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Category: urban design

Central London – Tower Treetop – Video

Central London – Tower Treetop – Video


This is the start of adding more ”smart data” to buildings beyond just a ‘dumb’ grey building and/or textured.   CyberCity3D give roof details, heights, angles and roof type but are looking at adding for specific buildings floors and other attributes.   I thought I’d jump ahead and see what I could with that kind of information in CityEngine.

So what if you had floor levels within buildings? You could run any rule you wanted on each floor or place in a detailed floor plan. Or you could put a park on a well known building landmark and give each floor a pretty colour…..

The “Gherkin” was modelled in more detail separately (using SketchUp in this case), this specific model is not part of the CyberCIty3D dataset.


Floors Colour by Area in CityEngine pretty but also potentially useful for proerpty management companies?
CityEngine at Speed – Video

CityEngine at Speed – Video

My first video to have a musical background (free from YouTube Library), please accept my apologies if it gets annoying…

The video itself was first shown at the Geodesign Summit in Redlands in January 2013, it got a laugh as it was speeded up, I suggested at the time using Benny Hill music over the top but chickened out for this version…

An evening with CityEngine?

An evening with CityEngine?

evening with cityengine_escape_tech_esri

So is this the first real CityEngine event in the UK this year?  I’m hoping we get more!

Unfortunately this event is right when my holiday is so I can’t make it, but I recommend that if you’re interested in 3D cities and can make it, you should go.

Oddly this event seems to being held by Escape Technology (a creative industry company) and ESRI Inc. not ESRI UK (although they have promoted it via twitter).   This is probably down to the history of CityEngine being developed by the now bought out Procedural based in Zurich (now ESRI R&D Zurich), and the hybrid nature of CityEngine with one foot in two differing types of industry.

The great thing about CityEngine is it has uses in the creative industries of movies, computer games and graphic design as well as Urban Design and planning.   This event seems geared to the creative types, but that doesn’t mean urban designers and planners shouldn’t go and find out more about this great product.

Click here to find out more about the event and register and if you go tell Dominik Tarolli I sent you!

Now I hope this even paves the way for a CityEngine event for urban designers, planners and architects!



An Evening With EscapeTechnology and CityEngine!
15th August 2013, The Wheatsheaf, Rathbone Place, London
The Escape Technology team are pleased to be hosting an evening with CityEngine.
On Thursday August 15th join us at The Wheatsheaf, on Rathbone Place, for an exclusive evening with Esri, the team of masterminds behind CityEngine, the tool of choice for 3D modelling of urban environments, architecture, simulation, game development and film production.
The evening will include a full presentation packed with CityEngine tips & tricks and the Esri team will be on hand to answer any questions.
We’ll finish the evening off with some drinks, snacks & a good old’ natter!

6:00pm – 6:30pm – Registration
6:30pm – 7:15pm – “Hacking Cities: The Future of 3D CityModeling” with
Dominik Tarolli & Pascal Mueller
7:15pm Onwards – Drinks & Networking

CityEngine model videos – Middle East City Part 1&2

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 to Lumion some more example renders

CityEngine to Lumion some more example renders

Okay you already know I’m a big fan of these two software packages, it’s just so quick to get final models from them.   Anyway  I thought I’d share a couple of CityEngine/Lumion renders with you.

I’m still using Lumion Free in my spare time, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be purchasing this software to produce imagery for some of our projects.   It’s just so easy to make good looking scenes with these two packages, and quickly too!

Oddly I’m really proud of the satellite dishes, not their placement but the rotation which in CityEngine I can do globally so every dish can point in the right direction.   This method can be used for other objects such as TV aerials or even whole buildings such as Mosques.

Oh dear….

Oh dear….

I posted this on twitter a while back but it’s worth revisiting…. not really much to say is there?

ArcGIS Geodesigner or Planning Engine? What’s in a name?

ArcGIS Geodesigner or Planning Engine? What’s in a name?

UPDATED on the 16/05/2012 – I’ve updated this article as I got it completely wrong, scroll to the bottom to find out more…

I’ve been thinking about how ESRI will integrate CityEngine with ArcGIS… either they are going to embed CityEngine functions within the core product, not ArcGIS basic but maybe standard or pro versions.  Perhaps as a procedural modeller toolbox?   Alternatively they are going to produce an industry specific product.

