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Hitfilm 4 Pro review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £272
inc VAT

Not perfect, but Hitfilm continues to take great strides for ambitious video producers on a shoestring budget


OS Support: Windows 7/8/10, Mac OS X 10.10 or 10.11, Minimum CPU: Core Core i3, Minimum GPU: OpenGL 2.0, 512MB (GeForce 9 series, Radeon HD 5000 series, Intel HD 4000), Minimum RAM: 4GB, Hard disk space: 1.2GB


Hitfilm already supported 3D lighting, complete with shadows and the ability to define the shininess of 3D models. It now goes much further, with support for reflections of models on other models, refraction of light through models, improved handling of shadows and better control over how light sources reflects off models. The big breakthrough here is the ability to define the Roughness of a model, with higher values producing more diffuse highlights.

Hitfilm 4 Pro reflections

3D models can now reflect colours from other objects to produce livelier lighting effects

It’s still a long way short of the ray tracing techniques used elsewhere to produce highly photorealistic 3D graphics. Ray tracing tracks beams of light as they bounce around a virtual 3D space, and Hitfilm’s 3D render engine feels like an early prototype of the concept. It’s also frustrating that 3D models’ properties are only available in a pop-up window, which must be closed in order to see the model under your own project’s lighting. Then again, ray tracing would have crippled performance, whereas this implementation keeps the software reasonably responsive. The bottom line here is that 3D models can be made to look much more convincing than before. Metallic objects can have a matt or gloss finish and pick up reflected colours from their surroundings. A neat trick is to create a block-colour plane to simulate colours in the live action footage – green grass, for example – and set the plane to be invisible but still reflect off the 3D model.

There are lots of other new features. Particles can be spawned on a regimented grid. FX Home suggests this is useful for auto-generating cityscapes from a handful of building models. The software already supported basic internal animation a 3D model, such as for spinning propellers of a plane. It now supports Alembic 3D for complex animations created in software such as Maya or Cinema4D – not something I’ve had the opportunity to test.

There’s a small suite of audio effects, including the ability to apply Doppler Shift. This is the real-world effect that makes a police siren change pitch as the car passes, and it’s a nice touch that it can be applied automatically based on 3D animation of objects.

3D titles finally make an appearance in the form of Boris FX 3D. It offers detailed control over text formatting and includes some fun deform and shatter effects. Sadly it doesn’t interact with other objects in a shared 3D space, so there are no shared lighting settings and visibility is by layer order rather than distance from camera. FX Home tells us that its updated plug-in architecture means that, in future, plug-ins such as this will be able to be brought into its Unified 3D Space.

Hitfilm 4 Pro Boris titles

Boris FX 3D brings 3D text effects to Hitfilm

This isn’t the unequivocally positive review I’ve given previous versions of Hitfilm, but my enthusiasm for it remains as high as ever. FX Home understands its users well, and these new features will help them create sophisticated special effects that are more convincing than ever. We’re all used to seeing digital effects produced with astronomical budgets, and it’s incredible what one person can achieve in just a few hours with Hitfilm. 

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System requirements
OS SupportWindows 7/8/10, Mac OS X 10.10 or 10.11
Minimum CPUCore Core i3
Minimum GPUOpenGL 2.0, 512MB (GeForce 9 series, Radeon HD 5000 series, Intel HD 4000)
Minimum RAM4GB
Hard disk space1.2GB
Buying information
Price including VAT£272

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