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Month: September 2013

The future of CityEngine 2013 is 64bit only… but we will have improved streets.

The future of CityEngine 2013 is 64bit only… but we will have improved streets.

64bit Only


Well it was bound to happen but I didn’t expect it to happen with the upcoming release of 2013.   Not that this effects me, but as you can see from ESRI’s own Deprecation plans now say that :

Esri will end support of the 32-bit version of CityEngine for Windows. City Engine 2012 will be the last 32-bit release. This means that CityEngine 2013 will be only be supported on 64-bit versions of Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

So does this mean ESRI’s plans for CityEngine are looking at even larger datasets and more complicated functionality.   Or does it mean they’ve just created a new version to run on the new 64bit  iPhone 5s?

Improved Streets?

Screenshot 2013-09-28 12.36.16

A recent webinar has also showed that they have improved street creation you can read about this and all CityEngine 2013 improvements I’ve heard about on a previous post here : “What’s coming in CityEngine 2013”

Source : Deprecation Plan for ArcGIS (CityEngine bit added 16th of September 2013) (PDF)

Modelling an Historic Arab City Centre in 3D using CityEngine – Revisited

Modelling an Historic Arab City Centre in 3D using CityEngine – Revisited

I’ve gone back to my rule file that tries to create a semi-realistic modern day historic Arabic city core,  Yes it does have satellite dishes this is not a historic recreation of a bygone era….


Checking out landuses, yes I know the mosque is oddly proportioned…

The rule file can take existing GIS data (for example landuses per plot) and colour them based loosely the LBCS Code and colour values .  The colours aren’t the greatest for 3D but there’s always a compromise.

White is good…
A white model plus dusk as a time frame isn’t as successful as I had hoped…
Someone needs to get faster to render better looking trees than that…
My favourite view from the multi-storey car park…

Bringing it all together in CityEngine – Modelling Current & Historic London in 3D

Bringing it all together in CityEngine – Modelling Current & Historic London in 3D

Combining data in CityEngine is really easy, take this example I’m working on at the moment:

Using CyberCity3D real world 3D urban data saves time and improves the look of the model.

I’ve taken an old georeferenced map of London and I placed real world current 3D urban data from the nice people at CyberCity3D.   I’ve digitized one of the old barracks shown on the old map actually within CityEngine and run one of my generic office block rule files over it.   I’ve also run a floor level split rule over some of the CyberCity3D data (in the bright green) this has much more potential than just colouring or texturing buildings and I’ll be looking at this in detail soon…

For landscaping I’ve used a palm grove rule file, obviously I need to model new trees for this model!

Webscene view, old map has been compressed (hence poor quality), this can be improved…


This is obviously experimenting with different types of data and different sources of data,  I’m toying with the idea of doing a before and after 3D model of this area of London.  Then I might use some futuristic models to have some fun with it!

For those interested I used an extract of Greenwoods Map of London 1827 and data given to me by these guys at CyberCity3D.

Thanks goes to my wife @MMhartley who has an amazing online historic links resource…

What’s coming in CityEngine 2013 (updated)

What’s coming in CityEngine 2013 (updated)

Not the official splash screen, I made this up.
Not the official splash screen, I made this up.

Updated: On the 29/09/20013 – Added info about deprecation plans and CityEngine being 64bit only in 2013 version and screen capture from webinar about improved streets

Updated: On the 16/09/2013 to include information on the SDK, mobile viewers and augmented reality plans

Updated: On the 04/06/2013 I removed some of the title to better reflect my post as well as shorten it for tweeting, I also added the release date/month (click read the rest of this entry below).  I also added a new heading at the end on “Future thoughts, who will host those huge 3D cities and how?” as well as general edits…

So those of you interested in CityEngine will be wondering what’s coming up in the new version of CityEngine.   This is not an exhaustive run-down of what I’ve found out so far.   It’s also not insider knowledge. I’m just gathering the bits of publicly available knowledge together in one place, a large part from one recent CityEngine seminar (  

None of what I write about below has come from a confidential source and no one has told me directly what’s coming to CityEngine or ESRI’s 3D stuff.   The analysis bit is my own opinion and what I’ve gathered from a number of sources none of them have been from ESRI.  

