Post Production

HITFILM Pro 14 – In-Depth

The Little Engine that could……still can!

Well, the HitFilm Pro team has done it again.  Just when I thought they couldn’t push things to the next level, they go and release version 14 of HitFilm Pro, available for both Mac and Windows.  I’ve referred to HitFilm Pro 14 in the past as “the little engine that could”, and this update proves that the development team are serious about pushing this product to the next level.  Now, that’s not to say there aren’t any issues with HitFilm Pro 14, as there are still a few big ones that I’ll address at the end of this article, so let’s jump right in and see what HitFilm Pro 14 has to offer us!

COST

This is normally how I start out these articles, by talking about the cost of the product, and for HitFilm Pro 14, it comes in at a reasonable price of $349 US.  What that gets you is HitFilm Pro 14, plus a year of updates and support. Now, keep in mind, the software is yours to keep. This is not a subscription model, so if you purchase now, and they release version 15 before the year is up, you can upgrade to it at no additional cost!  There are bundle packages to bundle HitFilm Pro 14 with Ignite Pro (effects) and Imerge Pro (Photo Editing application), but those products I’ll look at in a different review. For a product that is looking to take some of the market dominance of After Effects away, having a pretty appealing price point is a good way to start, but let’s see what the meat and potatoes of HitFilm Pro 14 offers.

WHAT’S NEW

After Effects Plug-In support

This one was a bit mind-boggling when I first read it, and my initial thought was that it would function something like how PS filters acted in AE back in the day (WAY back in the day).   Now, I need to mention that as of the posting of this article, only effects from Video Copilot (Optical Flares, Element 3D, Saber, Orb and Heat Distortion) and one from Red Giant (Particular) are supported, but just this alone opens a massive door for HitFilm Pro 14 and its users alike.  Keep in mind that HitFilm Pro 14 already supports OFX plug-ins meaning that you already have access to the entire Boris FX effects lineup (Continuum & Sapphire) if you have the multi-host license, plus Mocha HitFilm Pro 14 that comes standard with HitFilm Pro 14, so the availability of 3rd party effects is definitely out there, and I’m hoping that HitFilm Pro 14 keeps adding support for more and more 3rd party AE effects, as it will just keep upping the reasons for users that are frustrated with Adobe’s subscription model to switch.

HitFilm14-AfterEffectsPlugIns

New Export Panel (Render Queue)

A simple to use, drag and drop interface that you can quickly drag the comps/timelines you want to export, add a default or user created preset, hit “Start Exporting”, and you’re good to go!

HitFilm 14 - Render Queue

Imerge Pro Support

Hitfilm Pro 14’s answer to Photoshop, Imerge Pro files are now supported natively inside of HitFilm Pro 14, much like how Photoshop files are supported inside of After Effects.  Much like the AE/PS workflow, Imerge and HitFilm Pro 14 have a “live update” feature so that any updates done to the Imerge file will be immediately updated inside of HitFilm Pro 14.

Interface Updates

Audio Meters have been added right below the viewer, which is super helpful, if you don’t have the audio meters window open.  

Drag and drop effects right into the viewer.  This is a new feature to HitFilm Pro 14, but it’s been done in a very clever way.  Using an effect that uses a specific “point” on the screen, like a Lens Flare or Particle Effect, wherever you drag and drop the effect to, where the mouse pointer is, is where the position of the emitter, or light will appear  Also, when doing keying, wherever you drop the effect in the interface will determine where your chromakey is selected from. A very quick and clever update to what has been a standard workflow in other applications, since the dawn of time.

You can now add panels and get help for whichever panel you are working on, right from the panel itself.  Assuming you’re dropping down the menu for a main panel, you can quickly and easily add new panels or float them, right from here.  You can also use the panel drop down on specific panels to get help about whatever panel you happen to be working with.

Much like in After Effects, you can now select a layer (or layers), and hit the “U” key on both Mac and Windows, to have HitFilm Pro 14 show you all the parameters that have keyframes associated with them.

Effects and Behavior searches are now super simple, as in the Control window, you can simply click on the green “+” icon, and get a search window to quickly punch in what you’re looking for, without the necessity of dragging through all the effects/behaviors, to find the one you’re looking for.

HitFilm 14 - Effects Search REV

The text tool in HitFilm Pro 14 has really been lacking, pretty much since its inception, but with this update, we now have a “Character Tool”, much like After Effects’ character tool, and the one thing that I noticed right away is how responsive it is.  Believe it or not, I actually find it easier to work with than the After Effects Character tool!

HitFilm Text

Now, keep in mind that this is not all the new features, as there are some updates to masking that you can check out from the below video.

LEGACY BELLS AND WHISTLES

Now, I call this section “Bells and Whistles”, however the features I’m going to mention here are actually pretty substantial, and just the fact that they are included with HitFilm Pro 14 is actually very impressive, so let’s break it down.

Version 13

Tracking –  How can you make tracking better inside of HitFilm Pro 13 when you already have Mocha HitFilm Pro 14 from Boris FX?  Well, first, how about updating Mocha HitFilm Pro 14 to version 6.0.3, which lines it up with the rest of the product line (at the time), and how about adding 3D Camera Tracking from the Foundry.  Now, not only are all your screen replacements handled by the best in the business (Mocha HitFilm), but you can now add elements to shots seamlessly, just like they were there on location, with the 3D Camera Tracker.

