HitFilm is an all-in-one editing, 3D and VFX software that prides itself on being a toolset that can be used by independent filmmakers, artists and newcomers to VFX and editing. Developed by UK-based company FXhome, the software allows users to import media, edit it, composite and add effects to it, then export the results to a variety of formats.
The market in which HitFilm resides has some fierce competition. When you think of compositing tools, one immediately thinks of products like After Effects, Nuke or Fusion. These are big players in the VFX and compositing arena, so where does Hitfilm fit in? The software also offers editing capabilities, so how does it compare to related products like Final Cut, Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas?
In this review I will take a look at HitFilm 3 and see what it has to offer, and we will find out where it stands when compared to some of these similar tools.
Installation & Setup
Hitfilm 3 offers a unique experience of being able to do both editing and VFX compositing within one software. Other software tools out there tend to focus one or the other, so I was interested in seeing how the HitFilm workflow handled these two areas of production within one interface.
HitFilm can be purchased at a cost of $299 USD from the official website and once the software was downloaded, I was able to quickly get it up and running. The first obstacle any user faces when using or learning a new software is usually becoming friends with the UI, and learning how everything works. HitFilm has done a really great job of putting new users at ease. Upon launching the interface, users are greeted with a simple layout, a homepage that offers direct links to the HitFilm user guide, video tutorials and user forums. So anyone who is new to HitFilm can easily search out what they are looking for. This is a great way to learn what HitFilm is capable of, but it also allows you to focus on a particular topic right from the get-go. Getting up to speed takes no time at all, and some of the tutorial topics covered are particles, motion graphics and editing essentials.
Setting up your project workspace is simple and straightforward. In the “Project” tab users can specify project settings that include the typical options offered by most video editing and compositing programs like resolutions, 8 & 16bit depth, and frame rate.
Editing & Compositing
The editing component of HitFilm will feel very familiar to anyone who has done any editing before. I will admit, the interface feels like a clunkier, less congested version of Adobe Premiere. The panels, and general layout are what one would expect from a typical video editing toolset, and all of the common editing tools are there. One area that seemed to be lacking was audio. With a limited audio toolset, users can hope this is an area that HitFilm can improve upon in future releases.
The compositing side of the software has a lot to offer. Again, the interface is very similar to After Effects so any AE user will feel right at home, be it for working with compositing or finishing video projects.
One great feature of editing in HitFilm that greatly simplifies workflow when moving from editing to compositing is that you can simply select your shot, hit 'Make Composite Shot', and it will create a composite using the clip selected. Next step is to choose View-Workspace-Compositing from the main menu and you are now using the compositing interface. This is a nice change from using software like Premiere and After Effects where you have to switch out of one, and into another.
Now that we have a composite to work with, we have a wide range of effects, filters, and presets that we can use to alter our footage. The standard tools one would expect in a compositing application are there: tools for keying, masking, and colour correction are all present. I was really impressed at how in-depth HitFilm's composting toolset is.
The sheer amount of tools, and especially particle setups was really nice to see, and it offers a wide range of effects to use and customize for projects' needs. Some of the great particle setups include blood splatter, smoke, sparks, and rain and could be considered similar to what Trapcode Particular offers in After Effects, or Nuke's particle tools. The presets are drag and drop, and can be easily customized, something which can speed up your workflow and allows you to focus on adjusting the settings to get the look you are after. Users can also right click on a customized effect and save it as a preset for future use. HitFilm supports the OpenFX standard, so users can use plugins from other vendors and developers as well.
3D & Importing Geometry
Compositing in 3D space is a must have feature these days, and it's also available in this software. Being able to import 3D geometry into your compositing environment to do camera projection work is a standard in the industry these days and it is nice to see that HitFilm is keeping up with its higher priced competitors.
One thing I would like to see is support for Alembic files, or at least .fbx files. In the version I was using, I was only able to import .3ds, .lwo, or .obj files. The import window for 3D geometry offers control to pan around and view your model before bringing it into your composite, and it also lets you adjust and manipulate the materials. Once imported, you can create a camera, and then add your geometry to gain access to the full 3D environment. Accessing and manipulating the transform data is simple and allows users to move the 3D geometry as needed.
If you are importing a camera from Boujou, SynthEyes, or PFTrack, you will be happy to know that HitFilm supports these formats. And if that wasn't enough, Mocha for HitFilm is also a part of the HitFilm toolset so planar tracking is possible as well.
Once your editing and composites are complete, you can move onto the Export component of HitFilm. This is where you can output your projects to various formats, including a direct connection to YouTube. Along with YouTube, the HitFilm provides export settings for Quicktimes, H.264, EXR sequences, and various image sequence formats. One thing that stood out to me was that both the Quicktime and Image Sequence outputs seemed to be lacking some of the more popular formats and codecs. For example, if I wanted to export my sequence as a tiff or targa sequence there was no option for this format. Also the Quicktime tab seemed to be missing a lot of the codecs that you would normally see in other products like After Effects or Nuke.
HitFilm 3 does not attempt to be a substitute or replacement of Final Cut, After Effects, or Nuke. When using it, I felt as if HitFilm is the underdog, and I was rooting for it and wanted it to succeed. It is an entry level product, that offers users a rich and well thought out toolset, at a really great price. For the low price $299 USD, users can get a software that is capable of delivering high quality effects, without having to break the bank.
Overall I was really impressed with what HitFilm has to offer. The simple interface, coupled with a really great support community, make HitFilm a really solid product that new users can learn and get up to speed quickly. There are a few small details that HitFilm could improve upon to make it an even better product, like additional export options and better support for 3D geometry and audio. With previous releases, HitFilm has listened to its users and community and added in new features, so if the demand for these improvements is there, they will most likely be added in the next release.
HitFilm is a great alternative to some of the other more expensive, well known tools out there, and the price makes it appealing to anyone who requires a full editing and compositing toolset for filmmaking.