Creating and using Custom ArcGIS Pro Symbology – Part 1: Stuff I use to help me.

Creating and using Custom ArcGIS Pro Symbology – Part 1: Stuff I use to help me.

You’ll have seen on social media I’ve been ‘playing’ with techniques to create custom mapping styles.   This is a direct result of me attending EsriUK’s Perth conference and getting all inspired by John Nelson.

Firstly if you haven’t read or seen John Nelson’s blog, go look at it now (I’ll wait): adventuresinmapping.com There’s more obviously around but I’ve been using ArcGISPro for all our 3D GIS and Esri CityEngine content.  However I’ve wanted to do something more artistic, more in-depth and one that pushes my comfort zone a little.   John Nelson’s cartography using ArcGIS Pro are a master class in the art of what’s possible.

So this is the first blog post in a few and maybe even a video (yes I do that occasionally) on the lessons I’ve learnt from using ArcGIS Pro to make some unique maps that look hand drawn (and sort of are).   Can you do this in a product like QGIS?  Yes I think you probably can, can you apply some of what I write here to QGIS, I hope so!

Equipment and preparation

I’m aiming to make this repeatable and consistent, therefore I’ve done some preparation which I will share with you here.  You don’t have to purchase anything of course! I just wanted to record what I had done here.

The glorious Staedtler triplus® fineliner 334

Pens. While we will be using ArcGIS Pro we will also need to do our own drawing, and no I don’t believe you have to be very good at drawing just consistent and willing to try new things.  I’ve settled on the Staedtler triplus fineLiner 334-9 a nice pen with a good line quality. Unsure?  Go to a good pen shop and try some out, for me we’re doing symbology of lines and symbols so it needs to be crisp and good for scanning.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box set of 12… is nice to have and small!

Paints.  Well I like watercolours and I also wanted to replicate some what John Nelson has done, so I’ve chosen a simple set we got my eldest child from Winsor & Newton.

Paper. Honestly 80gsm everyday paper for simple pen work it has a nice crisp white perfect for scanning.  If I was to improve it so you didn’t see anything on the back or to stop it curling, 90gsm is better.  For watercolour work obviously you need watercolour paper (190gsm to 300gsm) just ensure any scanner can handle it, if you intend to use a scanner!

The grid. I wanted to inject some consistency in to the process and left to my own devices just sketching on a piece of paper will get messy pretty quickly so I created a series of A4 grids for the different symbols.  I’ve made this a PDF which you can download below (see resources heading below).

Scanner or Camera. I’m using an iPhone 7 camera and the dropbox app to quickly upload to my PC (you could equally use a cable or other app).  For the most part I would recommend to use a scanner this allows for clear distortion free scans/images of your drawing.   If you use a camera I find without amazing light quality when taking it you will end up doing additional processes to clean and brighten your image.  The scanner i’m using at home is an Epson Stylus Office BX610FW, I can scan directly to a memory card or via wifi straight to my PC using their Windows program.

Sedbergh-on-sea created with hand drawn elements placed using ArcGIS Pro

Software. Well I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Elements, but you can also use GIMP (which is fantastic!).  Oh yes and ArcGIS Pro….  

I like it.

Books and inspiration. Well John Nelson and his blog I’ve already talked about but I’ve been looking at a wide variety of books and maps to see what works.  I don’t 100% want to copy (especially if newer material!) but also you don’t have to re-invent the wheel..  From my perspective I really like “Great City Maps”, but then I’m a sucker for urban mapping, I recommend finding a style your’re passionate about and trying to replicate elements of it.

Other publications are available (this is not an endorsement)

Conclusion. So that’s what I’ve been using, I haven’t finished everything yet but Part 2 of this series will look at a workflow for the various elements of a map in ArcGIS Pro you may want to replicate.  I haven’t decided whether to do one giant post about all types of symbology creation or do individual posts for points, lines, polygons etc…

RESOURCES:

Kindle Fire – ‘Kids Edition’ freeing up storage (& deleting 300+ Minecraft PE Worlds).

Kindle Fire – ‘Kids Edition’ freeing up storage (& deleting 300+ Minecraft PE Worlds).

Why is file management so hard on these things?!

