Image Courtesy of SPIN VFX

Katana in 2018 and the road ahead

A look back at some of our best Katana customer stories and what’s in store for 2019

Katana has seen a number of game-changing advances this year, including a new Hydra-powered viewport, much faster rendering times for multi-threaded renderer plug-ins, and integration with super-fast and intuitive renderer 3Delight.

As the toolset has developed, we've been talking to studios to hear about the impact it’s had on their workflow, ROI and work-life balance.

Here's a handy roundup of those accounts in case you missed anything,

Katana improves work-life balance

Long hours and late nights have been part and parcel of working in VFX and Animation for decades. It’s widely accepted this is the trade-off for winning a coveted role in such a creative industry.

But what if doing your dream job didn’t mean sacrificing huge swathes of your personal time? Again and again in 2018, we’ve heard how Katana is changing this dynamic. 

Mahsa Ghorbankarimi, CG supervisor at Spin VFX, is a case in point:  “I worked for a total of two weeks recently in which I did a few hours of overtime - and the whole lighting team works like that”, she says. “It allows me to come home at a regular hour.”

Because she’s gained back hours of her week, Mahsa has been able to write, direct, and edit her own full-length feature film. She’s even taken up acting. 

And it’s all been possible because Katana’s speed and reliability have afforded her the time. 

Watch the video to hear more about it. 

Expanse and Katana lighting effects

Making waves in TV production 

Katana has grown a solid reputation as the look development and lighting tool of choice for feature film production in recent years. 

It’s also been steadily adopted by studios like SPIN VFX to create CG across other mediums, including for TV productions such as fantasy episodic The Shannara Chronicles.

The flexibility, scalability and speed of the toolset makes it the ideal choice to meet the tight timescales these TV productions demand.

As Josa Porter, Supervising Producer at SPIN explains: “One of the main challenges is the timeline.  Television storytelling is becoming on-par with the creative of feature film, however your timeline is much compressed, which makes your prep, execution and problem-solving very different than on a feature timeline.”

Choosing tools which connect and work together seamlessly, and which can scale up on demand is key: “Using a scalable, flexible, bespoke lighting and look-development tool like Katana, that’s in the same pipeline ecosystem as Mari and Nuke, allows us to hit our clients increasingly challenging vision. Speed, iterations and timely feedback is very important in episodic television work.”

To find out how Katana makes creating CG for TV faster and more efficient, read more here

SpinVFX visual monster

Giving power back to artists

Amidst the need for speed and scalability, there’s a third and equally important factor to consider - that the tools used free artists up to be as creative as possible.

For Hristo Velev, founder of Bulgaria-based Bottleship VFX, this is one of Katana’s biggest selling points: “You really want to only focus on the work, not the logistics”, he says.

“With Katana, a lighting change is made only at the right level, and it propagates downwards immediately. This makes exploration of different looks much faster, and that allows for much more refinement in the same budget and schedule - the ultimate goal, really.”

Lighting is a creative process, so it’s imperative that Katana allows artists to focus on creativity. 

You can hear more about how Katana enables artists at Bottleship VFX to do what they do best here

Why Katana’s not just for the big fish

It’s no secret that studios from Pixar to ILM use Katana to create higher quality work, faster.

However what’s lesser known is the number of smaller studios waking up to the huge ROI benefits integrating the toolset can bring.  One such studio is Cinemasphere, a small outfit based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Amrin Nugraha, TVC film director and VFX supervisor at Cinemasphere knows that one of the biggest hurdles smaller studios face when it comes to competing for work is limited human resource.

Where the ILMs and Pixars can set armies of artists to work on projects to meet tight deadlines, Cinemasphere has a staff of just nine.

Throwing money at the situation just isn’t an option - so efficiency is the name of the game: “In all my 20 years’ experience as a TVC director and VFX supervisor, this is the first time I can use minimal human resources for a job”, Amrin explains.

“Because with Katana artist idle time is virtually zero, we get more done in a shorter time. This automatically improves our ROI.”

Discover more about how Katana has improved Cinemasphere’s ROI

Cinemaspehere and desolated city

Discovering the VFX stars of the future

With the widespread adoption of Katana by studios both large and small in 2018, it’s no surprise universities and colleges are increasingly incorporating the toolset into their syllabuses. 

A whole new generation of look development and lighting artists are honing their craft with Katana and going on to secure dream jobs at studios like MPC and Framestore.

We caught up with the students and tutors at the Animal Logic Academy (ALA) earlier this year, to talk to them about a short animation project called The Colour Thief, which saw the team adopt Katana as their lighting and look development package for the first time.

As Daniel Flood, Technical Lead at ALA, explains: “We were early adopters of Katana 3 and we quickly integrated it into our production, finding the new Hydra viewport to be a huge bonus in terms of quickly loading and exploring large sets.

We’ve had an incredibly positive experience using and also developing for Katana in a University context, in terms of stability, scalability and ease of adoption.“

Ever-committed to bringing up the next generation of VFX artists, Foundry added Katana to our Education Collective in 2018, along with super-fast renderer 3Delight for free, to support schools looking to teach the discipline’s leading toolset to aspiring look development and lighting artists. 

To find out more about the project from the students themselves, read on here.

Animal logic and submarine

So what’s in store for Katana in 2019?

If you think 2018 was exciting, wait until you hear what we have in store for you next year...

The Hydra-powered viewer will become the center of the artist workflow, with a number of key updates and improvements. New shading nodes will be released in early 2019. And building on our recent performance improvements, the Katana of 2019 will be even faster than it is today. 

As always, everything we do will be informed by our close relationships with clients and our mission to empower companies and artists. Development in Katana will focus on speed, artist workflow, and best-in-class scalability.

Not experienced the speed and scalability of Katana for yourself yet? Get a free 30 day trial here