Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Esri ships CityEngine 2020.1

Esri has released CityEngine 2020.1, the latest version of the procedural 3D city generation software, adding the option to import assets in USD format for VFX and animation work.

Visualisation, previs and games artists get automated export of level of detail assets to Unreal Engine.

The update also extends CityEngine’s toolset for drawing building footprints and street layouts, including a lot of new snapping options; and improves undo workflow and viewport display quality.

A powerful procedural tool for generating 3D city models for urban planning and VFX
CityEngine generates detailed city models from simple procedural rules, importing data in standard file formats like OBJ and DXF, and exporting in formats including FBX and Alembic.

Although aimed at architects and urban planners – it integrates with ESRI’s ArcGIS platform – the software is also designed for entertainment, and comes with connections to DCC tools and game engines.

In recent years, it has been used on some major movies: Scanline VFX used it for city-destruction shots in Independence Day: Resurgence, and Walt Disney Animation Studios used it on Zootopia.

Import or export assets in USD format for VFX or animation work
For visual effects and animation work, the key change in CityEngine 2020.1 will be support for the increasingly important Universal Scene Description (USD) file format.

USD export was added in CityEngine 2020.0 earlier this year, with Esri noting that the format was the first to fully preserve the software’s layer hierarchies and object boundaries.

To that, CityEngine 2020.1 adds the option to import USD files as well, including both static models and USD assets with existing CityEngine CGA rules.

Import works with .usd, .usda and .usdc files, and materials based on the USD Preview Surface shader are automatically converted to CityEngine’s native PBR materials.

Automatically generate LODs for export to Unreal Engine
In addition, CityEngine’s Datasmith exporter, used for exporting assets to Unreal Engine for visualization, previs or game development work, now supports levels of detail (LOD) driven by CGA rules.

LOD assets are now exported automatically from any CityEngine project with proper LOD rules in place, at least if you’re working on Windows: the exporter is currently Windows-only.

Improvements to shape drawing, snapping and the viewport display
Changes to CityEngine’s drawing toolset, used to create building footprints and street layouts, include the option to use numeric values for distances in the Offet Shapes and Polygonal Street Creation tools.

There have also been a lot of improvements to snapping: all shape drawing tools can snap to models, the Push Pull tool snaps to guides, and the measurement tools snap perpendicular to edges or guides.

Other changes include better rendering of transparent objects in the viewport, and better integration with Esri’s ArcGIS Urban city planning software. You can find a full list via the links below.

Pricing and availability
CityEngine 2020.1 is available for 64-bit Windows 8.1+ and Server 2012+, RHEL 7 Linux and macOS 10.13-10.14.

Esri doesn’t list prices directly on its website: when we checked on the release of version 2019.0, the firm told us that pricing varies from country to country, according to local distributors.

Read an overview of the new features in CityEngine 2020.1

Read a full list of new features in CityEngine 2020.1 in the online changelog