Katana Production Primer

Taught by Matt Leonard

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
January 2016 
7 hours 9 minutes 
This course will take a new artist through all the key features of Katana while focusing on two main projects. We’ll start by looking briefly at how to properly import data into Katana from Maya and have it organised in a way that utilises Katana’s powerful ‘Collection Expression Language’. From there we’ll learn about building and assigning Materials to geometry, creating lights via the Gaffer, setting up the renderer and defining render passes.

The first part of the course will be focused on Look Development, using an all CG shot, and the second part on Lighting, based off a live action plate. We will be going in-depth on both the standard tools and the more advanced features such as building Interactive Render Filters, Templates and Super Tools. We’ll also cover many features of RenderMan and how it seamlessly integrates with Katana.

Katana has become the key Look Dev and Lighting tool for many of the world’s top Visual Effects companies including Industrial Light and Magic, MPC, Digital Domain and of course Sony Picture Imageworks. The course has been designed for anyone interested in learning Katana for the first time or a junior level artist looking to extend their knowledge to the next level. Throughout the course we’ll be using Katana 2.1v1, RenderMan 20.6, Maya 2016 and Nuke 9.0v8 (10 when released).

The course is taught by Matt Leonard who currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He has been in the 3D and Visual Effects industry since 1990 and has worked on movies such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Godzilla and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He learned Katana at Sony Pictures Imageworks and has been teaching it since 2013. He is a member of the Visual Effects Society and a beta tester for numerous software tools including Katana, RenderMan and Nuke. He is currently Lead Lighting Instructor at MPC.
Katana Production Primer
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Intro and Maya Prep. We begin with a brief overview of the history of Katana and a general introduction to how the software works, including understanding its deferred loading system, the scene graph and RenderMan’s integration. From there we transition into Maya and look at how to prepare our 3D assets for exporting into Katana and then how we can utilise the Alembic format with raw or via the SceneGraph XML system.

Class 2

Look Dev (Project 1) - Part 1. W start our first main project, the surf shack. We look at how we can import both geometry and cameras into Katana, create basic primitive objects and build Collections using CEL (Collection Expression Language). We also look at the Viewer and Scene Graph in detail.

Class 3

Look Dev (Project 1) - Part 2. We continue with our project looking at RenderMan object settings and the basics of setting up the renderer. From there we start building our Materials using the new RenderMan for Katana RIS system. Finally we add our Materials to the imported geometry based on the Collections previously built.

Class 4

Look Dev (Project 1) - Part 3. We continue building and assigning Materials to the geometry, now focusing on the more complex setups. We also focus in-depth on RenderMan render settings, object settings and the use of the Attribute editor.

Class 5

Look Dev (Project 1) - Part 4. The end of our first project. Here we learn about the Gaffer which we use to setup and control our lightings. For this project we’re going to build a number of Light Rigs including Daytime, Night time, Overcast and Interior setups. Next we create a number of Render Passes including the default Beauty plus Grey and ID. Finally we create a LookDev file and test that it is working correctly.

Class 6

IRF’s and Templates. We step away from the projects and look at building a reusable Template for doing general Look Development work. We also look at setting up common Interactive Render Filters for IRF’s which can be used with both LookDev and Lighting projects.

Class 7

Lighting (Project 2) - Part 1. We look briefly at Katana’s 2D compositing functionality. From there we start our next project which will be based around a Live Action shot. We look again at importing our geometry and matchmoved camera along with a pre-built LookDev file for the main asset. Next we talk about the concept of ‘Key Lighting Stages’ which we’ll use as we progress through our new project. Finally we set up our lighting for this shot, again using the Gaffer.

Class 8

Lighting (Project 2) - Part 2. We continue lighting our scene. We focus in-depth on RenderMan lights and how they can be using within Katana. We also look at Animation, the Dope Sheet, Graph Editor and how to import and use animated texture maps.

Class 9

Lighting (Project 2) - Part 3. We finish off our live action project. We look at how you can edit materials stored within the LookDev File based on exposed attributes made during the initial creation process. From there we focus on setting up our main Render Passes which will be rendered out ready for Compositing.

Class 10

More Advanced Katana Techniques. We cover a mixture of more advanced techniques including Groups and Live Group setup, Macros and the creation of Super Tools, Working with Attributes, understanding Resolvers and finally how Instancing works within Katana.