, and much of the same is still happening and I have plenty of ideas to make sure I can continue doing these things for years to come.


    3 - You did a great job with GSC. What was appealing you in this project? How did you meet Renato? Did he come to you or did you come to him?

    Thank you, I'm glad you and a lot of simracers like GSC. I first met Renato after he did the 1979 mod for rFactor. I emailed him saying it was all wrong! At that time I had no physics knowledge whatsoever. When Renato contacted me with Reiza Studios in mind, perhaps he forgot about that email I sent some years earlier... :)

    What appealed to me was that I had a lot of freedom and that full on simulation was the target. I also liked the idea of working with Alex as a sim is only as good as the circuits you drive on, and with GSC I'd be part of a team of good folks where the end result could be greater than the sum of its parts.


    4 - You make videos, write some articles, do some technical pdf, etc. You immerse us into the world of physics (and I don't know other poeple who do this). Sure it is a passion but can you explain us what is so fascinating for you in this special world?

    Great question, very long answer! As a kid I somehow wanted to play race games, but I don't recall why that was. Then I saw and taped the RUF Faszination video on the Discovery Channel, I think around 1995. I was completely amazed by Stefan Roser and his ability to slide the overpowered car around the Nurburgring. This affirmed what I always believed; cars are drivable at and beyond the limit and it seemed fun and challenging. Then, true story, my mum taped over the recording so the next time I wanted to view it I was greeted with Oprah! Now we have youtube and this is probably the best quality available:



    So back then I thought games and simulators would get better and in a few years I would be a virtual Stefan Roser.

    They didn't get better though. I loved Grand Prix Legends but after that nothing made the next step. I got quite angry as my hobby was at stake here! So I started to complain to Renato and his 1979 mod, complain to ISI about their bad physics engine. Then I realized this wasn't going to make things better so I started to look at the physics files and tweaking them in search of better handling. This was mightily frustrating as I was changing a few numbers in Notepad, but had little idea what actually got calculated with these numbers. I also didn't have the overview of the entire car. Perhaps the suspension had the tires on sideways, at which point its not too important trying to feel what 1% more grip does. I had basic Excel skills and figured it could be used to calculate useful things and even write text (physics) files. This was 2007, the start of my physics work. I began learning about Excel, vehicle dynamics and the rfactor physics engine.

    It is fascinating that after 5 years I still learn something every week and when I make a car now, like the Corvette, it is better than the one I did 2 years ago. There is so much going on in tires, chassis, suspension, aero, and it all affects eachother. A system with so many variables is a huge challenge to control, and it is very easy to make the wrong decisions or forget about something important. I try to be very methodic and objective, as physics is not an art but a science. Everybody blamed the physics engine when something didn't work and used that as an excuse to use random numbers. I stuck with my methodic and scientific aproach and now I can make a 1:8 scale remote control car or a 600.000kg mining truck. This shows that the physics engine ISI made is very good and it is also a triumph of my method against the usual "Notepadding". I always love it when science and method wins from subjective 'feel'.

    Most importantly though, nowadays I can actually play "Virtual Stefan Roser" at the Nurburgring, and there is no sign of ever reaching the end; things can always improve as I am only just at a basic level of knowledge about vehicle dynamics and physics. I wouldn't want to do anything else in my lifetime!
     
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  2. Patrick Giranthon

    Patrick Giranthon
    Premium Member

    Part 2 :

    5 - Creating physics seems to be very difficult when we see that mods are really not equal in quality. Even big companies have difficulties to do a correct job sometimes. Do you have a special method or is it only the talent? :D Do you always work with telemetry? Can you describe the typical method you use to create physics on a car?

    It is all about method and realizing what the weakest link in the chain is. It doesn't matter if you have accurate aerodynamics if you don't know how the tire model works, you must know enough about everything to get a chain with reasonably strong links rather than some very strong and some weak links.

    The spreadsheets help because I have a lot of the actual physics models used by rFactor in there. I can visualize the suspension, aero and tires exactly as they will be calculated when I am driving the car. It is all science, nothing magic. Yes it is hard to do suspension analysis, but now that I have done it, I can make a suspension and know its main properties rather than just look at the wisbones and think 'this may work'. I can plot 60 different charts visualizing tire performance so when I change the temperature effects I don't have to 'feel' it, I can go for 4% grip loss at 120 degrees. I can look at the aero and decide to go from 42% front downforce to 43%, or change the ride height sensitivity by an exact amount. I know what I'm going to get and that helps making a car with known properties. Usually the car is 90% done before driving one lap!

    Data and telemetry help, but as I wrote in an article, tire data has too large margins of error in it to be of direct use. Even telemetry isn't always great, as they often use a simplified speed calculation and sensors are 'noisy'. I probably use a combination of car specifications and data, telemetry and my experience to reproduce a car.


    6 - I suppose you love car. For you, what is the best car of all time and why? Did you ever drive it?

    Such an impossible question! I love things that are completely mad and pure from a driving point of view. These are a few cars that tick those boxes from old to new, I probably got the years wrong a few times:
    - 1937 Auto Union, first mid engine, impossible design, 500hp, less grip than my Fiesta.
    - 1967 F1, no aero, no slicks, great circuits, sleek design Lotus 49 / Eagle
    - 1968 CANAM, very big V8 power and torque, great drivers
    - 1970 Porsche 917, 370km/h at Mulsanne demands respect
    - 1976 F1, some aero, slicks, but still pure driver cars
    - 1986 F1, in qualifying trim. Turbo is not 'pure' but 1400hp is too mad not to include
    - 1988 Group C, Big downforce, variety of engines and manufacturers, very physical
    - 1989 RUF CTR, the mad Porsche 911 based steroids car, because it made me see the light!
    - 1991 F1, great variety of cars, engines and drivers

    I own and drive all of them... Until the alarm wakes me up.. Since the 90s things have improved dramatically from a drivability and safety point of view, and circuits got less interesting. Physically todays LMP cars do not compare to the group C cars. My list is mainly romantic, I don't think I would want to do a 24H race in a sauna where each time I brake I press twice my body weight on the pedal and each turn of the wheel feels like the tires are stuck in concrete. But boy did they make some mad cars back in the day! If I would ever drive something in real life, historic formula ford would be a better choice if I want to stay alive.


    7 - If you would have a lot of money and a lot of time, what kind of project would you like to start ?

    A full scale simulator for all the cars I mention above, with accurate levels of force feedback and pedal effort and cockpit temperature. It would be painful physically and it would dent my self esteem, but it would be great.


    8 - Except graphics, for you what should be improved in the next sims?

    The most important aspect when making a sim / game is to find talented people. I feel too much attention goes to the latest DirectX or the latest tire model. Technology moves on, that is pretty much a given, but finding good people is a much more difficult task. The people can adapt to the latest technology but if you don't have the right people, you won't get anywhere. Despite the modding nature of rFactor, it is worrying how few people genuinely create things from scratch to a high standard. Most of the time, talent is the weak link, and then it won't matter if rFactor 2 or future sims are technologically better.


    9 - Alex Sawczuk runs in an english league. Do you play sometimes online with GSC or with other mods you have created?

    This is where I really don't get myself. Every time (not often) I race online or betatest GSC, its great fun yet I rarely do it! It is kind of what it is all about and I really should race more!
     
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  3. Dave Stephenson

    Dave Stephenson
    Technical Administrator Staff Premium Member


    Totally sympathise with that. Know it all too well. Great interview!
     
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  4. Patrick Giranthon

    Patrick Giranthon
    Premium Member

    The interviews are a bit lost in old pages. Just to refresh and for poeple who don't know them yet ;-)