Saturday, 19 March 2016

HitFilm Express - Best (Free) Editor Ever!

If you haven't heard of HitFilm, well, I don't blame you. I didn't hear about it either until very recently. I was tasked with creating certain samples (or previz) for a video, but I had to create it using free tools. Enter HitFilm.

What is HitFilm?

HitFilm Express is a free video editing software for Windows and Mac. There are many on the market, but this particular editor just so happens to be professionally built. That's what makes it stand out from the rest of the market. It's not just an editor, but an editor and compositor combined! As you're editing your video, if you happen to need motion graphics, just create a new composition, fiddle around until you're happy, and insert it directly into your editing timeline! It's that simple!


The interface looks very familiar to the Adobe collection, a combination of Premiere and After Effects, to be precise. In fact, several of the keyboard shortcuts are exactly the same (like v for the Move Tool). 


What I really like about HitFilm is that they have various different pricing options:

  • HitFilm Express: Free + optional paid plugins
  • HitFilm Ignite: $199 for over 140 plugins (for use in your favorite NLE)
  • HitFilm Pro: $349 for software + HitFilm Ignite
  • HitFilm Studio: $649 for software + HitFilm Ignite + Stock content (31.8 GB)
The optional paid plugins for HitFilm Express can be purchased from within the software, or online. There are 14 different add-ons available, with prices ranging from as low as $10 (for the starter pack) to $100 (for Particle Simulators, or 3D Model Toolkit).

HitFilm Ignite basically a large collection of (140+) plugins (created by HitFilm) for you to use in your favorite software. It's compatible with Ae, Premiere, FCP, Motion, Vegas, DaVinci, and Nuke.

HitFilm Pro comes with the basic software, HitFilm Ignite, as well as some extra plugins, like Mocha hitfilm.

Hitfilm Studio is a big package. It contains HitFilm Pro, Hitfilm Ignite, Sony Catalyst Production Suite, and a collection of stock content. The stock content contains gunfire, flame throwers, ground hits, and more, and is available in 4K, HD, and 120fps. 

Sony Catalyst Production Suite contains Catalyst Prepare and Catalyst Edit. The Catalyst Production Suite is used for preparing, organizing, and ingesting video into your NLE workflow. This package can be purchased separately from HitFilm for $399 if needed, or as a part of HitFilm Studio.

Who is it for?

From amateurs and enthusiasts to professionals on a budget, HitFilm is suitable for everyone! If you're just getting started with videography, and want to try our your skills, this is a perfect place to start! It provides a professional interface and platform, free of cost. As your requirements grow, you can purchase add-ons as needed. If you're a professional, and need to edit on a system that doesn't have a professional NLE (like I had to), then this is a wonderful substitute. If you're a professional indie filmmaker, considering HitFilm for your production, HitFilm Pro / Studio have amazing functionality. HitFilm truly is for everyone.

Now, if this is your first time using an NLE, then there might be a steep learning curve, but that's true for any professional editing software. Personally, I don't have to worry about that.

Personal Experience

If you're used to working with Adobe Dynamic Link, you're going to love HitFilm. You can edit and composite within the same software! Just fire up a new composition, do what you need to, and throw it onto a timeline! Not what you were looking for? Go back in, make the changes, and get back to the timeline! The integration is just brilliant!

I had a wonderful time working with HitFilm Express. I fired it up, and the interface looked instantly familiar (I'm used to an Adobe post-production workflow). I took a while rearranging my workspace the way I liked, looked through the manual for a few critical shortcuts, and that's it! Within half an hour, I felt very much at ease, and was working like a pro!

visit for more information

Monday, 22 February 2016

Portable Multimedia Suite III - GIMP

What is GIMP?

Okay, I'm going to get straight to it. GIMP is an open source image manipulation program (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It's a free alternative to Photoshop. I have recently been working on a project using nothing but free softwares, and naturally, GIMP is one of the first tools that I fired up. It's really good!

Who is it for?

  • Artists who can't afford Photoshop
  • Artists who have Photoshop, but can't access it
  • Amateurs interested in getting into image editing

Why use GIMP:

  • Cross-platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux)
  • Easy to adapt to/from Photoshop
  • Supports Layers, Layer Masks, custom patterns and many other useful features
  • Supports reading PSD files
  • Supports scripting in C, C++, C#, Python, Perl, and Ruby! Ironically, no JS, VBS, or AppleScript - the 3 languages that Photoshop supports :P 
  • Does pretty much everything you'd expect from a professional image editing program
  • Offers plenty of documentation, and there are loads of 3rd party learning resources
  • It's free!

