Lidar & Point Clouds in CityEngine? A quick workflow (sort of)

San Francisco OSM data plus CyberCity3D real world data plus CGA model

San Francisco OSM data plus CyberCity3D real world data plus CGA model, plus Lidar, plus a building split by floors, plus satellite imagery!

Without getting into too much detail now (I’m running out of time today) but you can get Lidar data into CityEngine with a bit of work, read on….

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Unexpected consequences and the power of instant feedback


Bridge Supports don’t go upwards…. (generally)

Did I tell you I like CityEngine today?   Okay you will have noticed that CityEngine gives a designer an instant feedback on their rule files.   You move a centre line of a road or a node on a building plot and the model created on top of it dynamically changes as it’s moved.    It’s fascinating to watch your simple rule files come alive.

Take this example, it’s my attempt at really simplifying a street rule that includes a bridge element.  Above a certain elevation (either 0 or a terrain) and the street gets bridge supports and simple sides.   Also no trees are planted and no zebra crossings (‘crosswalks’ to our North American friends) are created either.

It works great, raise the road and supports are made, trees are taken out, just as I wanted but what happens if the road goes down… well have a look, I think I have some unintended consequences of a decision I made in my rule file…

You see?  I’ve created a model from a rule and can instantly see that I have made a mistake.  Or perhaps better described I need to modify this rule to be more forgiving of the terrain.   Perhaps when the road is below ground I should put a tunnel around it?   Come to think of it I’ll go and do that now…
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Conducting my first CityEngine training session


The imaginatively titled ‘Esri CityEngine Training Course’

Well it finally happened I conducted my first full CityEngine training session in conjunction with my good friends at GISTEC in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).   I have done workshops and presentations before on CityEngine and conducted SketchUp training sessions for clients but not something like this.


Sharjah, near the GISTEC Offices

I was staying in Sharjah a smaller emirate within the UAE, where GISTEC have their offices.   My two days consisted of being collected at 5am and driven from Sharjah across Dubai to Abu Dhabi which took close to two hours!  Fortunately I had the company of two GISTEC colleagues who provided me with excellent and interesting conversation.

If you are looking for CityEngine training sessions come talk to me, or if you are located in the Middle East contact my friends at GISTEC directly (tell them I sent you).

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3D Flood Mapping Landscapes with CityEngine

Further to my London post I’ve also been experimenting with flood mapping in CityEngine and how best to display it in a webscene.


The webscene is not animated you have to switch each on in turn…

I’ve been finding that small increments just don’t work very well (lots of z fighting).   On the plus side the new tree rendering in CityEngine 2013 webscenes is fantastic.

You can view the webscene below on my company’s ArcGIS Online site.


Biblical title for this webscene, maybe I should model the Ark too…

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3D Flood Mapping of London using CityEngine

A topical visualisation today after I wondered whether I could do this whole flood map thing in 3D.   What I’d really like to do next is have the rule file change the building colour as the water level rises… It can be done just not very nicely.  It also demonstrates the real potential of CityEngine to become a responsive Geodesign tool.


This would obviously be a ridiculously large flood, it’s proof of concept really

Yes you can do this all in other packages but in CityEngine I can change the flood height variable and the model changes pretty much instantly (video to come).   I’ve obviously done some pre processing work in ArcGIS to allow for it to work in CityEngine.


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



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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.







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


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The Occlusion Theory – Is one geometry touching another?

It’s been a while but I’ve come back to CityEngine and have been experimenting with Occlusion queries, basically it tests to see whether a shape lies inside, overlaps or touches geometry of another shape.

I’m finding it a little tricky to get my head around, most things in CityEngine are assessed very quickly and dynamically, but not this occlusion thing.

Here’s a video which may explain it better, basically as one shape is moved the rule assesses when it is touching another shape, expect it doesn’t always work first time….


For those interested here is the CGA code (yes I have looked at this as a way of analysing shapes/buildings that are affected by flooding.  Somewhat topical in the UK this week I think:


attr flood_height = 10
attr building_height = 10

attr buildingColor = "#ffffff"
attr floodColor = "#0000ff"
attr waterOpacity = 0.5
	comp(f){top :water}

	comp(f){side :wall}

	case touches(inter):	color(floodColor) x
	else : set(material.opacity, waterOpacity) color(floodColor) x		

	case touches(inter):	color("#ff0000") x
	else : color(buildingColor) x

Suggestions and improvements would be welcome!

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What’s coming in 2014!

A warm welcome to all of you for 2014, I wish you all a prosperous (emotionally and financially) 2014!

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This is not the crystal ball you were looking for…

As I look into my crystal ball for this year there are some really big things going to happen in the GIS world, for starters, I feel it’s going to be all about the real use of 3D GIS beyond the traditional visualisation/pretty picture stage.   ESRI’s forthcoming ArcGIS Professional new application as well as their new streaming globe are going to change how we look at GIS I genuinely believe that.   I hope that better integration with standards can push adoption (CityGML and INSPIRE) of this exciting area.

ESRI Streaming Globe

This ArcGIS web globe will be able to stream 3D Cities!

WebGL is really opening up the ways in which our 3D data can be displayed, I’m looking forward to progress not only from ESRI but people like ViziCities (although nothing has happened on their blog for quite a while!) too.

In the OpenSource world QGIS is massively better than when I first started using it, the barrier (i.e. ease of use) to entry is being reduced and I think we’re not far of a time when ESRI will really have to justify very hard why ArcGIS Desktop Basic should be charged for, when such a competent GIS package can be had for free.


On a personal level this blog will continue and my journey from Planning to CityEngine to the world of 3D GIS and Smart Cities will surely be a topic here! As you may have seen I’ve entered into a partnership with CyberCity3D a provider of cost effective 3D city data.   I’m mainly advising them on CityEngine and ESRI integration but we’ve got some exciting projects coming up as well as new cities to create.  All to industry standard specifications (as well as any extras clients want)!


Not just pretty pictures…

Some exciting news I have left till last! I’m currently in the final phase of finishing my CityEngine Tutorials and I’ve written some of it up as a text.   As part of this I plan on holding webinars and screencasts that show tips tricks and various workflows for CityEngine.   I’ve still got some way to go, but if you want CityEngine training fast and cost effectively please get in touch!

Learning CityEngine draft cover

Imaginatively titled it is not… (don’t worry it’s a working title)

Last but not least, this is hopefully the year when our local community project FibreGarden starts building out a true fibre optic to the premises network!   Forget copper and goodbye asynchronous  100 both ways please!   This above all else will truly be transformational for us.



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CityEngine Consulting & Training
CityEngine can handle lots of data types & isn't just about modelling cities.
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