Bless those Esri developers in Zurich and Redlands developing cool new features and workflows! It seems they work so fast sometimes they forget to document the features they’re working on. With several releases/updates a year I can’t always keep up so perhaps they can’t either?
Those of you who use CityEngine for geodesign will love the dashboard, instead of reporting dry numbers you get these dynamic charts giving you visual and numerical feedback in to you geodesign projects. It can be very useful bu twhen I use it I’m constantly fighting windows and screens coding and visualising, now where did I put that dashboard. This tip gives you another option placing it in your web browser!
I only relatively recently noticed a message in the log tab (Window –>Show Log), you do use this window pane/tab right?! Well probably not, and only when you’re trying to figure out what went wrong. Double-clicking the message that says ‘Dashboards are also available in your browser’ and you’ll get this message…
Select and copy that web address that says http://localhost:60288 (or similar it does change each time, perhaps this could be more friendly??).
Ta da! Now you can have a dashboard in CityEngine’s interface…… and your web browser, sadly it’s not published out to the big world wide web but for local desktop use this could be useful. Now I’ve tested it and it all seems to work nicely, a change in one window is still reflected in the other.
That’s it, you may have sensed some frustration with Esri CityEngine’s interface design and documentation…. well perhaps you’re reading too much into it 🙂
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on some custom mapping for a range of products (digital and paper) to commemorate 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War here in Sedbergh.
It started with my experimentation of using ArcGIS Pro and the Ordnance Survey’s fantastic Open Zoomstack data product to create ‘fantasy’ type maps. I soon realised that there was more I could, do and with Remembrance day coming up I had an idea.
What if I recreated those old Ordnance Survey (6-inch maps) using modern data and symbolise the natural features of the area as some kind of trench and barbed wire network? This would represent the deep routed effects war had on the community and highlight the ‘battlefield’ of home, whether that be loved ones not returning, or returning not quite the same, and the ripple effect it had on the valleys around Sedbergh.
I started by making a basemap I could use in a printed product (a series of A1 sheets), but quickly realised this nice looking basemap (derived from OS data) could be used in some nice digital mapping.
Staff at Garsdale Design had been involved in the ‘Streams of Remembrance’ display in St Andrew’s Church in Sedbergh and had a list of names given to them by Sedbergh and District History Society. What I’ve done with this is create a geographic point file of where all the soldiers lived and their biographical details, then I constructed a web link to feed their details into the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website so you could click on the link and find where they are buried.
My feeling was that more viewers can relate to an age than they can to rank, status or anything else.
Symbology – I’ve wrestled with this for a while, I knew each soldier had to be represented by a poppy symbol of some kind. Was age important? Was rank? Was where they lived or died significant? I could not and did not want to answer, every death is a tragedy and significant. I did think however, that age might be a good way to group these people in the storymap. My feeling was that more viewers can relate to an age than they can to rank, status or anything else.
So I drew some poppies, single flowers, flowers on stems, and finally I settled on a collection of symbols. Single poppies when close together overlapped too much and you couldn’t make out individuals and I didn’t like it. I tried resizing the poppies based on age but was unhappy… so I asked for help.
so I asked for help.
After much deliberation I reached out to Kenneth Field**, if it’s one thing that those who know Ken would agree on is that he has an opinion! I gave him some background and asked for advice on displaying the poppies, I won’t repeat all of what he said (it was long and very kind) but basically my idea of sizing based on age was brought into clarity when he said:
…you could ditch age altogether. Is it important in the context of the map? Isn’t the fact each poppy locate a fallen soldier enough (mass of poppies = more in this sense cognitively). A larger poppy might also be seen as being ‘more important’ because it’s more visible. Is a soldiers age relevant to their ‘importance’
A poppy at various life stages is an interesting and beautiful thing. I liked the idea and in the end after much thought I used all the symbols on my map (with the bottom of the stem being where the point is on the map). Each poppy symbol would be distributed randomly, age would not be a factor, this also allowed me to avoid some of the overlapping symbology issues I was having. I know it’s not perfect and the image above looks a bit too delicate, but I think I’ll never be truly happy with any solution. Artistically I like this compromise the best. An unexpected outcome is actually the 3D view of these poppies looks much better than the 2D.
I didn’t want to write so much in one post, I do have a technical blog post about the making of this coming as well. I’ll end by saying I’ve created a number of maps paper A1 sheets, 2D webmap, StoryMap, 3D Scene, and a custom 3D mApp using the Esri JS API.
