Well I always intending on writing up about the EsriUK Scotland conference held in Perth this year. I’ve said before it’s been a great conference in a great town and this year was no exception. The speakers were all great with some notable highlights being (this is not an exhaustive list but ones that have stuck in my mind):
EsriUK: The live traffic count demo using a camera from a mobile phone roaming Perth and some machine learning algorithms ‘hats off’ for this amazing live demo on conference wifi. Shows how all our devices can be connected to scarily powerful cloud services to perform analysis for good… or evil.
There was also an interesting proof of concept demo from EsriUK (called ada I think) which walked people through a planning application type scenario.
RSPB Scotland: They talked about “Saving nature with drones” and actually a really inspiring use of drone technology for producing up to date high resolution terrain and imagery for habitat management. Also great uses for bird counts too! They produced a best practice for using drones guide which probably everyone should read which is here (not sure this is final official version but only one I could find online): Drones for GIS (PDF) Did you also know they have an opendata site? No neither did I!
SouthLanarkshire Council: This presentation on “Protecting the quality of the air that we breathe” stood out for me because the presentation hosted by 3 presenters from 3 departments showed what GIS should be about. That’s joining of information and providing a powerful communication analysis and tool. Here was a great use of storymap to communicate serious ideas to a wide audience, here’s what can happen when departments talk and work together. I recommend you look at their storymap here.
EsriUK Education: Back to EsriUK again but here on their ‘Education Session’ I have a renewed interest due to being an new School Governor at my local primary school. Now I’m always of two minds about private large organisations providing free stuff to schools/education. I can hear the criticism of the open source movement loud and clear that a large company is perhaps abusing it’s position to increase it’s market share…. I know there are free (in money terms at least) programs teachers can use, I know a cloud solution (Esri is giving ArcGIS Online accounts away for free to schools) isn’t ‘true’ GIS in that it won’t teach the intricacies and science that’s required for a better understanding of the power of GIS and associated technologies. However I know that teachers and schools also don’t have the time and resources to manage installations, perhaps a managed solution from Esri is actually the best solution. Afterall those who are truly interested will seek out other tools to achieve what they need. Who among us started their journey into GIS with Esri technology and now use other software and tools to do better? I bet many of us. Shocking I know but sometimes all they want IS a map…
So that’s my small write up of the EsriUK Scotland conference, a smaller more intimate and frankly more comfortable conference than the larger EsriUK one in London they do in May… Perth is a lovely location and I hope they keep it there.
Finally I need to talk about the inspiring keynote from one of the Esri cartographic legends called John Nelson…. well no, I’m saving that for the next blog post as it deserves some nice maps that I made which he inspired me to make.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay this is a quick post so I don’t forget how this all works! I’ve been looking at StoryMaps for clients and in particular how to work in some custom 3D scenes.
Some StoryMaps work easily with 3D, basically Cascade, where others you have to ‘coax’. Basically the trick for getting storymaps templates like MapSeries to work require you to know about the how you can specify a weblink to a webscene that not only instructs it to display minimal user interface but also you can specify a ‘slide’ (what I’d call a bookmark).
Basically when you create a StoryMap (such as the MapSeries) choose a weblink instead of a map (as that only allows you a 2D map).
And then add either/or/both the following “&ui=min” for minimal user interface and “#1” for the slide number. That would look like this : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1&ui=min#2 in the web page link dialogue box put in the weblink for the scene you want to use for example : https://gd3d.maps.arcgis.com/home/webscene/viewer.html?webscene=b2ee85b778974ebd98f7403f4e5145d1
The resulting StoryMap would like this (Sorry its a quick example of very little content!):
I used these Esri official blog posts to help piece it together:
Headline features are for me the revised drawing tools, boundary/fencing rules in ESRI.lib, and proper terrain support in the form of TPK exports. Oh, and initial support for terrain export for Unreal Engine…
The draw tools now make CityEngine a viable place you can start to do more ground work, this fits nicely in with being able to update feature layers hosted in ArcGIS Online (which incidentally has better support of large layers this release) .
They’ve finally added to the ESRI.lib directory, I’ve written about this before. It’s hard to write generic rule files that make a majority of users happy (unless you’re a certain David Wasserman doing Compete Streets), but you can’t go wrong sticking with some of the basics people want, vegetation to start with and now boundary treatment!
Finally the new support of exported terrains as TPKs allows us CityEngine users to modify terrain and export those changes to ArcGIS Online. This is fantastic and I think now all we need is a comparable swipe tool (like in the old CityEngine Web Viewer) and we’ll feel complete!
Finally it looks like they’ve added some preliminary support, their words “Added preliminary terrain export.”, which suggest it’s very much in beta! Great news for anyone wanting to hit the ground running using Unreal Engine, I’ve yet to test this out so who knows whether it works, fingers-crossed.
I’ll have to agree with Taisha here, this release has
exciting improvements that not only set a great precedent for things to come, but are sure to make you love CityEngine even more
I was massively surprised and honoured (look at the last speakers) to be asked to speak at the Edinburgh Earth Observatory and AGI-Scotlands seminar series programme for 2018-2019 on the 1st of February 2019. I’m known for my CityEngine work and so my theme will be around geodesign, planning, and procedural modelling.
As usual with these events they want a title and abstract way ahead of the event which I’ve done. Now I have the fear. I read a tweet recently that sums this up (but can’t find it now) something about wanting the confidence of the person who wrote the title and abstract months ago…. except I wrote mine last week…
Anyway here’s the title and abstract, please do sign-up and come say hi if you can. I try and make my presentations and seminars accessible, I’m not a big fan of technical terms of the sake of it so don’t be worried about the buzzwords!
Geodesign and Smarter Planning
Wake up! The built environment professional worlds are colliding, and we cannot sit in our narrow professional cells anymore. Concepts such as 3D Geodesign, BIM, and software tools like Esri CityEngine show us a collaborative future of fast scenario modelling with integrated testing, analysis and visualisation, all while collaborating online with teams of experts around the world.
With rapid advancements in software and hardware, we are able to do more in less time. Our clients will be happier, we will be happier and hopefully the planet will be better for it too.
In this seminar I will explain my professional journey and how it is indicative of wider changes and challenges in the built environment industries. I will discuss the emerging geodesign discipline as well as BIM and the dizzying array of standards to keep all this data moving smoothly. In my view the entertainment industry’s work (gaming and movies), should also be seen as part of our all our professional futures.
Where: Old Library, Institute of Geography , University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP. When: Friday 1st Feb 2019, 4.30pm More Information available here
I also get asked what PCs I run CityEngine myself, so here goes my list:
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.
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.
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)!
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
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.