The Issues:

  • Personally, I find the shortcuts to be crazy
  • Cannot select multiple layers at a time. So, if you're grouping layers, you have to create a folder, and put one layer in at a time.
  • When moving layers with your keyboard arrow keys, you need to select a layer, and click on the canvas before moving. Otherwise, the arrow keys are used to select different layers.
  • Creating a layer mask opens up a menu asking you to select what to fill it with (full white, full black, use selection, use layer's alpha channel, etc). It would've been nice if they just applied a default, and provided a menu driven window to access those options. 

Closing Thoughts:

There are quite a few irritating quirks about GIMP that take a while to get used to (like the ones listed above). Personally, I feel that that's to be expected of any open source software. After all, these tools are not professionally built; they're created by a community. Keeping that in mind, I would have to say that GIMP is without a doubt the best open source multimedia application I have seen! (I haven't used blender, so don't throw that in my face). This is officially the first software I'd add to any portable multimedia suite that I make in future.

Bonus 1: It comes pre-installed in Ubuntu Studio!
Bonus 2: Click here for a free ebook on using GIMP. It covers everything from navigation to scripting!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

God Bless Ubuntu

The Backstory:

After postponing for a while, I finally met up with a client and collected my work for their next project. I did what I always do: copied all the needed files in a pen drive. Usually, I'd format it before taking it with me, but somehow it just slipped. The only thing I had in that pen drive was Ubuntu Studio, along with some other random files. I knew there weren't any viruses, so there's really no point in formatting my drive (other than to look neat).

The Plot:

I met my client, came home, had lunch, and plugged in my pen drive, only to find this:

The files I need are inside that folder....the selected one.....which has now become "DATA.exe"....


Apparently, I picked up a virus.

Now, I can't fix this on my mac without installing some random software, which I really don't want to do. Judging from the damage, this seems to be a rather simple virus, something even Windows Defender could handle. On the other hand, the virus would become active the moment I plug it into Windows. It's probably not going to do much, but I can't risk losing those files. (I don't want to end up asking my client for another copy; that's just unprofessional)

Eventually, I decided to fire up Ubuntu (not the one on my pen drive), and see how that flies. So, I booted up, mounted my pen drive, and guess what?

Lo and behold, I can access my folder again! I love how you can see both the original folder, and the virus! Ha ha. 

So, I backed up what I needed, formatted the drive, and went back to catching up on this years Oscar Nominations. (My money is on Eddie Redmayne. Better luck next time DiCaprio!)

The Conclusion:

And that, my friends, is the story of how Linux, an open source operating system, was more helpful to me than either Mac or Windows! You don't need to be a geek to use Linux! (I'm not saying that I'm not one, but hey, that's just me). You don't even have to use it, just have a copy lying around for times like this! What harm could it possibly do you?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Musical Maturity 05: Time (or) Meter

It's' been 5 and 1/2 months since my previous post in this series, (sorry) so I'll need some time to get back on track. Okay....(for my older blogs in this series, visit

What is Time?

In 9th grade, my physics teacher told me that time is something that could never be clearly defined. Wikipedia defines it as a measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.....perhaps a bit confusing.

In music, time  refers to the time signature, or meter of a song. Despite the large number of time signatures in existence, there are only 2 meters: duple and triple.

Duple: DOWN, up, DOWN, up
Triple: DOWN, up, up, DOWN, up up
All time signatures are derived from, or variations of, these 2 meters.
Time signatures define how many beats are in a measure (or taala), and the notational duration of each beat. In western music, it's represented as a fraction:
This time signature signifies that there are 3 beats per measure, where each beat has the duration of a quarter note. This is an example of triple meter.

Why do we need it?

Time signatures do more than just indicate the structure of the song. Each time signature has certain rhythms associated with it. For example, 3/4 indicates waltz time. 6/8 is commonly used for fasterdance music. My point is, time and rhythm go hand in hand.

Listening to music and trying to identify the meter, time signature, and the rhythms are excellent ways of improving your sense of music. Later, think back and try to group certain rhythms with certain meters. You'll soon find patterns emerge, correlating these 3 elements. Unfortunately, this is something you need to experience for yourself. Listening to uncommon time signatures helps a lot. My personal favorite signature is 7/8

How does this help compose?

