AEC Tech News (#233)

13 Aug, 2008

Editor's note: Rome Reborn, a digital reconstruction of Rome as it stood in 320 AD, is on display in Hall G as part of the New Tech demo at SIGGRAPH 2008. The massive, transatlantic undertaking requires modeling 7,000 classical structures. In this edition of AEC Tech News, Heather Livingston examines how Rome was recreated by the use of CityEngine's rule-based automation.

CityEngine Revs Up Urban Modeling

Procedure-based program enables users to define the rules of how a building should look and then apply those rules.

By Heather Livingston

Heather Livingston photo

In July, the Swiss company Procedural officially released CityEngine, a procedure-based 3D city creation system capable of generating large urban environments 10 times faster than previous solutions, according to the company. Although the concept was revealed at SIGGRAPH 2006 and select projects already have enlisted the program, this is the first time CityEngine has been available to the general public. Among its early clients, the University of Virginia currently is using CityEngine to generate architectural elements for the world's largest virtual reconstruction project, Rome Reborn.

Located in Zurich, Procedural is the creation of founder and CEO Pascal Müller. A former researcher at ETH Zurich (also commonly known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Müller began exploring the field of procedural urban modeling while working on his master's thesis at ETH and further refined it with his series of SIGGRAPH publications. The SIGGRAPH papers in turn guided the creation of CityEngine, Procedural's flagship product. Led by chief technology officer Simon Schubiger, the Procedural team transformed Müller's research into a powerful application for use by the design, film, and gaming industries.

"Cities are huge, richly detailed artifacts that are often required in digital productions, and modeling them with existing tools can take many years," said Müller. " CityEngine addresses these previously unsolved modeling problems by offering several procedural modeling tools for generating large scale urban layouts, as well as a unique shape grammar for the efficient creation of detailed building models. With these tools, users not only experience a faster modeling experience, but one that allows them to create cityscapes that have never been seen before."

CityEngine's shape grammar was designed specifically for the rule-based production of highly detailed architectural content. With the CityEngine program, users can define the rules of how a building should look and then apply those rules, the result being a parametric building model that is created in an implicit way. This gives users the ability to drag and drop a building style and then modify its parameters, or to randomize the parameters allowing for mass variation on a city scale. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Heather Livingston is a Vermont-based freelance writer specializing in design, sustainability, and architectural technology. She can be reached at

First Look Review:
Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner

By Ron LaFon

The vast majority of photography today is digital, and thus easily accessible on computers. But a huge body of yesterday's work — color slides and negatives, black-and-white negatives and transparencies, and color or black-and-white prints — have been produced using conventional photographic processes and need to be transferred to digital file formats to be usable. Common flat-bed scanners often have some sort of attachment for scanning slides, but generally the results are insufficient for professional use. The Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner is a professional-level photo scanner that offers a remarkable amount of flexibility for creating very high-quality scans.

The Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner measures 19.8" x 12.1" x 6" (L x W x H) and weighs 14.6 lb. It features an innovative dual-lens system with a lens carriage that will switch so that the appropriate lens is set in place: high-resolution lens mode to achieve 4,800 dpi in reflective mode for 8.5" or super-resolution lens mode for 6,400 dpi (film scanning only). For the super-resolution mode, a new larger-diameter lens and higher F-stop optimizes modulation transfer function (MTF) to ensure the highest level of detail and sharpness.

The V700 offers 6,400-dpi optical resolution (9,600-dpi maximum hardware resolution with Epson Micro Step Drive) and 12,800-dpi maximum interpolated resolution. Transparency scanning is at 48-bit color with 4.0 dynamic range and 16-bit grayscale scanning. Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Civil Engineering and Road Design Seminars
August 26-28, 2008
Various Cities in Florida
These seminars, presented by DLT Solutions, will show how an entire project team can stay coordinated throughout all phases of a project, from surveying to construction documentation. Read more »

Southern California CAD Summit
September 25, 2008
San Diego, California
Sponsored by U.S. CAD, the Southern California CAD Summit attracts hundreds of participants from the western region's architectural, civil, manufacturing, geospatial, and building engineering fields to learn about the latest Autodesk technologies and fine-tune their skills. Read more »

Sustainable Development, Green Retrofit & Construction Congress
October 29-31, 2008
Baltimore Inner Harbor, Maryland
Participants will discover how to implement the next generation of technologies in today's facilities and obtain immediate benefits from current environmental initiatives. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on