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What is lighting and look development?


At the heart of modern CG production, 3D asset and scene complexity have skyrocketed in recent years. As a multitude of 2D and 3D elements are combined to create the final imagery, a key challenge in both animation and live action is helping visual effects artists to perform look development, lighting and rendering. 

Look development and lighting play a significant creative role in delivering the expectations of directors and audiences, helping not only to determine color but also to drive the story, through critical associations like emotion and atmosphere.

Creating shading and lighting variations requires a flexible and scalable framework. Lighters need to work in the context of scenes and sequences, access assets on demand and integrate contributions from other animation and effects artists. All this, while at the same time answering the unique needs of each show - something that current 3D modeling and rendering tools tend not to do well on their own.

The Foundry’s innovative look development and lighting software, KATANA, provides a highly efficient pipeline that streamlines asset-based workflow in modern production. KATANA allows artists to define and control look and lighting, whilst managing scene complexity, improving rendering productivity and supporting collaborative working between modeling, animation, lighting and compositing teams. 

KATANA enables artists to maintain shared standards and rigs and manage looks for large numbers of assets with minimal setup between tasks. Tight integration with rendering gives more iterations and better looking results, with KATANA managing dependencies between render passes such as shadows, effects, reflections and occlusion passes, required to complete the shots.

Originally developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks, KATANA has been applied on all of their films since 2004, and is now in use at Industrial Light and Magic, Mikros Image, Reliance Mediaworks, Spin VFX, Tippet Studio and others.


Why use KATANA for lighting and look development?

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KATANA takes the hard work out of lighting complex shots with a recipe-based formula that allows updates of assets to naturally flow through a pipeline. 

Lighting shots with multiple CG characters becomes easy with KATANA, which gives you enormous flexibility to refine your lighting and make granular adjustments. The combined pressures of fast-paced production and tight budgets make it increasingly important for artists to be able to make alterations to a scene and review the impact in real time, which KATANA supports with ease.


KATANA's power helps deliver The Amazing Spider-Man
© 2012 Columbia Pictures.
KATANA helps Buick blend the present with the prehistoric
Images courtesy of Buick Division General Motors.
KATANA and NUKE cast a spell in Oz the Great and Powerful
© 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc.