What Katana’s new Foresight workflows can mean for your day

The new features are here in Katana 4.0.

Two new features are debuting in Foundry Katana 4.0; multiple simultaneous rendering and interactive network rendering sitting under an umbrella called the Foresight workflow.

With multiple simultaneous renders, users will be able to launch what are effectively test renders on their local machines without having to wait for existing renders to finish during the lookdev and lighting process.

Meanwhile, interactive network renders will enable live renders and preview renders to be set up on renderfarms, both physical and in the cloud.

Here’s how it all works, and how it can be part of your VFX and animation workflow.

No need to stop and wait for the next render

That’s pretty much the idea of the new multiple simultaneous renders feature coming in Katana, part of something Foundry is calling Katana Foresight. Before, setting off renders was a hard stop; you did one, then you did the next.

The new approach is designed to reflect the kinds of ways artists work these days, including the way artists tend to iterate on different looks, compare looks on their own workstation. Building on Katana’s ability for any project file to house multiple shots, assets, or other deliverables in a procedural node graph based workflow.

This image shows the lighting of an animation from multiple camera angles which, in this case, show multiple shots. This could also be multiple frames of the same shot. Each change can be viewed by all the possible outcomes that affect it. This improves continuity, reduces the amount of revision cycles and allows greater creative freedom.

“When you’re working on an asset, you might need to know,” observes Jordan Thistlewood, Foundry’s Director of Product – Pre-production, LookDev & Lighting, “how is it going to look on screen from close-up or maybe from far away?”

Since in Katana you might have multiple assets that inherit a common set of resources—materials and textures, for example—the changes you make can have far-reaching impacts.

This image shows a scenario where the materials and lighting of the lion can be adjusted while viewing the outcome from multiple camera angles during a live render. The distance from the camera, and the viewing angle all have an impact on how the artist would adjust lights or material. Each facet can be changed knowing how the choices impact the possible uses allowing an artist to make a well informed choice.

“You might make a change to the parent shader that feeds multiple assets looking at one asset, and it may look good on that one asset, but you need to be able to make that choice against all of them,” notes Thistlewood.

That’s where Katana Foresight is going to come in. This block of workflows is designed to give users that ability to consume every possible outcome on their rendered assets, on their local machines. “It’s about providing the foresight to know that the choices you make are the choices that you need for the total scope of your work,” says Thistlewood.

This image shows multiple vinyl toys that all share a common vinyl material. The material nodes that make each toy unique only change the texture maps that are applied to the model. The rest of the properties that make it look like vinyl come from a common ‘parent’ material. So in the Katana Foresight workflow all the look of the vinyl of the toys can be changed from one material node and viewed on all the assets that use it at the same time. This could be multiple live or preview renders.

Bigger jobs

When larger, more complex rendering tasks are at play, Katana 4.0 is also introducing the ability to use machines on the network—at a studio, on virtual workstations or in the cloud—to render interactive renders directly into the Katana UI.

Of course, rendering on the farm has been commonplace for many years. But what has not always been possible with Katana is seeing, reviewing and changing a render while it’s in progress, i.e. while it’s on the renderfarm.

Katana’s Monitor and Catalog were improved to allow an artist to consume more than one render at a time. The Monitor can show two large images side by side or one on top of the other. The Catalog can now show larger thumbnails that update dynamically as the render progresses.

That’s changing in Katana 4.0 with this new interactive rendering approach, where users will be able to carry out one live render and multiple preview renders (preview renders provide a snapshot of the rendering state, while live renders allow for changes to be made on the fly).

Further enhancements to this capability are already planned, adds Thistlewood. “The goal we’re delivering next year is the ability for all these renders to also be live renders. Someone could have a whole sequence of shots, be able change the key light direction for a whole scene, and then see it update across all the shots.”

This is the UI that allows artists to submit multiple renders to the Foresight system at the same time. The artist can control which criteria create the range of submitted renders. This is useful in cases from 2 to 100s of renders.

Part of these rendering changes will, in the near future, also include a contact sheet mode in Katana so that users can quickly consume the different renders they set off.

More options, more feedback

What Foundry is aiming to do with these multiple simultaneous and interactive network rendering enhancements in Katana 4.0, and beyond, is give artists the ability to check their work against all the possible factors that are going to invalidate or validate what they’ve done in lookdev’ing, lighting and rendering an asset, shot or scene.

Now that Katana can render multiple renders at the same time, it was important to ensure that there was an ability to surgically control those processes, as well as create a native UI in Katana that could show the state of render processes happening on remote machines controlled by a render farm management system.

This is especially the case where, usually, one change often impacts many other aspects down the line. The changes are about offering more options, more opportunities and more chances for feedback during the lookdev, lighting and rendering process.

“For an artist to be able to consume what they’re doing multiple times, within every shot and for every shot within a sequence, then moving, for example, one light all of a sudden comes super powerful because you know how it’s going to end up in everything,” says Thistlewood.

“So instead of wondering if the change will work everywhere else, you can have the foresight to know that you’ve done your job to the best of your abilities to then deliver the best result that you can put in front of dailies.”

To find out more about the new features in Katana 4.0, head to Foundry’s website.

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