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The Tech Behind Man of Steel's Metropolis

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the your-childhood-has-been-replaced-with-a-very-small-shell-script dept.

Movies 74

angry tapir writes "Much of the urban vistas of Man of Steel, Cars 2 and the horrible remake of Total Recall were not modelled by hand. Instead they relied on a product called CityEngine, which is more typically associated with local government bodies' urban planning and urban design. The software procedurally generates cities using scripts written in a Python-like language. The next version of CityEngine, coming out next month, will incorporate an SDK so third-party developers can use parameter-defined procedural generation of urban environments in their own applications. CityEngine's product manager talks about the upcoming version, how it's being used at the moment, and plans to incorporate augmented reality in it."

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74 comments

fooorst psoot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817277)

toot toot yeah baby

Critic? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817281)

I'm not much of a fan of the Total Recall remake myself, but is a thread's description the appropriate place for such opinion?

Re:Critic? (3, Insightful)

netsentry (2733393) | about 7 months ago | (#44817565)

I'm not much of a fan of the Total Recall remake myself, but is a thread's description the appropriate place for such opinion?

no.

Re:Critic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817569)

"I'm not much of a fan of the Total Recall remake myself, but is a thread's description the appropriate place for such opinion?

He hates it because Colin didn't talk like this:

''In case uffa fy-a, I could haff giffen de alaam, ant safed all de odda offans.''

Re:Critic? (2)

Zeromous (668365) | about 7 months ago | (#44817699)

Agreed, people only hated Total Recall because it ruined the purity of the original. And we'll see the same when Robocop comes out too.

That said on it's own, I enjoyed Total Recall remake quite a bit. By no means a perfect movie, it could have been a lot worse.

Re:Critic? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about 7 months ago | (#44818359)

Agreed, people only hated Total Recall because it ruined the purity of the original. And we'll see the same when Robocop comes out too.

That said on it's own, I enjoyed Total Recall remake quite a bit. By no means a perfect movie, it could have been a lot worse.

Did they keep the dumb part where Arnold is on an atmospheric-less Mars with his eyes bugging out and he somehow survives long enough for the atmosphere to be fully created by the magic martian machine?

Re:Critic? (2)

Zeromous (668365) | about 7 months ago | (#44818443)

Nothing dumb about hollywood magic spectacles (I'm sure you prefer your sci-fi hard, but I'm not picky), however if I recall, they did pretty much kill that plot line.

I think you forget, not much in "Recall" was ever 'real'. Saying Total Recall (modern or original) is not realistic as per your definition of reality is pretty meaningless since they are implanted memories/experiences meant to provide excitement to the consumer (and you, the viewer).

Re:Critic? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about 7 months ago | (#44820627)

There is speculatable non-real and there is laughable non-real. I can take implantable memories; I can't take instantaneous atmosphere installation. Essentially, one accepts the premise behind sci-fi or what's the point of watching it? On the other hand, Deus ex machina solutions reek of poor craft.

Re:Critic? (1)

Zeromous (668365) | about 7 months ago | (#44820903)

I never realized my dreams were relegated to the physically-known universe. I mean, even REM-me found it laughable that Mila Kunis would ever be interested in me personally, but I suppose it is speculatively possible. But the time I lucidly FTLed the unknown Universe, that was still very realistic to REM-me.

Recall's point was never to plant speculative non-real memories. It was to provide a unique, impossible experience for the consumer at a variety of scenarios for a reasonable cost of admission. Kind of like, a movie theatre for your mind only, the 4th wall completely destroyed. These are simply the implications.

Re:Critic? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 months ago | (#44821441)

I always go flying when I lucid dream but FTLing would be cool.

I used to have to use other objects and it was fairly slow but I pushed my flying speed until now it can be quite good. I usually lucid dream for a couple minutes before I wake up tho one time I was able to avoid waking up for a little while and go back into a deeper sleep before continuing to dream.

Dreams always make sense while we are in them. We don't question why there are roses the size of sunflowers in our backyards- why three are modern roses and one is a historical five petal rose or why someone has a horse in our house or why the lawnmower is up on the roof.

The question about Recall was actually quite similar to the question in Inception.
Did it end with the protagonist stuck in dreams?

Re:Critic? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about 7 months ago | (#44821523)

I don't think you get the point I was making. The PREMISE of the movie was the non-real memories. I accept that or why watch the movie at all. The instant-atmosphere Deus ex machina was necessary to the PREMISE of the movie and was, to me, a poor choice in the writing.

