3D London & Terrains

I’ve been working on the latest CyberCity3D London coverage today, using the terrain map we have and experimenting with the terrain colours.   Sometimes a satellite imagery overlay on terrain in CityEngine just doesn’t seem to work…

Here are some screen shots from ArcGIS CityEngine and the Webscene viewer.

Webscene view of London Bridge –> Click on image to find out more about London Bridge!

Data courtesy of CyberCity3D, who I am providing CityEngine consulting for.


CityEngine model videos – Middle East City Part 1&2

I’ve been working away on SketchUp and needed to do some test urban/residential areas in a fictional Middle East city… For some reason the videos are better quality on my PC to what has been uploaded and processed by YouTube. YouTube seems to have squashed them…   I’ll try and fix it when I get time (my upload speeds aren’t great so I don’t really want to do it again just yet…)

So they are two different models using the same road layout but different rule files.   Both use CityEngine to place or build the city model and Lumion3D to render and make the video (with a little edit from Windows Live Movie Maker).   SketchUp has been used for a few of the elements (a villa, cars, sign posts and the tram!).

Middle East City Part 1 : 

Middle East City Part 2:

CityEngine 2012.1 New Features & I was right…

Okay please excuse me whilst I engage smug mode …. perhaps I should ask for more in my blogs!  If you’re not sure why I said that, read this: “Will you SketchUp your CityEngine, please?

The new 2012.1 CityEngine!

Okay so I was asking for it to be made easier to use, not to just put in some rudimentary 3D modelling/editing tools into CityEngine (like SketchUp’s…), but it’s a start!

Push/Pull tool anyone?

As this screenshot from the Mid-Morning Plenary at this years ESRIUC in San Diego shows that’s what they’ve done.   I hope they made it so that the model you create is described as a CGA rule so you can use it elsewhere but I doubt it..

Looks like there might be some distance measuring capabilities in there too at last, as it’s a much needed feature.   When a manual model is created it seems that the length of the line is displayed.

There are some other icons also along that toolbar as well so I’m very curious to know what they are.

One thing that puzzles me is the lack of a beta program for CityEngine, I’ve asked and been told there isn’t one.  However the guys at Honolulu seem to be getting the latest releases… is this a government customer thing?

I’ll be posting more on this later and perhaps some thoughts on what the guys in Honolulu are doing.  I’m particularly interested in there public consultation ideas…

Will you SketchUp your CityEngine, please?

You’ll see my recent blog posts have been mainly about CityEngine and more recently Lumion3D.   Exciting stuff is being done by the people at Digital Urban (UCL) as well!   Both have been talked about as being ‘game changers’ but why?

  • Is it there advanced capabilities?
  • Or is it because of their 3D visualisation possibilities?
  • Perhaps it’s because they work nicely with other file formats?

The answer is in part yes to all of the above, but there is something more fundamental going on and it is in part due to a tool called SketchUp.

When you work in three dimensions everything becomes a little more complicated, yes you can visualise your buildings nicely and see what you are designing, but there is an added layer of complication, for myself it is viewpoints.

I know what a building should look like and all its component parts but you have to be able to view how everything interacts behind other features.   Understanding how a building will look from a 3D model is easier, but understanding how all the component parts fit together (services, floor levels etc..) can be harder to understand.

Working in an architectural practice two dimensional black and white drawings provide a good snapshot of how things fit together and work.   Now that virtually every client wants a 3D model and to walk around it like a computer game, has given us a problematic transition.   UK planning departments still want properly measured 2D black and white drawings, whereas clients would often prefer 3D models.

Historically we have worked with AutoCAD LT, as we’re too small to require AutoCAD (and wouldn’t use many of the advanced features) as well as the various Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions.   However our clients do want 3D models so we have been creating models for a while now using SketchUp (even prior to it being purchased by Google and now Trimble).

