Does QGIS data work in Esri CityEngine?

I have a copy of CityEngine Basic and imported a shapefile which have the street network and lots. Without ArcGIS I can't open data which have building footprints and DEM from USGS/CLICK. Would QGIS open these files so I can edit them to be imported to ESRI CityEngine?

Importing Terrain and Imagery CityEngine Essential Skills #5 is the tutorial that I'm working on which instructed me to use USGS/CLICK to get the data. In this tutorial downtown Redlands CA was the area of interest an orthoimagery and elevation was emailed. The data in the email was extracted using a program named Bitser to a folder then preview in ArcMap. Once in ArcMap it was imported to CityEngine. Is there another way to get this done without ArcMap to use the data in CityEngine?

  • CityEngine is an Esri product and needs some sort of Esri product to work on. Like all extensions it requires the Esri foundation to handle the basics and adds methods on top. You should speak to your local Esri representative about getting ArcGis (or ArcServer) to suit your needs; they may be able to give you a trial version for a few weeks for 'proof of concept', especially if you're going to potentially buy ArcServer. Mar 11, 2015 at 3:35
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    @MichaelMiles-Stimson According to esri.com/software/cityengine/getting-started, it's a standalone product/software, not an extension. "QGIS data" is a bit broad of a term - if you mean shapefiles, that's an Esri format but widely used and accessible to other programs. According to the link above even the basic level of CityEngine has "support for GIS data import". It's difficult to directly answer the question without knowing what kind of data/file format you're actually talking about.
    – Chris W
    Mar 11, 2015 at 3:56
  • See the other identical question gis.stackexchange.com/questions/138357/… @ChrisW where I did some research. You're right it is quite vague what is actually being asked. I haven't touched city engine in a few years and I am sure that it needed to run on top of ArcGis at that time. We used it to import some Google SketchUP models, which it did - but not very well. Mar 11, 2015 at 4:08
  • Thanks for the replies @Michael Miles-Stimson and Chris W
    – Big City
    Mar 11, 2015 at 4:36
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    Please edit your question to improve it with details like these. Before any answer(s) have been offered is the ideal time to revise your question.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 11, 2015 at 8:45

2 Answers 2


As explained in comments and pointed out in the other answer, data is usually independent of software or can at least be exported in a format that can be read by many different kinds of software. There are exceptions to this.

You've mentioned a specific tutorial. I did a search on it and came up with a youtube video which seems to match your description: Importing Terrain and Imagery CityEngine Essential Skills #5. While this video does source data from the USGS, it only uses regular raster data - aerial imagery and DEM. It does not use any LIDAR data and I didn't see any mention of CLICK, at least in that one. The basic gist of the tutorial is combining several adjacent rasters into a single image, and then clipping that and the DEM to a specific area of interest. It uses the jp2 (JPEG 2000) and img formats.

All of that is quite doable in QGIS, but a full explanation of everything would well exceed what a GIS.SE question and answer should cover (there are some other questions here on the individual pieces and parts). There are numerous tutorials and documentation for QGIS out there that may assist you in trying to use QGIS to do things the tutorials might use ArcGIS for. For this one, I would suggest:

Note that ArcGIS may write some helper files along with the actual images (pyramids, world files, statistics) that QGIS may not. I am not sure if CityEngine would require those helper files to work (seems kind of silly), might be able to generate them on its own, or not need them at all.

  • Thanks for taking the time out to look at my question as well as giving advice on the subject. This is my first time using GIS software which I have no experience with. So far all I did was download an image from USGS and tried to imported it to cityengine which wouldn't load in the viewport.
    – Big City
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:55

Yes, you can use QGIS to edit GIS files and prepare them for import into CityEngine. QGIS opens a variety of file formats and can save them to shapefile and other formats supported by CityEngine.

CityEngine is an ESRI product, and it does lack many GIS data editing features that you may need to properly prepare your data before creating city models, but you do not have to use any other ESRI product.

Get QGIS, import a shapefile of building footprints, select them, filter them, edit them however you like. Then save them in shapefile format for import into CityEngine.


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