KATANA | Mastering LookDev & Lighting for the VFX industry
4.8 (123 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,654 students enrolled

KATANA | Mastering LookDev & Lighting for the VFX industry

Advanced Insights to Workflows and Techniques using Arnold
Highest Rated
4.8 (123 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,655 students enrolled
Created by Arvid Schneider
Last updated 4/2019
English [Auto-generated]
Current price: $129.99 Original price: $199.99 Discount: 35% off
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This course includes
  • 10.5 hours on-demand video
  • 2 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Be able to fully control and understand Katana to help you get started in the industry
  • Gain important software requirement skills in Katana for job applications
  • Hands-on information and workflows from experienced artist
  • Creating tools to help you become more efficient as an artist in the industry
  • Develop Macros, OpScripts and other helper tools
  • Becoming a versatile artist and land a job in the industry
  • Fulfill the additional application requirement to be proficient in katana.
  • A technical understanding is needed to fulfill this course requirements
  • Recommended to know Arnold renderer
  • Problem solving skills and logical thinking
  • Eager to learn new techniques and workflows
  • Working with node based editors is a plus

Arvid Schneider is an established artist, who has been working in the professional VFX industry for more than 10 years. He has worked on big blockbusters like Captain Marvel, Aquaman, Ready Player One, Jurassic World, Transformers and many more.

With his knowledge and expertise, Arvid has prepared a detailed course to get to know and understand the industry standard lighting and look development software Katana. This course will help you to jump-start your career by becoming an advanced lighting and shading TD in today's competitive industry.


  • This course is tagged for all levels - but it gets Intermediate and Advanced fairly quickly! 

  • This is a technical and artistic course which means that it will contain quite a lot of theory, bit also artistic hands-on lectures.

  • This course is using Katana for Windows and Arnold as the main software tools. (But all topics can be achieved on Linux or Mac workstations, the same applies for other renderers).

Mastering Katana

  • Gain real production insights

  • Fully understand how to work within Katana and to understand important workflows

  • Create your own powerful macros and templates to organize your work

  • Technical course on how to create advanced templates within Katana

  • Advanced LookDev and Lighting practices

  • Opscripts, Graph State Variables, Reference Expressions, Macros, Live Groups, Variable Switches

Brief Overview

  1. Introduction to Katana - installation, navigation, UI

  2. Principles of Look Development and Lighting

  3. Creating advanced and versatile Look and Lighting templates

  4. Look development of production assets

  5. Shot lighting of production assets

  6. Rendering shots

  7. Compositing


  • You will be able to fully work with Katana at a high level.

  • Directly jump into a VFX company with advanced knowledge in templates and workflows.

  • Create and customize custom workflows.

  • Develop tools and macros.

What this course is NOT

  • Not teaching a specific renderer (Course is applicable to other renderers).

  • Not about modelling, texturing or animation.

  • Will not teach about Python or Lua or other programming languages.

Who this course is for:
  • Students who want to work professionally in the VFX industry and need a good understanding of the software Katana
  • Beginner level artists curious to learn VFX standards
  • Artists who want to add another set of tools to their toolbag
Course content
Expand all 45 lectures 10:24:39
+ Introduction
5 lectures 21:53

Welcome message from Arvid Schneider which will be your instructor for this Master course on Katana

Preview 00:31

Installation of Katana for Windows. Students will be able to follow along this course with the correct software installed.

Preparation and Installation

Downloading and installing the correct Arnold version for Katana on a Windows environment.

Installing Arnold for Katana

Setting up Katana using a Windows batch file to set up environment variables.

Environment Variables

Adding additional resources to the Katana session using the Windows batch file.

Adding Additional Resources
+ Katana | Fundamentals
7 lectures 01:28:15

Introduction to Section 2 where Arvid will show you the fundamentals of Katana for Windows.


Explanation of Preferences and configuring the interface.

Configuration and Layout

Arvid shows the process of navigation and viewing within Katana. Students will feel more familiar with Navigation within Katana

Preview 15:52

Arvid explains very important principles of how the scene graph is being evaluated and how it impacts the structure of the template.


Key structures of the template are elaborated and workflows are being discussed to find the optimal setup.

Structuring the Template

Arvid explains the important principles of look development and lighting.

Lookdev and Lighting Principles

The importance of upstream departments are being explained in detailed and how to make sure you get the correct data.

Preparation of Upstream Departments
+ Arnold Overview
3 lectures 14:02

Brief introduction to Section 3 where Arvid will show the similarities between software packages like Maya, Houdini and Katana.


Arvid shows the different nodes within different DCCs and points out similarities.

