Esri ships CityEngine 2020.1 | CG Channel
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Esri ships CityEngine 2020.1

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 | Written by Jim Thacker

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

Visualization, previs and game artists receive an automated export of detailed assets to Unreal Engine.

The update also expands CityEngine's toolset for drawing building floor plans and street layouts, including many new snap options. and improves the undo of the workflow and the display quality of the viewport.

A powerful procedural tool for generating 3D city models for urban planning and VFX
CityEngine generates detailed city models from simple procedural rules, imports data in standard file formats such as OBJ and DXF, and exports in formats such as FBX and Alembic.

While the software is aimed at architects and urban planners – it is integrated with ESRI's ArcGIS platform – it was also developed for entertainment purposes and has connections to DCC tools and game engines.

In recent years it has been used in a few major films: Scanline VFX used it to shoot the destruction of the city on Independence Day: Resurgence, and Walt Disney Animation Studios used it in Zootopia.

Import or export assets in USD format for VFX or animation work
For visual effects and animations, the most important 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 level hierarchies and object boundaries.

In addition, CityEngine 2020.1 offers the option to also import USD files, including 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
Additionally, CityEngine's Datasmith exporter, which is used to export assets to Unreal Engine for visualization, pre-development, or game development, now supports levels of detail (LOD) controlled by CGA rules.

LOD assets are now automatically exported from every CityEngine project with the correct LOD rules, at least if you work under Windows: The exporter is currently only available for Windows.

Improvements to shape drawing, snapping, and viewport display
Changes to CityEngine's drawing toolset that creates building floor plans and street layouts include the option to use numeric values ​​for distances in the Offset Shapes and Polygonal Road Creation tools.

Snapping has also been significantly improved: all shape drawing tools can snap onto models, the push-pull tool snap onto guides, and the measurement tools snap vertically onto edges or guides.

Other changes concern a better representation of transparent objects in the view window and a better integration into the urban planning software ArcGIS Urban from Esri. A full list can be found via the links below.

Prices 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 reviewed the 2019.0 release, the company informed us that prices vary from country to country, according to local dealers.

Read an overview of the new features in CityEngine 2020.1

For a full list of what's new in CityEngine 2020.1, check out the online changelog

Tags: ArcGIS Urban, Arch, Architectural Visualization, CGA, City Generation, Urban Planning, CityEngine, CityEngine 2020.0, CityEngine 2020.1, Datasmith, Drawing Tools, Esri, Exporter, Feature Animation, Game Development, Instructions, Level of Detail, LODs, New Features, Offset Shapes, PBR, Physically Based Material, Polygonal Street Creation, Preview, Price, Pricing, Procedure, Snapping, System Requirements, UE4, Universal Scene Description, Unreal Engine, USD, USD Materials, USD Preview Surface, USDA, USDC, UsdPreviewSurface, vfx, Viewport display, visual effects

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