A link to the StoryMap and 3D mApp (this custom app allows you to get screenshots of an area and download them with a custom title) are ready and linked here below (click on the images).
** Shameless plug but Ken’s book “Cartography.” it’s a valuable resource for those who want to make better maps.
Just a quick Esri CityEngine news post for those who may have missed it, or (and more likely) for me about 2 months later when I remember there being a cool rule set for signs, but can’t for the life of me remember where the link is…
Those of you who use Esri CityEngine will already know that it is sometimes frustratingly lacking in useful content. Yes there is the ‘ESRI.Lib’ project directory which is installed in each new ‘workspace’. Some of the most used rules in that library are the tree and road rules, and the occasional text for labels.
creating generic rules for everyone is actually quite hard
I’ve always said creating generic rules for everyone is actually quite hard unless you can guarantee how they work and the structure of their underlying data (oh crikey I think I just advocated some kind of ‘standard’). Complicated generic rule files for all the Esri CityEngine users is hard to do, but simple focused rules (like trees, signs and simple streets) is much easier and in the end more useful.
oh crikey I think I just advocated some kind of ‘standard’**
The ability for us to ‘daisy-chain’ rules means and a consistent perpetual Esri CityEngine ‘ESRI.Lib’ directory means I can write rules that reference simple tree visualisations easily.
Now a very cool gentleman from Esri called Geoff Taylor has created a new rule package (for ArcGISPro 3D users) and CityEngine project that has done some hard work for you. USA street signs! Yes we’ve had signs within the Streets rules before, but this one is far more useful.
It contains the start of something that I’m sure will only expand and become more useful for those of us doing 3D modelling in the USA (some of this may be useful in Canada too). It also looks like this may end up linking up with the awesome Complete Streets tool from David Wasserman (you can get that here on github)
This is a quick write up that’s related to the blog series I’m doing on custom symbology in ArcGIS Pro. Well sort of, it just so happens to be the perfect dataset to use to use for UK based mapping projects where you don’t want to use a costly licenced dataset (maybe the forthcoming Open MasterMap may change that?). Now, I know I normally write about 3D and CityEngine related stuff but I do love a good 2D map as well! This post assumes a simple working knowledge of ArcGIS Pro. I’m considering making this a video as well so you can see the entire process.
As you can see there are some instructions on what to do with style sheets if you’re an ArcMap user in that PDF linked above… well I do not use ArcMap much anymore more so I’ve pretty much made a complete transition to ArcGIS Pro so here’s what you do next.
Step 1: New ArcGIS Pro project and then ‘insert’ a new ‘map’.
Step 2: Convert the Geopackage into a File Geodatabase… as far as I am aware you don’t need an Advanced licence or FME or the Data Interoperability Extension (if I’m wrong comment below on this post) you can drag in each layer manually into a Map in ArcGIS Pro and then right-click the ‘export data’ function. Or better yet, you can use the copy features GP tool (using the Batch function). *I’ve created a toolbox with two tools that simplifies this process for me. I will share this as a separate blog post soon…
Step 2: Remove the prefix ‘main_’ from all the feature classes you imported into the new file geodatabase, otherwise you can’t use the lyr file on them….
Step 3: Find your “OS-Open-Zoomstack.lyr” (link to download it here) and drag it in to your Map, notice all those red “!” marks, this means it can’t find the data these symbols are linking too. Click on one of these red “!” to fix them all. It will ask you where the data layer is located ( in this case ‘names’). Find the data in the new file geodatabase you created.
Step 4: Well it should all work and all those “!” should have gone and you have a nicely symbolised OS Open Zoomstack data set courtesy of the nice folks at the Ordnance Survey.
A final note this workflow unbelievably helped me find where Esri hid the ‘repair data’ function went, basically they built it into the “!“… d’oh.
Coming up in a future blog post: How we can use OS Open Zoomstack with our hand drawn custom symbology.
This is the second part in a series of posts on my journey to create custom symbology in ArcGIS Pro. Inspired by John Nelson this post is primarily a reminder to myself about how I did it. Actually this whole blog is my personal notes made public (so yes you can do this differently and achieve the same results), I’ve done on more than one occasion a Google Search for a solution only to find a post I did about it ages back…. doh.
So you have the kit because you read my previous post, so now what? Well we need to do some drawing and painting! Then we will process those drawings by scanning them modifying them in a image editor (like GIMP or Adobe Photoshop Elements) and saving them in a nice and organised way.
The next part of this blog series will deal specifically with each symbol type (lines and points) and I will also cover watercolour swatches I’ve created. This post will get your drawings and sketches to an image editor ready for use in ArcGIS Pro.
