“Come and Learn the True Power of the Dark Side!”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” launches December 20th and FXhome has a lead on SFX secrets! Head of Marketing, Kirstie Tostevin, talks to OWC Host, Cirina Catania, about the company’s new updates to HitFilm Pro, including additional support for After Effects Plug-Ins from Video Copilot and Red Giant.
To show off the new capabilities Kristie announces the release of an original, Star Wars themed trailer-style fan film. Organic 3D particle effects, realistic lens flares, 3D planets, realistic heat waves… this film and the accompanying tutorial has it all. And yes, FXhome will even show you how to make your own lightsaber.
Find out why over 4.5 million users love FXHome as Kristie and Cirina talk about this fascinating company and some of it’s coolest new products.
For more information, please visit:
Watch the new Star Wars trailer-style video and tutorial here:
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For more about our host, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.
If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and tell all your friends about us! We love our listeners. And, if you have ideas for segments, write to OWCRadio@catania.us. Cirina is always up for new ideas!
This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio. Kirstie Tostevin is on the line with me, and she is head of marketing at FXhome. We’re going to talk about them quite a bit. Kirstie, I’m really excited about you because you bridge marketing, technology, and creativity. It’s wonderful. So welcome on the show, we have a lot to talk about, and I can hardly wait.
Thank you so much. I’m so pleased to be on your show. I’m really excited.
Of course, you’re not going to tell me anything different.
I can be quite blunt. Yeah, you’re right.
There you go. For those of you listening, Kirstie and I met during NAB in April when we were just launching OWC, and we had the founders of FXhome on the show at that time. Kirstie, you and I bonded immediately, I love smart people and creative people, so it’s just so nice to reconnect with you. And it just happens to come also on the heels of this monstrous press release that I got about, and I didn’t even know where to start, there was a lot in there. So I don’t know whether I should thank or curse Kevin for everything that’s in here. So let’s talk about how as a marketing person, for a tech company, you really do need to know a little bit of everything, right? So what is your background, and how did you get into all of this?
Well, that is quite a question. I remember you speaking to Josh, our CEO, in the last interview, and he kind of gave you an answer you didn’t quite expect because he started in the history of art. I started in English literature, which was fantastic, but it was very much the case that touch a computer at your peril, you really should be writing with a fountain pen type situation. So I was actually very non-techie. And I was working in marketing because that’s what I love, and I was doing some just kind of general marketing research for the university I was at. Then I saw this opportunity come up with FXhome, and they said they made visual effects software for filmmakers, and I was like, Oh my God. I have to apply for this job. It sounds amazing. And it was a complete baptism of fire because would you believe I didn’t know that Mac and PC were different distances when I started, it was that bad.
Oh my gosh, you are forgiven.
Thank you. I really don’t know whether I should have said that, now I think about it. I think that probably gives you an idea of just how bad I was with tech. But this particular company, you’ve talked to them already, they’re fantastically fun, they’re very generous with their knowledge. And I’ve been here for about seven years now, and my life has completely changed because of it. And the stuff that I’ve learned you’re absolutely right, you do have to kind of dip your toes into a bit of everything because we’re talking to our users every day and they are very skilled, they’re very technical, and they’re very passionate about what they do. We want to be able to help them, inspire them, so you do need to have an understanding of really everything to be able to do that.
Well, I think it’s very inspiring to hear you talk because there are a lot of people out there who wonder, “Can I do this? How do I start?” And I’m a firm believer in just diving in and when you have this as you do, a very inquisitive mind, and you want to learn new things, why not? So if you’re out there and want to try something new, take Kirstie’s advice, and just go for it. It’s great.
Yeah. I’m very much a firm believer in that I did that thing where you say yes to everything for a year at university. I don’t know if you’ve heard this from other people, which, of course, can go terribly wrong. It very much opens you up to a lot of things that you don’t think that you would consider, and you learn an awful lot. So I think I was in the right frame of mind to jump into something new, creative, and amazing. And I honestly can’t believe that I’ve been lucky enough to secure a place at FXhome because it’s leading the way in so many ways within this industry. Within multiple industries, and to be ahead of that and to get the chance to go to these conventions to meet people like you. I think one of the reasons we got along so well when we first met is that you’re so outgoing that you’re so passionate about what you love. And we were like, “Oh, my God. An engineer who really wants to talk about this stuff. That’s amazing.”
Yeah, you guys were great. It’s nice to have you back. First of all, for those of you who don’t know, there’s probably not a lot of you who don’t know, but for those of you who don’t know, can you tell them what FXhome is who they are and what they do?
Absolutely. So, FXhome is a software company. The majority of our users are in the US, and what we do is we make really two different large types of software. We make HitFilm, which is an editor of visual effects and compositing software all in one. And we have a pro version for the professionals, and we have a free version for people who are just wanting to get into this industry and wanting to try it out and see whether it’s something they want to do. And then we also have our fairly new product, and I suppose you would say, which sits very firmly within the photo industry, which is the world’s first non-destructive role image compositor, which we’re really, really proud of, and which our users are reacting really well too, because we’re starting to introduce interoperability between those two pieces of software, which means that a filmmaker who’s kind of creating posters maybe for their next projects can do all of that, within the FXhome suite.
That’s awesome because we’re all hyphenates now, it’s not like the old days where you had millions of dollars. Unless you’re working for a major studio or a network, a lot of us who are independent are hyphenates, so we have to learn how to do a little bit of everything. And I really love that you are merging the two, HitFilm is both video editing and VFX, right?
It is. And also if you’re going with the pro version, the ability to import 3D models, we’ve been incorporating other people in our industries technology, some of the really, really high fliers, because we know that our users want and need the best to be creating the coolest content. So we’re trying to iterate as much as we can, as quickly as we can to be able to give them exactly what they want.
I would like to tell people who are listening, if you’re on your computer or on your phone even, if you can go to fxhome.com while we’re talking, you’re going to see the images of some of this stuff.
Check us out.
Yeah, we’re radio, so it’s kind of hard to visualize some of this because you really do have to see how wonderful it is. Gosh, where should we start? A few months ago, you did a press release about a Foundry Camera Tracker. Let’s just touch on that a little bit, just in case people haven’t heard about that. And then we’ll talk about the brand new stuff.
Yes. So Foundry Camera Tracker was something that we were so excited to include because a lot of the time, what we do with our user suggestions is that we will incorporate them into our development as much as we possibly can. And it’s realistic too, and a lot of people were showing an interest in this kind of really, really high-level technology and bringing it into our kind of accessible software. So obviously, anyone who’s in the VFX arena will have heard of Foundry. They worked on blockbusters like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Avengers, the whole nine yards. And so now you actually have access to their own 3D camera tracker, and it’s integrated fully into HitFilm Pro. So the way that works, I suppose we could say it is kind of using their sophisticated algorithm. You can 3D camera tracking quickly and easily configure your ground planes, show your shot, and then generate previews for your visualization. And it can also estimate the lens distorts, the tracked clip, and then allow you to flatten or re distort it. It’s just an amazing piece of tech, and we put it out there alongside a Stranger Things tutorial to create that same kind of monster sky. It was really well received, so we’re really pleased to bring that to the HitFilm users.
I was looking at that the other day. How do people find your Stranger Things? Where do they find that Stranger Things video because I want people to see this stuff while we’re talking if they can, let’s see if I can google it.
If you go to our YouTube channel, we’ve got hundreds of tutorials on it, so it might take a while to find, but if you search on YouTube for FXhome Stranger Things, I am 99% sure that you will find it and I will just prove that to you now. So the tutorials called How to create the Upside Down from Stranger Things. But if you type in FXhome Stranger Things on YouTube, it’s the second one that comes up. Yeah,
That’s awesome. This is a really interesting tutorial, and it’s only like six-minutes long. I really urge you guys to see it. I can’t even imagine how you guys are doing all of this in one company.
Alright, so Foundry Camera Tracker, I love the lens distortion, the ability to sort of monitor, that’s quite important.
It really is the professional technology that you can see in the average Hollywood blockbuster. It’s kind of surreal to be able to bring it, and I suppose you could say at a consumer level and people doing this stuff at home. But that’s the point that we’ve always worked to get to, that’s what we’ve always wanted to do. HitFilm existed so that we can help people make really high-quality professional-looking films at home and create our own tag and bring in heavyweights like this. It’s a dream come true for us, it’s pretty cool.
