Looking to dip your toes into the fantastical world of visual effects but not sure which VFX software to use? You’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll share with you the best VFX software for beginners, including everything from compositing and effects software to 3D modeling and camera tracking tools to add to your toolkit.
For beginners, which VFX software to use can be a learning process in and of itself. Technical jargon can be overwhelming when you don’t know your shaders from your shadow maps (in time, young padawan). Luckily, some options on the market make that decision a lot easier by offering easy-to-use interfaces and free learning resources for their users. In our opinion, the best VFX software for beginners are free and can grow with you as you develop your skills.
VFX software for everyone
HitFilm Express (FREE)
HitFilm is FXhome’s professional video editing and VFX software suite that comes with powerful tools like particle simulation, 3D model animation, and a world-series lens-flare engine. HitFilm Express – used by millions of filmmakers around the globe – is a totally free version, which you can download here.
An all-in-one video production tool, HitFilm Express is more than just VFX software. You can edit all of your footage, color grade, apply effects and render 3D models all from a single, unified interface.
Users have free access to over 400 visual effects and presets for everything from text and titling to fire, lightning, gun muzzle flashes, lens flares, warps, and more. Color presets provide instant cinematic tints, moody hues for dreamy sequences, or even a degraded, damaged look.
In particular, YouTubers and streamers will appreciate green screen extraction, GoPro correction tools, and built-in voiceover recording. Support for the import and export of popular video and audio file formats also makes for a seamless workflow between apps.
VFX software that grows with you
Not confined to what’s in the box either, HitFilm Express is expandable with over 30 add-on packs. Extensions for advanced particle simulation, 3D modeling, color grading, and chroma keying can be purchased only as you need them. Add-ons also include Boris FX’s powerful Mocha HitFilm tracking software.
HitFilm newbies needn’t be Houdini to breakthrough. A growing Express community of over 5 million users, irrespective of budget or expertise, is supported by free training resources including tutorials, and updates.
HitFilm Pro is a premium upgrade for those graduating to the next level. A free demo gives full access to tools without any time limit, while tiered full product packages for Mac and Windows platforms are also available.
Distributed for free as an open-source project, Blender is a complete 3D creation software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Boasting impressive modeling, digital sculpting, animation, rigging, and rendering tools, Blender’s broader features makes it one of the top VFX software suites for beginner artists and filmmakers alike.
With Blender, you can sculpt, mask and shape 3D assets, add textures to your models, and use “modifiers” to apply quick, non-destructive actions – speeding up your workflow. Powered by the GPU-based Cycles engine, Blender’s photorealistic rendering of lighting, shading, geometry, and volumetrics are outstanding and can be performed with real-time previews using the lighter ‘Eevee’ engine. This makes visualization while you work simple and fast.
Generating complex CGI effects is easy too with the software’s powerful simulation capabilities. Smoke, fire, liquids, hair, cloth, dirt, debris, and even particle explosions are all possible, alongside “rigid bodies” for colliding, destructible objects.
Extended VFX pipeline
Designed to support the whole visual effects pipeline, Blender includes a Video Editor that goes beyond basic cutting and splicing. Users here can perform video masking, color grading, and audio mixing while enjoying multiple preview modes. However, we do suggest pairing Blender with a more advanced compositing tool like HitFilm Express for the best results.
In addition, a built-in multi-threaded compositor provides render-layer support and a library of versatile nodes. Automatic and manual motion tracking options allow for camera and object movements to be reconstructed within a 3D scene.
Blender’s file compatibility covers the most typical image types, along with AVI, MPEG, and QuickTime video. Alembic, 3DS, OBJ, and LWO support for leading 3D formats also makes the switch to HitFilm Express easy for compositing models into the shot.
In VFX applications, 3D camera tracking within a video scene has always taken time and work. CamTrackAR changes the game by placing a powerful 3D tracking solution into every filmmaker’s pocket – quite literally.
Available for iOS, the free app uses Augmented Reality to automatically scan and plot real-world tracking data while filming on the iPhone. Flat surfaces, walls, and floor planes are instantly recognized and articulated via a green tracking grid. New anchor points are just a finger tap away. Switch across to compositing the footage in HitFilm or Blender, and the camera data is imported alongside, simplifying the motion-tracking workflow.
With an accessible UI optimized for touchscreen, CamTrackAR shows how innovative and intuitive filmmaking tools can inspire artists of all levels. The ability to preview dynamic shots on-set or lock composited models in place with greater accuracy is an invaluable gift to filmmakers, YouTubers, and VFX artists alike.
You Have the VFX software, now go make magic!
Using the right creative software is important, but they only become valuable resources in artists’ hands. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned professional, the most important aspects of any craft are imagination, vision, and enthusiasm.
Whichever VFX software you choose, and on whatever budget, there really is no better time for bringing box-office video projects to every screen. The watching world looks forward with bated breath. With the ultimate free VFX toolkit at your fingertips, a career in the art of film surely awaits.
The best VFX software toolkit for beginners is HitFilm Express – for compositing, visual effects, and green screening, Blender – for 3D modeling, animation, and physics simulation, and CamTrackAR – for 3D tracking your footage ready to add effects.