Post Production

In Depth Look – HitFilm Pro 2018

I’m the first one to admit that I’m a fan of HitFilm.  For me, it’s like the Little Engine That Could.  The HitFilm team have put themselves in a very interesting place.  They are essentially taking on both Adobe and BlackMagic design, by attempting to give editors and compositors an alternative to doing their editing and graphics work in Premiere and After Effects and/or Resolve and Fusion.  With a team as small as they are (they mentioned in their livestream they are a team of about 20), this is a pretty monumental task but one that, if you’ve been following them for the last few years, I think they might just be up for.  They have a new version of HitFilm Pro 2018 that just hit the internet, along with an update to their Ignite Pro plug-in line, and a new product called Action Pro.  Let’s take a look and see what’s new!


Gone are the days of “Yearly Updates”.  Last year’s HitFilm 2017 was the end of that.  Now, it’s simply HitFilm Pro, and with that, a new pricing and update model.   The issue you had before, much like with any “non-subscription based” software is that if you purchase a month before the newest version comes out, you’re out of luck with upgrading.  So with that, what Hitfilm has done is when you purchase HitFilm Pro 2018 (I know, I know, we’re not supposed to call it that), you get a year’s worth of updates.  Doesn’t matter if they go through two major updates or just one.  Your one price gets you all the necessary updates..  What is that price, I can hear you asking in your head?  Well for $299 US you get:

  • 12 months of software updates
  • 12 months of technical support
  • Professional 3 seat license – run on 3 computers simultaneously

If you’re updating from a previous version of HitFilm, you can upgrade from HitFilm 4 Pro for $169 US.

With that being said, I should also point out that there are actually two versions of HitFilm.  There is an Express (Free) version, and the Pro (Paid) version.  What I find very interesting about HitFilm Express (HFE), is that even with the free, stripped down version, you can purchase updates as you go.  Want to have Mocha HitFilm tracking in HFE?  No problem, $50.  Yep, that’s right, Mocha for HitFilm is $50.  Now keep in mind that Mocha HF is included in the Pro version, but just having the option to add it to the HFE is pretty awesome.  If you want to check out more about HFE, you can check it out at this link.  Okay, let’s get the ball rolling and talk about what’s new in HitFilm Pro 2018.

Major Timeline Enhancements

Now, when I say this, the timeline itself hasn’t changed, but what you can do in the timeline has changed quite a bit.  If you’re not familiar with how HitFilm Pro 2018 works, it works much like Premiere does, if you are working with an After Effects workflow in mind.  Edit what you like, and add effects as you go, to whatever clip you think needs it.  When you’re ready to do more “intense” visual effects work, you can take clips, and create “Composite Shots” out of them.  Basically they are nested shots that you can now add things like Planes (Color Solids), Text, Grades (Adjustment Layers), Cameras, Lights and Points (Null Objects) to.  This is basically your effects workflow.  Well now, all the animation tools that were previously locked away behind the “Composite Shots” are now accessible to you in your timeline, and you have the ability to add things like Text directly to your shots.   

Text, Text, Text

One of the biggest annoyances of NLE’s is that normally your text workflow is strictly 2D, unless you want to pay more for third party effects.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with third party effects, but ideally, most people want their text to have 3D capabilities right out of the box.  Well, HitFilm Pro adds some excellent new 3D capabilities to your text.  Adding text to your timeline can be done either through a composite shot, or now directly onto a clip in your timeline.  Once there, you’re working with 2D text that can be manipulated much like any other effect added to a shot.  But, here’s where we can expand on the text capabilities.  By typing in TEXT in the Effects search window, you’ll see there’s a Geometry category that has three effects that can be added to text only.  Bevel, Extrude and Rotate.  Now, there’s a catch here, and it’s something that’s important for me to point out.  These three Text effects only work on actual text layers, not on Text Effects, so for you to use this workflow, you’ll need to add text layers inside of a Composite shot.  One thing that I’m liking with HitFilm Pro 2018 is that, much like After Effects, there are several ways to do the same thing, and if you don’t want to be constantly going back and forth to the effects window, you can actually apply Effects and Behaviors right from within the Controls window.  Also, if you’re talking about 3D text (you have to “upgrade” your text to give it 3D capabilities), you also have access to the usual 4 viewports, if you need them, to get your text set up in 3D space as quickly as possible.