Re:Critic? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44821857)

The instant atmosphere was only there to provide some excitement at the end. The bad guy is dead, the mysterious machine has been turned on, all questions answered, and essentially the movie is over. But the good guys have to be sucked out to the surface for one last set piece.

Re:Critic? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#44821359)

Agreed, people only hated Total Recall because it ruined the purity of the original. And we'll see the same when Robocop comes out too.

That said on it's own, I enjoyed Total Recall remake quite a bit. By no means a perfect movie, it could have been a lot worse.

Did they keep the dumb part where Arnold is on an atmospheric-less Mars with his eyes bugging out and he somehow survives long enough for the atmosphere to be fully created by the magic martian machine?

.
Um, no. They didn't have that part. The remake was silly in different ways.

Re:Critic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44823269)

Erm. I guess you missed that the whole movie was a dream?

Re:Critic? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44821743)

The original was pretty shoddy in many places. Awful special effects, bad acting, implausible science, etc. However the old one had both nostalgia in its favor as well as a sort of tongue-in-cheek attitude (it didn't take itself seriously). The new movie was much more polished with effects and acting and the look of the whole thing, with a better social commentary (a strongly divided class system as opposed to the original's which was one rich guy versus deformed mutants). The tunnel through the earth was stupid but no more stupid than a lot of stuff in the original.

Re:Critic? (1)

Rakarra (112805) | about 7 months ago | (#44825181)

Awful special effects? Aside from the implausible eye-bugging scenes, the effects are pretty good, at least for the time. It won a Special Achievement Oscar (this was the last time there was no "Best Visual Effects" category) in 1991 for its effects, beating out the runners-up Back to the Future III, Dick Tracy, and Ghost. Not terrible use of miniatures, one of the last big effects movies to not make extensive use of CGI.

Re:Critic? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44825477)

I just rewatched it two weeks ago and it really stood out as awful in many places. But at least it didn't have lens flare.

Re:Critic? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#44817825)

it just sucks and is stupid.

the martian plotline was less ridiculous than the hole through the earth for no good reason. all the environments were fake anyways so why the fuck not have mars..

Re:Critic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44818227)

The fact that they dropped the original's "was it all a dream?" plot (that was never actually resolved) also kept it from being much more than a bland actioner (with the exception of the performance by Kate Beckinsdale which was the only notable thing from the whole movie).

The question of whether it was all a hallucination was the most important part of the original. So much so that when my friends and I went to see the remake, one of my friends went home pissed off because before the movie started, there was a commercial for some cell phone and the guy at the end of it informs the audience that the twist at the end of the coming movie is that "it's all a dream". Of course, this commercial played in front of every movie at the theater that we were going to at the time, but my friend was ticked off anyway because he thought they were planting spoilers.

CAPTCHA: whined

Re:Critic? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 7 months ago | (#44818565)

Agreed, the opinion was not worth adding it to the summary let alone the opening sentence.

Personally I don't agree with the opinion: I didn't think it was spectacular, but I don't think it was horrible either. I just felt the original was better.

But in any case, it's out of place. It would be one thing if the article was about the movie itself and how it was received poorly by critics or whatever... but it's an article about the tech used in a couple of scenes.

It's like introducing your team to a client, and mentioning that your co-worker has crabs... how the hell does that factor into it?

Re:Critic? (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 7 months ago | (#44821093)

For what it's worth, I actually enjoyed the remake more than the original. It was closer to the book, and had decent acting and pacing. The original is great in a 'campy-old-school-meathead-actor' kind of way, and for nostalgia, but the actual acting and plot were pretty bad.

The future (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 7 months ago | (#44817299)

That's one step closer to only needing scriptwriters for making a movie.

What's funny is trying to imagine whether one step after that there will still be movies or not.

i.e.: Once AIs are advanced enough to create movies for us, will they want to watch movies?

My vote goes for : "Yes. And the first big hit will be the movie about how they exterminated us."

P.S.: The second big hit will be about a lone AI that learned to live in peace with the humans and to adapt to their strange ways. It will be called "Dances with cars".

Re:The future (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817331)

Thats fanta-shtick!

Lets hope to see similar programs being used to develop towns and cities for the refugee population in THE WEST BANK AND GAZA.

