The future of VFX and tips for animation students


28 Oct 2016



The future of VFX and tips for animation students

28 Oct 2016

Mike Kain from Intraware held a Masterclass last week at SAE Sydney to introduce KATANA, a look development and lighting tool used for film, animation and VFX. KATANA integrates with Maya and can integrate, automate or customise to suit your pipeline and processes.

KATANA is currently used in studios such as Sony Picture Imageworks, Pixar, ILM, Iloura, MPC, Spin VFX and Laika. KATANA has been used to produce some of the world’s biggest blockbuster movies including Mad Max Fury Road, Deadpool, The Amazing Spider-Man, Watchmen, The Jungle Book, Game of Thrones and many more.

KATANA allows scalability to handle massive scenes while managing huge volumes of shots and can open files with fast revisions. Other features include Node-based workflow, assets that are referenced not loaded (so are therefore lightweight) and the ability for overrides to allow adjustments made shot by shot. KATANA customises with C and Python APIs, and has C++ plugin capability.

In addition to providing a run through of KATANA’s workflow process, Mike sat down and spoke to the SAE students about the animation industry and passed on some of his advice.

 SAE: Can you please give us a snapshot into the state of the VFX industry in Australia?

MK: Every studio we visit in Australia is flat out busy, which is fantasic to see, it's a great time for VFX in Australia. New platforms and technology like VR is becoming mainstream, which is creating new studios and putting more demand on new talent to have a wider skillset, and veterans alike.

SAE: What is Katana and what puts it ahead of other VFX development software?

MK: KATANA is a look development, lighting, and pipeline solution for studios, created by Sony Imageworks and then commercial right were given to The Foundry. Katana was awarded a SciTech Oscar in 2013. It enables many teams to work in parallel, multiple shots can be lit and rendered in a single script, and much more.

KATANA Masterclass at SAE Institute SydneyKATANA Masterclass at SAE Institute Sydney

SAE: Many of our Animation students will soon be graduating with a Bachelor in Animation, what advice or tips can you offer them in securing a job in VFX?

MK: Put yourself out there! Your degree or diploma often isn't enough alone to land you a gig.  A well put together showreel, (even one shoot) you can present to the community for feedback will go a long way. Online communities like DLF (a great one for Aussies), and Artstation are excellent for this. Many studios are surprised at the small amount of student applications for roles.
Don't be too proud to take entry level positions, or find a good company and offer to be an intern. To quote a 3D artist I love, Ben Mathis “It is not difficult to get a job. It's difficult to get a good portfolio.”

SAE: What makes a standout animation portfolio and do you have any presentation tips?

MK: Keep it short, only add your best work, and keep it relevant to the role you’re applying. Some people make multiple reels or sections of their portfolio to showcase different skills. Then you can tailor the application to show most relevant skills first. Many artists can sculpt that Zbrush creature, but one that follows and matches a concept and brief closely will work much better.  Include visually appealing work, and work that is up to date in terms of rendering and shader standards.

SAE: What advice do you have for current Animation students at SAE in terms of extra curricular opportunities they should be seeking to improve their skill set?

MK: As mentioned above, online communities are fantastic, but there are many options out in the real world. Siggraph Sydney and DLF hold regular events and masterclasses, as do the IGDA (for any game artists). For animators, check out the 11 Second Club! Another suggestion would be to participate in 48-hour film competitions and/or game jams. These allow you to work on things you wouldn’t normally do, and often are great for brainstorming and prototyping practice.

Introduction to KATANAIntroduction to KATANA

SAE: What three pieces of advice/tips would you give yourself if you were an animation student today?

MK:  Work harder and study more than all the people around you!  Set deadlines, create, get feedback, present work. Rinse repeat. Apply for jobs too. You will always feel that “I’m not ready” feeling even when you are old and grey.          

SAE: What’s your view on the future state of art studios that use KATANA, how is the industry developing?

MK: The biggest changes I see coming are a larger adoption of VR content (outside of just 360 trailers) in the big studios. Also changes to rendering.  As 4k, 6k & above become more common, the need for better rendering solutions grows. A larger adoption of realtime and GPU rendering in film studios is also likely. 

 Check out more about KATANA.

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