Friday, October 30th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Foundry ships Katana 4.0

Foundry has unveiled Katana 4.0, a major update to its lighting and look development software.

Changes include a new artist-focused lighting mode inspired by traditional cinematography, and ‘Foresight Rendering’, which supports multiple simultaneous renders and networked interactive rendering.

The release also extends Katana’s support for USD-based workflows, adding USD material export, and support for lights with shadows and USD Preview Surface materials within the Hydra viewer.

New artist-friendly lighting mode based on real-world cinematography workflows
One key change in Katana 4.0 is the new “artist-focused” lighting system, which enables users to light CG scenes via workflows more like traditional cinematography.

Among other changes, users can now light scenes by clicking directly on the surfaces of the objects. Katana then automatically creates a light that illuminates that point on the surface.

There are also new workflows for editing lights once they have been created, plus new tools for cloning or duplicating lights, or creating a light at a camera position.

We covered the toolset when Foundry previewed it at Siggraph, so check out this story for full details.

Support for multiple simultaneous renders and networked interactive rendering
Another major change in Katana 4.0 is what Foundry terms ‘Foresight Rendering’.

It is intended to make it easier for artists to work with multiple renders in Katana: for example, comparative renders of material variations for an asset or lighting variations for a scene, or renders from multiple shots.

There are two key components: multiple simultaneous renders, and networked interactive rendering.

The former enables users to launch new renders without waiting for existing renders to finish: one suggested workflow is to use an interactive Live Render session to explore variations for lights and materials, then to launch a new Preview Render each time you hit on a promising look.

Simultaneous renders can be carried out either on an artist’s own workstation or on a render farm: version 4.0 of the software includes Katana Queue, a new lightweight built-in render queueing system.

Even interactive render sessions can now be run on a farm, not just static preview or final-quality renders.

Studios can use Katana’s FarmAPI Python package to integrate Foresight Rendering with third-party renderfarm management tools like Deadline or Qube!, or to support their own in-house render engines.

To help manage and compare renders, Katana’s Catalog tab also gets a UI update, making it possible to resize image thumbnails dynamically. The thumbnails also update automatically as renders progress.

Expanded support for USD-based workflows
Katana 4.0 extends support for workflows based around the Universal Scene Description (USD) framework, becoming increasingly important in VFX and feature animation pipelines.

Users can now bake materials and their assignments to USD files, making it possible to apply variant materials for an asset or scene as override layers.

The update also implements a new Katana Scene Delegate to handle communication between Katana and render delegates within the software’s Hydra Viewer.

According to Foundry, this enables “more robust use” of features of the standard HdStorm delegate, “such as lights with shadows and USD Preview Surface materials for assets”.

New image-based selection workflow in the Hydra Viewer
Another neat change to the Hydra Viewer is image-based selection, which makes it possible to select scene objects directly from the render ID buffer.

Rather than having to wait for an entire scene to load before beginning work, users can begin with an image from a previous work session, then make selections within it to determine which geometry Katana loads.

The Hydra Viewer also gets a new region of interest rendering system, shown in the video above.

Pricing and system requirements
Katana 4.0 is available for Windows 7+ and CentOS/RHEL 6 Linux.

Interactive licences, which include a 3Delight interactive rendering licence and which previously cost $9,458, are now listed as ‘request callback’. We’ve contacted Foundry to ask if the price has changed.

Updated 2 November 2020: Foundry tells us that there have been no changes to pricing.

Additional render licences, used for rendering on remote machines, and required for command-line rendering with any renderer plugin, cost $528 each, with discounts when buying in volume.

Read an overview of Katana 4.0 on Foundry’s product website

Read a full list of new features in Katana 4.0 in the online release notes