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Upcoming Release: Ignite Pro 2021.1

Ignite Pro 2021.1 will be landing in April and will bring a multitude of new updates, workflow enhancements, plugins, and presets. Read on to find out about the exciting new features version 2021.1 has to offer.

How to create a VFX cyborg effect for free

Want to join the Justice League? Now you can! In this tutorial, we’ll take you through motion tracking your actor’s head in Blender, applying a detailed 3D model, and compositing in HitFilm Express, all for free.

Revised framing - lightsaber battle

HitFilm 3 Pro Update #5

The latest free update for HitFilm 3 Pro tempts us back to the Dark Side with three brand new and inter-connected effects, focusing on the perennial favorite known as the lightsword*. We’ve also got workflow tweaks and fixes galore, so read on…

The latest free update for HitFilm 3 Pro tempts us back to the Dark Side with three brand new inter-connected effects, focusing on the perennial favorite known as the lightsword*. We’ve also added workflow tweaks and fixes galore, so read on…

The circle is now complete

The primary purpose of Update #5 is to give me an excuse to insert as many Star Wars quotes as possible into this article. Star Wars fanfilms have never gone away and with The Force Awakens just around the corner we’re expecting the lightsword to once again reclaim its title as everybody’s First Effect.

Notably, Lightswords have traditionally been very labor-intensive, usually requiring frame-by-frame rotoscoping and extensive tracking by eye, due to the extreme motion blur on the prop weapons used by actors in action scenes. Automatic tracking simply doesn’t work when you’ve got a blade that is barely visible even to the human eye.

In Update #5 we’ve set out to minimize the workload and create the fastest, easiest, and best lightsword method you’ll find.

HitFilm 3 Pro virtual environment
Note the 3D environment constructed inside HitFilm 3 Pro using assets from NXVisual Studio

Three lightsword effects are included with Update #5, each with a slightly different focus.

Lightsword (2-Point Auto) is the main event, providing an easy way to position the effect using just two points (the hilt and the tip), which should be positioned on the leading edge of the blade. HitFilm then derives the required motion blur based on the relative movement of the points. You can choose between streaking which matches that in the movies or set up a custom streak to match the shutter speed and motion blur in your footage.

The 4-Point Manual version lets you create a rectangular shape, which is accurate but not as slick as the 2-point. Finally there’s the standalone Lightsword (Glow Only), which adds our custom glow behavior to any layer, with customization options for the flicker and edge stability.

Both the 2- and 4-point versions can be linked to tracked points, so if you do successfully track movement you can speed things up even more. Useful for less frenetic shots, perhaps – or, indeed, for creating other neon effects far, far away from Star Wars.

There’s no avoiding roto when it comes to lightswords, but Update #5 is the easiest and fastest system I’ve encountered for creating authentic results.

 Workflow tweaks

Not interested in space fantasy romps? Then check out the workflow tweaks introduced in Update #5:

  • Scrolling the mouse wheel in orthographic and perspective views now zooms in on that position
  • Set in/out point keyboard shortcuts can now be used while scrubbing in the Trimmer or Viewer
  • The set in/out point keyboard shortcuts no longer halt Viewer playback
  • Timeline Snap can be toggled on and off using the keyboard shortcut while resizing clips and moving layers
  • Resized text windows (eg when editing the Pulp Sci-fi Title Crawl effect) now remember their new size
  • Easy access help buttons are now available in the corner of each panel. These can be toggled on and off in Options

Fixes

You’ll also find Update #5 more stable, with the following fixes applied:

  • Fixed various issues with text editor windows
  • Click & drag to change properties now works in the text panel
  • Fixed rare issue with New Folder button disabling
  • Changing a 3D model’s materials now invalidates RAM previews correctly
  • Fixed intermittent Windows 8 crash caused by Webkit
  • Fixed rare property selection issue which prevented controls from displaying properly in Viewer
  • Minor UI styling tweaks

Let us know how you get in with Update #5 and have fun with all that roto!

*also known by other names of varying legal complexity.

Image breakdown

The dramatic image at the top of this blog post was created entirely in HitFilm 3 Pro. Here’s a quick breakdown.

3D surface assets
First up I constructed a rocky surface using a bunch of 3D planets, created by user NXVisual Studio, which I scaled and stretched to become flatter shapes. By mixing several of these together I ended up with a generic surface which could be shot from numerous angles.
Virtual camera on 3D planet surface
The virtual camera was positioned down low, looking out to the horizon of the surface structure.
Adding distance fog to 3D environments
Distance fog is hugely important when creating 3D environments. You can find fog settings in the ‘advanced’ tab of a composite shot’s properties.
Adding lighting to 3D environments
A single 3D light was used, with a blue-ish color to contrast with the deep red of the fog.
Self-shadowing enabled
Here’s the shot with self-shadowing enabled.
Lava sky background
The sky was created using the free Billowed Background effect from the Red Giant Universe plugin collection.
Green screen plate of old Star Wars project
This is a plate from a very old project we shot around 2008. It’s only 720p but due to being small in the final frame it works perfectly in a 2K shot.
Green screen plate composited into scene
Here’s the plate composited into the 3D scene. Note the 3D unified space at work, with the video layer perfectly embedded in the rocky surface. This makes it very easy to construct 3D sets with live action components.
Green screen keyed out
HitFilm’s chroma key effect makes removing the greenscreen super easy. Note the realistic 3D shadow being cast from the video layer onto the rocky surface. The video layer is also receiving the distance fog and light wrap from its surroundings.
Lightswords added
Lightswords created and stock atmosphere elements inserted in 3D space.
Flare added - the final shot
The final shot with additional grading, revised framing and a textured landscape. As the shot is created in 3D, it’s even possible to add a camera move, with the video layer locked in place and casting accurate shadows as the actors move.

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Kirstie Tostevin

Kirstie Tostevin

I'm a writer, creator, and positive thinker! I've never felt more at home than in this community and heading up FXhome's Marketing team. Together, we're making the industry more accessible and the world a brighter place through fun content and incredible software! It's a great day to be a creator.
Kirstie Tostevin

Kirstie Tostevin

I'm a writer, creator, and positive thinker! I've never felt more at home than in this community and heading up FXhome's Marketing team. Together, we're making the industry more accessible and the world a brighter place through fun content and incredible software! It's a great day to be a creator.