HitFilm 2 Ultimate: First Impressions

Imagine a compositing and editing application that has built in gunfire presets, Cinestyle color grading tools, professional keying tools, cinematic flares, 3D model importer, and an advanced 3D particle simulator.  It exists and it’s called HitFilm 2 Ultimate.  Software for the “next generation of filmmakers” 

In the spring of 2013, FXhome launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds for a Mac version of their HitFilm software.  I had never heard of it at the time and it was only because of a few bloggers/podcasters "hyping" it a bit that I even became aware of it.  

I ponied up the full backing for the software ($250 USD).  What peaked my interest the most was the buzz that it could be a replacement for Adobe CC.  "Twitterverse" even proclaimed it be an "Autodesk Smoke Lite".  FXhome delivered a Mac version to it's backers as promised in early November 2013.  

HitFilm 2 Ultimate Highlights

  • Multi-track video editing
  • Over 150 effects
  • 2D & 3D compositing
  • Import & animate 3D models
  • Motion tracking with optical flow and template match
  • Includes mocha HitFilm from Imagineer Systems for 3D camera solving
  • World class, fully customizable particle simulator
  • Advanced simulation effects
  • 3D lights and shadows
  • Professional green screen removal
  • Advanced color correction & grading
  • Automated motion blur & depth of field

The Editor

The editing side of HitFilm 2 Ultimate leaves much to be desired if you are an editor.

The editing side of HitFilm 2 Ultimate leaves much to be desired if you are an editor.  If you are someone who is hoping to use this as an all-in-one broadcast editing toolset.  You will be disappointed. I’m really not sure how anybody is able to make any editorial decisions if they use this side of the program.  Sure the HitFilm Editor has the standard editing tools such as Multi-Track editing, Slip, Slide, Ripple and Roll but the editor is missing some essential tools necessary to be taken seriously.  

HItFilm 2 Ultimate Editor UI

Unfortunately, there are two nonstarters for me if I were to ever actually use the NLE side of HitFilm 2 Ultimate to cut a professional broadcast promo or commercial spot.  

First, you can only have one EDITOR SEQUENCE.  That’s right, one edit sequence.  How is one able to cut different versions to show a producer or director?  How about versioning out spots for different markets, days, and times?  How about experimentation?  

Editing is about choices and HitFilm 2 Ultimate’s NLE editor does not allow that.  You can make multiple composite shots, but only one sequence. You can't select multiple clips in a edit timeline and make a composite shot as a workaround either.  If you ask me, doing a “Save As” version is not a viable option.  

You are also slowed down by the fact that there is no render preview in the timeline so things can get pretty sluggish once you start stacking effects unless you have a fast computer and GPU.  I tested HitFilm 2 on a mid-range iMac with average but acceptable results.

The second nonstarter is that there is no audio level monitoring.  If it's there, it's not easy to find. How would you know if you were peaking or mixing right?  Many projects get mixed right in a NLE these days. 

I know HitFilm software has been bundled with Sony Vegas software and that these two gripes are solved with using that program, however I feel I was sold on a program as a all-in-one professional level editor and VFX compositor.

The beauty of HitFilm 2 Ultimate is that users can create a complete film with only one software program.
— HitFilm 2 Ultimate Press Release

The above quote is quite a bold statement.  What do you think?

Fxhome has clearly spent most of their time developing the compositing side of the software which is where the program has its strengths.  With talk of HitFilm 2 Ultimate being a possible replacement for Adobe CC, I just don’t see how that is possible for any professional editor at the moment.  Multiple sequences and audio peak level monitoring in a NLE editor are pretty basic functions.  

Another point to note is that you can’t import/export EDL or AAF into the program as far as I’m aware.  Which is sad, since it has some nice color finishing tools and effects that would be great to use in longer form projects.  Case in point, the Cinestyle effect is Red Giant Mojo on steroids.

Verdict: 

Without multiple edit sequences, the NLE side of the program will not satisfy most professional editors.  Maybe HitFilm 3 Ultimate will address these issues on the editor side and take it from prosumer to professional level.  For an upgrade fee of course.


The Compositor

HitFilm 2 Ultimate includes a full 3D compositing environment and advanced motion tracking, a non-linear editor and advanced features such as a fully featured particle engine and 3D model import.
— HitFilm 2 Ultimate for Mac Kickstarter Page

The best part of the compositing side of the application are the amount of effects that come bundled with it.  But it’s also a roadblock if you are someone who relies a lot on third-party products.  Good news is that there is pretty much a third party plug-in equivalent in HitFilm 2.  CineStyle is Mojo.  The 3D Particle Simulator is Particular.  Light Flares is Optical Flares.   It's has it's own built-in version of Element 3D.  And the list goes on and on.

