Wed. Jun 3rd, 2020

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Rethinking Hitfilm

5 min read

I jumped into Hitfilm as a video editor, back around 2016. I was helping my son start a YouTube Chanel and we needed an affordable video editor. I came across Hitfilm Express, which was (and still is) free. The price point of FREE is hard to pass up. I loved the quality of the visual effects and the whole notion of integrating the Visual FX system into the Video Editor. That way you don’t buy two pieces of software (such as Adobe’s model with Premiere Pro and After Effects), but stick to one platform.

Hitfilms business model was that anyone should be able to make cool videos. You start out free, and when you need a module to complete a task (such as color grading, or fire effects) you buy a module to pay as you go. Perfect for people like me.

A Failed Community

In 2016 the community behind Hitfilm seemed pretty solid. Today, in 2020, I resisted the software and found it lacking a strong community. No longer is Hitfilm referenced as a competitor to Final Cut, Adobe Premiere / After Effects and DaVinci Resolve. I was hard pressed to find any information on it, except through YouTube.

Life had caught up with me, and with it I lost track of video updates for my family or even myself. Wanting to get to where I left off, I jumped back into Hitfilm. I downloaded the latest version and bought an upgrade package ($40 to get several modules on generated effects, color grading, audio visualizers and more).

While YouTube still had content for Hitfilm, I noticed it wasn’t like it used to be. Most of the content is from a few years back. Online sites that were noted for having Hitfilm presets, no longer exist.

Today I noticed a little tab in Hitfilm called Templates. As I was checking the templates out I noticed they were all 1080HD. No 2k or 4k (or greater) options. A simple Google search of “Hitfilm title templates” provided results, but results for Adobe Premiere and Final Cut! The one site dedicated to Hitfilm templates (from some old forum links) no longer existed.

What happened?

Hitfilm Issues

The more tutorials I read on Hitfilm, the more complaints I began to see. The most common of these complaints was that Hitfilm was a poor performer. People were saying that scrubbing and using 4K footage was impossible in Hitfilm, that it was “laggy” and crashed often.

4K Lag

I started moving all my content to 4k recently and I haven’t had a single problem with Hitfilm. The complaint on this is generally from people on Windows (as far as I’ve read) and they claim that scrubbing the timeline of 4k footage is near impossible. Yet on the same machine, they claim they have no issues with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Since I’m not having that issue on a high end i9 MacBook, I began to wonder if Hitfilm had a buggy release for Windows that drove customers away. I don’t know the answer to that. It just makes me wonder.

Hitfilm has the resources to load in my 4k 60P footage without issue. I’m able to scrub and move around the footage without a problem. There is obviously a choppy aspect to previewing footage that has a variety of effects in place. Unless pre-rendered, anything like that will be choppy.

Crashes

Crashes are another story. On this aspect I have had issues with Hitfilm Express 14. In deed the software does seem to hit faults from time to time. If I’m exporting some footage, and reviewing some other footage at the same time, I noticed I have a good chance of killing the software through a crash.

It’s not a persistent problem, but in my limited use of Hitfilm over the past week, I’ve had 3 crashes. This is a bit much, considering I’m not doing a lot with it.

Simple Bugs that Shouldn’t Be

Tonight I was creating some video footage for my son’s YouTube channel. I had spot where I wanted to drop in some text. I created a composite shot, added a text layer and typed the word “Handball.”

The moment I typed the L key, all hell broke loose. The L key triggered some action within Hitfilm. Considering this was simply an L key, without any special modifiers (like command + L, or control + L) I found this concerning.

I was getting pretty pissed off. This was the simplest of tasks to do in a video editor and I couldn’t get the damed thing to let me type in certain words. As it turned out the L key isn’t the only special keystroke that Hitfilm was listening for.

Keep in mind, I wasn’t in some special mode. I was in a text field, tying text.

At the height of my frustration I Googled for “Hitfilm Express typing L key text.” There I found the answer. Going back 2 versions (12), I discovered this issue was introduced. Supposedly it was on track to being fixed. Yet here we are in 2020, with version 14, and the issue remains (or was re-introduced).

For a guy like me, who’s day job is Software Testing, I found this incredulous. This is a deal breaker bug that has been sitting in the software for several years. There is a workaround, simply type the text you want to add in a text editor, copy and paste it into Hitfilm’s text field.

But why should we have to do that? This issue is a black eye on the company. The fact that something so easy and simple, to not get fixed in a day or two (still existing some 2 years later) is a testament to the failure of the company to meet customer expectations.

It’s Free, but…

Yes it’s free. Yes the upgrades are affordable. But the bugs I’ve encountered (and the bugs reported by others) seem to continue without any real effort towards strong quality standards.

The real disappointing aspect is that these problems have allowed other (more expensive) software packages to take over. Adobe Premiere is now very affordable at $20/month. If you have kids in school, you can get the entire Adobe software line for $20/month as well.

Considering all the templates, presets and modern courses on video editing are focusing on Premiere, I’m worried for Hitfilm. I’m not sure that they are in a position to get the community back.

While I’d rather have Hitfilm (with it’s combined Visual Effects) than use Adobe products. I have to give credit to Hitfilm and say they have some very impressive visual effects results. Honestly I think they can go toe to toe with some major companies out there (such as Adobe).

Yet while they have the proverbial firepower to hold their own, their proverbial foundations are fractured. I’m thinking that within a year I’ll probably ditch Hitfilm for Premiere, only for the fact I need something that is more stable and doesn’t have these random blockers to production.

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