Blender Civil Visualisation Add-on

As of 6 months ago I started investigating Blender (coming from a 3dsmax background). I could never get my head around the pre-2.5 interface but the slick looking 2.5+ enabled me to begin getting my head around Blender’s mentality. Anyways…

Some of my work requires infrastructure visualisations such as new highway alignments including road surfaces, line markings, guard rails, bridges and traffic animations. To do this we’ve used 3am Solution’s Dynamite VSP tool for 3dsmax (now part of 3dsmax Design) combined with Vue’s Ozone plugin.

http://www.3am-solutions.com/images/CivilView_splash.jpg

Even though I’ve been using Blender for a short time I’ve found the speed at which I can work has increased greatly. However I haven’t been able to find an add-on or discussion about this type of work in Blender. For those who haven’t heard of or used Dynamite or 3dsmax Design it’s feature set goes something like:

  • Import from a number of industry standard tools for civil engineering (e.g. Bentley MXROAD Suite)
  • Style-based mentality (i.e. use object names to define styles). This means styles can be used for future visualisations but also allows for automatic updating from imported objects when the client decide to change the road alignment.
  • Create road mesh from lines or import meshes using geo-referenced offset (3dsmax doesn’t like big numbers)
  • Create road markings from lines (e.g. lines named ‘CNTR_*’ get a dashed white line)
  • Create ‘swept’ objects (bridge decks, concrete barriers)
  • Create rail objects (guard rails)
  • Object placement editor (gantries, road signs)
  • Add/animate vehicles along road chainage (comes with basic vehicle library; user can set vehicle speeds, direction, count, etc)

It would be great to have some of these features in some kind of road visualisation add-on. And yes, I know most of these tasks can be done fairly easily in Blender but what Dynamite provides is a means to do it quickly and repeatably. My searching has come up with the following results (I can’t seem to use links - I must be too new for that privilege):

Traffic vis in blender (on blenderartists)
161403-Traffic-Flow-Visualization
161741-Proposal-for-Particle-System/page2

Commercial alternatives
Simtra
Paramics-online

Traffic simulation
Simulation of Urban MObility (SUMO)
Caliper Transmodeler

So my questions to you are:

  • Do any add-ons exist for some or all of these Dynamite features? If so please point me in the right direction :slight_smile:
  • Is anyone else interested in doing this kind of visualisation work in Blender and/or do you already do this kind of work?
  • If people are interested and nothing exists, what is the best way of setting up a development roadmap (so to speak) to get this project off the ground? I realise this would be no small task - there’s a reason a group of developers are paid to work on this tool full time.

In the past I wasn’t that happy with the way Dynamite animated cars along the paths so I wrote a Maxscript to correctly turn cars and semi-trailers based on turning circle calculations. To take this project up a notch it’d be great if it could incorporate some kind of traffic simulation (see links above) combined with this kind of turning circle code to show some fantastic car and truck movements.

Thanks for making it through all that - I know it’s not the most exciting of topics (compared to explosions, fluids, camera tracking, etc etc) but it would be great to be able to rapidly generate these road visuals.

Cheers,
Stu

I can’t express how happy I was to come across this thread! It seems Stu and I have very similar requirements for using Blender for civil and transportation infrastructure visualization. But whereas he is just coming to the party, I’ve been working on this functionality for a couple of years now. I have a successful business that has done a number of civil/infrastructure illustrations/animations for engineering clients.

Coming from twenty-five years of doing roadway/highway design, I decided to combine my engineering experience with my love of programming and 3D. And I have successfully tackled a number of the issues Stu brought up using Blender and Python. Currently I have the following functionality:

LandXML Geometry Import (Horizontal & Vertical)
https://vimeo.com/37248437

LandXML Terrain Import & Contour Generation
https://vimeo.com/civilvisions/review/33607327/d873025d80

Traffic Simulation Import (Vissim)
https://vimeo.com/civilvisions/review/5202567/b2bb240ed9

Superelevation Transition via XML Template Code
https://vimeo.com/civilvisions/review/4009780/29ded3dd86

Get/Set Alignment Station & Offset of 3D Cursor

I have a few other code snippets in various stages of completion that perform other engineering-related tasks in Blender.

So to answer Stu’s questions:

  • Yes, some of the features in AutoDesk’s Dynamite have been accomplished by at least one person; me. :slight_smile:
  • I’m doing infrastructure visualization work and clients are paying me for it.
  • The best way to get some of this moving forward? Buy me a beer.

OK so it looks like there may not be any existing ‘pre-packaged’ tools so maybe we can join forces? I dusted off the turning circle code I did - I actually have a fully commented version in C# that I did as a proof of concept followed by the 3dsmax Maxscript version. Although that all may be superceded by what I found from Philippe Roubal:

http://3d-synthesis.com/tutorialsenglish.html

I will investigate further.

I like the traffic sim you’ve got there. Brake lights are very effective! I’d say a proper traffic sim combined with lights (brakes, indicators and headlights) with proper turning circle animation would look great. Especially if it only takes a few clicks to make it happen.

I also experimented with the built in modifiers in Blender to see how much of the existing modifiers/tools could be used. It looks like a lot can be achieved with the right set up of the array and curve modifier. Most of the image below can be generated from 1 curve. Adding some code would allow the automatic generation of the meshes to be applied to the curves. Plus since it’s using the built in modifiers, any changes to the curve are automatically applied to the line markings/rails.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/18336268/civil-vis.png

Is this thread dead?

It is for me. I ended up pursuing SUMO for traffic sims, and had a way to generate particle systems with predefined motion based on the vehicle simulation output. I was working on a second particle system controlling every individual tyre for every vehicle, including cornering. The idea being particle systems are super efficient so having 100k cars in the scene would be a breeze for the renderer.

Unfortunately SUMO seemed to disappear, and it would’ve required modification for left-hand traffic systems as it only worked with right. So I put it on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time.