What do you like best?
Hitfilm 4 Pro provides a unique combination of Editing, Compositing, VFX and 3D Animation tools, as well as a suite of about 150 Plug-ins for other NLEs (including Vegas, FCPX, Avid, Premiere, AE and Resolve, among others), Mocha planar tracking for roto and 3D camera solves, and the 3D Objects Module from Boris Continuum, all with a three computer installation license for under $400.
As a VFX/Compositing program, Hitfilm is first-rate. Whether one needs basic chroma/luma keying of actors over backgrounds, integration of 3D models and particle systems with camera solved footage, advanced color grading, or one wishes to create motion graphics and complex procedural animations, Hitfilm has a lot to offer. While not offering all the raw power of After Effects, Hitfilm 4 Pro is often faster to use and easier to set up that AE. Unlike AE, a Hitfilm purchase is a BUY, not a RENT. No monthly subscription holding your projects library hostage! Additionally, AE would require VideoCoPilot's Element 3D add-on and Red Giant's Trapcode Particular add-on to perform things Hitfilm has built-in.
In the hands of a skilled artist, Hitfilm is capable of stunning results that certainly meet standards for current television production. I've seen shots from skilled Hitfilm artists that could even hold up in a feature film!
Hitfilm's layout and workflow is fast an intuitive, especially if one is already familiar with any other layer-based compositor.
As an editor, Hitfilm provides all the basic tools needed to cut a narrative project from start to finish.
What do you dislike?
Hitfilm currently lacks expressions or scripting--most of the time this isn't a big deal (honestly, most AE expressions serve to automate things that can be keyframe animated), but it would be nice.
Hitfilm's editor is very basic. One could cut a narrative film project well enough, but event video editors will find the lack of multi-cam a deal breaker.
That said, Sony Vegas is my preferred NLE (Premiere as second choice), and Hitfilm works wonderfully as a shot creator. Hitfilm projects are then output for re-import into my primary editor.
Hitfilm currently has substandard audio tools--limited mixing and monitoring abilities and no real way to add in audio envelopes. However, Hitfilm 4 improves over prior versions with a new selection of audio effects. The Doppler Shift plug-in is the standout here, since the Doppler can be connected to a point or asset layer moving in 3D space.
Hitfilm is particularly sluggish when working with any h.264 video. Considering most DSLRs or Prosumer cameras kick out h.264 this can be a moderate issue. FxHome recommends converting h.264 to ProRes (Mac) or DNxHD (Windows).
Hitfilm lacks any kind of XML support, so Hitfilm is unable to transfer EDL data between programs.
Hitfilm's export options are limited: On PC you have h.264, direct Youtube upload, 8-bit PNG Image Sequences, 16-bit Open EXR Image Sequences and uncompressed AVI. Mac users get Quicktime instead of AVI. Basically you have your high-quality master output or your low-resolution preview output, but nothing for intermediate codecs or online/offline work.
No network rendering
Recommendations to others considering the product:
Think of Hitfilm more as VFX software than an editor. For VFX it's fantastic, for editing, less so.
If you need layer-based compositing, advanced VFX, 3D particle systems and 3D model compositing--especially in the same project--then Hitfilm is a compelling choice.
If you are a one-man-band or small company, Hitfilm is probably your best choice. It's a beautiful video "Swiss Army Knife."
For larger studios, especially those that need to integrate projects with other studios, Hitfilm is probably not your best choice right now, solely because of the lack of XML and limited export options means that Hitfilm is kind of it's own thing and not software that "Plays Well with Others." However, the Ignite plug-ins, included in Hitfilm 4 Pro, are available separately for $199 (MSRP), which is a damn good price for a plug-in suite with about 150 effects, compatible with Vegas, Premiere, Avid, FCPX, Motion, Resolve, and, yes, After Effects.
There is a full-featured demo of Hitfilm 4 Pro available on the Hitfilm website. It's only limitations are that output is limited to 30 seconds, uploaded to Youtube, and the Boris/Mocha modules are disabled. Since Boris/Mocha are third-party add ons, I stand by the "fully featured." :-)
What problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
Hitfilm has almost completely replaced After Effects for my VFX and compositing work. I have found Hitfilm to be faster and easier.
Additionally, I just ENJOY Hitfilm more than After Effects--it's an intangible benefit, but, when I play around in Hitfilm I'm playing and having fun. When I'm working in After Effects, I'm slogging through being a bit annoyed. Both programs have fairly similar layouts, so much of this is personal taste.