New Text Features in HitFilm Pro 2018


This one is tricky.  When you’re implementing a feature that is hugely successful in another application, namely Apple’s Motion in this case, you need to do it as good, if not better than they do to make it a feature that’s worth using.  Let’s talk about Motion for a second.  Apple has Behaviours down to a science.  They work, in conjunction, with the HUD (Head’s Up Display) to make the process of animating the Behaviours super simple.  Inside of HitFilm Pro 2018, you don’t have the luxury of the HUD, so you have to do everything much like how you do effects work.  For me, I think that Behaviours are a fantastic idea inside of Hitfilm, but using them is only marginally easier than working with standard effects.  Now, with that being said, it doesn’t mean that they don’t do something very cool, because they do.  You have nine different Behaviours to choose from, including:

  • Acceleration
  • Attract To (allowing one layer to be attracted towards another)
  • Drag
  • Follow
  • Gravity (move down the screen as if falling under gravity)
  • Mix Parent Position
  • Repel From
  • Rotate by
  • Throw

I think that moving forward, Behaviors is something that HitFilm needs to focus on, as a better U.I. for them would make working with them a much better experience.

Vertical Video Effect

HitFilm Pro 2018 is marketed at the Prosumer user.  People who get out there and shoot with whatever camera they have available, and to be honest, many people out here are still shooting the dreaded Vertical Video.  If you’re someone who’s shot a ton of vertical video and need a quick solution to get it into your timeline, while losing the pillarboxing, the new Vertical Video Adjustment effect which uses a blurred version of your video clip behind the main clip is just the tool for you!!

360° Video Viewer

As we all know, 360° video has become huge.  Adobe purchased Mettle’s Skybox so AE users could have 360 capabilities inside of After Effects.  Apple hired Tim Dashwood of Dashwood Cinema Solutions to work on VR and 360 inside of Final Cut Pro X.  Well, HitFilm has stepped things up a notch by adding 360° capabilities to the newest version of HitFilm. With HitFilm Pro 2018, you get two new effects, and an effect that has been renamed.  I figure that instead of me rambling on, explaining what each of the three effects do, I’ll give you the “manual” version of it.

360° Text

Creates text with unwrapped spherical distortion, for use with 360° video. Apply the text to your 360° video layer before applying the 360° video viewer. The text will appear distorted initially, until the 360° viewer is applied to render the 360 video properly onto a sphere.  

360° Video Transform (previously called Environment Map)

On 360° video, this can be applied to adjust the position of the video layer without losing its wraparound appearance. It can also be used effectively on wraparound environment maps.

Applying this to an ordinary layer will create distorted, unusual results.

360° Video Viewer [Layer Only]

Apply this effect to a 360° video layer to wrap the layer onto a spherical shape for viewing. This wraps the selected layer onto a spherical shape.

When placed as the bottom layer in a 3D composite shot, this creates a convincing, wrap-around background for 3D shots. Examples would be a sky background for a cityscape or plane shot, or a space nebula for a spaceship fly-by.

The environment map viewer will automatically update as the camera is panned in all directions.

360° Video workflows are more and more becoming the norm in many people’s workflow, and the fact that HitFilm Pro 2018 is a relatively early adopter is a good thing.

Alright, that pretty much wraps up the new features inside of HitFilm Pro 2018 (2017), but that’s not to say that there are not some other new features inside the Studio version of HitFilm.  Let’s take a look at what else they have to offer.


