Tip: Toggle audio preview styles

When you select an audio file in the Media panel, the preview area will (by default) display waveforms for each of the audio stream channels found in the file.

For example, a stereo MP3 file would look something like this:

You can change this preview style by right-clicking the preview area and choosing an option from the popup menu:

  • Channel List:  the default, as above, where each channel waveform appears on its own
  • Channel Composite:  all of the channel waveforms plotted together
  • RMS Amplitude

RMS (Root Mean Square) Amplitude allows you to see the power in the sound wave and hence its apparent loudness over time.

Tip: Multi-select layers and apply an operation

Have you ever needed to convert a bunch of layers to 3D?  Or hide a selection of layers?  Or enable motion blur for a selection of layers?

Just select the layers (hold down Ctrl and click a layer to add it to the selection) and then click the appropriate button or menu item, and that operation will be applied to all layers that are selected.

For example, to hide/show all of the currently selected layers, toggle the Layer Visibility button (the one that looks like an eye) for one of the selected layers, and they will all change.

Tip: Understand HitFilm’s render order

EDIT (12 Mar 2012):  Fixed ordering of groups in the example at the end.  Thanks to Simon Jones for pointing out the error.

Understanding HitFilm’s rendering order will save you countless headaches and help you achieve your desired results much quicker than otherwise.

Editor Timeline

For clips on video tracks, their rendering order is bottom-up by track.  Consider a timeline with 3 video tracks and some clips laid out as follows:

                         Playhead
                            |
Video 3:        [Explosion Composite Shot]
Video 2:  [Bonfire Composite Shot]
Video 1:    [My Movie][Another Movie]

The track rendering order is Video 1, then Video 2, then Video 3, and as each track is rendered the result is composited onto what was previously rendered and composited.

In the above example, at the playhead (Current Time Indicator) frame the rendering and compositing order is:

  1. Render ‘Another Movie’ frame
  2. Render ‘Bonfire Composite Shot’ frame, and composite it onto what was previously rendered (i.e. the Another Movie frame)
  3. Render ‘Explosion Composite Shot’ frame, and composite it onto what was previously rendered (i.e. the composite of Bonfire and Another Movie)

Composite Shot Timelines – 2D Layers

For 2D layers, the rendering and compositing order is the same as for clips and video tracks on the Editor timeline.

2D layers are rendered bottom-up according to their order in the list, and each layer is then composited onto the previous result.  Consider a composite shot timeline with 3 layers:

1: New Grade    [Grade]
2: New Plane 1  [Plane]
3: My movie     [Media]

In this case, the media layer is rendered first, followed by the plane layer, and lastly by the grade layer.  When each layer is rendered, it is composited onto the previous result.

Composite Shot Timelines – 3D Layers

3D layers are rendered and composited according to their transformation in 3D space.  The order of the layer list doesn’t matter for 3D layers (except in one special case described below).

Using the above 2D layers example, let’s change all the layers to 3D and add a camera:

1: New Grade    [Grade]  [3D]
     Transform
        Position: (0, 0, 0)
2: New Plane 1  [Plane]  [3D]
     Transform
        Position: (0, 0, -100)
3: My movie     [Media]  [3D]
     Transform
        Position: (0, 0, 200)
4: New Camera   [Camera] [3D]
     Transform
        Position: (0, 0, 1200)

In this case, layer 3 will appear closest to the camera, followed by layer 1, and finally by layer 2, because of the order of their Z positions.

It’s not just the Z position that determines which layer appears closest to the camera, though.  Two layers could have the same position in 3D space but have different orientations, causing them to intersect as in the following screenshot:

In this case, HitFilm subdivides the layers according to the intersection causing one part of the white layer to be composited in front of the green layer, and the other part behind it.

The special case mentioned above (where the order of layers in the layer list does actually matter for 3D layers) is when two or more layers are coplanar.  That is, imagine two layers that not only have the same position in 3D space but also have the same orientation.  In this case, there is nothing in the layers’ transformations that determines which should be in front of the other.  So HitFilm chooses based on the order in the layer list.  The top-most 3D layer will be rendered in front of the other coplanar layer.

2D and 3D Layers

A composite shot timeline can contain both 2D and 3D layers interleaved as the user desires.  In cases like this, one or more 2D layers will divide the 3D layers into separate batches.

1: New Plane 1  [Plane]  [3D]
2: New Plane 2  [Plane]  [3D]
3: New Grade    [Grade]
4: New Plane 3  [Plane]  [3D]
5: New Plane 4  [Plane]  [3D]
6: Camera 1     [Camera] [3D]

In the above example, the 2D grade layer divides the scene into two separate 3D batches.  Within each batch the 3D layers are rendered according to their transformation in 3D space, just as described earlier.

But layers in the first batch (planes 1 and 2) and layers in the second batch (planes 3 and 4) cannot intersect each other.

