April 16, 2019

Review: Is HitFilm Pro 12 Ready to Be an All-in-One NLE?

VFX powerhouse HitFilm Pro 12 is making progress towards single-app post workflows.

At this moment in time, post-production workflows are moving towards single-application solutions. FXHome’s HitFilm Pro 12 is one of those full-suite applications making collaboration in one single software possible. An all-in-one editor, compositor, and VFX suite with audio editing and color grading capabilities built in as well, HitFilm Pro 12 should be considered for your next motion graphics-heavy project. We take a look at several of its key features in this review.

As a precursor, the setup that I used while testing HitFilm Pro 12 was:

Standard 2015 15” Macbook Pro

  • macOS Sierra 10.12.6
  • 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor
  • 16GB of RAM
  • Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB

As a video editor, HitFilm Pro can feel a bit disconcerting when you attempt to use it for the first time, coming from a background with other NLEs. It’s likely that it would be easy for beginning editors to quickly understand the editing interface. However, some basic needs I have as a picture editor aren't available, like the ability to import keyboard settings rather than have to change each key function manually – and many of their default keyboard functions are different from other NLEs.

If you’re working on a very powerful system, HitFilm is capable of handling up to 8K resolution, however, on my setup, it had trouble playing an HD 1920x1080 ProRes LT clip without lag. Manually syncing with the software became difficult because playback was so slow. On my first attempt to use the "merge audio and video" function to automatically sync, the program crashed. The 2nd time, it just didn't work. I assume if I had timecode jammed audio and video, the merge option would work fine but the program wasn’t able to sync with just waveform. Despite these shortcomings, it is worth noting that the interface is easily customizable so you can set up your workspace as you wish.

Though I found the editor to be slow and somewhat unintuitive coming from a professional editing background using other NLEs, there were a few features I noticed that are fantastic and I haven’t seen before. For example, when selecting a clip to move on the timeline, red guidelines appear to show exactly the amount of space the clip will take up on a track before it is placed. This can be incredibly useful when navigating clips to other tracks in a busy timeline, or when moving audio and video separately and ensuring they’re kept in sync. Additionally, the viewer window shows timecode for exactly where in the timeline I’m moving my clip.

Tabbing over to the color interface, you have all of your scopes, as well as a number of ‘effects’ you can apply to a clip much like you would in Photoshop or After Effects. All of your fundamental grading tools are available, like your primary and secondary wheels, your curves, as well as a full menu of LUTS or “Film Looks” as it is called in the application.

There are even some more advanced color tools I tested out, like “Pro Skin Retouch,” which was an impressive tool for brightening and smoothing out flesh tones, and might be useful to smooth out skin tones in scenes with harsh lighting, or on chroma-keyed subjects if you have green screen footage.

In terms of effects and transitions in the edit tab, you are pretty limited. There isn’t many capabilities beyond the basic video and audio transitions, and many of the effects aren’t available in the edit tab without pre-composing your clip or sequence. What is especially frustrating about this is that once you’ve turned your clip into a composite shot and added effects to it, you can’t play back the effect at full (sometimes even half, depending on the effect) resolution without rendering it. Then, every time you make a change to the effect controls or add on anything else, you must re-render.

Now, I don’t consider myself a VFX or motion graphics artist, but it’s clear that the VFX capabilities of this software are powerful and much more impressive than the other tools, which is why it makes sense that FXHome seems to spend a lot of time making pretty cool VFX tutorials available on their Youtube channel. When I realized how powerful the motion graphics tools in this software could be, I thought it would be really great to be able to import an XML or an AAF so that I could bring in my already edited sequence, see it in a timeline, and then simply tab over to the compositing interface and do my VFX work there. However, there doesn’t yet seem to be a way to bring in an XML or AAF. On HitFilm forums, it seems that people have been asking for that feature for a while, so it’s clear there is a need and that it will improve the experience.

I played around with creating moving lower thirds since I have to use them often (see below the incredibly inappropriate neon green lower third) and found that it was quite easy to manipulate and keyframe plates and text I generated. Adjusting and keyframing position, scale, and rotation is simple with this tool, as is drawing and animating masks. Note that in order to work in this motion graphics interface and create my lower thirds, I did have to make my clip a composite shot in order to work in layers. If you’re a picture editor this may not be intuitive, but is a common workflow for other motion graphics software.  

Our Conclusion 

If you’re working on a motion graphics or VFX-heavy project, give it a look, but it’s not quite ready as an editing tool yet.

