HitFilm Express is a free multitrack video editor with plenty of features to satisfy both amateur and passionate (and some professional) videographers.
Now in version 16, HitFilm Express has been updated with several new features and improvements such as the ability to record voiceovers and support for decoding H.265 files. As expected, it’s not as comprehensive as the best video editing software overall, but HitFilm Express is the best free video editing software among the many such programs available.
We’ve spent hours putting it to the test to bring you this HitFilm Express 16 review. Read on to find out what we like and don’t like about it.
Hitfilm Express 16 review: Packages and prices
Specifications of HitFilm Express 16
Apple: macOS 11.0 Big Sur, macOS 10.15 Catalina, or macOS 10.14 Mojave
The Windows: Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit), Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit)
Internet connection: Required for online activation
Memory: 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
CPU: 4th Generation Intel® Core ™ processors or AMD equivalents.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 600 Series (Kepler) (2012); AMD Radeon R5 240 (2013); Intel HD Graphics 5000 (GT3) (2013) or higher
Video memory: 1 GB minimum (2 GB or more required for 4K UHD)
HitFilm Express 16 is 100% free to use in its basic form. Simply download it, validate your free license and start editing.
However, FXhome, the UK developers of HitFilm, also offers a paid option as well as separate add-ons. You can either buy the pro version – HitFilm Pro – for $ 349 (with 12 months of free updates) or choose features to customize HitFilm Express to your needs.
In the end, the latter will cost you more if you buy all of the more than 30 expansion packs. But if, for example, you want or only need VFX (visual effects) for a particular project, you can purchase one or more packs starting at $ 10.
While downloading the program there is a scroll bar for donating but you can move it to zero and get the software for free. If you donate, however, you will get certain expansion packs. While you can purchase add-on packs at any time, you’ll save money by going the donation route early on.
Above, you’ll only see a small sample of what you can get with a donation. When you move the donation slider to the right, you will see additional packs available.
Hitfilm Express 16 Review: Interface
Once you have downloaded and activated the program, you will see an opening page with links to a manual as well as tutorials and sample videos created with the software.
The manual can be accessed directly from within the program, but while the user guide is comprehensive and searchable, it’s probably easier to get started with one of the many great tutorials – at least until you’ve got the hang of it. with the location of all tools. There is also an active and useful HitFilm community to explore. Depending on how you learn best (and depending on your editing experience), you can jump right in, browse through the manual, or watch one of the tutorials.
The user interface should be familiar to anyone who has worked with standard non-linear video editing programs. A clean layout includes cutting and viewing windows as well as a media bin containing your video assets for easy access. Next to the Media tab, you’ll also find menus for effects, controls (for tweaking a selected effect), a history list of all the edits you’ve made, and a Text tab. You can “float” these panels or close one or more to personalize your workspace. You will also find other tools scattered throughout the user interface. The background color can also be customized on a sliding scale from white to black.
The app’s video and audio timelines are pretty standard and there are extensive drop-down menus for specific features and functions like effects, transitions, exporting, and more. HitFilm Express generally offers drag and drop ease of use.
The drop-down menus and the toolbar are, for the most part, self-explanatory and logically organized; simply hover the mouse over a tool to reveal the tool’s name and keyboard shortcut. Unless you’re new to video editing, it shouldn’t take long for you to familiarize yourself with the basic features of the program. Some sections are so densely populated with options, however, that it’s a bit difficult to navigate through the details in the drop-down menus.
Hitfilm Express 16 Review: Features
If you’re new to or just need the bare minimum to create your project, HitFilm Express comes equipped with the basic tools you need to import, trim, and combine video and audio clips. In addition to supporting multiple tracks, users can easily apply transitions and add text. The latter offers a full range of fonts, sizes and other variables to create interesting titles. But there’s a lot more to the program than just its basic functionality, leaving you plenty of room to develop your skills or make full use of the editing skills you’ve already honed.
Since HitFilm Express is a stripped-down version of HitFilm Pro, you’ll find plenty of features that go beyond the basics, especially in the Effects panel. Convenient tools such as those for color calibration, exposure, and audio adjustments are plentiful in this panel. Creative options abound as well, including various movie looks, light flares, gradients / fills, and particles, to name a few. In many of these categories, there is a red “Buy” icon if you want or need individual Pro version options. Sure, it’s a great marketing tool for FXhome and frankly it’s very tempting for impulse buyers like me. But it’s also useful if / when the hundreds of effects and variations available don’t quite suit your needs and you want to take it up a notch.
What’s even more impressive is that free video editing software like HitFilm Express offers so many advanced features like layers, composition, keyframes, animation, motion tracking, and shooting. 3D load.
With the release of version 16, HitFilm Express has acquired additional features. Perhaps the most notable and long-requested addition to HitFilm Express 16 is a voice recorder. As the name suggests, this feature allows you to record your voice directly to an audio timeline. Just go to File> Record> Voice over, adjust the settings (if needed) and click on the red microphone icon to start / stop. It’s a welcome addition for most users, but it’s especially important for vloggers, YouTubers, game makers, and documentary filmmakers, among others.
The new version now supports the H.265 codec (also known as HEVC – High Efficiency Video Coding) for better and more efficient compression. This means that H.265 video, which is used by some smartphones, drones, and cameras, can now be dropped onto the timeline and used without you having to transcode the file.
Some of the other updates aren’t necessarily mind-boggling, but rather add another layer of convenience to certain tasks. For example, after you’ve finished a video (or you’re done), you can use a drop-down menu in the media bin to delete any unused items. And video and audio timelines can be synchronized.
There are several ways to export projects, sections of a video, and individual clips, but I haven’t found which one works best yet. But all of the methods offer the same (or similar) options, including a list of presets. The latter offers standard output settings for Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, 1080p HD, to name a few. And each preset lists format, resolution, frame rate, and compression settings. You can create and save your own export preset, which is especially useful if you have specific requirements for the end use. You can also easily queue multiple projects for export.
Hitfilm Express 16: Performances
I tested the software on a 2019 MacBook Pro running Catalina 10.15.7 with 64GB of RAM, a 2.3GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card. HitFilm Express worked fine on my laptop with no issues. Video and audio clips play smoothly without hesitation or stuttering. The drop-down menus and other navigation elements were responsive, and the effects previewed quickly after dragging and dropping them onto the timeline.
Of course, we have to warn you that your experience may differ depending on your system specifications and the size of your files. If you load multiple very large files, use animations, import, and work with 3D objects, you might need a more powerful setup than I used.
HitFilm Express 16 Review: Verdict
HitFilm Express is the best free video editing software available. A solid core feature set is complemented by an interesting – and useful – assortment of sophisticated options, ensuring that newcomers to video editing as well as more experienced users have the tools they need for a wide variety of projects. .
The density and variety of features can be overwhelming at first, so you might need a little help from the tutorials and the user guide to find out all that this program has to offer. But, in the end, the user interface is quite intuitive and easy to navigate. Most users should be able to complete a simple project soon after launching the program, and advanced users may find that the features of HitFilm Express alone provide creative inspiration.
Over the years I have tested a lot of software and only a handful have found a permanent location on my hard drive. HitFilm Express is one of them thanks to its great feature set and overall ease of use. Of course, the fact that it’s free is a real plus.