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Category: 3D

Hidden Feature? Esri CityEngine Dashboards in your browser

Hidden Feature? Esri CityEngine Dashboards in your browser

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?

Who doesn’t like a good metric in a pretty graph?  This one shows the Graphic Complexity index of a whole bunch of data, useful for assessing future workflows and export sizes.

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!  

wait… what’s that? Double-click on on it.

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…

Dear lord, please can someone look at this UI mess please….

Select and copy that web address that says http://localhost:60288 (or similar it does change each time, perhaps this could be more friendly??).

No I’m not telling you how I changed the thousands separator to something sensible

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.

See??? It works! And no I’m still not telling you how to change the thousands separator…

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 🙂

Sedbergh and District The Fallen of WW1: A Cartographic project

Sedbergh and District The Fallen of WW1: A Cartographic project

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.

Fantasy mapping using real world data in ArcGIS Pro is fun!

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.

Old Ordnance Survey Mapping of the WW1 battlefields notice the red lines of war related infrastructure (trenches, barbed wire etc…) Source: National Library of Scotland  and Ordnance Survey

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.

Sneak peak at the A1 paper version…

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.

“Streams of Remembrance” in St Andrews Church, Sedbergh
It’s a giant river, valley, and places map of our area.

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. 

Badly drawn poppies by me from an image I found using Google at different life stages….

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’

Ken Field 2018
Overlapping poppies at different stages…

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.

The symbology I settled on….

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. 

The Fallen 3D mApp Demo (work in progress)

The Fallen 3D mApp Demo (work in progress)

I’ve done a series of mapping products (digital and paper)

A first draft demo video of one of several cartographic products produced in commemoration of the end of the First World War. The map shows where the people of Sedbergh and District who died came from as well as some biographical details. The basemap was use OS Open Zoomstack data and hand drawn by myself custom symbology assembled in ArcGIS Pro. 


Each point has a different poppy symbol based on a poppy’s lifecycle but not representing importance or an attribute, this is to help with potential overlapping of points. These points and the list of people came from the Sedbergh and District History Society.

I’ll be writing a blog post shortly to outline the steps in its production.

The Fallen 3D mApp Demo (work in progress) from GD3D® by Garsdale Design on Vimeo.

The Fallen 3D mApp Demo on mobile (work in progress) from GD3D® by Garsdale Design on Vimeo.

USA STYLE STREET SIGNS FOR ESRI CITYENGINE

USA STYLE STREET SIGNS FOR ESRI CITYENGINE

Subtle product placement by me (I’ve already modified this rule set)

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’**

Not this type of daisy-chain | Source: Wikipedia

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)

Some nice rendering of the street signs and unusually for me I’ve not used any ‘depth of field’ ’tiltshift’ effects..

** I joke about standards, but perhaps I need to talk sometime about the Esri CityEngine integration work I’ve got going on with BIM and things like Uniclass 2015….

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.

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.

CityEngine Revisiting the Complete Streets Rule

CityEngine Revisiting the Complete Streets Rule

I still love the tilt-shift… 🙂

Many who use CityEngine will have heard of or at least used David Wasserman’s updated Complete Streets Rules.  He is like me a big fan of CityEngine and fantastic at it.   Anyway I noticed an update to his Complete Streets rule and have been playing with it.   The big feature is the trees handle controls…. well worth using if you’re interested in CityEngine and street typologies.

Thanks David for the amazing contribution to the small CityEngine community!  You can download it here : https://github.com/d-wasserman/Complete_Street_Rule 

 

4D 3D modelling with Esri CityEngine? (poc)

4D 3D modelling with Esri CityEngine? (poc)

LICA Building at Lancaster University

Last weeks CityEngine training at Lancaster University went really well.  It was my first time doing a session at this site and I really liked it.  Good facilities and a beautiful campus, stayed tuned for more CityEngine training sessions there in the future, but if you want a session now just ask as we do training on demand.   Also did I mention Lancaster is set to launch Architecture courses and are looking for a new ‘Chair of Architecture’??
Right, on with the main purpose of this blog post!

Above is an animated GIF of a quick proof of concept for some 4D modelling in Esri CityEngine.   4D refers to the time component used in the construction industry to see the various phases of development (see “What is 4D BIM?”) think Gantt chart in 3D!  Whilst CityEngine is not truly a 4D modelling software package it can provide some elements of it after-all time is just an attribute.    I like to think of this as a nice way of 3D modelling urban planning and city master planning phasing scenarios over time.   With the introduction of Esri CityEngine’s handles feature this can make for a nicer interaction method with your model.

after-all time is just an attribute

In this example I have a days and a maximum number of days attribute (think deadline).   The slider controls the day in that timeline between 0 and 365 days for example.   Each of the 2D footprints has a field with a start day and an end day, as the slider is moved a test is performed to see whether the day is between those two numbers for each footprint.  If the condition is true the footprint is extruded based on a calculation that gradually and proportionally extrudes up to it’s maximum building height.  When it reaches and/or exceeds the finish day, the model changes to a more realistic looking building.

All of this is relatively simple in CityEngine (case statements, attributes, and handles), the nice bit is being able to report on progress in the Dashboard.  We can use this in a variety of different scenarios in CityEngine, as usual because it’s code we can copy and paste in to other projects!