FXhome HitFilm 2 Ultimate review
Some big improvements for this ambitious application, but it certainly isn’t for dabblers
Review Date: 3 Jan 2013
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Price when reviewed: £249 (£299 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
HitFilm is the most exciting video production software we've seen in some time. The first version exploded onto the scene last year, complete with particle effects, gun muzzle flashes, motion tracking and chroma-keying effects. It was a dream come true for people shooting action sequences on low budgets, but it was equally adept for animated titles, logos and other graphics for a much broader range of users.
Its key strength was that particles exist in three dimensions, giving complex simulations containing multiple particle generators perspective, shadows and occlusion (where nearby objects obscure more distant ones). In our tests, though, we struggled to make the first version’s 3D world match the space implied by the 2D footage we were working on.
3D animation software is best approached with the utmost precision by entering numeric values, and matching 3D spaces by eye can quickly lead to confusion.
HitFilm 2 Ultimate addresses this by bundling a light version of Imagineer Systems’ mocha. It's essentially only the Camera Solve function rather than the full product and it can export only to HitFilm 2, but it's still a generous addition, especially when you consider mocha Pro costs £1,495.
Using mocha involves defining two or more planes within a video clip and keeping the software on target as it tracks those planes while the camera pans and moves around the scene. Based on this data, it then calculates camera movement in 3D.
This is exported as animated camera data back to HitFilm, along with markers for the corners and centres of the tracked planes. Particle effects can then be embedded convincingly in the 3D space implied by the video clip, even when the camera is moving – something that was virtually impossible in the last version.
Our attempts at using mocha met with mixed success. It tracked two scenes pretty accurately, but in a couple of others it struggled to make sense of the planes we'd defined. In another it reported accurate tracking but delivered strange results back to HitFilm. It’s fair to say that it still takes skill and experience to achieve consistently usable results.
Even with our more successful efforts, using this data in HitFilm was complicated by the fact that the tracked planes were untidy, making it difficult to manipulate co-ordinates numerically. It didn't help that the virtual horizon in HitFilm bore no relation to the horizon in the video clip. Even so, our limited success was enough to whet the appetite. Adding explosions, fire, smoke, sparks, rain and other particle effects can bring shots to life, and being able to move them with the camera elevates the dramatic tension even further.
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