Firstly a gripe, no one told me parenthood would be basically unpaid IT support.  On the one hand I want my kids to be able to use technology responsibly and be able to confidently manage their digital lives.  On the other-hand I want to tightly control their exposure initially and ensure they have the right experiences without being put off with the unsavoury aspects of say the internet.  I firmly believe that …

Computers and technology are a wonderful thing, but it is imperative we give our kids the right tools and knowledge to cope with it all.

That’s why a couple of years back we bought Kindle Fire tablets (Kids Edition) for our two eldest children.  I’ve got to be honest these devices are great and have lasted.   The appeal of a managed kid-centric/walled garden  environment seem a good compromise.  All the apps and games they want (within reason) allows them to explore their likes without the parental fear of massive bills every month.  Eventually I also bought them Minecraft Pocket Edition, which they’ve used almost consistently.  For those who don’t know Minecraft is the digital equivalent of Lego (okay I know you can get Lego computer games too).   It’s also more than that you sort of get introduced to programming because combing blocks and resources produce different effects and items.

I know some frown at this sort of thing as somehow ‘less creative’ or encourage a child’s isolation.  Firstly my kids sit next to each other talking about what they build, secondly I’ve bought a Minecraft realm where they can join up with their cousins (who don’t all live here in the UK) to build and chat, it’s the opposite of anti-social.   Furthermore take a look at where our economy is going… yes we are still building physical stuff but we are also increasingly creating digital products.  You only have to look at the rest of my blog to see I trained as a geographer and town planner only to end up creating 3D digital cities for all sorts of uses (mapping, analysis, military and entertainment.).  I firmly believe some of our kids need the skills of building digital environments.

Oh dear, I digressed didn’t I? This was a blog post about freeing up space on those damned Kindle Fires!

My method of freeing up space on the Kindle Fire (Kids Edition)

Anyone who has a kid with these devices and the Kids Edition probably knows that the hardware memory allocation wasn’t great, and kids being kids will end up installing ALL THE APPS.  Yes you can uninstall them (by long clicking an application/game icon and clicking ‘remove from device’), but sometimes that doesn’t seem enough.    

So you check memory usage and you see space taken up by applications and pictures, oh and the system.  Well you can do something about some of those applications and pictures but then there’s this huge bar representing ‘Miscellaneous‘ to be honest I’m still not sure what all of it is (probably app related essentials) but basically this bit seems to get larger and can’t be simply deleted.

You search the internet forums and lots of people have this issue, some use special clean-up applications installed (logged on as a parent) on to the kids device…. others recommend deleting games/applications cache.  Well I’ve done this stuff before but for one of my kids tablets it didn’t work.  So this is what I did:

BEFORE PROCEEDING YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT THE RESPONSIBILITY IS YOURS FOR FOLLOWING WHAT I DID.  I CANNOT GUARANTEE THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU OR THAT IT WILL NOT DAMAGE YOUR DEVICE  (having said that it should be fine, but if you are unsure don’t do this). Also these instructions assume you know something about Windows, file explorer, and file management.  A suggestion for those nervous about deleting files, create an archive directory on your PC with appropriate folder names and copy files to them before deleting on device making sure your record where they had come from).

  • Switch on tablet and login as your child
  • Plug in the tablet to your Windows PC.
  • look in file explorer under “This PC” for an icon representing your Kindle (Windows seems to recognise it as a media device not as a simple USB stick) double click on it.
  • Under the Kindle device you will have two ‘drives’ Internal Storage’ and ‘SD/External Storage’, notice how the internal storage bar is red and looks full… double click on ‘Internal Storage’
  • Navigate to ‘InternalStorage/Android/data/com.amazon.venezia/files’ there maybe lots of files with file extensions ‘apk’ here these are install files for applications and games.   It seems you can delete these and it won’t hurt your tablet (they get downloaded again when you need them).
  • Navigate to ‘imageCache/com.amazon.venezia/’ lots of thumbnails here for apps my kids no longer use I deleted all here EXCEPT for the two generic thumbnail images not stored in a sub-directory.
  • Now there maybe more tips to freeing up space if you have any add a comment to this post and I will add it in here (with proper acknowledgement of course!)
Fantastic but I didn’t sign-up for file managing 300 ‘worlds’

MINECRAFT PE USERS: My kids had created 300 + Minecraft worlds over the last two years which took up a lot of storage, this doesn’t count as ‘Miscellaneous’ in your usage but I think but having to manually delete each world in the Minecraft application seems awful.