In addition, the first batch (planes 1 and 2) will always appear on top of the second batch.

Some of this can be difficult to grasp without experimentation and seeing the results visually.  Try it for yourself and the rules will soon become clear.

A 2D layer will divide 3D layers into separate batches even if the 2D layer’s visibility switch is set to hide the layer.  That is to say, the existence of a 2D layer in the list, regardless of any of its switches or settings, is all that is needed to divide 3D layers.  You need to remove the 2D layer from the list (or change its order) if you don’t want to separate the 3D content.

Effects and Masks

In general, the rendering order is top-down whenever you see a list or tree of objects.  For example, when you expand a layer you’ll usually see these groups:

  • Masks
  • Effects
  • Transform

This means that masks are rendered first, then effects, and then finally the layer is transformed (e.g. rotated or scaled).

Likewise, when you see a list of masks or a list of effects within a group, those objects are rendered in top-down order too.  Consider a layer with three effects:

Layer
   Effects
      Brightness & Contrast
      Blur
      Reflection

This means that the Brightness & Contrast effect is rendered first, followed by the Blur, and then lastly Reflection.

Text and Grade Layers

It’s worth noting that Text and Grade layers have a different ordering of Masks, Effects and Transform than other layer types.  Their order is:

  • Transform
  • Masks
  • Effects

Again, the top-down rule applies.  But in these cases, the masks and effects will be applied after the layer has been transformed.

Changing the Order

So, it’s reasonable to ask, what happens if you want an effect to be applied before a mask?  Or a layer to be rotated (transformed) before applying a horizontal blur effect (assuming the Transform group comes after Effects)?

The answer to all these types of problems is:  nested composite shots.

By moving a layer into its own composite shot you can apply some operation(s) to the layer inside that composite shot, and then separately apply other operation(s) to that composite shot layer.

For example, here’s how to rotate the layer before applying a Blur:

Main Composite Shot
  Layers
    1: My Movie Comp [Composite Shot]
        Masks
        Effects
            Angle Blur
        Transform

My Movie Comp
  Layers
    1: My Movie.mp4  [Media]
        Masks
        Effects
        Transform
            Rotation:  45.0

Check out the reference manual for more information on nested (or embedded) composite shots and the handy Make Composite feature.

For more on 2D and 3D compositing and transformations, I recommend watching these great video tutorials:

Tip: Speed up editing by disabling Editor preview mode

Some media file types and codecs are faster than others at finding and decoding video frames and audio samples.

For a discussion on the trade offs between compression and performance, check out this forum post over at HitFilm.com.

If you find that editing your media files is slow in HitFilm, one thing you can try is to change the clips’ Preview Mode.

The Preview Mode defaults to ‘Full’, meaning that video clips are filled with little thumbnail versions of the frames, and audio clips are filled with their waveform.

Sometimes, depending on the media file, it can take a bit of time to generate these preview images.

So if you don’t really need the previews then try changing the Preview Mode to ‘Start/End’ or ‘None’.

  • Start/End shows the first and last thumbnail frame for the video clip and displays the full audio waveform.
  • None won’t show anything

Tip: Keep ‘Auto sleep/wake assets’ off unless you really need it

Under the Options dialog, General pane, you’ll see a checkbox for ‘Auto sleep/wake assets‘.  By default it should not be ticked, even though it is in the following screenshot.

When ticked, HitFilm will close media files when you deactivate the HitFilm window (minimize it, or switch to another window), and re-open the files when you return to the HitFilm window.

This is useful when you need to edit a media file in another application, since otherwise HitFilm may retain a lock on the file and therefore prevent the other application from being able to save the file.

But the act of closing and re-opening the files can be quite expensive, depending on the file type, meaning that you might see an annoying lag when deactivating/activating the HitFilm window.

So if you know you don’t need to edit a file in another application, keep this checkbox unticked.  You can always turn it on when needed and then turn it back off again.

Tip: Understand how HitFilm uses your hardware

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to provide some information about how HitFilm uses your computer’s hardware, and which hardware components matter the most regarding potential performance.

It’s important to remember that, no matter how top-of-the-line your computer is, there will always be certain projects or composite shots that cannot be rendered and played back in realtime.

Graphics Card (GPU)

HitFilm requires a video/graphics card/GPU (see the requirements) because it does all rendering on the GPU, via OpenGL.  To be more specific, the following tasks are all processed by your GPU:

  • compositing
  • transformations (e.g. scaling, rotating)
  • video transitions
  • effects
  • particle rendering
  • export rendering

If you haven’t done so for a while, it’s a good idea to make sure your driver is up-to-date.  New driver versions often have bug fixes and performance optimisations, and this will in turn affect HitFilm’s rendering performance.  In some cases, GPUs that are a little below HitFilm’s minimum requirement can even work by updating the driver to the latest version!

512 MB video memory is the minimum required but HitFilm will benefit from having more available.  (1 GB video memory is recommended.)

