This is how you edit videos with HitFilm Express

You have made a series of video recordings and you would like to forge them together into a beautiful film. You're not really sad about the passing of Windows Movie Maker, because that was only a lightweight. HitFilm Express offers you a much more powerful alternative, with numerous possibilities and effects. The learning curve is a bit steeper, so we'll give you a helping hand on your way.

Tip 01: Modules

HitFilm Express (HFE) is not yet well known to the general public and that is quite a shame given the many possibilities of this video editor. The program is available for both Windows 8 (64 bit) and macOS 10.11, or higher versions. In the free version, some effects and features are not available by default – unless you don't care about a watermark in your video footage. Fortunately, you don't have to pay the full pound of 299 euros for the complete professional edition either. You can also opt for a free basic version, to supplement it with specific paid add-ons. They are not really expensive though. The Edit Starter Pack, for example, costs you barely a tenner and it gives you access to picture-in-picture, split-screen masks, vertical video and all kinds of text animations.

In this article we will get started with the free version. Keep in mind that HFE requires quite a bit from your machine: preferably 8 GB of ram, a graphics card with at least 1 GB of video memory (or 2 GB for 4K UHD video) and at least an Intel Core i3 or equivalent processor (preferably core i5).

Tip 02: Activation

You download HFE here. After the installation you still have to activate the tool via Activate and unlock and you need a login id for that. You create that here.

After the activation and a restart of the tool you can get started. Through File / Options / Activation you can see which extra features (add-ons) you have already purchased. For example, to use the add-on Edit: starter to buy click here HitFilm Store, select the relevant add-on and follow the further purchase instructions. By the way, in this window you will also find the button Deactivate Program On: Handy if you ever want to install the tool with the same account - and the add-ons already purchased - on another PC.

When you start up, you default to the tab Home, with links to various instructional videos and to an online user guide – which is also available as a PDF of over 500 pages. It's good that you have them within reach, because you understand that we can never discuss all possibilities within the scope of this workshop. If you do not see the Home panel, you can still do so via the Viewmenu or with the shortcut Ctrl+1.

Thanks to the modular design, you only purchase the modules that you want

Tip 03: Project

Time now to start our first project. You do that through File / New or with Ctrl+N. You will now be given the opportunity to set some parameters for your project. In the drop-down menu at Template you will immediately find about 50 project templates, but via the option customAt the bottom, you can also create and save your own profiles. It is also possible to adjust parameters during your project. HFE will then notify you if the video material used deviates from the set options. Confirm with OK as soon as you have configured everything as desired, so that the actual editing module becomes visible – also accessible via View / Edit or with Ctrl+2.

From the Viewmenu, you can personalize this interface in many ways. With the option Panels you decide which panels you want to see, or you select via Workspaces a ready-made workspace with the accompanying panels. We prefer the workspace here Editing, but you are free to customize it and define your own workspace with Save Workspace - it will then automatically become available in the list with Workspaces.

Be sure to check out the options too File / Options. However, we stick to the default values ​​here.

Tip 04: Get media

Without media files, of course, you can't do much with HFE, so it's best to first get all the video clips, images and audio files that you want to use for your project. You do that by in the Mediapanel, default top left, on Import and get all the files you want. A handy alternative is that you can just send it to the Mediapanel dragged.

At the bottom right you notice the actual Editorpanel, including the obligatory timeline. Then you will find the tracks Video 1 and Audio 1 at. It is the intention that the intended media are given a place here. To get started, drag a video clip from the Mediapanel to the video track. Also give your other video clips a place in this video track.

It is also possible to drag a clip to the empty track at the top. HFE then automatically creates an additional video track (2nd, 3rd, etc.) for these clips. You'll notice the accompanying audio lands neatly on a separate audio track.

Good to know: you will find it at the bottom left Historypanel on. You can quickly undo adjustments that you are not satisfied with.

Tip 05: Trim operations

You have now imported your clips, but we can imagine that you only want to use part of certain video or audio clips. Such a trim operation is possible from the trimmer-panel. Select the clip in the Mediapanel or double-click the clip in the timeline. In the trimmerpanel, double click on the time indication and adjust the start time. Or you can drag the white dot to the desired time. Then click on the button Set In Point. Repeat this procedure for the end of the fragment (Set Out Point).

Obviously you want to transfer that clip to the timeline now. There are two buttons for that: Insert Clip and Overlay Clip. Both cause the clip to land where the play button is. The difference is that the first button shifts any video clips to the right to make room, while the second option replaces the video images with the clip.

You can also trim clips on the timeline itself. We show you how to remove a video fragment while retaining the associated audio, after which you can replace that video fragment. That means that you first break the link between the original video and the audio. To do this, right-click on the clip and choose Unlink (the toggle icon on the clip disappears). Then move the mouse pointer to the right edge of the video clip so that it changes to a curly brace. You then drag it inwards: a so-called L-cut.

