Sophisticated and hugely inspiring, this video-effects software is a must for ambitious filmmakers
Virtually all video-editing software comes with creative effects, but the effects tend to be a bit tacky and superfluous. Hitfilm is different in that it produces the kinds of effects that are integral to a story: particle effects such as smoke, fire and explosions, plus compositing tools for combining discrete video elements into a shot.
Once camera tracking is complete, 3D models can be placed inside the scene with breathtaking realism
There are lots of conventional effects too, such as colour correction, distortion, grunge and artistic effects. Many of these put general-purpose editors to shame in terms of output quality, precision and preview smoothness. Hitfilm 2 can also handle conventional timeline editing duties, but we’d stick to a conventional editor for compiling shots created in Hitfilm. It’s worth noting that Sony Vegas Pro 12 can import Hitfilm project files without the need to render them first.
The particle effects and compositing tools are the star attractions. Both benefit enormously from the bundling of a Hitfilm-specific version of Imagineer Systems’ Mocha, which analyses video clips and calculates how the camera moved when shooting the scene. These calculations are automatic, but it requires two or more flat (or roughly flat) surfaces to be carefully defined. These are relatively easy to locate in urban shots and much harder in other scenes. It takes skill and practice to get the most from Mocha, but our initial attempts revealed its stunning potential.
Particles are animated in 3D space too, but extruded text is clumsily implemented, obscuring other 3D elements that should be in front of it
Hitfilm already has sophisticated tools for tracking 2D motion in video clips, which is useful for making a particle generator lock to a marker in a video clip. However, Mocha’s 3D camera tracking means that particles become fully embedded in the 3D world of the video footage. They not only move in perfect synchronisation with panning shots, but grow bigger and even pass behind the camera as it approaches.
Our one frustration is that the virtual floor, which acts as a reference point for numerical coordinates in Hitfilm, doesn’t necessarily bear any relation to the floor in the tracked scene. Manipulating multiple 3D objects is hard enough at the best of times, and it’s harder still when you and your software differ on the definition of up.