But what about the technical side?  Does it stand up to the rigors of daily broadcast and internet production? IS THE PROGRAM STABLE?  I had troubles with it crashing until I got some tech support from FXhome.  To their credit they were quick to respond.

In HitFilm 2 Ultimate you use a “composite shot” to build up a composition.  Composite shots are similar to After Effects in that they are layer based.  You can embed composite shots into other composite shots and even export composite shots to use in other HitFilm projects.  

composite shot.png

There are parenting and blending mode functions.  However, there are no Track Matte functions in the timeline so you will be reaching for the "Set Matte" effect a lot.  I found myself "clicking" a lot to perform functions.  You will miss the After Effects shortcuts of "P", "S", "R", and "T" to quickly get at those keyframes.

Compositing can be done in a 3D environment.  What does that mean?  You can actually have particles spin around another layer such as a keyed shot without having to "fake" it like in After Effects 2.5D environment.  This doesn't make your project "Stereo 3D" but gives you a 3D environment to work in.

3D Compositing in HitFilm 2 Ultimate

The Chroma Keyer is very similar to Keylight and does just as good of a job.  I started using it with no instruction.  The bonuses included are the spill suppressor, matte clean up tools and light wrap effect to finish off the shot.

Another bonus is the version of Mocha that ships with HitFilm 2 Ultimate includes the 3D camera solver.  And since this is a limited version of Mocha, the Stabilize Tab is not available which makes stabilizing shots with HitFilm 2's 2D trackers less successful.

Yes, you can import 3D models into HitFilm.  It's functional for simple animations as long as you have a model that is textured mapped properly.  You can easily compare it to Element 3D.  Problem is that it's competing against After Effects and Cinema 4D's Cineware.  Enough said.  

For Motion Graphics Artists

No expensive plug-ins are required, unlike with other compositing software that starts at twice our price.
— HitFilm 2 Ultimate for Mac Kickstarter Page

HitFilm can bring a fresh creative solution to creating network bumpers, indents, and interstitials if you are willing to work only in the composite shots and do audio mixes elsewhere. 

Motion Graphics Artists are sure to fall in love with the 3D Particle Simulator which allows interaction with other objects in the scene with its deflectors and physics.  One simulator can have multiple emitters for better scene interaction.  The Particle Simulator is probably the most exciting aspect of the software if you are willing to leave one composting app and come into HitFilm 2 to use it. 

HitFilm 2 Particle Simulator - Credit: Courtesy FXhome

HitFilm 2 Particle Simulator - Credit: Courtesy FXhome

HitFilm 2 Ultimate offers video editing, visual effects and compositing in one package for creative filmmakers. Powerful and affordable, HitFilm 2 Ultimate reflects FXhome’s ethos to help the next generation of filmmakers by bringing professional concepts to all filmmakers, regardless of age, experience or budget.
— HitFilm 2 Ultimate Press Release

If you are a motion graphics artist curious about the Text features. They are useless. No per character control or snazzy text animations.  Keyframe position, scale, and rotation only unless you use individual Text Boxes and hand animate letters individually.  This alone will deter a lot of users.  The old Avid Marquee tool is better than this Text tool.  In my opinion, nobody is going to use the software to create an explainer video.   It would just be too timeconsuming.

Nobody is going to use the software to create an explainer video.

HitFilm 2 Ultimate does not support SVG graphics so you aren't bringing in any client logos or stock vector artwork to animate unless you rasterize them.  This is a big problem especially for my daily workflow.  

There are no shape layers.  Just solids and masks.  And forget about the ease of "Edit Original" in After Effects.  You've got a couple extra steps when using this program.

Verdict: Save Your Money

If you are an After Effects user you will be able to jump into FXhome HitFilm 2 Ultimate and find your way around pretty easily, but that doesn't mean you should in this version.  I'll continue to play with the software and will probably find a use for some of the effects.

However, I expect Version 3 to really up the ante if HitFilm is actually going to be a player in the professional post-production community.  Until then it will be a tool for internet content producers, weekend film-makers, and the daring VFX or motion graphics artist.

Leave a comment or contact me if you feel I have missed some functionality in this software.