It’s amazing. You guys are like amazing networkers with other tech companies. I love that you’re creating sort of this carriage industry for this stuff. So HitFilm 14, there are a lot of upgrades, a lot of new things, so why don’t we start with, gosh, where should we start with? How about I love Red Giant, let’s talk about Red Giant and the Video Copilot.
I think this is my favorite thing that we’ve ever done. So I’m really, really excited about this. Earlier this year at NAB, actually, while we were talking to you, I think we announced that we were going to be starting to support select After Effects plugins. So that is now in the software, the most requested plugins from our users are now natively supported that includes well one of the Red Giant ones and some of the Video Copilot ones so trapcode particular and the ability to do kind of organic 3D particle motion graphics. And we’ve also included support for element 3D so that you can import and animate realistic 3D models. We’ve got optical flares, we’ve got saber, so the high energy beams and neon lights are all packed, which I know is free. So one of the things that I love about this update is that kind of a lot of people have said to us, “Oh, but it’s After Effects plugins, I have to go and buy them before I can even get this,” but some of these plugin packs are available completely for free. And so you can start benefiting from this right away. And then we’ve also included heat distortion as well which for the projects we’ve got coming up our super-secret project, which is not actually a secret and I can tell you about is going to be…
Okay. Now you have to tell me about it. Before you go there, though, I want to say heatwaves and those mirage effects are really hard to do. So I think you’re helping a lot of people with that. Anyway, go ahead. I want to know what this thing is.
So the first thing, I guess, with the heat distortion, I do want to say is that, so we’re quite a small company kind of in the realm of the other, the industry of heavyweights. When we talk about wanting to bring on really cool people and create amazing technology, there is only so much that our fantastic and genius-level development team can-do kind of within a couple of weeks, couple of months. So by reaching out and by assuring our users that we have this support with some of their favorite plugins that have up until this point existed outside of HitFilm, that allows us to kind of bypass the fact that we are a small company and it means that we can iterate even faster, and we’ve already got some really cool stuff coming in from users using these stuff. We’re so excited to see what people are gonna be crazy about.
And so they’ll find those on your YouTube channel or where will they find those as they start coming in? Or are you just integrating them?
At the moment, if people are sending in cool stuff that they are more than welcome to do, we have an email address for that called email@example.com.
Seriously, not to brag, but?
Nottobragbut@fxhome.com, and then what we do is we send out regular community newsletters to keep everybody up to date with really cool stuff that everyone else is doing with the software, so we’ve been cooperating with them. But we will definitely soon be doing some tutorials built around those After Effects plugins, but for now, as I said, we have this super-secret project coming up.
Super secret that you can tell me about or not?
But I’m going to tell you about anyway otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job. I suppose I don’t know how much about the history of FXhome, how much your listeners know about the history. But we were kind of built on Star Wars, and as you know, of course, the last Star Wars movie is going to be making its entrance into our lives on the 19th of December. So we ourselves are working towards a kind of a trailer style fan film of our own, where we’re using loads of our new effects and where we’re basically showing people how to create the most epic visual effects possible within the Star Wars universe using HitFilm.
That’s gonna be so much fun.
I know I sit across both of our visual effects artists, and every day I’ve had something new to be like, “Oh my god, that’s so cool!” It’s gonna be amazing.
I love what I do because I do get to meet so many creative people and a lot of amazing visual effects artists, especially at NAB, where they kind of all gather or IBC. It’s pretty awesome. So when you talk about integrating for people who haven’t used HitFilm, are you talking about exporting and importing content directly from the timelines and the comps. So how does that work?
It’s fully kind of integrated within the software. So the workflow is fairly seamless, and you can access those After Effects plugins as long as you have them, as long as you bought them if they’re purchasable, and you can have the kind of within your timeline and within your interface. And it makes us the only other software apart from After Effects that support these particular plugins, so we’re really excited.
It’s amazing when you can stay within your workflow and not have to exit out of the program, go to something else, work on it, and then bring it back in. This is great. Talk to me about the video textures for the 3D models.