Personally I hate products being chopped up for different industries (I’m looking at you Autodesk and Adobe), but in some cases it can make sense.  For example urban designers have different requirements to geologists, so why would they want the same tools or have to pay for them?    Of course  I would point point out that limiting features based on profession can mean we won’t be able to learn from others!

Personally I think the name CityEngine is limiting your product, this is a procedural modeller which can just as easily do trees and agriculture as houses and skyscrapers.  So what will it be ESRI?


My choice?  ArcGIS Planning Engine…. what’s yours?


Okay I got it completely wrong if anything it won’t be ArcGIS Planning Engine, it will be ArcGIS Geodesigner and here are a few reasons why:

So will it be this?

To Unity and Beyond? QGIS, ArcGIS, SketchUp Pro/Free, CityEngine and Unity

To Unity and Beyond? QGIS, ArcGIS, SketchUp Pro/Free, CityEngine and Unity

I’m always looking for new ways to combine data and visualisation techniques.  Partly I’m inspired by the likes of the DigitalUrban blog but mostly I’ve always liked mucking about with 3D software and real world data (3D Construction kit for the C64 anyone?).

So here is what you need for what I’m about to do, there’s a lot of different ways of achieving the same thing and at different costs.  Inevitably if you have lots of money the steps are more streamlined.

Okay this will be a very quick run down as I’m not going to go into the details.  I suggest you familiarise yourself with each piece of software paying attention to the import export functionalities of each.

This guide, as the blog is in general, primarily a notebook of workflows for myself so I don’t have to remember them all!

Recommended reading? Digital Urban and this “Google SketchUp for Game Design: Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Create City Streets or download from OpenStreetMap
  2. Edit data in ArcGIS or QGIS (and save as shapefile) or even use SketchUp pro and export as dxf
  3. Import data (edited in ArcGIS/QGIS or otherwise…) into CityEngine shapefiles/DXF/GDB/OSM/DAE/OBJ *or you can import OSM data directly*
  4. Generate your city using various ‘assets’, for example, city streets and plots from a GIS or straight from Open Street Map data.   Using rules you can create your own building models as well.
  5. Once complete export your city model to a FBX format, in CityEngine FBX export dialog box I change the Misc Options Global Offset and click the ‘Center‘ button
  6. You can also create more more models (signs, trees etc) that can be placed in Unity separately.   In SketchUp Pro its just a case of exporting as an FBX file, but if you have SketchUp Free use the OBJ exporter  and AutoDesks free FBX converter.
  7. Either you have exported the city model to the correct Asset folder for your Unity project or you can click on the Assets menu in Unity and select Import New Asset
  8. In Unity select your newly imported model and using the Inspector window change the scale factor to 1 select Generate Colliders and Import Materials choosing the right Material Naming and Material Search options. The click apply and wait while your model is prepared.
  9. Once complete drag your model from the Project window into the Scene window and position. Now drag from the Standard Assets–>Character Controllers folder drag and drop the ‘First Person Controller’ onto your model.
  10. Add a light by selecting the menu GameObject–>Create Other –> Directional Light and then position it in over your model in the Scene window. If you can’t find it double click on the Directional Light heading in the Hierarchy window.
  11. Add a SkyBox (yes with nice fluffy clouds) by selecting the Edit–>Render Settings menu heading and clickin the little circle to the right of the SkyBox Material heading in the Inspector. In the Select Material dialog box type ‘sky’ and a list of the skyboxes will appear. Select one of these.
  12. To create a standalone playable demo of your model first make sure it all works click the play button, if you fall off your model press the play button again to stop and make sure the First Person Controller is placed above your model and that you selected the create colliders on your imported model in the Inspector window.
  13. Select File Build Settings, click “Add Current” to build the scene you are working on. Now click on Web Player (or PC and Mac Standalone) and click Build and Run
  14. Navigate to the folder where the HTML file has been created an double click on it, if you have installed the Unity Web Player your model walkthrough should load up just as if you had pressed play within Unity itself..