Hitfilm 2 Ultimate: Is it the new “Production Premium”?

7

May 27, 2014 by absolutemotion

After meeting them at NAB, the good people at FXHOME sent me a copy of Hitfilm 2 Ultimate to take a look at. After just a few hours of limited testing with the Mac version I have to say I’m very impressed.

Right from the start (and accessible directly from the app) you are presented with extensive tutorials and help files on the FXHOME website. They certainly want to make it easy for even novices to quickly get up to speed.

The editing side is quite capable, and I felt up to speed in just minutes. Not as much depth of course as Premiere Pro, but for your average cuts-dissolves-basic effects and color grading it makes a nice alternative to more expensive (or subscription based) packages. I threw multiple formats at it in one timeline and everything played back perfectly smooth, even with numerous effects applied. Keyboard commands were similar to FCP7/Premiere Pro, and can be customized to make things even more comfortable.

The editing interface is clean and uncluttered. Each part of the workspace is tab based, and like the Adobe interface you can rearrange tabs (viewer panels, effects controls, etc) and save custom workspaces as desired. Imported footage lives in the Project media panel, with items arranged by name or file type. You can also create subfolders to help keep things organized.

One feature I like is having a mini preview viewer located at the top of the project media panel. Any highlighted imported footage shows up here ready to preview or scrub though.

Image

Regarding compositing, Hitfilm 2 also has an integrated compositor. If you’ve ever used After Effects you’ll feel right a home here. As on the editing side, it’s not as robust as AE but for layer based compositing and simple key framing of effects it appears to be pretty solid. It’s also fast– in my initial tests timelines seemed to playback in real time, even with lots of effects applied. Hitfilm 2 Ultimate also comes with a custom version of Mocha built in for 2D and 3D tracking, a nice bonus for a package in this price range.

Hitfilm 2 Ultimate includes a wide range of filters and effects, many of which come close or rival those from the “mainstream” collections like Genarts Sapphire or Boris Continuum. There is a wide selection of distortion tools, warps, blurs, generators, grunge and style effects, glows. lens flares and time based filters. The particle effects included are quite good, especially in the smoke and explosion areas. Controls and response are varied and fluid; experimenting with them was a lot of fun and led to some unexpected – and inspiring – results.

The effects collection is also sold separately for use in After Effects, where for me they have been fast and rock solid. I’m sure I’ll be using many of them in the future. I didn’t test if third party filters can be used in Hitfilm 2 as well, such as those from Red Giant or other vendors.

The integration of the compositing and editing apps is interesting, almost like a streamlined version of dynamic link. While many effects can be directly applied to a clip on the editing timeline, for some effects and deeper compositing you either designate a clip as a “Composite Clip” or create a new one from scratch. Double click on one of these and the interface switches over to the compositor (also accessible via tabs at the top of the workspace). When placed on the editing timeline, these clips are essentially nested comps, similar to the way Premiere Pro wraps an imported AE comp into a single clip.

Titling is easy as well using the basic title app included. The text generator is basically a composite clip with a text effect applied, with all the usual controls available including font, size, color, kerning, leading, justification, etc. You can create shapes as elements and apply effects directly to them, allowing for easy design of good looking lower thirds.

In my quick testing I didn’t find an integrated title safe generator, which seems like an oversight. Maybe it’s in there somewhere and I just missed it.

One big flaw I encountered is the inability to import animation codec quicktime movies with alpha channels. Seeing as how this has been a standard format for years (decades even!), I was shocked to find these clips unimportable. So any existing stock quicktime graphics I have with alpha channels need to be transcoded first to an image sequence for use in Hitfilm 2. Honestly this seems so odd that I’m almost inclined to think it’s an error on my part, but I’ll wait to hear from the guys at FXHOME to see what the story is.

At this point I haven’t spent enough time with the app to determine how well it holds up under real world conditions, but I’m optimistic it can deliver. Hitfilm 2 Ultimate is kind of like a stripped-down “production premium” suite, something no longer offered by Adobe. If your needs needs are straightforward (decent video editing tools and reasonable compositing and effects), this (along with an image editing app like Photoshop) might be all you need.

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7 thoughts on “Hitfilm 2 Ultimate: Is it the new “Production Premium”?

  1. rodharlan says:

    I’ll be very interested to hear about the animation codec with alpha channels not being accepted. That seems like such a weird oversight. I definitely would like to know their explanation when you hear it.

  2. Simon Jones says:

    Upon further investigation: animation codec .movs are not supported on Mac, unfortunately. I’ve talked to our devs and surprisingly this is due to changes on Apple’s end. As I understand it, Apple have been reducing the read/write functionality of Quicktime in general for a while on both Mac and Windows. Apple’s latest interface for reading and writing .mov files, which we used when developing HitFilm for Mac last year, doesn’t support what Apple call ‘legacy’ codecs – which unfortunately includes animation codec.

    When we originally developed Quicktime support for the Windows version of HitFilm several years previously, we jumped through quite a few hoops to get .mov working at all (Quicktime isn’t even 64-bit on Windows). So legacy Quicktime codecs will often open in the Windows version but not in the Mac version, which is a little ironic.

    For a modern codec solution on Mac we recommend ProRes 4444 for .mov with alpha channel.

    Sorry about that, I understand that’s obviously not ideal – but hopefully this goes some way to explaining why it is how it is.

  3. This is certainly unfortunate. I have an extensive collection of stock graphics using animation codec, not to mention 20+ years of elements I’ve created myself. I really wonder what Apple is thinking sometimes.

  4. Simon Jones says:

    I’m guessing other software either have legacy systems to go with the legacy codecs, or do a lot of legwork to get them to work.

    Apple have always been very forward-thinking, and are generally quite willing to abandon old stuff in order to progress. Whether that’s a good thing or not largely depends on your point of view!

    In terms of codecs, this is one of the risks of investing in proprietary codecs owned by large corporations, I suppose.

    Although continually improving format support is something we’ll be working on for future versions of HitFilm, it’s unlikely that these so-called ‘legacy codecs’ will make a re-appearance.

  5. Chris Blair says:

    Your review is about the only one I could find from an actual “professional” user. I tried this software about 3 or 4 years ago and while it was intriguing then, it’s format and codec support was limited. But it now appears to be hugely improved. I’m curious if you would consider it “production ready?” Meaning could this software be used by a professional post house for day to day production? Even if it’s just for effects, grading, compositing? We use a variety of tools but I tire of moving back and forth between products that “sort of” talk to each other. Even Adobe products have stumbling blocks and their dynamic link leaves much to be desired in my opinion. An example is the inability of AE to import Final Cut or other EDLs. Just silly that you have to either buy a third party plugin or first import into Premiere Pro, then import that into AE.

    Anyway….this software looks amazing…so just curious if you’ve had more time to mess with it in the couple weeks since you wrote the review.

    • I’m used to working in Premiere and After Effects, but if Hitfilm were all I had I’m sure I could still turn out a solid product. It’s not AE by a longshot, but its capable and offers some nifty particle effects (and 3D!). Likewise, the editing components are easy to use and offer all the basics (and then some). AFAIK there is no XML in/out, so you can’t export a Hitfilm project to another app (or import projects from elsewhere). There are no expressions or advanced scripting in the compositor, and certain esoteric high-end formats may not be supported. But for the money it looks like a good value.

  6. Johna65 says:

    Keep working ,impressive job! ekakkeeeakeg

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