Video is king. Be it for entertainment and art, or simply for communicating new content online – we all watch, learn, and improve in no small part from video.
The appetite and immediacy for footage creation, coupled with high expectations from a savvy video community, makes editing equally essential. Whether it’s free editing software for YouTube, for example, the program and application for video production have also gone mainstream.
FX for Everyone
So what about VFX software and tools for adding particular visual effects? Surely the finer arts of compositing and 3D animation are a different story, right? Surprisingly not, with some top resources available for VFX beginners to download for free, trial,/ and get using today.
Never has it been less necessary to be a film academy professional either. For the student filmmaker to the video blogger and beyond – this guide identifies a veritable VFX software smorgasbord fit for all!
HitFilm Express (FREE)
An all-in-one production choice, HitFilm Express transcends video editing to deliver unparalleled VFX technology. Composite one or more shots simultaneously while applying 2D/3D animations and transitions across unlimited timeline tracks.
Choose from over 400 VFX presets for not just text and titling, but fire, lightning, gun muzzle flashes, lens flares, warps, and more. Neon path your way to dystopian Cyberpunk-style environments or add lasers and star fields to sci-fi scenes. Colour correction presets provide instant cinematic tints, moody hues for dreamy sequences, or even a degraded, damaged look to clean shots.
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.
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 feature here, alongside tracking powered by Boris FX’s Mocha.
Before recoiling in horror at the limitless possibilities, HitFilm newbies needn’t be Houdini to breakthrough. A growing Express community of over 5.8m, irrespective of budget or expertise, is well supported by free training resources including tips videos, 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 program 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.
Sculpt, mask and shape 3D assets, add textures to meshes and use “modifiers” to apply quick, non-destructive actions. Powered by the GPU-based Cycles engine, Blender’s realistic rendering of lighting, shading, geometry, and volume are all performed with real-time previews.
Generating complex CGI effects is made simple too with the software’s powerful simulation capabilities. Smoke, fire, watery liquids, hair, cloth, dirt, debris, and even particle explosions are all possible, alongside “rigid bodies” for defining collidable, destructible objects.
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.
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. Traditionally a post-production task in other compositors, CamTrackAR changes the game by placing powerful pre-visualization 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, with new anchor points 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 typifies how progressive and intuitive filmmaking tools can inspire artists of all levels. The ability to preview dynamic shots onset or lock composited models in place with greater accuracy is an invaluable gift to auteurs, YouTubers, and effects artists alike.
Go Make Magic!
While powerful and inspiring creative tools are important, they only become valuable resources in artists’ hands. Whether a wide-eyed beginner or a seasoned professional, the great leveler across any craft is imagination, vision, and enthusiasm.
So whatever 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 for the magic you make and, who knows? With an ultimate free VFX toolkit at your fingertips, maybe a career in the film arts awaits.