Warm wishes to all our readers out there! 2017 was a bit of a challenging year for many reasons, but with a new year ahead of us and big plans in the works 2018 should be interesting at least!
On the horizon finally, a proper launch of GD3D not just a 3D data service on the ArcGIS Marketplace but also a seller of the occasional rule files for CityEngine and ArcGISPro use (the craftsman style is coming!), please stay tuned or sign up for updates here.
In CityEngine you can use a feature called ‘handles’ to add visual controls to your models. This means you don’t have to interact with specific numbers or values in the inspector. It also means many more people can use your rules as they were intended. The real issue here is how much control do you give you users via this method?
As you can see there is a balance to be had between being highly configurable and being too configurable (i.e. too many attributes to muck around with!).
Many people have reached out to me asking whether this rule file will be available for sale sometime. The answer is probably! Drop me a message if you’re interested and I’ll let you know how it goes. Or keep an eye on twitter, LinkedIn or this blog for more updates. I suspect I will have to stop sometime.
Some of our latest CityEngine work is looking at the high street and in particular here at home the UK high street. Commercial buildings in a typical UK town are a mixed bag of traditional older buildings with some often badly maintained concrete buildings and the odd brick built modern monster designed and built in the 1980s. More recent buildings like glass a lot … We’ve been creating rules to describe building frontages, not all are pretty but that’s kind of the point!
Further to my CityEngine Quick Render post I thought I’d put through some of our GD3D buildings (sourced from CyberCity3D and processed for use on the ArcGIS platform sold via ArcGIS Marketplace) through the same process. I think they look quite nice! My next task will be to start showing more than pretty renders of buildings, I hope to add some metrics in and the do more nice imagery.
All this rendering of 3D models whilst not new to me is something I do very rarely, other people can do better but as with everything it is nice having some skills ‘in-house’!
I’ve been playing with my new ‘Craftsman’ style CityEngine rules in other workflows and pipelines. The one I’m working through at the moment is some experimental renders, I know there are a lot of issues here but I’m not yet interested in spending hours working and tweaking my rendering program to get ‘just’ the right level of detail and dirt (there are better professionals than I for that). It’s still amazing to me that these are proper GIS based models (they mostly designed to work with GIS data in ArcGISPro) with real dymanic metrics being now used to produce something that looks quite good (well I think it does).
I like how these renders make my craftsman style models look like something you may print out via a 3D printer. Okay it I know it looks toy-like, and is somewhat dated in terms of visual renders etc.. (I’m not a entertainment industry/graphic artist professional) but I still like it. Also apologies for over use of Depth of Field effect….
So it looks like CityEngine 2017.1 is soon to be released (it gets released for Partners a little earlier!) and wow have the team in Zurich and Redlands been hard at work! Of course there are two headline features
The amazing viewshed/view corridor analysis you can do against your models here (oh and the can be controlled by python too!). Unfortunately for now it looks like you can’t export the analysis, but it is a great tool for understanding building heights and volumes within CityEngine itself. I did a small sneak post a couple of weeks back which is here.
High-end architectural visualisations with Unreal Engine, basically we have a new exporter function for Unreal Engine based on the Datasmith SDK. This seems to replace the FBX workflow and allows a more efficient way of getting your cities into Unreal. It looks like its capable of tens of millions of polygons!
It looks like the Esri team are making good on their promise of making CityEngine into a true geodesign tool of great value to Urban Planners. There are a lot of enhancements and bug fixes
Among the new CGA functions I think the interesting on of mention is the new annotation attribute @Enum and a change in how @Range works we can also restrict the values (so you can’t as a user override these values in the inspector!). This allows for a more defined set of inputs and makes the inspector much easier to read and interact with. @Angle, @Distance and @Percent do what they say and I think go some way in making people who author rule files (like myself) make easier to use tools!
One improvement I’ve noticed is that that the Scene Layer Package export function has been improved to make it what Esri call ‘Smart Mapping-ready’ basically it means attribute information is written to the scene layer package which makes it nice and easy to change colour by values in the online scene viewer.
A big thank you to the Esri engineer who fixed the bug in the FGDB export that meant previously imported feature classes retained memory of their old names when exporting!
Finally a reminder this release CEJ files (CityEngine Scenes) are not backward compatible with 2017.0! Take my advice, use a new workspace directory per CityEngine release and copy old project to the new workspace so you don’t run the risk of damaging your work!!
Some of you may have noticed a post I shared on LinkedIn by a gentleman called Ryan Johnston from the Transport Systems Catapult (based in Milton Keynes) coming to our office here in Cumbria last Friday.
Getting the train this morning to Cumbria for some collaborative work with Elliot Hartley#Garsdaledesign . Looking at how City Engine can help create fast environments for testing and stimulation.
Ryan was here to gain insight into how we here at Garsdale Design build virtual 3D environments from GIS data. We use the Esri platform to do this and one of the key tools Ryan was here to get an understanding of was CityEngine and ArcGISPro. As you all should know by now is that at Garsdale Design is well known for our CityEngine and 3D GIS expertise!
This is part of the Peterborough way finding research project for the partially sighted. Helping to understand how spatially correct 3d urban models and VR technology; can help the partially sighted to navigate from the train station to the RNIB Peterborough head office.
Ryan’s visit was in relation to a way-finding project for the partially sighted in Peterborough, home to the head office of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). Here the TSC has brought together a range of industry professionals (such as Garsdale Design and MK Surveys) to create a virtual environment to test various sensors, beacons and navigation methods around Peterborough town centre and the offices of the RNIB. As this project progresses more information will be posted on the Transport Systems Catapult website.
Ryan was here the whole day (interrupted only by a nice lunch at the Three Hares Cafe), and we discussed various project workflows, for example making all that nice Ordnance Survey MasterMap data 3D, as well as managing terrain data. We looked at game engine workflows and the exciting possibilities of Unity as well as the new datasmith tool for Unreal. Of course once we have a dynamic and flexible (i.e. easy to modify) 3D model we also need to look at analytical tools to help in the process of assessing various ‘way marking’ technologies. Whilst the discussion was focused on the Peterborough project we’re happy to report that many of the issues we were addressing also would come in use for future projects too.
At the end of the day Ryan and I were able to make a quick mock-up of part of Peterborough to identify where CityEngine tools may help create this virtual environment. We also looked at the 2017.1 beta version with viewsheds which could be useful in this particular project.
We had a great day and it was fantastic to work with Ryan, I’m pretty sure we could have kept going for a lot longer, but sadly a work day must come to an end sometime!