ESRI staff seem to be a bit cagey about telling me what’s coming in CityEngine 2013, much to my frustration, it’s hard to plan a project when you’re not sure about what features are being improved or even removed in the next release!  I worry because CityEngine at present is so versatile I fear that any ‘improvements’ for one industry (like the movie industry) may scupper it’s use in my industry. 

Ah well that is a worry with all software, except of course most software has competitors, CityEngine I don’t believe has. Skip to the end for my quick analysis of it all…

click on!

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It’s all in the mix… Real urban 3D & GIS data as well as procedural models

It’s all in the mix… Real urban 3D & GIS data as well as procedural models

I’ve recently been able to get my hands on some beautiful real urban 3D data from the guys at CyberCity3D.   These guys can take stereo imagery of any area and work some magic and give you back a 3D model for pretty much any 3D modeller package you need.   They’re really keen on CityEngine at the moment and their data works really well with your rule files, so you know why I’m looking at this stuff!

What do I do with it once I’ve got it in CityEngine?!

The real skill is merging all this real 3D models, with GIS data and procedural buildings and models generated in CityEngine.   This is where you start to realise how amazing CityEngine is purely in terms of the 2D and 3D data formats it handles.  Within in 10 minutes I went from raw 3D data and some rule files to something I don’t mind putting onto a webscene.

Resist the urge to flood your city model. “just because you can” is not a business case.


With all this power comes great responsibility I heard once, well just because I have all this data and the ability to combine it, it doesn’t mean I should combine it all, does it?   Obviously we now have to start thinking about 3D cartography (I’m looking at you @PetersonGIS and @kennethfield!) what is the appropriate level of detail for your project, do pastels work in 3D?   Was I right? Perhaps less is more?

Combine that data appropriately and think cartography?
ArcGIS “invalid character in the given encoding” – Metadata Importer Issue : Solved?

ArcGIS “invalid character in the given encoding” – Metadata Importer Issue : Solved?

ArcGIS has a beautiful way with words Error 999999 is my particular favourite message from ArcGIS:

This is a generic error for which the cause does not have a specific error ID.

However a recent error when running a script to import Metadata got me stumped, below is a brief description of the problem and the steps that seem to have fixed it.

Running the Metadata Importer got me this message:

Executing: MetadataImporter “LOCATION\FILE.MXD” “LOCATION\FILE.MXD”
Start Time: Wed Sep 11 14:49:37 2013
Unable to obtain IMetadata from: LOCATION\FILE.MXD ; Invalid character in the given encoding. Line 1, position 1.
Unable to obtain IMetadata from: LOCATION\FILE.MXD
Failed to execute (MetadataImporter).
Failed at Wed Sep 11 14:49:37 2013 (Elapsed Time: 0.00 seconds)

The fix:

I  couldn’t figure it out as I could see no other posts on the ArcGIS forums that described this problem.  Plenty of posts of the same message but no fixes other than through coding.   Some of the solutions talked about UNICODE issues, so I typed in “unicode and arcgis”, one of the links brought me to this post  and this image caught my eye:

(from ArcGIS forums)

What I did was change in ArcCatalog the table font to “Arial Unicode MS”.

I then went and selected the MXD with metadata I wanted to change and deleted the title and re-typed any text of a small length.

Then I ran the script again and it worked, no error messages and the metadat has now been imported.

Thoughts:  Is this a text formatting issue? I haven’t time to muck about looking into this but my hunch is that the metadata editor allows html formatting and somehow some hidden text formatting got in.  This would make sense as deleting the old title and retyping it again worked… hmmm