To compete in the highly competitive VFX industry, MPC were looking for a new, more powerful system to take its lighting department to the next level. The evaluation team at MPC found that KATANA enabled artists to be more productive than ever and felt that the software would improve its ability to attract and retain talented artists going forward.
Originally developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks, KATANA takes an innovative recipe based approach, enabling facilities large and small to build highly scalable and efficient lighting pipelines without a large internal engineering effort.
Andy Lomas, KATANA Product Manager, says ”We’ve been working with MPC for some time to help them understand the potential of KATANA and how it will improve efficiency and streamline the way their lighting team work on feature films. We work with studios of all sizes, answering challenging questions and addressing any issues they may have, to ensure that they are 100% happy with the product before they adopt.”
Nick Cannon, Director Of Technology and Operations at MPC Film
Our existing in-house lighting toolset was getting a little long in the tooth so we decided it was time to replace it. After a lengthy evaluation we decided that adopting KATANA was a better proposition for us than developing something ourselves. There are also advantages to being a relatively early adopter including having the ability to influence product development to better meet our needs.
We’re excited to be able to integrate KATANA into our pipeline and look forward to being able to reduce the admin overhead for our Lighting TDs so they can spend more time actually lighting rather than managing and debugging assets.
KATANA will empower our lighters to have more control over their scenes and make changes without having to be so dependent on other members of the crew.
It will also enable tight integration of interactive rendering giving us more rapid iterations resulting in us delivering better-looking assets and shots sooner.
Our existing in-house lighting toolset is very powerful but its complexity means it takes a long time for artists to learn. As KATANA becomes a prevalent tool in the industry, we expect there to soon be a pool of KATANA talent we can draw on. This will mean that new artists at MPC could be fully up to speed in around a week rather than it taking six months for them to learn our existing in-house toolset from scratch.
An in-house lighting toolset called Tickle.
Once we have the integration work complete and we have reached functional parity with Tickle then the plan is to use KATANA on all our Film projects going forward.
The VFX industry is more competitive than ever so we are always looking for opportunities to provide more powerful tools to our teams. KATANA enables our existing artists to be more productive and also improves our ability to attract and retain talented artists.
We feel that the main advantage that KATANA gives us is flexibility. It’s a node based system that lets artists test different approaches within the same scene which is of great benefit for a Lighting TD. Also, the number of iterations will increase yielding to better quality.
Another great advantage is the ability to work on multiple shots at the same time. We can start thinking in terms of sequences rather than shots per artist. The ability to render multiple shots within the same KATANA scene, for instance, is also very appealing and powerful. Instead of using MEL scripts to create setups, we can use KATANA templates which, given the visual nature of the software, are more intuitive and transparent. This will allow artists to focus on what they really want (which is lighting), instead of spending huge amounts of time on setting scenes up.
We are fortunate to have a number of our crew in a variety of departments who were previously with Sony Pictures Imageworks and had considerable experience of using KATANA there. This has certainly helped both our evaluation process and is helping us make better design decisions regarding the integration.
Predominantly RenderMan Pro Server with some mental ray.
Integrating KATANA into our pipeline is a major undertaking so we don’t anticipate any immediate change in our software development team as we are redirecting existing resources from Tickle development to KATANA integration. In the longer term as KATANA becomes established in our pipeline, we expect to be able to redirect our software developers away from the core lighting tool itself and focus on building on top of KATANA to deliver tools that provide real benefits to both our artists and our clients.
The Foundry have been very accessible and supportive throughout the evaluation and integration process. Having direct access to the product development team has been invaluable in answering challenging questions and giving us confidence that adopting KATANA is a sound strategic decision for MPC.
KATANA 1.1 was released in June 2012 and is in use in production at studios of all sizes including ILM, Digital Domain, Sony Pictures ImageWorks, Spin VFX, LAIKA and Reliance MediaWorks. KATANA is also under evaluation at a number of studios worldwide.