Cross DCC plugins - MtoA, KtoA, HtoA, C4DtoA, MAXtoA

If you are not that familiar with Arnold - Check out my other course on Udemy about Arnold. This way it will ensure that you are comfortable to follow this whole course in exactly.

Fundamentals of Arnold Course
+ Look Development
7 lectures 02:13:37

Welcome lecture for Section 4 where Arvid will explain all relevant Look Development techniques and workflows.


A bit more technical, Arvid will show how to set up shortcuts which call external Python script to ease functionality within Katana. After that Students will be able to create own shortcuts to help their workflow.

Arnold Shading Node Shortcut Extension

Arvid introduces the basic Look Development workflows and shares interesting concepts. After this lecture Students will be able to understand the rough concepts of creating templates for Look Development.

Basic Look Development Workflows

This lecture will explain how to set up automatic shader assignments and how to work with child materials.

Child Materials and Automatic Assignments

Arvid will explain what KLF - Katana Look File - baking is, and how it will help you manage large assets for different shots.

Basic Principles and KLF Baking

Ever wondered how to create a unique turn table setup with all the bells and whistles? Arvid will go over all the details how to set it up and get a generic template working. Students will understand how to create complex tools within Katana and how to control them using expressions.

Turntable Template Setup

Using the Gaffer, Arvid will show how to set up a basic Lighting template for assets to maintain a consistent look.

Lighting Template for Lookdev
+ Lighting
5 lectures 01:02:32

Introduction to Lighting for Section 5 where Arvid will introduce important tools and techniques for shot lighting.


The Gaffer a versatile lighting tool for Artists. Arvid will explain the most important features and workflows.

Introduction to Gaffer

Overview of the Monitor and Catalog. Important tools for viewing and controlling current rendered images.

Introduction to Monitor and Catalog

Setting up different outputs variables for your rendered image. Arvid will help you to set up a little tool which makes controlling this a lot easier.

Arbitrary Output Variables - AOVs

Setting up render outputs to write your rendered images to disk.

Render Outputs
+ Katana | Advanced
9 lectures 02:56:16

Introduction to the Advanced Section 6 where Arvid will explain core nodes of Katana.


How to add different render resolutions using XML file.

Adding Resolutions

Interactive Render Filter aka IRF - Very important tool to ease lighting and look development workflows. Its interactive shortcuts which will only be activated in an interactive session.

Interactive Render Filter IRF

Arvid will explain in detail the power of expressions and reference expressions. This will help you to control different values together, create macros and just work more efficient as an artist.


Controlling the Dataflow using switches. This lecture will explain the importance of Variable Enabled Groups and Variable Switches. Both very powerful concepts to help the artist control the data flow.

Variable Switches

Very similar to Variables the Graph State Variables live globally within the Katana session. Arvid will explain the core principles behind this. After this lecture Students will be able to set up their own variables and control the data flow.

Graph State Variables

Referencing Katana nodes from external scenes. Arvid will show you the concepts of Live Groups and how to edit and publish their contents.

Live Groups

Do you want to create your own locked tool and share it with colleagues or other departments. Macros are made for that. Arvid will go in to detail on the creation of a macro, and how to store and maintain it.


Very technical lesson about Opscripting. Arvid will show you an example on how to manipulate render output paths using a simple opscript written in the scripting language lua for katana.

+ Katana | Becoming the Master
8 lectures 02:07:38

Introduction of the final Section 7 Becoming the Master. This lecture will guide you through the lookdev creation of assets, how to light several shots and how to render all that out to disk.


Overview of the completed look development template and how to work with that.

Lookdev Template

Look developing a production asset, using basic shading principles, material overrides, textures. After this lecture Students will be able to produce their own look dev on production assets.

Asset Lookdev

Setting up the Lighting Template and developing working flows and variable to help control the data flow.

Lighting Template

This lecture will provide an introduction of spotlighting using the Gaffer node. Setting up master light rigs, and manipulating them.

Shot Lighting

Working on more than one shot? Different cameras, different angles. Arvid will show great techniques to easily handle several shots and maintain the flexibility of a single gaffer.

More Shot Lighting

Setting up different render passes for lighting, and how to override setting and shaders.

Render Passes

Basic introduction of compositing within Katana. This is intended just for checking your renders and output slap comps.

Comping those shots
The idea of this Assignment is for you to follow the whole course and be able to understand all the principles and ideas. Essentially it would be perfect if you are able to recreate the whole template.
Recreate the whole course
1 question
+ Additional Lectures
1 lecture 00:26

Brief introduction to Section 8 for bonus lectures