Let’s start out with this.  180 effects, over 800 presets and support in the following host applications:

  • Adobe After Effects CC
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC
  • Apple Final Cut Pro X
  • Apple Motion
  • Avid Media Composer
  • DaVinci Resolve 11/12
  • Grass Valley EDIUS 8/9
  • Sony Catalyst Edit
  • NUKE 9 by The Foundry
  • Vegas Pro 14

Adobe After Effects Ignite 2018 Effects - HitFilm Pro 2018

That’s pretty damn impressive.  Now, I will call BS on the actual number of 180 as, for example, in the 360 category there is three Lightsword effects (2-point, 4-point and Glow only which, for me, count as only one effect), and in the Generate category has six different lightsword effects, so the milage with the actual number of 180 will vary from reviewer to reviewer.  Either way, this is a very impressive effects bundle for all host applications, except for Media Composer users, as not one of the effects in the entire bundle is Real Time, so expect a Blue Dot effect when working with them, but to be honest, that’s an absolute minor thing, as when you make your purchase of Ignite Pro, you get the effects in all supported host applications!  The biggest new feature in Ignite is the 360 category, with a ton of 360 effects including:

  • 360 Animated Lasers
  • 360 Blur
  • 360 Bulge
  • 360 Channel Blur
  • 360 Fisheye Converter
  • 360 Fractal Noise
  • 360 Glow
  • 360 Glow Darks
  • 360 Lightsword (2-point Auto)
  • 360 Lightsword (4-point Manual)
  • 360 Lightsword (Glow Only)
  • 360 Magnify
  • 360 Neon Path
  • 360 Text
  • 360 Twirl
  • 360 Unsharpen
  • 360 Video Transform
  • 360 Viewer

I’d say that 18 (16 if you only count one lightsword effect) 360 effects is a pretty good place to get started with your 360 workflow.  With all of that, there’s more!  I’ll call it five additional new effects, and one huge new tool.  

  • Block Displacement: Splits the video into a grid of blocks and then allows you to swop them around or randomise them.
  • Puppet: Use the Puppet tool to quickly add natural motion to raster images and vector graphics, including still images, shapes, and text characters.
  • Clone: The clone stamp is useful for duplicating or removing specific parts of a layer.
  • Text: Apply advanced, customizable text to your footage.
  • Dot Matrix: Similar to the half tone effect, Dot Matrix creates a look similar to a black and white newspaper print but dots are based on a grid of squares.
  • Pixel Sort: Sorts the pixels in the video based on brightness. This can be used to create some amazingly stylized effects as seen in a number of popular films including Ghost in the Shell.

The big “Tool” included in Ignite Pro is the Puppet Tool which, much like the After Effects equivalent, is designed to let you rig up elements of a composite, and animated them to give them very realistic natural movement.  I’ll be honest, I was pretty stunned that this was added into Ignite Pro as just an additional effect, as it’s a pretty big deal to help HitFilm Pro 2018 users make even more realistic composites in their timelines!  Okay, let’s move on and talk about the new kid on the block, and that’s Action Pro!


This is an interesting one and one that is, in my opinion, taking a big risk for Hitfilm.  Action Pro is a separate (but included in the Studio bundle of HitFilm Pro 2018) application that is currently in Beta, but one that you have to pay for to use.  

As it’s described on the HItFilm website:

Tired of tedious keyframing? Take animating into your own hands (literally) with our brand-new motion-building software: Action Pro Beta. Easily transform real-world motion (from your mousepad or Leap Motion device!) into professional 2D and 3D animations. No clunky graphs. No numbers. Record your moves and watch your animation come to life.

So, after that, that does beg the question, what really is Action Pro?  Well, if you’re familiar with After Effects, Action Pro is Motion Sketch.  You can use your mouse (or Leap Motion device that will attach to VR rigs like Oculus Rift CV1, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift/HTC Vive Pre development kits) to sketch motion in the application, and then import that information into your HitFilm Pro 2018 project to drive animation like Particles, Strokes, etc.  The next obvious question is, how does it work?  Well, quite simply, you can queue up the application to record your mouse movements, much like in Motion Sketch in AE, and once you’ve captured the motion you want, you can transfer that information back into HitFilm Pro 2018, and use it to drive animation.  This effect makes perfect sense when doing things like having “natural” looking particle elements moving through the frame.  It’s going to be interesting to see if things pick up for the VR option of Action Pro.  The big feature of using the VR rig is that it makes the rotation of the motion sketch possible, where as it’s not possible using  a mouse during live recording.

