Curriculum Outline

We produce our Lighting projects within the powerful Katana lighting software from The Foundry, performing final look treatments and composites with the award winning NUKE X.

Scheduled classes provide technical knowledge required to master portfolio projects. Each week students are provided with lectures and demonstrations to learn key concepts and further assist with technical and artistic development. Weekly industry studies bring students together to view current media, breakdowns and up to date techniques from real-world industry examples.

Every Wednesday classes gather for weekly screenings, supervised by a seasoned Senior Lighting TD and VFX Supervisor, where finished and work-in-progress projects are presented and discussed. Students complete assigned projects which contribute to portfolio development. In the final term the Lighting students will work on industry calibre shots, demo reel finalisation, and career preparation.

First Term

  • Katana Basics - In this course the students will learn how to work in the Katana node based workflow, and how to customize it. They will learn all the basic nodes they need to achieve a lighting setup and how to merge and group nodes together. In the process, they will learn how to create a primitive, cameras, materials assignment, how to create a gaffer node (the main lighting creation node), how to edit and how to use all the different lights in Katana. The course will also cover different nodes needed to set up the render settings to have an efficient render.
  • Lighting Theory - This course will cover the difference between lighting in reality and in production. The students will go deeper in their understanding of light. Student will learn about the different sources of light, such as direct light, bounced light, reflected light and what physical based lighting is. Explanation about how the source of the light (Sun, Sky, Lamp) can have different colours, exposure and generate different shadows. They will learn how create mood using gobo, shadow blockers, light-linking and how to use it with efficiency and moderation. At the end of the courses students will be provided detailed information on how surface material and texture influence the lighting.
  • Composition Theory - The objective of this course is the understanding of all the rules needed in order to balance a pleasing image. Students will learn about the rules of 3rds, implied lines and golden ratio and how to apply these rules in our lighting. We will learn how to create depth in our scene and how the contrast and color can influence our perception of the image.
  • Compositing for Lighters - This course will cover all the basic compositing skills needed for the lighter in lighting work, from managing the color space to pre-comping using basic node and basic compositing. How to grade and managing AOV, removing noise and how stereo compositing works.
  • Understanding Renderers - Working with a renderer is a big part of the day to day life of a lighter. In this course, they will learn how a general renderer works, how the Arnold renderer works and how to work with Arnold in a Katana environment. The students will review what specific Katana nodes are commonly used to tweak your render settings. They will also do a quick overview of the commonly used render packages on the market like Vray, Renderman, etc...

Second Term

  • Rendering techniques - The focus of this course will be on learning how to be efficient when rendering. Being efficient can make the difference between meeting a deadline or not meeting it, so in production it is really important in the lighter learning path. In the first part of the course the students will learn many rendering techniques to optimize the render time, reduce noise and troubleshoot many different issues. In the second part of that course we will cover how an AOV works and how create them.
  • The Lighting Process - VFX for Live action movies - In this course, students will learn how a typical lighting pipeline works in VFX for live action movies. From the study of the onset lighting, to matching a colour ball and editing an Image based lighting (IBL) in Nuke. In addition tweaking the CG elements to the plate and responding to the director's or supervisor's feedback will be covered.
  • The Lighting Process - Fully Animated movies - In this course the students will learn how a typical lighting pipeline works for an animated movie. They will learn how to work with colour scripts or the Director’s/ Supervisor’s notes, which questions to ask before starting, how to manage lighting shot continuity problems and finally when the compositing of your shot needs to be done (which is pretty common in animation industry). Also, they will learn when to stop tweaking their lighting in 3D and when to start to tweak it in compositing.
  • Lighting Projects - The focus of the lighting project is first, to have the students to modify already built lighting setup and follow direction requests, second to create their own lighting setup (following basic and advance artistic request and technical constraint). In the process the students will learn how to solve various common lighting technical issues that come up in production and common task asked of a lighter on a project. The students will be be working on 8 different lighting examples that can be used to create a portfolio.
  • Industry Studies - Upon completion of this course the successful student will have an understanding of various studio environments and the type of projects and work being done at each. Students will also learn how to look at shots from various companies and learn how to evaluate the quality and techniques used to produce them.
  • Career Prep - Upon completion of this course the successful student will have created a demo reel, portfolio, a resume and linkedin presence. Students will also receive demo reel feedback with weekly screenings from the instructor and an in house VFX Supervisor. Throughout the program various guest industry professionals will be invited to provide feedback on students work in progress.

Instructional Delivery Methods

  • On-site delivery – supervised and unsupervised classroom and studio access
  • Demonstrations/lectures
  • One-on-one mentoring with industry professionals
  • Project-Based Learning, a technique which enables the students to explore and grasp concepts and methods within a simulated production pipeline while generating valuable portfolio material
  • Weekly screenings where mentors provide valuable feedback
  • Extensive training library and online resources
  • Visiting artists & guest speakers
  • Industry studio tours (Vancouver)

Students develop and enhance their skills in the following areas:


Understand the fundamentals of digital lighting techniques for creating professional visual effects and animation shots. Develop the ability to choose the most efficient and appropriate techniques and tools to create the required shots in production.


Develop the ability to use specific production techniques relevant to industry. These include standard skill sets such as software interface & workflows, light assets & implementations, physical based lighting, material/shader creation, colour space and linear workflows, multi-pass CG rendering, render optimisations, trouble shooting noise, compositing CG render layers, intro to scripting, and more.


Analyze and apply art direction and creative choices through the use of colour, composition, movement and production techniques to achieve the desired look.


Learn to navigate the unique creative industry culture through simulated production experience, mentor screenings/feedback, industry studies/tours, career preparation classes, and our studio etiquette certification course.

Greg Berridge | Training Department Manager, Sony Pictures Imageworks

  • We are always searching for the perfect blend of artist and technician that can be a great lighter, they are definitely in demand in our industry (Animation and VFX) and many others. We can just never seem to find enough quality lighters.