There’s two steps to my process (you can of course do it differently!), first read some books and get some inspiration. The I have a scrap page which I start doing test runs on symbology and lines a bit like the image below…
Once I’m happy with something I will add it to my grid paper I’ve created which you can download here (below).
Don’t be afraid to experiment, don’t think it’s not good enough! Lots of people say they can’t draw, what I think they mean is they’re not confident enough to draw for other people. Besides which some mistakes or badly drawn things might look just right in the correct context.
So we have a paper grid of hand drawn symbols (no you don’t need to till them up). Notice I’ve used white paper for this the whiter and cleaner the paper the better I can edit them later.
Now I would scan them or take a photo, just be warned that take a photo you need really good light, no shadows and try and make sure them are photo’d flat so you don’t have distortions to fix later. I recommend scanning them if you can as this will keep things nice and consistent. As a rule I scan at 200dpi or more as a minimum, I do scan as colour even if black and white scans just so I can choose later what’s done with the image also not all pens are black!
I scan the whole A4 page (sorry people from USA we’re metric around here!), and it will look like this in Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Step 1: Duplicate the layer
Step 2: Delete the background layer
Step 3: Use the crop tool and choose your symbology
Step 4: Use the Magic Wand selection Tool (uncheck contiguous and adjust the tolerance to adjust) to select all the white space on the image.
Step 5: Go to Edit menu and select ‘Cut’ or use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl-X’, now you have a small image with a transparent background! Use the crop tool again to adjust the image size to your requirements (I tend to crop just to the image, but some like to make it precisely square)
Step 6: Save in a folder with a nice file name but save as a PNG file which supports transparent backgrounds.
So that’s it! The next blog post in this series (coming soon) will take you through symbology a types (lines or points) and show you how we get it working in ArcGIS Pro. I will also do a separate blog in the series for coloured scans of my watercolours swatches…
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.
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.
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!
Thegrid. 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.
Software. Well I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Elements, but you can also use GIMP (which is fantastic!). Oh yes and ArcGIS Pro….
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.
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…
Last Tuesday (16th of May 2017) was the much-anticipated yearly geospatial event from Esri UK. Their Annual Conference has gone from strength to strength and the venue has been at capacity for the last two years now.
I love the EsriUK conference and being based in Cumbria having an event where I can get to see all the people we work with in one location is fantastic (although I quite enjoyed EsriUK’s Perth event too!). It used to be I went for the presentations I now go to have meetings and keep the personal connections I’ve developed through social media going.
The opening plenary was interesting and focused (quite rightly) on the significant achievements Esri have made in developing their platform. I cannot comprehend how complex the process is of developing a cloud presence and slowly (it feels slow to me at least in regards to stability & memory issues) developing the new ArcGISPro application whilst still maintaining the existing and well used product suite of ArcMap, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene. I guess that’s what they use our licence and maintenance fees for!
What I noticed this time was what I have been saying for a while and told people about back in 2009 (when I started using CityEngine): Esri needs to be invested deeply in 3D to compete in the new and merging industries of ‘smart cities’ and ‘BIM’. All their competitors are there and coming for the GIS users too. Fortunately is Esri doing this now.
EsriUK’s live demo this year was walking around with a GeoSlam device getting a laser scan of the venue, to fly around and measure in ArcGISPro. Unfortunately I felt this demo was a little limited in scope this year. We’ve worked with point clouds in ArcGISPro and whilst good there are still some issues so perhaps that’s why it was not as ‘wow!’ for me.
Looking at all their applications, it is truly crazy how many 3D capable products Esri have developed. Yet amongst all these amazing tools, all too often, I am still meeting people who wonder what they’re going to do with these 3D technologies….
The obvious answer is ‘well first you need 3D data’, and that’s what Garsdale Design’s new project, our GD3D brand, is all about. Acquiring 3D is still like acquiring satellite data in the early days, difficult and expensive, however I will write more on this soon because it doesn’t have to be.
Post plenary there was plenty of people to talk too, but I did manage to get to see a few presentations:
Mapping London’s 2050 Infrastructure Growth
Dr Larissa R Suzuki gave a great presentation into the challenges Transport for London were facing managing development and maintenance of their infrastructure. The mapping systems they are implementing to identify what activity is taking place in the same location (think development and road works etc..) at the same time are fantastically useful. Let’s hope this kind of technology use gets adopted nationally not just per authority.