It seems Hillarious Dirtyton and the Obaminator have proven excellent ringmasters in diverting everyones attention over to the Syrian Circus Maximus, while the israelis continue to violate the Palestinians Lands and Rights, and have somehow sabotaged the TWO-STATE SOLUTION.

Re:The future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817549)

You mean the turgid shit Hollywood churns out is produced by actual script writers who get paid and not accountants?
Damn the slide into the new dark ages is further advanced than I thought.

Re:The future (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 7 months ago | (#44818851)

This isn't great for the foreground bits. It makes great background filler, though. There have been a lot of pieces of software that generate background imagery like this - it would never be in-budget otherwise. Massive is used to generate large crowds of moving people/creatures (like Orcs in LOTR). Tsunami to generate realistic water (e.g. Titanic). Before this, you just couldn't get the complexity. Few movies, like Ben-Hur, would get the resources to have 100,000 extras just for the background of a few scenes.

At this point, the software does not produce art. It's only a tool to produce believable filler.

Re:The future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44819103)

Extrapolating from your comment, you are postulating a future where humanity will be decimated by AIs, pushed onto reservations, then when the AIs feel guilt for what they did, allow us extraterritoriality and we'll build casinos, leaching off of the AIs' gambling and booze habits to make us rich?

I like where you're going with this.

Re:The future (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44820517)

i'm pretty sure real writers who could think of a story were phased out. rehasing old ideas is the norm, and can be trivially done on a computer, Artificial Retelligence

Python (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817325)

The software procedurally generates cities using scripts written in a Python-like language.

Why not just use Python?

Re:Python (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 7 months ago | (#44817335)

They did the best they could after discovering that all the pythons had been used on that movie about a motherfucking plane.

Re:Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817355)

Why not Zoidberg? ...had to be said.

Re:Python (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 7 months ago | (#44817777)

Vendor lock-in. Using a standard language means you can easily take your scripts to a competing product.

Re:Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817817)

Except parsers are not that difficult to write, and would be at most an inconvenience to stopping a competitor from writing a program that reads the same script. If anything, parsers are too easy to write, in the sense they probably used their own scripting language as they just grew it as needed instead of learning how to interact with a more standard language. Or they wanted to try to dumb it down. i would hope the most difficult part of their product to duplicate is what the scripts actually do, not the syntax.

Re:Python (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#44818289)

Yes, but for a non-open source language, that would be a copyright violation.

Re:Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44818437)

How? If you don't use any of their original code, you are just writing code that reads some input. This seems less specific than an API, and copyright of that has been shot down at least once. It probably doesn't help if the script is very similar to ones already out there (which is hard not to do...).

Re:Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44818633)

Why not just use Python?

Excellent idea, the "Monty" fork of that language is great for scripting comedies.

Re:Python (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 7 months ago | (#44818873)

Once you extend the language to add the functions they need, it would no longer be Python. It would be a Python-like language. I don't get it - it's not like you're going to port in a Python program and it's suddenly going to generate cities instead of whatever it used to do.

Re:Python (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#44821715)

Why not just use Python?

I assume it's because they wanted to use a language that wasn't total garbage to write their scripts?

and movies will be better? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817443)

yep and with this technology they will continue to make the crappiest movies ever because like all CGI they throw away good acting and script design to focus on semi realistic city backdrops and fast paced unrealistic action.

Re:and movies will be better? (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 7 months ago | (#44817455)

fast paced unrealistic action??
You do know it was a super hero film?

Re:and movies will be better? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 months ago | (#44821483)

The avengers was a good example of both CGI done right (supporting the story but not trying to impress us since we know it isn't real) and done sneakily... (okay it turns out some scenes I thought were real were actually completely CGI.).

Sometime over the last 5 years, the CGI has gotten so good that they can render humans convincingly for short periods (by mapping them down to the individual pore and nose hair level.)

SimCity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817517)

Could this be integrated into the next version of SimCity?

Re: SimCity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817829)

Not sure if troll ... In SimCity the whole point of the game is for the user to generate a city plan. This software does that for you, which means that it would basically take all the fun out of SimCity.

Re: SimCity (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 7 months ago | (#44818355)

I don’t think it is a troll.

Just because you can write a script and generate a city does not mean you can generate a good city. You might generate a badly functioning city.

Or things may happen that cause you to rebuild a city. Tokyo was a great city but then Godzilla happens. Detroit was a great city but then the auto manufactures happened. What should be rebuilt on the bones of the old?