  • Navigate to “InternalStorage/games/com.mojang/mineCraftWorlds/”
  • List the weird folder names by modified date and delete all the old ones by selecting multiple items (you know click one file then ‘shift-left-click’ to select multiples)
  • If you need to check you’re deleting the correct worlds in each directory there is a text file with the Minecraft world name in it,

I hope this all helps put your comments below if you have anything to add 🙂

Highlights from the EsriUK Scotland Conference 2018 #EsriUKSC

Highlights from the EsriUK Scotland Conference 2018 #EsriUKSC

Well I always intending on writing up about the EsriUK Scotland conference held in Perth this year.  I’ve said before it’s been a great conference in a great town and this year was no exception.  The speakers were all great with some notable highlights being (this is not an exhaustive list but ones that have stuck in my mind):

EsriUK: The live traffic count demo using a camera from a mobile phone roaming Perth and some machine learning algorithms ‘hats off’ for this amazing live demo on conference wifi.   Shows how all our devices can be connected to scarily powerful cloud services to perform analysis for good… or evil. 

like Siri or Alexa but from EsriUK and for planning applications…

There was also an interesting proof of concept demo from EsriUK (called ada I think) which walked people through a planning application type scenario.

RSPB Scotland and drone use..

RSPB Scotland:  They talked about “Saving nature with drones” and actually a really inspiring use of drone technology for producing up to date high resolution terrain and imagery for habitat management.  Also great uses for bird counts too!   They produced a best practice for using drones guide which probably everyone should read which is here (not sure this is final official version but only one I could find online): Drones for GIS (PDF) Did you also know they have an opendata site? No neither did I!

Powerful and effective communication techniques from Esri StoryMaps…

South Lanarkshire Council: This presentation on “Protecting the quality of the air that we breathe” stood out for me because the presentation hosted by 3 presenters from 3 departments showed what GIS should be about.  That’s joining of information and providing a powerful communication analysis and tool.  Here was a great use of storymap to communicate serious ideas to a wide audience, here’s what can happen when departments talk and work together.  I recommend you look at their storymap here.

That’s a few users…

EsriUK Education: Back to EsriUK again but here on their ‘Education Session’ I have a renewed interest due to being an new School Governor at my local primary school.  Now I’m always of two minds about private large organisations providing free stuff to schools/education.  I can hear the criticism of the open source movement loud and clear that a large company is perhaps abusing it’s position to increase it’s market share…. I know there are free (in money terms at least) programs teachers can use, I know a cloud solution (Esri is giving ArcGIS Online accounts away for free to schools) isn’t ‘true’ GIS in that it won’t teach the intricacies and science that’s required for a better understanding of the power of GIS and associated technologies.  However I know that teachers and schools also don’t have the time and resources to manage installations, perhaps a managed solution from Esri is actually the best solution.  Afterall those who are truly interested will seek out other tools to achieve what they need.  Who among us started their journey into GIS with Esri technology and now use other software and tools to do better?  I bet many of us.  Shocking I know but sometimes all they want IS a map…

So that’s my small write up of the EsriUK Scotland conference, a smaller more intimate and frankly more comfortable conference than the larger EsriUK one in London they do in May…  Perth is a lovely location and I hope they keep it there.

Finally I need to talk about the inspiring keynote from one of the Esri cartographic legends called John Nelson…. well no, I’m saving that for the next blog post as it deserves some nice maps that I made which he inspired me to make.

A helping handle & visual cues for my rules in Esri CityEngine

A helping handle & visual cues for my rules in Esri CityEngine

Sometimes in CityEngine it can be hard to figure out what’s going on.  Whether that’s understanding scope (CityEnginers understand this can get complicated) or just simple metrics.  

Down the CityEngine rabbit hole I go again…..

I’ll often use a combination of ‘print’ and ‘report’ to give me a better understanding of my code at any given point.  What I also do is use bright colours (which have simple RGB/hex colour codes) to indicate whether a part of the code has been reached.  once I’ve confirmed it works I continue the code.

