A Sneak Peak at Foundry's Upcoming Katana 5.0 Release

Foundry's Product Manager for Lighting Gary Jones has told us about the upcoming Katana 5.0's features, talked about Katana-Nuke interoperability, and discussed the Foresight+ rendering feature.


I am Gary Jones, the Product Manager for Lighting at Foundry. I cross-trained to VFX in 2008 at Escape Studios in London. I got my first job in this industry at Foundry over 10 years ago to write the initial User Guide and Reference Guide for Katana.

After working at Foundry for a couple of years, I went out into the industry, initially as a Maya Generalist but then as a Lighting Artist at MPC. I worked on Jungle Book, Passengers, Ghostbusters, Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, and The Lion King.

Partway through The Lion King, I decided to take a break from production and returned to Foundry, initially as a Product Specialist but later moving into the Product Management arena. My responsibilities mostly revolve around helping the engineering team understand the customers’ needs and pointing them in the right direction of what we should be building into the product and what workflows we should be supporting.

Nuke Interop Inside Nuke

Nuke <> Katana Interop


We use several communication techniques with clients, and we are always looking to improve this process. Part of my job is juggling the immediate needs of the existing customers, anticipating their future requirements, tying it in with a wider Foundry-based and industry-wide roadmap, and making sure that the product is also appealing to new customers. Finding this balance can actually be different for every release.

Usd Lux Exporting

Upcoming Katana 5.0

Katana 5.0 has a number of different improvement streams. The main one is our updated rendering feature called Foresight+, but here are some of the others:

  • Full Hydra Render Delegate support for previewing in the Viewer. We were the first DCC to ship with basic Hydra Render Delegate support back in 2018, but it was always considered experimental. We now have the ability to plug in render delegates from our render vendors and have them provide a renderer-specific preview viewing experience.
  • On top of the above-mentioned Hydra Render Delegate support, we will also start shipping with our own Foundry-specific render delegate called AVP. This is based on the same technology that is behind Modo and Mari. It is a GL-based viewing technology that provides higher visual fidelity compared to the Pixar-provided Storm. Great features like screen-space reflections and better shadow support.
  • We have added the ability to display instances inside the Hydra Viewer as well. This works in a Katana-like way whereby you can easily control when you’d like to see the locations by expanding the instance sources in the Scene Graph. This is great because some of our customers have extremely heavy instancing.
  • We’ve added a fantastic number of improvements in the look development space. Macros can now be created for ShadingGroups inside the network material context, lots of small improvements like automatic expanding of the nodes when you are plugging in connections, and the parameter interface is now much more intuitive, including reducing the number of steps to create that interface.
  • But probably the star of this list is the Katana-Nuke bridge. This allows a Katana artist to stream their pixels (one or more images from the Catalog) into a Nuke session, have them run through the Nuke comp, and stream them back to Katana. You have a choice as to whether that streaming is done with a headless Nuke through a Preview render or a Live render (that will listen to further image updates), or it could be with an open Nuke session. So many shows involve a close collaboration between lighting and comp, whether that is through the need to match a plate or a lot of the look of the show is found in the comp, for instance, in SpiderVerse.

Render Delegates with Arnold:

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In Katana 4.0, we developed a system called Foresight. This gave artists two things –  the ability to have multiple renders going at the same time while streaming the pixels into the interface and the ability to have those renders exist on your local machine or remotely on your network or farm. This combines very well with one of Katana’s core strengths - having an entire sequence (or possibly even a show) in one project. This was a nice addition in Katana 4.0 but it always had a limit, as it only really worked well with Preview renders.


What we’ve done with Foresight+ is to re-write our Live rendering system and the infrastructure that Foresight is built on. Now an artist can work on lots of shots simultaneously and see the changes they are making update across all the shots where it applies. Imagine having 20 shots on your plate and having the ability to raise the quality of those shots simultaneously. A very powerful and exciting new addition.

USD Instancing

Educational Aspects

Before the lockdown, we’d visit learning institutions and explain the benefits of our software in person. If students were interested in working at the highest level of lighting, then we shared that Katana was the software to learn, having been the lighting tool used by the teams working on all the VFX Oscar-nominated films.

We are fortunate enough to have several people who have developed courses for the software and the tutorials on our Foundry Learn platform to help new users understand the principles of the software. It is a challenge, though, as Katana’s true strength is working across a number of shots in a sequence at the same time, and this involves a lot of work already being finished in other software. If you put in the time to learn it, though, it’ll really help you stand out as the studios who already have Katana are almost always looking for artists, especially in this boom in content that we are all seeing due to competing streaming platforms. There’s never been a better time to learn any 3D software, and adding Katana to your arsenal will give you a massive step-up if your goal is to work on the most exciting content, whether in VFX or Animation.

We aim to get Katana out in December, and if you’d like to be notified, we have a sign-up page where you can register your interest!

Gary Jones, Product Manager for Lighting at Foundry

Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin

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