Tuesday, June 16th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Foundry releases Katana 3.6

The new dockable widgets system in Katana 3.6, the latest version of Foundry’s lighting and look dev toolset.

Posted on 5 June 2018. Scroll down for news of the Katana 3.6 update.

Foundry has released Katana 3.0, a major update to its look dev and lighting tool, bundling in a new plugin version of the 3Delight renderer, and introducing a new viewport based on Pixar’s USD Hydra technology.

Performance has also been significantly improved: as well as the speed boost resulting from the new viewport architecture, Foundry claims that Katana 3.0 “loads files 1.5x faster” than previous versions.

New, faster viewport based on Pixar’s Hydra architecture
The headline feature in the update is the new viewport, which is based on Pixar’s Hydra technology.

Hydra, Pixar’s OpenSubdiv-based real-time rendering architecture, is used in Pixar’s own in-house tools, and forms part of its open-source Universal Scene Description (USD) technology.

The major benefit of the change is raw performance, particularly when working with large scenes: Foundry claims that the new viewport is “7x to 10x faster” than its predecessor.

However, there are also a few other design changes, including “a set of artist-friendly transform handles [and] a rich API for creating custom object drawing and manipulators”.

Comes bundles with the new 3Delight for Katana plugin
Katana 3.0 also now comes bundled with a new plugin version of the 3Delight renderer, previously used in production on a range of big visual effects movies and animated features.

We discussed the integration when Foundry previewed it at NAB, so check our original story for details.

Foundry also now has a dedicated webpage summarising 3Delight for Katana’s major features, including its new Nodal Scene Interface (NSI).

As well as a powerful real-time preview and live light mixing system, the renderer offers “robust” OSL support, and support for key pipeline technologies, including Cryptomatte, XGen and Yeti.

Workflow and performance improvements
Other improvements include a revamped UI, intended to let artists “get more information … at a glance”. The changes are quite specific, but there’s a list here.

General performance has also been improved, over and above the new Hydra viewport, with files now opening “1.5x faster than previous versions”, and the rest of the program improved by “similar amounts”.

Updated 29 November 2018: Foundry has released Katana 3.1.

The update makes Katana the lastest Foundry application to support the VFX Reference Platform, intended to provide an industry-wide standard for shared code libraries.

In Katana 3.1’s case, that means the 2017 version of the spec, although one significant change is a move to the Qt5 UI library.

The update also further improves Katana’s Alembic library and 3D scene processing, “drastically reducing time to first pixel for multi-threaded renderer plugins”.

The Hydra Viewer gets a number of usability improvements, including hotkeys for common tasks, and can now display object annotations.

The 3Delight rendering plugin has also had several updates since Katana 3.0 was released, including a new Principled Shader based on the industry-standard Disney principled shading model.

Other key changes include a new AOV based on Animal Logic’s work on prelit materials, “super fast” multiple scattering in the Volume shader, and automatic texture conversion to mipmaps.

Updated 29 August 2019: Foundry has released Katana 3.2.

The update revamps the software’s material node graph, with the new Network Material Create Node introducing a more conventional left-to-right workflow, plus a range of other standard UX features.

Those include the option to collapse nodes to save screen space, add dot or switch nodes to control the layout of connections, and set up custom coloured backdrops to identify regions of the graph visually.

Users can also group parts of a material node network into Shading Group nodes, making it possible to set up nested networks.

Foundry tells us that it hopes to roll out similar workflows in the wider node graph in future.

The Hydra viewer has been updated to USD 19.05, and now supports multiple render delegates.

The system, discussed in this Foundry blog post, is intended to enable users to plug multiple third-party renderers into the Katana viewport, in place of the old “RenderMan-centric” approach.

Support for multi-cam rendering, random walk SSS and better hair shading in 3Delight
The bundled version of 3Delight gets a new workflow for rendering multiple camera views simultaneously, intended to enable artists to check assets from different angles during look development.

Rendering the extra views is said to carry “little” additional computational overhead.

Other new features in 3Delight include support for random walk subsurface scattering, the option to use displacement maps directly with the Principled shader, and improvements to hair and fur shading.

The renderer is also now multithreaded by default, improving scene export times “between 30% to 400%”.

Updated 10 January 2020: Foundry has released Katana 3.5, rewriting the software’s Geolib3 scene graph processing engine to “provide native multi-threaded scene graph expansion”.

The firm claims that the work makes the software “2-30x faster for many operations”, at least on highly multi-core systems, like the 16-core dual Intel Xeon E5-2667 system used in its tests.

As well as enabling performance to scale with modern multi-core server CPUs, the work is intended to reduce time until first pixel, making it possible to iterate on shots faster.

New Monitor Layer overlays a render on the scene in the viewport
The release also introduces an experimental Monitor Layer feature, which enables Katana to display an interactively updated render of a scene overlaid on that scene in the viewport.

It has a range of display options, shown in the video above, including the option to cycle through AOVs, which Foundry describes as removing the need to solo lights.

Other changes include the option to create custom Shading Groups with user-defined inputs and outputs.

Updated USD tools
Katana also now ships with an opt-in set of “Foundry-supported, renderer agnostic set of USD tools”, provided as an alternative to those in Pixar’s USD repository.

Foundry says that it aims “to open source the USD plugin source code and manage pull requests as part of our larger open source plans, so [users] can integrate a customized USD into their pipeline”.

Katana 3.5 also now features the latest version of the USD source code, USD 19.11.

Updated 16 June 2020: Foundry has released Katana 3.6.

It’s a workflow-focused update, with changes including support for snapping in the Hydra viewer. There are 10 modes available, including snapping to vertices, edges, faces, objects and locators.

The release also introduces a new system of dockable interface widgets, making it possible to detach tabs and dock them at any side of the screen to create custom UI layouts.

New features include a Network Material Edit tool, enabling artists to edit existing network materials, adding or removing nodes from the shading graph, or modifying material parameters.

In addition, the bundled version of 3Delight has been updated. 3Delight NSI is updated independently of Katana itself, but new features added this year include a new toon shading system and faster live rendering.

Pricing and availability
Katana 3.6 is available for Windows 7+ and CentOS/RHEL 6 Linux. An interactive licence now costs $9,458, including one 3Delight rendering licence. Extra rendering licences are priced on demand.

Read an overview of the new features in Katana on Foundry’s product website

Read a full list of new features in Katana 3.6 in the online release notes

Read a full list of new features in 3Delight NSI 2 for Katana in the online release notes