Bright colours can show you interesting metrics but also when you’ve screwed up…

Recently I’ve been working on some code where an understanding of the orientation of an model is important, not just as a world orientation but also relative to the initial shapes scope.  As is the case with most of my work in CityEngine I start to wonder, how would I go about making something more visual for me?   Thus I decided to spend some (okay probably too much!) time creating a procedural protractor.  This allows you to switch between displaying an angle relative to the shapes scope, or the world.

Any excuse to use an animated GIF…

I’ve used the Handle features in CityEngine to make interacting with the attributes associated with this rule simple.  I’m starting to use ‘handles’ in CityEngine to expose attributes for users in a friendlier way.

To sum up for me I’ve found that programming language in Esri CityEngine called Computer Generated Architecture (CGA) is easier to pick up than traditionally programming languages because it is a visual one and by that I mean you create geometries.

3D Scenes in Esri StoryMaps

3D Scenes in Esri StoryMaps

Esro’s StoryMap is a powerful communication, after-all if people can’t read about your project in an engaging format what’s the point?

Okay this is a quick post so I don’t forget how this all works!   I’ve been looking at StoryMaps for clients and in particular how to work in some custom 3D scenes.   

Some StoryMaps work easily with 3D, basically Cascade, where others you have to ‘coax’.   Basically the trick for getting storymaps templates like MapSeries to work require you to know about the how you can specify a weblink to a webscene that not only instructs it to display minimal user interface but also you can specify a ‘slide’ (what I’d call a bookmark).

Basically when you create a StoryMap (such as the MapSeries) choose a weblink instead of a map (as that only allows you a 2D map).

A powerful tool, once you know how it all works…

And then add either/or/both the following “&ui=min” for minimal user interface and “#1” for the slide number.  That would look like this : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1&ui=min#2  in the web page link dialogue box put in the weblink for the scene you want to use for example : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1

The resulting StoryMap would like this (Sorry its a quick example of very little content!):

I used these Esri official blog posts to help piece it together:

What’s new in the CityEngine 2018.1 Official release?

What’s new in the CityEngine 2018.1 Official release?

Well they sprung this one on us a little by surprise and just before a new update to ArcGIS Online too!  Following on from the beta CityEngine 2018.1 has been release with some significant additions and fixes.

Headline features are for me the revised drawing tools, boundary/fencing rules in ESRI.lib, and proper terrain support in the form of TPK exports. Oh, and initial support for terrain export for Unreal Engine…

The draw tools now make CityEngine a viable place you can start to do more ground work, this fits nicely in with being able to update feature layers hosted in ArcGIS Online (which incidentally has better support of large layers this release) .

They’ve finally added to the ESRI.lib directory, I’ve written about this before.  It’s hard to write generic rule files that make a majority of users happy (unless you’re a certain David Wasserman doing Compete Streets), but you can’t go wrong sticking with some of the basics people want, vegetation to start with and now boundary treatment!

A new addition to ESRI.lib, fences!

Finally the new support of exported terrains as TPKs allows us CityEngine users to modify terrain and export those changes to ArcGIS Online.  This is fantastic and I think now all we need is a comparable swipe tool (like in the old CityEngine Web Viewer) and we’ll feel complete!

not my image it’s Esri’s ‘borrowed’ from here….

Finally it looks like they’ve added some preliminary support, their words “Added preliminary terrain export.”, which suggest it’s very much in beta!  Great news for anyone wanting to hit the ground running using Unreal Engine, I’ve yet to test this out so who knows whether it works, fingers-crossed.

I’ll have to agree with Taisha here, this release has

exciting improvements that not only set a great precedent for things to come, but are sure to make you love CityEngine even more

Taisha Waeny – CityEngine 2018.1 Release Highlights

Great job Esri CityEngine team, you’re showing us a direction of travel for planners and urban designers here 🙂

One final note Garsdale Design’s exclusive CityEngine training is being updated to reflect this new release.   Did you know we were the first to offer CityEngine training and consultancy worldwide, and are official EsriUK CityEngine trainers? Visit my company’s website for more details and methods to contact us!