Oh, yes. I say that the After Effects plugins were my favorite ones, but this might actually be my favorite. I just forget about these things, there’s so much going on sometimes I get reminded of something I’m like, Oh yeah, that was really cool as well. The video texture for 3D models, the way that it was explained to me when I knew that it was going into the software is, is that it now enables you to bring a layer in as your 3D model texture. So for example, if you are shooting at a, say a 3D helicopter model that you have composited into your scene, then you could have bullet holes, you could composite a layer together where you are showing these bullet holes going into the side of your texture, put that on your 3D model and it be interacting in the scene in that way. So you could also have cracked glass on say, an iPad 3D model that moves, or you can change textures, which is really, really is really cool. And we’ve already found tons of useful things in our own stuff.
I want to be a VFX artist when I grow up.
I know, me too.
I was gonna say I think I got into video originally many years ago was in photography because I didn’t think I could be an artist, classic artist, or I didn’t think I could draw. But that desire is still there. And actually, at the new studio, I’m taking over a painting easel, and I’m gonna play even if I embarrass myself, I’m going to start painting just for fun.
Yeah. And I like the Imerge Pro 5 because I’m both a photographer and a videographer. So I looked at that, and I thought, I want to try that. That’s gonna be really fun. Talk to us about that for a minute.
So Imerge oversees our photo products, we implemented a bunch of new effects in this latest version. So what we’re doing now is we’re trying to move a lot of our best tech over from our video stuff into our photo products because there are areas in which they both are necessary. So some of the effects that you’ll see in Imerge now, we’re available in HitFilm prior. So the denoise effect, obviously perfect for restoring, images taking ISOs, we’ve got skin retouching there, bevel and emboss. We’re really, really proud of our text controls. We think they’re some of the best in the industry, particularly in HitFilm. So we’re bringing you over some of that tech to Imerge as well. And funnily enough, we’re also bringing over that heat, smoke energy, and fluid distortion stuff. A photographer could take a 2D image and attach that same kind of distortion, which could be really cool in a composite. We have quite a number of cosplay users, who are kind of creating these incredible composites with the environment of their choice, kind of the campaign they’re playing to, and I know that the distortion would be really, really exciting for them.
I’m looking at these images, and I’m thinking, there’s a scene in one of my documentaries that this is going to be perfect for. I’ll show it to you when it’s done. It’s gonna be perfect for this.
We don’t integrate with them at the moment. We did have a photo key, it was our kind of old and our legacy software, which was green screen-specific, linked with Photoshop. Imerge is kind of what we like to think of it, and Engadget reported it as being kind of Photoshop and Lightroom merged into one.
Looks like it. I’m doing the before, and after, I’m kind of scrolling left and right on this picture on the site with the guy holding the tripod in the field. And I think this is really nice. And I like that you handle the larger formats, too, because we’re amateur professionals. What are we going to call ourselves but anyway, we need this. Okay, I’m jumping all over the place because I’m really excited about everything that you have. Talk to me about how you handle chromatic aberration.
Yeah, so we added that as an effect, obviously, in HitFilm Pro 14, again, one of these other things that gets pushed out of your head when you’ve got so much more exciting stuff to think about. But yeah, it is allowing you to replicate that really cool red, green, and blue fringe around the edges of any shapes when the lights are refracted through the lens. So we have users who use this all the time, we are super into sci-fi effects, were super into kind of anything spacelike and chromatic aberration for both that and kind of for music videos, in particular, is really popular. So people had to do it manually, we saw a load of comments about it. So we decided to just make an effect of making it much easier for everyone to do
You guys are amazing. So you talked about improving the export process as well, and I wanted to talk about that for a minute because that’s a pain in the neck for all of us, isn’t it? As you do all this work, you get everything ready. You get very excited, and you’re getting ready to export the project, and it seems like a lot of times, something goes wrong.
When it goes wrong, it really goes wrong because you leave the computer running for however long you think the exports are going to take. You come back to it in three, four hours time and realize it’s failed. So yeah, I know export is a big issue for a lot of people, of course. And we did make quite a large change to our export in the past, and we’ve kind of explained this to people, we had quite a lot of feedback about it. Yes, it might be that the export has moved into a place where it’s kind of that is focused upon within the interface, but people actually weren’t finding it as easy to use. And so that’s why we like to be as iterative as we are because we identified something which we’ve done, which potentially people weren’t as excited about. So we’ve changed it back, we’ve made it better. So the export queue that we used to have, which was a separate tab, is now an export panel, and basically, it just means that the exporting can now be done from the timeline and from any comps as well. So it basically exports the content between the in and out points and then it’s as easy as that. We have tried over all of our updates to streamline HitFilm as much as possible, and to make it look sexy, make it feel really nice and slick to use. And so that’s what this export update was for as well.