A journey through the airport
The Manchester Airport Group have a place in my heart, as I am a big fan of Manchester Airport to be honest. Small-ish airport in the scheme of things owned by local authorities but punching well above its weight in terms of the region it serves and the places you can fly to. I can get a train direct from Oxenholme straight to Manchester Airport and be in Dubai or major hubs in the USA really quickly. Their talk by Vickie Withnell was very interesting, showing us a 3D animation of the next phase of expansion of Manchester Airport basically 4D or construction management. As one commentator on the Esri AC app put it a “video’ gantt chart”. Obviously being able to manage data through time and integrate your process with the planning and consultation elements of their business has paid dividends. Vickie should have received a stand ovation for saying that their planning application for a new arrivals terminal at Stansted only took 13 weeks (supposed target processing time for major planning applications), top it all off they only had one objection. Any planner (private or public) in the room I am sure was immediately feeling completely in awe.
SWEET, simplicity and GeoDesign
Charles Kennelly CTO of EsriUK was in top form clearly presenting one of his technology passions ‘geodesign’. The application he demo’d was called ‘SWEET’ and his message was very simple really. Sometimes making tools that are simple to use for defined purposes really do make sense. The web application he demo showed off how you could program rules in to editing tools that automatically clipped polygons and stopped you editing outside areas. Basically, taking away that process us GIS professionals always have to do when receiving someone else’s data which is cleaning up and fixing geometries (like slithers). In the demo web application you could plot away and be sure that the data you create was clean and clipped to your areas properly.
The Customer Success Awards were back again (we won one last year hurrah!) and what a great series of entries, I am glad they keeping this going. It is always nice to be recognised for hardwork and clearly the winners and nominees have been working hard!.
Daniel Raven-Ellison a self-confessed ‘Guerilla Geographer’ (don’t cringe) gave a very impassioned presentation focusing on his campaign to make London a National Park City . Always the cynic living in Northern England I feel uncomfortable giving London more designations and status. But he did give a compelling argument but perhaps instead of a National Park City a focus on making all cities green and vibrant as he wants to make London would be better? Whatever your opinion he is a very passionate and good speaker with important things to say about our cities and environment. I think we ignore him at our peril.
The future look at the platform was interesting the Esri inc team were represented with Chris Andrews and EsriUK by Charles Kennelly the platform is scaling well and 3D is a big part of this.
Charles also treated us to an experimental map where the cartography was enhanced or augmented with sounds. So moving the mouse over particular elements of a map gave a different noise. I think this kind of approach will be ever more important when augmented and mixed reality technologies become main stream. Not everything in GIS should be visual was my ‘take away’.
As usual I have skimmed over details at a ramble for this blog post. As a company we had a great day talking about our new GD3D® brand and our data service for the Esri platform. It strikes me that people still are sitting in silos of data though, hesitating to be the first to break out and hindered by restrictive licencing and pricing. I guess that is often the nature of professions.
Personally, I met lots of new and interesting people, so thank you if you talked to me and sorry if I don’t remember your name next we meet, it’s not personal! I’m just not very good at remembering faces.
We gave out lots of badges and stickers which made travelling home lighter and easier too. Coming up next for us, my colleague Nicholas Duggan will be attending the Geobusiness conference in London. I have now booked my flights to San Diego for this year’s Esri UC I’ll be attending some 3D sessions there but am also eager to meet up and chat with anyone interested in 3D building data for the Esri platform and of course Esri CityEngine training and services.
Our presentation on Big Data!
I’ll be doing another post on our presentation at the Esri UK Annual Conference entitled “Big data! Offshore to onshore: Streaming 3D cities and point clouds” shortly…. 🙂
People want and expect their 3D modelled urban environments to be very high quality. Unfortunately, whilst most of us here work with 3D. We know that without significant investment of time and money we are not going to achieve such polish easily.
A great big thank you to Ryan Johnston for inviting us and being such a great host! We greatly enjoyed the event.
Small areas with a lot of detail or large areas with a little detail? Despite digital 3D urban models being seen everywhere from games, to movies, planning/architectural visualisations, and applications like Google Earth. Creating 3D urban models with a geospatial element is not as easy as some might think. The industry is always trying to answer the question with things like meshes, point clouds and gamification but is it working?
Firstly, a detailed understanding of what is meant by a 3D model is required. levels of detail (LOD) and accuracy need to be assessed against levels of effort as well as the equipment and method of capture available, with the end user being always in mind. The ability to bring geographic datasets together with fictional datasets poses serious questions (legal, technical and ethical) for those in the 3D urban modelling business as the line between a scientific decisions blurs with the artistic and aesthetic choices we make.