Tech Specs: HitFilm Pro 12

  • Mac and PC compatible
    • Apple: macOS 10.14 Mojave, 10.13 High Sierra, OS X 10.12 Sierra or OS X 10.11 El Capitan
    • Windows: Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit), Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or AMD equivalent.
  • RAM: 4GB (8 GB Recommended)
  • Graphics card:
    • NVIDIA GeForce 400 Series (2010)
    • AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series (2010)
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000 (GT2) (2012)
  • Video memory 1 GB minimum (2GB or more required for 4K UHD.)
  • Price: $299.00
  • What you get with your download:
    • 12 months of free updates and support
    • No subscription

If you want to learn more about HitFilm Pro 12, head on over to FX Home.     

Your Comment

8 Comments

HitFilm has come a long way since the beginning. Yet I really want to understand something. Why oh why is it that every piece of software even remotely close to being called an NLE gets discussed here, but there is literally no article on Vegas Pro, who not only is bundling HitFilm in the VEGAS POST package, but also effectively revolutionized many aspects of the NLE world? Why is it that it has a 'somewhat better than Movie Maker' reputation, when it's the only NLE which is a full on DAW as well? Not to mention the incredibly powerful, addicting and intuitive editing interface, which quickly allows you to sculpt video and audio like clay? Does it have its shortcomings? Of course. Many. It's 20 years old. Discuss them in an article, just like this one. It's been abandoned by Sony for so long, and the new management doesn't have the resources yet to reinvigorate it like Adobe did with Premiere back when they introduced the Mercury playback engine (and many features which Vegas had since the beginning). Heck, on a certain forum people were using Vegas as a meme, and literally everybody was laughing at it, like it was some iMovie clone. When I asked each and every one of them what is it that they found dissatisfying, and what they would improve, they ALL admitted to never even opening it. My whole point is, it's the editing community who loses out when software like this is being totally ignored. Sorry for the rant, it just pains me to see Vegas Pro getting no love or respect anywhere on this site, which I do love. Nice article, tho.

April 16, 2019 at 8:43PM

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Cosmin Gurau
Director
402

Great comment! I learned on Vegas and still think it's a great editor. Back in the day, when I would get "Premiere-fatigue," I'd go back to Vegas and feel reinvigorated. I think the main reason most people disregard Vegas is that it isn't available for OSX. I find 98% of people in this industry are Mac-snobs, so they turn their nose up at any software they can't use, as if something that is Windows-only is beneath them. I can't tell you how many people look shocked when I pull out a Windows machine on set for DIT purposes.

April 17, 2019 at 7:45AM

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Thanks, man! Yes, I suspect the lack of Mac compatibility has been a major downside, too. It ought to be rewritten from scratch, and ported to OSX and maybe even Linux too. But at this point, a crowdfunding campaign would make the most sense.

April 17, 2019 at 9:16PM, Edited April 17, 9:17PM

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Cosmin Gurau
Director
402

You can try DaVinci Resolve which is free and available for Mac, too.

April 17, 2019 at 9:03AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1641

For a long time I avoided looking into HitFilm because I had only seen teenage YouTube content creators tout it as an alternative to anything "professional". Mainly because it was free and supposedly easy to learn. So I perceived it as being slightly better than Windows Movie Maker or iMovie with some useless FX thrown in to sweeten the pot. Now I find myself looking for alternatives to the apps in the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and I'm taking another looking at whats out there.

HitFilm seems less like an competitor to Premiere or Vegas and more like an alternative (but not quite a replacement) for After Effects. It has a very similar keyframe, speed graph, and object parenting setup to After Effects but lacks some of the more polished text and animation features. If HitFilm were to focus more on expanding these aspects of the software over say VFX and compositing I believe that they could compete in a niche that After Effects currently dominates: 2.5D Motion Graphics and Animation.

I'm specifically talking about the work you see featured on Motionographer.com from the likes Psyop, Giant Ant, Markus Magnusson, and Emanuele Colombo.

If a motion graphics artist were able to create a project like those seen from the very talented creators previously mentioned with a bit more ease and speed than After Effects all within the same program (animation, compositing, color, audio, editing, and deliver). I sincerely believe they could give Adobe a run for their subscription money.

April 17, 2019 at 4:25PM, Edited April 17, 4:34PM

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Don't you think that Resolve is closer than hitfilm to being an Adobe alternative as an all-in-one solution, even in a VFX oriantated workflow?

April 18, 2019 at 5:49AM

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HitFilm is light years behind Resolve.
Resolve has turned into a beast with V15 and with V16 (beta) even more so.

April 18, 2019 at 1:01PM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1641

Resolve or more specifically Fusion is more suited for VFX and compositing work than it is for motion graphics or animation.

I'm not saying you CAN'T create motion graphics or animations in Fusion more so that After Effects and HitFilm (to a lesser extent) are better suited for the types of motion graphics and animation styles I mentioned previously.

April 18, 2019 at 9:46PM, Edited April 18, 9:46PM

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