Tuesday, December 14th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Foundry ships Katana 5.0

Foundry has released Katana 5.0, the latest major version of its lighting and look development software.

The update introduces Nuke Bridge, a new feature that can live link Nuke comps to Katana scenes, and makes it possible to launch multiple interactive renders from Katana’s Foresight+ rendering system.

Other changes include support for instances and a new native render delegate inside Katana’s Hydra-based Viewer, and support for Material Macros when creating materials.

In addition, Katana 5.0 moves the software to Python 3.7, with a separate parallel release, Katana 4.5, providing the same new features to studios still using Python 2.x in their pipelines.

Nuke Bridge lets artists view linked Nuke comps inside Katana
New features in Katana 5.0 include Nuke Bridge, a new feature that improves workflow between Katana and Nuke, Foundry’s VFX-industry-standard compositing software.

Instead of having to generate offline renders from Katana and pass them to a Nuke artist for compositing before being able to preview the results, Nuke Bridge can live link the two applications.

Renders from Katana can be streamed to Nuke, and the comped pixels streamed back to Katana.

The results of the comp are visible within Katana’s render window, making it easier and quicker for lighting artists to see changes in the context of the final shot.

As well as linking interactive Live Renders to a GUI edition of Nuke on the same machine, Nuke Bridge can be used with Nuke running headlessly on a render farm, including with Katana’s static Preview Renders.

Foresight+ rendering now supports multiple simultaneous interactive renders
The Foresight Rendering system introduced in Katana 4.0 for working with multiple simultaneous test renders has also been updated, and has now been renamed Foresight+.

Whereas users were originally restricted to simultaneous Preview Renders, Foresight+ also makes it possible to launch multiple interactive Live Renders.

Live Renders only update when changes are made that affect them directly: for example, making it possible to edit the parameters of a shot without restarting renders of other shots in the same sequence.

It is also possible to ‘pin’ attributes so that they don’t trigger updates: for example, making it possible to scrub through frames without causing a Live Render to restart.

Support for instances and new render delegates inside the Hydra Viewer
Katana’s Hydra Viewer tab, introduced in Katana 3.0 as a successor to the legacy OpenSceneGraph viewport, has now been renamed the Viewer tab, and the OSG version deprecated.

Changes in Katana 5.0 include support for previewing instanced geometry in the Viewer, as shown above.

In addition, Foundry’s Advanced Viewport (AVP) is now available as a native Hydra render delegate within the Viewer, alongside HdStorm, the default USD Hydra renderer.

AVP is also used in Modo, Foundry’s 3D modelling software, and Mari, its 3D texture painting software, increasing visual consistency between the three applications during look development.

In addition, the Viewer now officially supports Hydra delegates from Katana-compatible third-party renderers, which include 3Delight, Arnold, Redshift and RenderMan.

USD light export, better material workflow and support for Python 3.7
Other changes in Katana 5.0 include the option to export USD lights: light locations, including light linking information, can be exported via UsdMaterialBake nodes using the UsdLux APIs.

Materials workflow has also been streamlined, with support for Material Macros making it easier to reuse sections of material node graphs between projects, or share them with other users.

In addition, the third-party libraries used in Katana 5.0 have been updated to match the CY2020 spec for the VFX Reference Platform, including support for Python 3.7.

The change brings Katana back into line with other key VFX applications, many of which have supported Python 3.x for some time now, and with its own sibling applications Nuke and Mari.

As it did with Mari 4.8 and 5.0, Foundry has provided a parallel Python 2.7-based release, Katana 4.5, for studios that have not yet updated their pipelines to the current version of the programming language.

There are also a number of smaller workflow improvements: find a full list of changes via the links below.

Pricing and system requirements
Katana 5.0 is available for Windows 7+ and CentOS/RHEL 6 Linux.

Foundry doesn’t list prices for Katana on its website, but according to the FAQs, it is available via quarterly rental and via perpetual licences of Katana GUI and Katana Render, the headless edition for render farms.

The firm told us that it is currently testing different pricing models for Katana, and advises users to contact it directly, but that it aims to provide a public update on pricing early in 2022.

As a ballpark figure, new licences of Katana GUI previously cost $9,458 when Katana 4.0 was released in October 2020; new licences of Katana Render previously cost $528.

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

Read a full list of new features in Katana 5.0 in the online release notes