SketchUp is amazing, no that’s not correct, it’s an incredible piece of software.    In fact I regard its development as being one of the most important things to have ever happened to our industry (architecture and urban design).    There are two main reasons for me giving such importance:

  • It fits into our existing software/workflows nicely
  • It is easy to use

That’s it, no really!   The learning curve as anyone who has used SketchUp will know, is very small.   I can guarantee most first time computer literate professional users (with no reading of a manual) can produce a good looking useful 3D model with ease.

Lumion3D is also not the most powerful of visualisation packages but after a couple of minutes of using it I realised I could with relative ease create beautifully rendered models and all within my existing workflows. Like SketchUp the real utility of this tool is how easy it is to create a good looking useful product with minimal training.

But what about CityEngine? It certainly is very powerful and the learning curve is quite steep for anyone without a background in programming.    However it does fit in with my existing workflows just like SketchUp and Lumion3D.   I’m certain that the ESRI CityEngine team is working on usability so I’m asking nicely ESRI, will you please SketchUp your software too?

ArcGIS – CityEngine – SketchUp – Lumion3D – A workflow

I’m quite partial to a good workflow, so here’s the result of one I’ve posted on GeoPlanIT’s YouTube channel:

Lumion3D is a great rendering/visualisation tool I hope to be using much more in the future.   It might not give you full control over everything but if you want quick and easy renderings of your models it’s brilliant.   A word of caution though, you might want to upgrade your graphics card… (or like me your entire PC).   You can download a free (limited feature) trial now from here.

CityEngine to SketchUp Keeping your Circles

I’ve been playing around with the export settings for placing models in SketchUp, but there has been a problem.   Basically, circular elements of my models are having their vertices merged so they look like they’ve been crushed:

Something is not right here....
That's better!

Turns out you just need to check the tickbox “Create Shape Groups” I don’t know why so if anyone knows just post a comment after this post…

Just check the box....

CityEngine, SketchUp and Kerkythea: How to make them play nice.

My first rendered (albeit simple) CityEngine model

I’ve been looking at ways to import properly my GIS to CityEngine models into SketchUp, the trouble is that when I’ve opened them in SketchUp the model looks weird. In that I mean it doesn’t draw properly and doesn’t display properly. It sort of flashes on and off when I move around the model. Then when I’ve tried to render it in Kerkythea (a great and free renderer) it doesn’t work either.

I looked for a solution and it appears the answer lay in this forum post “obj export to Lightwave – problems with scale”.  What’s happening is that I’ve been importing my ArcGIS Shapefiles as “‘Cartesian'(disable projection)”.   This way I can easily export the results back to ArcGIS.   I’ll freely admit I’m not so good with projections and map systems!  Anyway while this is great for back and forth between CityEngine and GIS, the models produced (obj or 3DS, in my case) have an issue.

Basically the models are exported with origin points far to far away from the actual model.    CityEngine at this time does not seem to be able to sort this problem out.  Their solution is to import all shapefiles and centre the data by offsetting, but of course getting back to your GIS is not as easy as my preferred method.

My model is displaying a bit weird in SketchUp...

I’ve decided that I like too much the ability to go between ArcGIS and CityEngine so the solution lies for me where the problem manifests itself in SketchUp:

  1. Import your model into SketchUp (3DS or OBJ)
  2. Double click on the imported model so you are working inside the ‘component/group’ no right click off the mode to bring up the menu with ‘Change Axes’
  3. Now position the axes were you want it within the model you’ve imported.*UPDATE: Alternatively use the ‘Move to Origin and Center’ plugin tool which you can download from Smustard
  4. Close the component/group
  5. Viola! you should have a properly displaying model now.
  6. Now for getting the model into Kerkythea you need to download and install this SketchUp Plugin
As a footnote if you want the model to sit correctly in Google Earth, use SketchUp’s Geo-Location tool under the File menu.  Then just manually position your model.   It’s not a perfect solution but Google Earth for most people isn’t about millimetre accuracy!