KEEP IN MIND – I mentioned before that the HitFilm team has added Element 3D support to HitFilm Pro 14, which brings Andrew Kramer’s Hit 3D AE plug-in to HitFilm 14, but let’s be honest.  Being able to import 3D elements into HitFilm is not new. Not by a long shot. That was one of it’s biggest selling features when it was gaining a following a few years ago.

Layer and Track Locking – Might seem like a small feature, but this is just a big lifesaver, having the ability to lock layers and tracks in both the editor and the compositor.

Masking from the Editor – Again, no need to mess around in the compositor to do your masking.  It can all be done from the editor window now.

High Pass Sharpen Effect – Apply the effect, quickly adjust the threshold and sharpening, and you’re now looking at an image with super sharp detail, in literally no time flat.

Tone Coloring Effect – Another great color correction/grading tool designed to give your shots a unique and different look, no matter what the scene is, that you’re putting them into.

Remove Stock Background – at its core, a quick keyer that will let you remove the black background from stock effects shots you’re trying to quickly composite, in your timelines. 

LUT Intensity Slider – Pretty much what it says.  Don’t want your LUT at 100%? No problem. You can now quickly adjust it’s intensity, to have it look exactly as you need it to look.

File Handling Improvements – HitFilm 13 adds support for multi-stream audio files and MP3 files with multiple ID3 tags, along with improved support for H.264, Cineform, MP4 and MP3 media.

Version 12

A Redesigned UI – HitFilm 12’s previous interface was, well, not the greatest.  With the new design, editors new and seasoned will be able to sit down and start working relatively quickly with fresh, easy to navigate workspace.

Threaded Rendering – Whether you’re editing or doing some big-time compositing, HitFilm 12 will be just more responsive in general, and have you always working one step faster than the application is processing.

Revamped Titling – Now, you’re no longer limited to creating titles by messing around in the compositor.  Now, titles can be created right in the editor, to save you a ton of time.

Version 11

Surface Studio – Created from the request of a user who really liked Andrew Kramer’s Decay tutorial from Video Copilot, this tool lets you generate rough or smooth textured metallic and/or glass (transparent) layers.  

Four New Plug-ins – With the addition of Exposure Pro (adjust the exposure of your shots to enhance them, as if it was done in the field), Dehaze (clean up “foggy shots”), Inner/Outer Glow (fairly self explanatory) and Distance Field (more power to adjust the glow and shadows in your images), the already stellar line up of effects just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

PROBLEMS

With all that being said, I do have a few problems with HitFilm Pro 14.  The first one does center, a little, around the implementation of After Effects plug-ins, inside of HitFilm Pro 14.  It will be interesting to see where this goes, as there will be users out there who have thousands (???) of After Effects plug-ins that, if HitFilm Pro 14 continues with supporting OFX or the native AE plug-ins, will find themselves having to shell out more money to have access the the OFX effect counterparts of their current AE effects.  Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but if people are looking to cut the AE cord, they are not going to want to have to incur a higher cost to switch over their existing plug-in set.  

The next problem I have with HitFilm Pro 14 is the same problem I’ve had with it since I started reviewing it.  I don’t like the Editing capabilities. I want to edit in Media Composer, or Premiere or FCPX, and bring in an XML/AAF/EDL file, to then do my effects work in HitFilm Pro 14.  I don’t want to have to bring master clips in, then edit them down to the sum of their parts, to do any compositing or graphics work I need to do. We really need timeline import capabilities.

One last thing that I’d like to point out, is that what HitFilm Pro 14 might be interested in doing, since they are already in the business of making plug-ins (Ignite Pro), would be to release HitFilm Pro 14 as a plug-in option for Media Composer and Adobe products.  This would be a HUGE deal for editors, especially Media Composer editors who are accustomed to working with Boris RED back in the day. Having the option to work with HitFilm Pro 14 directly in their timelines (we wouldn’t need the editing capabilities, just the compositing option), would make an absolute ton of editors jump on the HitFilm Pro 14 bandwagon right away!

IN THE END

In the end, HitFilm 14 is no After Effects, but to be honest, I don’t expect it to be.  Five versions from now is a more realistic timeline, but what HitFilm Pro 14 does offer is an option for people who are tired of subscription models for their software, and an absolute ton of features from keying to tracking to titling and effects work, that for the super low cost it’s offered for, will let you create some pretty awesome looking composites.  I’ve been a big fan of HitFilm Pro 14 in the past, and these new features just keeps the love coming!  I also want to make sure that I point out that there is also a free version of HitFilm Pro 14 called, appropriately enough, HitFilm Express that you can download and start working with right away.  What’s interesting about it is that it really is a stripped down version of HitFilm Pro 14, but what the team has allowed you to do is purchase add-ons for it, like Mocha HitFilm for only $50, as well as other effects bundles and titling packages, which are totally optional, but it really takes what was a very basic application, and give it some great legs to stand on.

You can check out HitFilm Pro 14 and HitFilm Express at www.hitfilm.com .

 


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Kevin P McAuliffe is a three time North American ProMax award winning editor and a Media Composer editor for over 15 years. He is a featured trainer at MacProVideo and is also one of the…

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John Cranmer

To add to your review, I am curious on your opinion of the bundled effects in HitFilm Pro 14. Certainly the particle effects seem to superior to the native ones in AE, which is probably a money saver as you don’t have to fork out for plug-ins. The lack of any scripting or expressions leaves HitFilm feeling a little weak, and there’s no real support for vector graphics as I understand it? I have to admit I am approaching the software as a Motion Graphics designer rather than a compositor or FX user, so it’s not specifically aimed at me,… Read more »

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