I have just completed a long journey through three video editors (Vegas, HitFilm, and Premiere) that I used to produce a number of documentaries (about 10), most of which are sold, but some of which are published for free on YouTube. I also teach videography at my university. I have all my students use HitFilm Express for their classwork (unless they already have another editor that they prefer). Finally, I consider myself among the group of HitFilm's greatest fans. But there is a problem, a big problem, and I want to put in my two cents, hoping that some will listen and see the importance of the issue, and it resides squarely with HitFilm's current problems handling 4K footage.
I work almost exclusively with 4K footage. I see a lot of enthusiasts still supporting 1080p, but the pros are dropping 1080p cameras fast. 4K cameras are dropping in prices to ridiculous levels. There are now a few very decent models for under $1,000 that have incredible output quality. None of the pros are going back to 1080p. Indie filmmakers will all be using 4K in a couple of years, probably exclusively. The ability to reframe shots in post, zooming and panning without losing resolution quality is the real game changer. Also YouTube is wanting to have more 4K footage, 4K TVs are coming out, DirecTV has now begun now streaming 4K (with more to come), and Google Fiber is going to change the Internet into a 4K world in just a couple of years (AT&T and Comcast are rushing as fast as possible to install fiber in order to remain competitive). 1080p is dead. Wait two years, and nobody will doubt this.
I used to work with Sony Vegas. But there were always problems, I never could get smooth pans to work well with Vegas, and 4K footage bogged it down. Finally, Sony introduced its new (and very poorly supported) Catalyst in open recognition that Vegas is inept at handing 4K in professional terms. They may come out with a version 14 of Vegas, but the fact that they let the rumor float for a year that they were not going to continue to develop Vegas was a clear message that new software was needed to handle future film making needs. A new version of Vegas will only buy them some time to fix their new line. So I dropped Vegas entirely, looking for a new editor.
Since I have long used the HitFilm Ignite plugins in Vegas, I chose to work with the HitFilm Pro editor, version 4. I got one documentary out of it, and I will never complain about the visual quality. Gorgeous. But it was sluggish to edit it, and I could not export it into a finished film without it crashing. I was only saved by someone on this forum who told me to export it as an image sequence first, and then render the final movie using the image sequence while muting all the 4K footage, It took 24 hours to complete the image sequence, but I am not complaining. The movie looks terrific, and that is all that counts to me. But my second project, a longer 2 hour 15 minute film, crashed HitFilm entirely. It simply could not handle the amount of 4K footage, even without effects. The more I loaded into the project, the more it became unstable. I had no choice but to abandon the editor for this project. So I moved the project to Adobe Premiere CS6 to edit the now completed movie.
Working with Adobe Premiere was not without issues. It could handle any amount of 4K footage strung out in one timeline without crashing, and I had realtime playback of the raw footage. But I use green screen a lot, and most of my stuff has to be composited. The internal chroma keys in Premiere (like Ultra Key) are not as polished at the HitFilm collection. The workflow for most is to use a dynamic link in Premiere to ship the desired "nested sequence" into After Effects, and to use the Keylight plugin for chroma keying. The plugin is great, and lots of Hollywood blockbusters have use it, but using it is not without problems. You lose the easy ability to edit the footage like you have in a normal editor. You can't easily cut a clip in half and insert a new clip. No transitions, All sorts of stuff goes away in After Effects, even if the special effects are good. You also need to purchase plugins.... But the worst part of it is that once you make a dynamic link to After Effects from within Adobe Premiere, you cannot undo this once you save it and close and re-open the project. That is, if you do a lot of stuff in After Effects, and then change your mind and want to go back to the way things were before linking to After Effects so that you do it all in Premiere, you are stuck. That happened to me, and I was saved only because I kept an earlier version in Premiere that did not have the After Effects dynamic link. See how easy things would have been with HitFilm, with the media compositer and nonlinear editor built into the same program? The concept of HitFilm is the future of film making, even if the current version has issues.
I finally decided to use BorisFX BCC to do my chroma keying compositing within Premiere. It cost me $1,000, and I am not complaining. There were no crashes, not even one, over weeks of editing. The final render of the 2+ hour movie took two days (that is not a typo). But the quality is great. I tried using the HitFilm Ignite plugins, and they worked, but they brought my computer system to a grinding halt eventually. No problem with 1080p footage. But the 4K footage was not good for the Ignite plugins. I even had a friend try the same project in FCP 10 using the Ignite plugins. Same result. Quality was perfect, but the system ran into molasses that turned into quicksand. The code is simply not optimized to handle 4K footage easily. Even with BCC, I soon lost real time playback without dropped frames, but that will always happen once you add lots of effects no matter what editor you use. It was still MUCH better and easier than working with After Effects (and I like After Effects). Honestly, real time playback is not something that most editors expect once the effects are loaded in. You get that only with raw or rendered footage. But editors must know that the system will not grind to a halt when the effects are piled on. They still have to be able to edit.
Now back to Hitfilm's future. I purchase ALL FXHome products, including their amazing Photokey Pro. I will continue to purchase all versions of HitFilm. HitFilm can handle short 4K projects well. It is just long projects that have problems. In short, I LOVE HitFilm as a concept, and it is my editor of choice when compositing short stuff. But in my opinion, if we want HitFilm to be around in two years and to avoid the fate of Vegas, the single most important thing that the HitFilm staff needs to address is optimizing the code to work with 4K footage. My students use their iPhones with 1080p footage. But that is not serious film making. That is just playing in a learning environment. But in 2 years, even the kids will be using 4K cameras. HitFilm needs to focus on this issue more than any other single issue. What good are new features if the program itself collapses under the weight of 4K? In my view, it makes no sense to defend 1080p as a viable future. The only future is 4K, and that future will be here sooner rather than later. I have NO complaints about HitFilm's quality. The movie output looks GORGEOUS. Fixing the 4K issue is the single most important thing that needs to be addressed. Nothing else matters.
Since people will ask, my systems are good ones ... all SSD drives, i7 processors, gaming motherboards, 32 gigs of ram, NVIDIA GeForce GFX 970 video cards, Windows 10, etc.