You still make choices but it is the simulation which is more accurate.

Re:SimCity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44818241)

Why is your post in a different font? Are you special and feel the need to share that specialness?

Re:SimCity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44819775)

Dodifferentfonts bother you?

This was done before on "King Kong" (4, Interesting)

drkim (1559875) | about 7 months ago | (#44817525)

Procedural city building like this was done back on the Peter Jackson "King Kong" back in 2005 by Joe Letteri.

They called their system "CityBot - Urban Development System"
Using this system they were able to create "...over 90,000 3D digital buildings..." out of "...22 million components..."

Article by Chris White @ Weta Digital:
http://staffwww.itn.liu.se/~andyn/courses/tncg08/sketches06/sketches/0147-white.pdf [itn.liu.se]

Mmm proprietary software (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817571)

Lemme flush it...

Yet another Slashvertisement (3, Insightful)

gigaherz (2653757) | about 7 months ago | (#44817587)

... except this one also takes the chance to express a subjective opinion on a movie that I personally liked enough.

Re:Yet another Slashvertisement (1)

Tom (822) | about 7 months ago | (#44817665)

Maybe. Still I enjoy learning about how these things are used well.

For example, I own a license to Terragen 2. But my own creations are far, far away from the stuff they make as movie backgrounds using the very same software. I love reading about it and watching images and vids, because it shows me just what is possible and gives me aspiration to improve my skills.

City Engine is another thing that I've had on my radar for a long time. It's just way, way too expensive for a small indie developer.

So, basically: Yeah, it borders on slashvertisement, but people like me still care and want to read about it.

Re:Yet another Slashvertisement (1)

gigaherz (2653757) | about 7 months ago | (#44817983)

I got the Trial version of CityEngine for a Uni project a couple years ago. It was very crashy, almost unusable. Not sure if that was a problem with the trial or it also happened in the full version, though.

Re:Yet another Slashvertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44818357)

The remade Total Recall was garbage and you are too for liking it. Must be a youngin' to boot.

That explains a few things... (1)

Nemosoft Unv. (16776) | about 7 months ago | (#44817607)

Instead they relied on a product called CityEngine, which is more typically associated with local government bodies' urban planning and urban design.

You mean local governments don't actually think about their urban development, but just let it be generated by the computer? That would explain those impossible-to-navigate suburbs that make no [google.nl] sense [google.nl] at [google.nl] all [blogspot.nl]

Re:That explains a few things... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#44818069)

If they were computer-generated, they'd make sense if the rules made sense. But when the laws don't make sense, even humans can't generate good output. And when the cities grow organically, you can give up on them having a logical overarching plan.

technolgy explores (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817821)

nice and awesome post you have shared... its very informative and nice one i like it very much keep posting this type of nice sharing man.... http://www.technologyexplores.com

Tech creates stale world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44817931)

Immediately observable as computer generated, takes the viewer out of the movie.

Practical application (1)

macraig (621737) | about 7 months ago | (#44818821)

Tie its output to a skyscraper-sized 3D printer and let it go to town... or rather make the town.

Video game levels (2)

Gibgezr (2025238) | about 7 months ago | (#44819161)

Been waiting for this for years. I want randomly generated levels for CoD-style FPS shooters. The levels might not akways be perfectly tuned for game flow etc., but that should be mitigated in large part because they would only be seen once i.e. people couldn't replay the maps endlessly and learn to exploit them.

Would really liven up those games, and would put the emphasis more on deep game-play skills like exploration rather than shallow skills like map knowledge.

Re:Video game levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44820185)

Just play NetHack then.

Sure beats my method: Minecraft (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 7 months ago | (#44820991)

I just hired a bunch of Koreans to build me a city in Minecraft. By the end of day 1 I had something resembling Rome. So I guess Rome can be built in a day? However nothing works, making it much more like Detroit.

Seamless CGI (2)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about 7 months ago | (#44824617)

I was astonished watching the making-of reel for The Avengers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnQLjZSX7xM [youtube.com] . Almost all the city scenes were shot on green screen stages, with rendered city-scapes in the background. CGI is now so well done it's almost impossible to tell what's real and what's CG.

The reviews for Gravity http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/gravity_2013/ [rottentomatoes.com] make it sound like a tour de force of technical achievement. I'm looking forward to seeing it, and the making-of should be well worth a look, too.

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