In particular, if you want to do 16-bit float rendering with HD (or above, like 2K/4K) projects, then HitFilm may require more video memory than the minimum or even recommended amount.  HitFilm will display a warning message if you don’t have enough available.

If your GPU doesn’t have its own dedicated video memory (i.e., it shares memory with your CPU), then it’s a good idea to have more than the minimum 2 GB RAM installed.  (See below for more on RAM.)

Because HitFilm relies on the GPU for rendering, most people will find that upgrading an old (or slow) graphics card will give them the most noticeable performance boost in HitFilm.

Note, however, some of the tasks listed below that HitFilm performs on the CPU, such as video decoding and particle physics simulation.  It’s no good having a brilliant graphics card if you have a slow, single-core CPU and want to do lots of particle and HD video work.  You need a balance of hardware components in your PC.

If you already have a “reasonably balanced” PC (e.g. a quad-core CPU, 4 GB RAM, and a decent hard disk) then look at your graphics card first if you’re aiming to improve performance (specifically, anything to do with rendering).

CPU

HitFilm is multicore aware and will make use of as many CPU cores as your PC has available.

The following are noteworthy tasks that run on the CPU:

  • audio/video decoding and encoding
  • physics simulation for particles
  • audio (mixing, effects, and transitions)

A quad-core CPU is recommended.  Hardware multithreading (such as Intel’s Hyper-Threading) will help too, though not as much as having real additional cores.  E.g. 8 cores are better than a quad-core with hardware multithreading, but choose the latter over a straight quad-core CPU.

A performance note on particle effects:  HitFilm has very powerful 3D particle effects with extensive controls and physics options, and particles are also rendered in true 3D space around other 3D layers in the scene.  (Ultimate includes the full, generic particle simulator along with various particle-based specific effects, like Bonfire, Smoke, and Sci-Fi Shockwave; Standard does not include the generic particle simulator.  But in both editions, the general simulation and rendering requirements are the same.)

HitFilm uses both the CPU and GPU for particle effects:  the CPU for physics simulation and the GPU for rendering.  So if you’re going to work with lots of particles then you’ll want to have a good balance of these hardware components.

Hard Disk

The faster the hard disk, the better!  If you have a laptop, a 7200 RPM drive is much better than a 5400 RPM one.

For best results (laptop or desktop), get a solid state disk.  This will improve performance on your entire system, not just with HitFilm.

Here are some noteworthy performance-related tasks where HitFilm either directly or indirectly interacts with your hard disk:

  • reading/writing audio & video files
  • reading/writing cache files
  • via Windows:  reading/writing the system paging file when not enough physical RAM is available to store the virtual memory pages required by HitFilm

A faster hard disk will help when editing with HD video files, for example.

If you’re planning to edit uncompressed HD videos then you’ll definitely want a very fast hard disk (think RAID even).

RAM

2 GB is the minimum requirement, and 4 GB is recommended.

HitFilm will benefit from more memory in these scenarios:

  • HD video decoding/encoding
  • if you are working with many, large (HD or above) images
  • if you have lots of particle effects (particularly with motion blur)
  • if your CPU and GPU share memory

In general, though, if you already have 4 GB of RAM, and want to improve performance, look at upgrading your GPU first (though see above regarding a balance of hardware components).

64-bit

Related to memory is whether you run the 32-bit or 64-bit version of HitFilm.  Just to be clear, you’ll need 64-bit Windows in order to have the choice.  And if you do have 64-bit Windows, make sure you’re running the 64-bit version of HitFilm.

Of course, you’ll want to run the 64-bit version of HitFilm if you have more than 4 GB installed in your PC (and want your operating system and applications to use it).

Technical side note:  The 32-bit version of HitFilm is not Large Address Aware, meaning that it (along with most other 32-bit applications) can only use 2 GB of virtual memory address space.  (It’s still worthwhile having more than 2 GB physical RAM, though, even if you’re running 32-bit Windows.)  The 64-bit version can, however, use up to 8 TB.

Tip: Update your GPU (graphics card) driver

HitFilm requires a graphics card/GPU (see the requirements) because it does all rendering on the GPU, via OpenGL.

Windows uses a device driver to interact with the GPU.  The driver is a piece of software that is provided by the GPU manufacturer (e.g. NVIDIA, AMD, Intel).  A version usually comes on a CD/DVD with your computer (or in the GPU box, if you buy one on its own), but they’re also available to download.

Manufacturers release new driver versions periodically (sometimes many times each year) that contain new features, bug fixes and performance improvements.

Therefore, the driver version can have a significant impact on HitFilm.

So if you have any rendering-related problems (glitches, performance), a good first step is to update your driver to the latest version.  In some cases, GPUs that are a little below HitFilm’s minimum requirement can even work by updating the driver to the latest version!

If you’re not sure how to update your driver version, check out this handy FAQ over at HitFilm.com.