Hitfilm 4 Pro review

Ben Pitt
27 Dec 2015
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Not perfect, but Hitfilm continues to take great strides for ambitious video producers on a shoestring budget



OS Support: Windows 7/8/10, Mac OS X 10.10 or 10.11, Minimum CPU: Core Core i3, Minimum GPU: OpenGL 2.0, 512MB (GeForce 9 series, Radeon HD 5000 series, Intel HD 4000), Minimum RAM: 4GB, Hard disk space: 1.2GB

Everyone likes a plucky underdog, and it’s easy to warm to FX Home, a small software developer based in Norwich that brings the fight to Adobe After Effects and Autodesk Maya. Hitfilm specialises in particle effects such as smoke, bullets and explosions, basic 3D animation (of models created elsewhere), plus compositing tools to combine these elements with live footage to create a photorealistic whole. It comes with a generous selection of high quality effects covering everything from colour correction to distortions and blurs to retro film effects.

It’s highly technical in places, but that’s because it gives the user full control over some seriously advanced features. How else are amateur filmmakers going to create 3D-modelled particles that respond to gravity and wind, release sparks as they bounce off surfaces, and sit convincingly in the 3D space implied by handheld camera footage? At £300, it’s a dream come true for students and amateur enthusiasts who want to make big action sequences on a small budget.

Hitfilm 4 Pro 3D animation

^ This project I created in Hitfilm 3 now enjoys more convincing deceleration and acceleration and more interesting lighting, thanks to the new features in version 4

It’s one thing for models and particles to look convincing; they also need to move convincingly. This is much easier to achieve with the introduction of Bézier keyframe animation. It gives the user precise control over the route between two points. This might be used to create a curved path for a graphic element to travel along, or an element that changes size or colour at a varying pace.

Hitfilm 4 Pro Bézier curves

Animated paths with Bézier curves in three dimensions – there is a God!

Creating curved paths in 3D space is brilliantly implemented, with curves defined directly on the preview monitor and the split preview function giving an at-a-glance overview of all three dimensions. I found controlling the speed of spatial animations fiddlier, though. It’s done using the new Value Graph display on the timeline, but it’s confusing because the controls affect speed but the graph shows position (in three axes). I prefer Adobe’s approach of a dedicated Velocity graph with Bézier handles that interact directly with it.

I’d also have liked the option to separate speed across the various axes. This would have allowed vertical motion to follow a parabolic curve to simulate gravity, while keeping horizontal motion constant. While I’m writing my wish list for version 5, I’d also love to see something similar to Adobe After Effects’ Wiggle command for adding random variation to any parameter.

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