Browsed by
Category: CityEngine

“The Thornsbank” (beta) Craftsman Style Rule for CityEngine & ArcGISPro

“The Thornsbank” (beta) Craftsman Style Rule for CityEngine & ArcGISPro

The interest

This all started a while back with an interest in American houses, specifically the ‘Craftsman’ style homes which you could buy from places like Sears of all places…. As an Englishman I’m not fully versed on all North American architecture but this idea of picking elements of a house from a catalogue seemed like something I should look at doing in Esri CityEngine.

Rabbit Holes

This is not the CityEngine model I was aiming for….

So that’s what I did.  In classic CityEngine professional style my first attempts got very very complicated as I added more detail (you’ve seen the nice renders of these for a while now on this blog and even the banner here, I really really like them).  The second attempt I produced an all singing all dancing rule file to create thousands of different ‘Craftsman’ style house typologies.  The trouble is, without a big PC and a good understanding of CityEngine these were only going to be usable by those of us who sort of know CityEngine in a professional capacity.  This is always a problem I have with CityEngine much like Alice I often go deep down a rabbit hole and get lost in the wondrous and slightly crazy detail (it’s not a bad thing just a bit distracting!).

Third time lucky?

Yes you can adjust the path to meet the steps….

The end result on my third attempt is something very much simpler and easier to understand and something that can be wrapped as a Rule Package.   As a Rule Package it can also be used in ArcGISPro too.   I’ve initially conceived of this rule file as primarily use on auto-generated Lots in Esri CityEngine (those are created from centre lines of roads forming blocks), but I can make it work on points and footprints too (just not on the first release).   In CityEngine you have the nice ability to use the handles feature to interact with the model without having to muck around with the attributes in the inspector.  Here I am finding it quite tricky, which attributes are important to have as ‘handles’?  If you do everything the model becomes cluttered, so I am going with a ‘less is more’ approach to see how it works.

Okay enough already! When is it released, and how much will it cost?!  

I’ve got a beta trial coming for this which I hope some lucky few will help me iron out the kinks.  Then I’ll look at selling it, my thinking is Rule Packages get sold cheaply (less than £50 probably) but if you want the source code naturally you have to pay more, and it’s this price I’m struggling with.  perhaps others can suggest an approach?

If you want to be part of the beta leave a comment below, or register on our new web forums (not just CityEngine but all 3D stuff) and head on over to the Thornsbank specific forum page.

I end this post with some additional screenshots of the rule working in ArcGISPro and a CityEngine WebScene.

The first BCS 3D Cartography Award and 3D SIG Meetup 2018

The first BCS 3D Cartography Award and 3D SIG Meetup 2018

Well it had to happen eventually, we’ve got our first British Cartographic Society 3D Special Interest Group (or 3DGBCS) meetup coming at the end of March, hosted at the Ordnance Survey offices.   Nicholas Duggan has been leading this and will have finalised the details shortly, be sure to keep an eye out for it on social media as well as here.

Now on to more news: we’ve had tremendous support in setting up the 3D Group and we want too extend this.  As such we have setup an award specifically for 3D cartography of any sort from any industry or profession.  This bit is important really as the term 3D can be all encompassing and we didn’t want to limit who entered, you don’t even need to be a member of the BCS.   In our work we’ve seen representations of the world in 3D from many industries just look at the entertainment industry for a wide range of 3D technologies and let’s be honest mapping/cartographic techniques.   In urban planning and architecture 3D representations of the world around us provide important context for proposals.  With smart cities a 3D basemap is considered integral to the bringing all this city data together.

3D Cartography Award 2018

The first annual 3D Cartography Award Sponsored by GD3D® the 3D geospatial brand from Garsdale Design, is a new exciting award open to everyone in any industry creating interesting, informative, exciting 3D cartography (real or imagined) using any technique and/or medium!

Currently we find 3D representations all around us, whether it is a web map, a survey plan, a planning visualisation, or even a computer game. This can come in many forms from a simple isometric drawing through to full haptic virtual reality.

We don’t care what industry you are in or what software you use, whether you are a surveyor, cartographer, GIS user, artist, engineer, data scientist, or other, we just want to see your amazing 3D representations and hope the entries will challenge everyone’s perception of what 3D cartography is!

There are many interpretations of what 3D cartography is, so we don’t want to limit entries. We propose an award for an overall winner based on communication of the intended message, legibility, simplicity, visual impact, and composition. There will also be commended awards for those we see as having merit in particular areas, science, statistics, visualisation, urban, natural environment, fictional, and other.

Entries will be considered by a panel of judges, appointed by the GD3D® team at Garsdale Design and the BCS Awards Committee. The panel will include a range of people from different areas of expertise in the 3D data industry. The panel will judge the quality and design of the map in relation to the purpose for which the map was produced.
The winning entry will be announced at the BCS-SoC Conference in September 2018. The award comprises a crystal trophy to be retained by the winner and a certificate. The winning entry will be put forward for the BCS Award. Those commended will receive a certificate.

All entries will be exhibited at the BCS-SoC Conference and the winners will be published in The Cartographic Journal and on the BCS website following the Awards Ceremony.

We don’t want to limit the entries but as guidance below is an example list of entry types. This list is not exhaustive, and the judging panel will consider other formats as appropriate:

  • Web map
  • 3D print
  • Game executable
  • VR formats compatible with HoloLens, HTC Vive, Apple & Android
  • GIS format
  • PDF
  • Paper
  • Mobile Application (Android or iPhone)

The entry form is available here.

Making the ‘Craftsman Rule’ more interactive….

Making the ‘Craftsman Rule’ more interactive….

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!).

Early days on the handles, but I’m getting there!

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.

Procedural modelling the UK high-street

Procedural modelling the UK high-street

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! 

This set is early work for a project that we’re helping on for the Transport Systems Catapult based in Milton Keynes who are helping out the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) creating simulated virtual environments to test out way-finding technologies.  Stay tuned for some more outputs! 

City 3D GIS Building Renders

City 3D GIS Building Renders

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’!

CityEngine Quick Renders

CityEngine Quick Renders

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….

 

CityEngine 2017.1 Official Release

CityEngine 2017.1 Official Release

This viewshed tool is a great addition to the CityEngine toolset!

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!  
CityEngine to Unreal Engine… simple.

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!!

For a full list of what’s been changed you can look at the CityEngine 2017.1 release notes.

Have a view of the CityEngine’s new youtube videos for a bit more on the viewshed and corridors in 2017.1:

 

Collaboration with Transport Systems Catapult

Collaboration with Transport Systems Catapult

Ryan at the Garsdale Design offices overlooking the Howgill’s and Sedbergh. (Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park)

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! 

In any GIS workflow data preparation is vital

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.

CityEngine 2017.1 beta demoing how the new viewshed tool could be used for bluetooth beacon placement

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!