Action Pro working outside of HitFilm Pro 2018

I’ll be honest with you.  I have no problem making this a paid addition to HitFilm.  If you’re going for the Studio bundle of HitFilm Pro 2018, it’s actually included.  Where things get a bit sketchy is when you make people pay $99 for a Beta, and let’s be clear, this is a beta product, when it might very well take a year to get the product out of beta, and then you’re out of update options.  When you make your purchase you get, much like with HitFilm Pro 2018:

  • 12 months of software updates
  • 12 months of technical support
  • Professional 3 seat license – run on 3 computers simultaneously

I’m of the opinion that the 12 months of Software updates and Technical Support should begin when the product comes out of beta, as opposed to having it start when you make your purchase.  This way, everyone’s on a level playing field when the product hits version 1.


I’m not someone who is a “screen yeller”.  You know, one of those people who watch sports and scream at the television when something doesn’t go their way.  Well, let me tell you, the lack of AAF support in HitFilm has been making me scream at my screen for years, and I mean this honestly.  I’ve mentioned it in reviews, I’ve tweeted it at the development team, I’ve emailed everyone I know at Hitfilm, but they just don’t want to add this feature in.  What has made DaVinci Resolve such a success is not just the tools you have at your disposal (as they are excellent), but all of that would mean nothing if you couldn’t get your Media Composer/Premiere Pro/FCPX timeline into Resolve to do your work, and then export out from Resolve to send it back to your NLE afterwards.  THIS is what has made Resolve the NLE/Finishing application of choice.  If this feature wasn’t there, editors would not take the time to rebuild their timelines, as it just doesn’t make sense.  HitFilm is awesome BUT IT NEEDS AAF SUPPORT TO GAIN ANY TRACTION WITH EDITORS WHO CUT IN MEDIA COMPOSER, PREMIERE OR FCPX!!!  That’s my shouting rant for today.  In the next version of HitFilm, don’t add any other new features except AAF support.  Seriously.


So what’s my final verdict on HitFilm Pro 2018?  


HitFilmPro is in an interesting place.  It’s the perfect starting point for someone who know’s nothing about editing.  Period.  For any editor who has used another NLE like Premiere, Media Composer or Final Cut Pro, they will find the editing capabilities to up to what they are accustomed to, but just the fact that this super power compositing application has good, basic editing capabilities (way better than AE and/or Motion) is a huge selling feature.


It’s cheap.  At $299 US for the application (standalone, not the Studio bundle), you’ve already saved yourself money from what the Creative Clould offers its one application yearly subscription at $140 US. 


OFX Plug-in Support is awesome!  I’m running Red Giant Universe inside of HitFilm Pro 2018 and loving it!  This feature is huge, as it opens the application up to a whole world of new third party developers, that normally would have overlooked HitFilm Pro 2018.

Hitfilm’s biggest misstep is the exclusion of AAF support, which I believe is integral to getting it in the hands of a more…..professional (for lack of a better term) audience.  This, plus the idea that we should pay for a beta of Action Pro is a bit odd.  Make this free for a year, to get the bugs worked out, and the community excited about it, and then make it a paid option when it moves from Beta to “V1”.  I think this makes more sense, and makes it a bit more fair to the HitFilm Community.

In the end, HitFilm is taking huge leaps forward in the type of work you can do within it (Puppet Tool, new effects, a 360° video viewer and compatible effects (18 of them if you can believe it inside of Ignite Pro) and a rejig to the editing and effects pipeline make HitFilm 2018 a huge new release.  If you’re looking for an effects application that won’t break the bank ($349 US for the full version, $219 for the upgrade), look no further than HitFilm Studio 2018!  You can learn more about Hitfilm, Ignite 2018 and Action Pro 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…