Tip 06: Extra tracks

In tip 4 we already mentioned that you can create multiple video and/or audio tracks on the timeline. At first glance, that doesn't seem to make much sense: after all, only the top clip appears to be visible in the resulting video and combined audio may result in a cacophony. You can easily adjust the latter. Let's say you have an audio track for commentary and one for background music. You can then quickly lower the volume of the latter by dragging the white horizontal stripe on the audio track downwards with the mouse pointer. You can increase the other volume a bit.

Something similar can also be done with video images. Here, the white horizontal line indicates the opacity value: the lower the line, the more transparent the video. In this way you can still make the underlying video (more) visible.

Incidentally, there is still a way in which two video tracks 'connect' with each other: the so-called mix or blend mode. For example, just right-click on the top video clip and choose Blend: you can now experiment with about 20 mix modes.

Tip 07: Keyframes

We have already played with some effects and they are applied to the entire video clip by default. However, there may be times when you want to apply an effect to only a small portion of such a clip. This is possible with the help of so-called keyframes.

Suppose you want to make an audio clip sound quieter only within a specific clip. Then click on the white horizontal line of the audio volume on the start and end point of this fragment while holding down the Ctrl key. A blue diamond is now visible at each of the two points: the so-called keyframe. You can create additional keyframes and use the arrow buttons at the top left of the timeline to quickly jump from one keyframe to another.

Now to decrease the volume between two keyframes, double click on the first keyframe and then open it Controlspanel (top left, the tab next to Media). Here you put it Volume Level as desired: only the fragment up to the next keyframe will now play less loudly.

This technique can also be easily applied to video clips: in the Controlspanel, you can access numerous effects via the green plus button.

With keyframes you only apply effects where you find it necessary

Tip 08: Picture-in-picture

We mentioned earlier that you can also apply beautiful picture-in-picture effects (picture-in-picture, or PiP) with the Edit Starter Pack, but if it's a little less advanced, it can also be done for free. Logically, we need two video tracks for this effect (see also tip 6): we want to show one image at the same time as the other, albeit in miniature format.

To get started, select the first track. In the Viewerpanel, at the top right, you'll notice four handles at the respective image corners and you can now drag them inwards. Hold down the Shift key to save the aspect ratios. You can then move and rotate this thumbnail image using the blue square.

Tip 09: Composite shot

If you have a thing for gimmicks, you should absolutely not ignore the so-called composite mode of HFE. This is because it is intended to be able to apply all kinds of effects as effectively as possible. Wait, for example, did you think of a spotlight on your video images: everything is monotonous in color except the image under the spotlight. This gimmick does require some preparation, but this way you also quickly become acquainted with a number of handy options.

Right click on the clip, either in the Mediapanel, either on the timeline, and choose Make Composite Shot. Provide a suitable name for this shot and confirm with OK. An extra tab with associated timeline now opens (next to that of the standard Editor). Switching is a matter of clicking on the desired tab.

Tip 10: Mask: Effects

The shot currently consists of only one layer. You add an extra layer to that via New Layer / Plane (Ctrl+Alt+A). Couple color Select the desired color for your top layer and confirm with OK. You now drag that layer yourself under your original layer so that it no longer covers your video image. Then select the layer with your video images and press the button Ellipse mask, to the left of the Viewer panel. With the Shift key pressed, draw a circle shape on the preview.

When you then click on the small arrow next to the layer (on the tab of your composite shot), a menu with items such as Masks, Effects, Transform, and so forth. click on Effects and press the corresponding plus button, after which you can add all kinds of effects to the circular mask. Each effect in turn expands for additional options.

By the way, there are a lot more effects available: you just need them from the Effectspanel (bottom left) to your layer. Here you will find, for example, the sections Transitions (transitions) to and in the section Generate do you think texteffects back. To adjust an effect, click on it in the layer and open it Controls-panel.

The stock arsenal is virtually inexhaustible

Tip 11: Mask: animation

To move the spotlight over your images, open the item in the layer masks and select your Transform. Click the circle position so that it turns blue: you have created a keyframe with this.

Now move the drag button at the top of this panel a little to the right, where you create a second keyframe in the same way: you do this by clicking the circle button with the white dot (Toggle Keyframe(s)) to click. For this second keyframe, set a different position either by pressing Bee position clicking and filling in the x,y coordinates, either by clicking the Selection Tool next to it Viewerwindow and move the mask with the mouse. In this way you can create additional keyframes, each time with an adjusted position. The result turns out to be a moving spotlight indeed.

Tip 12: Export

Once you're happy with your video edits, it's time to put them into final form. Open the menu View and choose Export (shortcut Ctrl+3). In the Projectpanel, the various timelines and composite shot layers pop up, accompanied by a Export-knob. Via these buttons you either export the entire content (Contents) or the fragment between the In and Out points – you can also quickly adjust these points here by clicking on the time indications. The selected clips now end up in the Queue-panel.

From the presetspanel you determine the standard format for your video file, but you can also adjust this profile per item from the Queue-panel. You simply add your own profiles with the button New Preset (bottom right).

If everything is neatly in the queue, you can use the button Start ExportingAt the very bottom, the labor-intensive export process is underway. You follow the progress in the preview-panel. Good luck!

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