Any rhythm that you play has to finally fit in your meter. Understanding how rhythm intertwines with time signatures can help you make "intelligent choices" in your music. For example, if you want your song to be interesting, the first thing you need is a catchy rhythm. do you get compose a catchy rhythm? Force yourself to use a catchy time signature, of course! 

For example, 5/4, 7/8, 11/8, 13/8, 15/16

I think you get the picture. Any signature with an odd number of beats, will easily churn out an interesting rhythm. Unfortunately, 3/4 can't make this category, because it's pretty much over used, and, a bit slow to form an intriguing rhythm. 

Final Thoughts

I realize that this has been a rather ambiguous blog. There's really nothing here about how to come up with a complex rhythm. I'll delve into that a later time......hopefully. Until then, keep analyzing.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Visualizin Zigzag: Teeth

We've been talking about Zigzag a LOT, right? Well, we're not done! Have you noticed his teeth? Yes, they're perfectly straight, no, there's nothing wrong with them. So, why did I bring it up? Let me give you a lesson on human teeth, that will distract you so much, that you'll be staring at people's teeth instead of paying attention to what they're saying. Okay, here we go:

If you observe someones mouth when they talk, look at the position of their teeth, with reference to their lips. Most of the time, you'll find that you can predominantly see their top set of teeth, while the bottom set peeks out occasionally. In some cases, you'll find the opposite to be true. Although, from what I've seen, people always show their top teeth when smiling (even if they predominantly display their bottom teeth when talking).

Now, according to Richard Williams, Vincent Price (voice actor of Zigzag) inspired the teeth on this character. Apparently, when Price delivers his dialogues, you would sometimes see his top teeth, sometimes see his bottom teeth, and sometimes, you could see both sets of teeth at the same time! Personally, I am sorry to say that I haven't seen any of Vincent Prices's movies (he's actually an actor), but when I do, I'll be sure to keenly observe his teeth!

Coming back to the topic at hand, look at Zigzag's teeth. You can almost always see both sets of his teeth! .....That kind of creeps me out a little bit. Hey, he's an antagonist, so, the creepier the better! Haha.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Visualizing Zigzag: Fingers

Okay, we've covered hands, but don't they still look kind of weird? Is there something you're missing? Take a closer look - not at the hands as a whole, but at the fingers individually...yes it's creepy, but why? Certainly not just because it's long.....(or that he has so much bling)

Let's look at bone joints shall we? Human fingers have a knuckle, and 2 more joints above it. Except for the thumb of course, which only has one middle joint. Now take a look at Zigzag's fingers.
He has 3 clearly defined joints, but an ambiguously positioned knuckle. Well, the knuckle isn't drawn in as a lumps, unlike the other 3 joints. But this kind of thing is not that uncommon among animated characters. Besides, let's think logically; the lowest ring on the finger is below the 1st joint. That would be physically impossible if that joint was a knuckle. So, clearly, there has to be a knuckle below it. You just cant see it. That's all. The thumb, as expected, has 2 joints above the knuckle, instead of just 1. This is clear in this image, (just look at the rings), but hard to see in other poses. You'd be hard pressed to spot it when the movie is playing. Take a look at Zigzag's model sheet to try and notice all this in the other poses. It's fun :D

As I've already mentioned, animating a character with 6 fingers on each hand is hard enough, but adding an extra joint on each finger is just insane! Sure enough, you never notice any of this stuff when watching the movie. It just goes to show that Richard Williams truly is a master animator. 


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Visualizing Zigzag: Hands

Take a good look at Zigzag's hands. Notice anything? Well, aside from the fact that they're extremely long......Have you tried counting the fingers?

6 fingers!! Now let me tell you something: making fingers move believably is one of the most difficult parts of animating any character. Many cartoon characters only have 4 fingers, and dealing with 5 is hard enough, but 6! Man! What leaves me even more dumbstruck is that, I've seen the Thief and the Cobbler many times, over the past....well...15 years I'd say! In all these years, I never noticed this quirk. I only found out when I heard it in a documentary. 

Let's put things in perspective. Humans have 5 fingers. When we see a character with 4 fingers, we notice right away. It just slaps us in the face! Zigzag has 6 fingers.....and yet, he's animated so convincingly, that you don't for a second, doubt that he has anything other that 5 fingers! The thought never even crosses your mind!

Well that's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow with something along the same lines of this same topic. Keep your eyes peeled!