FXhome HitFilm Ultimate review

2 Feb 2012

An ambitious new application that delivers stunning video effects at a breakthrough price

Price when reviewed: 
284(£285 inc VAT)
5

FXhome is a small software developer based in Norwich, and HitFilm Ultimate is its latest attempt to bring big-budget special effects to the masses. It’s the evolution of two products: CompositeLab Pro, which handled compositing, using green screen and other techniques to combine video layers; and EffectsLab Pro, which used particle generators and other digital effects for explosions, blood spurts and all the basic ingredients for a DIY action movie.

HitFilm brings these together and pushes them much further. A crucial difference to EffectsLab – one that distinguishes it from Adobe After Effects too – is that its particle effects exist in three dimensions.

This allows for the creation of some truly stunning effects. In simulating an explosion, for instance, we used three discrete particle generators for grass, mud and dust, all three intermingled in 3D, with nearer objects obscuring further ones and higher ones casting shadows on those below.

FXhome HitFilm Ultimate

We used the Lifetime tab to simulate air resistance to slow down the dust and make it hang in the air. The Forces controls were used to add gravity, a gentle breeze and an element of turbulence to the dust cloud. Deflectors were put in place to create surfaces for the grass and mud to land on, and Bounce and Friction controls were used to specify how the particles interacted with these surfaces. The results wouldn’t have been out of place in a professional production.

Video layers can be positioned in 3D space too. When used in conjunction with the excellent keying tools for separating a subject from its background, it’s possible to place live action elements among the particle effects. With the help of the Deflector tool, we were able to make particles appear to bounce off and wrap around the sides of our actor.

2D optical flow tracking is available to trace the movement of elements within a video. This data can be mapped onto the source position of a particle generator, or for all sorts of other functions, including rudimentary rotoscoping, where objects are cut out from their backgrounds without the need for a green screen. Manual rotoscoping using Bézier masks is available, too, but it requires forward planning – adding extra nodes messes up previously created keyframes.

Details

Price ex VAT £237
Price inc VAT £284
Overall rating 6
Ease of Use rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 6
Software subcategory Video editing software