Edinburgh Earth Observatory (EEO) Seminars – Geodesign and Smarter Planning

Edinburgh Earth Observatory (EEO) Seminars – Geodesign and Smarter Planning

I was massively surprised and honoured (look at the last speakers) to be asked to speak at the Edinburgh Earth Observatory and AGI-Scotlands seminar series programme for 2018-2019 on the 1st of February 2019.   I’m known for my CityEngine work and so my theme will be around geodesign, planning, and procedural modelling.

As usual with these events they want a title and abstract way ahead of the event which I’ve done.  Now I have the fear.   I read a tweet recently that sums this up (but can’t find it now) something about wanting the confidence of the person who wrote the title and abstract months ago…. except I wrote mine last week…

Anyway here’s the title and abstract, please do sign-up and come say hi if you can.   I try and make my presentations and seminars accessible, I’m not a big fan of technical terms of the sake of it so don’t be worried about the buzzwords!

Geodesign and Smarter Planning

Wake up! The built environment professional worlds are colliding, and we cannot sit in our narrow professional cells anymore. Concepts such as 3D Geodesign, BIM, and software tools like Esri CityEngine show us a collaborative future of fast scenario modelling with integrated testing, analysis and visualisation, all while collaborating online with teams of experts around the world.

With rapid advancements in software and hardware, we are able to do more in less time. Our clients will be happier, we will be happier and hopefully the planet will be better for it too.

In this seminar I will explain my professional journey and how it is indicative of wider changes and challenges in the built environment industries. I will discuss the emerging geodesign discipline as well as BIM and the dizzying array of standards to keep all this data moving smoothly. In my view the entertainment industry’s work (gaming and movies), should also be seen as part of our all our professional futures.

Where:  Old Library, Institute of Geography , University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP.
When: Friday 1st Feb 2019, 4.30pm
More Information available here



What are the system requirements for Esri CityEngine? Hardware & Software Recommendations

What are the system requirements for Esri CityEngine? Hardware & Software Recommendations

I get asked this question a lot, I’m not sure why people can’t find the relevant sections on the Esri website!  So here it is…

I also get asked what PCs I run CityEngine myself, so here goes my list:

Laptops

  • Asus Transformer Pro 3 (i5, 4GB RAM intel graphics card) – Works okay for small projects, I like using it for creating rule files ‘on the road’.  If you want bigger city models don’t use this.
  • Razer Blade 15″ – (i7 8th Gen, 16GB RAM, 1060 GTX Nvidia) This is a fantastic games PC but also practically a desktop replacement, a new purchase for me but good for most things I would throw at my desktop.

Desktop

  • Chillblast  (i7, 32GB RAM,1070 GTX Nvidia) It’s the RAM that makes this great really and has the edge over my new laptop.  Oh and I have 2 24inch screens attached.

Virtual

  • For a client I’ve been working with CityEngine installed on Amazon Workspaces alongside ArcGIS Pro this seems to work pretty well so far but I haven’t push the limits (yet)!

Accessories/Software?

  • ArcGIS Pro!  If you working with Esri software anyway this is essential you can use it to publish easily your 2D and 3D layers.  You can also use CityEngine to create Rule Paackages which can be used as advanced symbology in ArcGIS Pro.   Users who only have ArcGIS Pro can use CityEngine rule packages which gives you more options to share your hard work.
  • ArcGIS Online for those looking to publish quickly an seamlessly to the web geospatial 3D data/models created in CityEngine you need to be using this.  Obviously other platforms can be used, if you they can work with the CityEngine export formats.
  • I really recommend a 3DConnexion SpaceMouse (any of them) as well for navigating around all that 3D work.  It’s not a replacement for your regular mouse but does compliment it greatly.
  • SketchUp is still a must have for all those fiddly details, CityEngine+SketchUp are perfect companions applications
  • As to 3D software renders?  Well that depends on you!  Small models you could use the numerous render plugins for SketchUp.  But for reall professional stuff think SideFX Houdini which has a nice open source plugin called Palladio  which you can get here on github. I hear AutoDesk Maya and 3DS Max are good too.
  • For game engines you can’t ignore Unreal Studio as there is export functions in CityEngine now.  But don’t discount Unity for its wealth of help and support communities.

If you have any recommendations hardware or software comment on this article and I’ll add it to the list.