Awesome. Tell people what kind of equipment they need. What kind of computers is this Mac or PC? Do you have to have a lot of memory? There are some beginners here who are going to be wondering, okay, I’d like to try this. But do I have the right equipment?
Hey, beginners. HitFilm runs on both Mac and PC. We would basically advise that if you have a computer good enough to do your gaming on then, it’s good enough to run HitFilm. I guess you could call it again, consumer-level laptops, consumer-level desktops. But part of our mission, part of what we’re really passionate about as a company is trying to make these tools accessible to as many people as possible and that includes trying to make them as cheap as possible while still being able to run the company, and also trying to make them work on as low a computer as physically possible, without obviously messing up your experience of it. So yeah, if you’re able to run a game on a laptop or a desktop, then it’ll be able to run HitFilm.
That’s awesome. Now for the pros. What would be the ultimate system? Is this the brand new Mac Pro with 12 ports of Thunderbolt 3 or the new iMac 16-inch? I can’t decide which one I’m going to save for the next 20 years to buy.
Oh, it is going to be quite a lot of saving. If I’m listening to the little Josh Davies, CEO, sitting on my shoulder, it would likely be that we would always advise people to spend their money on a PC rather than a Mac. Just because we ourselves, we’re finding that fewer and fewer people on a Mac are using HitFilm, and more and more people are using PCs. And I think that’s just because you can get more bang for your buck when you go for a PC when it comes to how much storage you generally have and how fast it works, how much better the graphics cards are. We have quite a few users who will customize their own PCs, so there are a million different options for that, of course. But a decent level PC in our eyes would probably be better than the average Mac for utilizing HitFilm, and for most of our competitors as well.
Kirstie, those are fighting words.
Well, I do know a lot of people who love Macs, and I, myself, only have Macs. I have MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, and that is my thing. But then I don’t do a huge amount of really graphic card GPU heavy stuff. So I know only the words of the very, very intelligent developers that we have in the office.
I need to ask my VFX friends. I’ll bet they’re on PCs as well. That would be really interesting to do a little survey.
I’ll be interested to know what you get from that as well.
Yeah, I’m gonna start asking them. Maybe my friends at Maxon could do an informal survey of all of their artists and figure out what they’re doing. I know a lot of those people use trap code, they’re gonna want to look at what you have as well. So if our listeners go to your website, they’re going to find a whole bunch of resources about formats and layers. And I like this effects and filters, as you put it, Massive Effects Library, and I’m looking at all this, and I agree with you because there’s a lot of stuff in here,
We’ve actually just got a shiny new website, and we released that full kind of to coincide with our Black Friday. So it’s actually got some clips from the Star Wars theme that have not yet been released. So if any of your listeners are listening and are going down the side, see if you can spot the ones that are new. It’s very difficult, we’ve tried to kind of reduce our product page, so it’s not to make it too overwhelming, but when you’ve got over 870 visual effects and presets to try and tell people about, educate people about it, it can get a lot, it is difficult to know what to focus on. But I think we’ve done a really good job with this page.
The other thing I liked is the way you handle the keying on the green screen. That’s wonderful, that’s easier than it is with a lot of other programs. It’s beautiful stuff. So you have your free version, explain the difference in features between the free and the paid version.
So HitFilm Express in itself is still a very powerful piece of software. It’s still all in one you can do your editing, and you can do visual effects in it. And there are just some pro-level features which are kind of reserved for the Pro software, of course, We do also have add ons which can allow people to purchase things that they really want without having to spend $349 on the Pro software because we know we have a lot of kids, we have a lot of students who want to, to make something cool, we don’t want to put any barriers in the way. But if I’m Express is still very powerful in that it can import and export up to 4K, Pro obviously takes up to 8K. But we do have a comparison chart on the site as well if you wanted to do a line-by-line comparison. For what we find, though, most people who are using HitFilm Express are mostly doing it for editing. And then they’re just experimenting with additional bits of visual effects when they see something cool coming through from our YouTube channel or from our newsletters. And the majority of people who are super serious about visual effects would probably go Pro, just because of the huge library. And not to say that Express doesn’t have a huge library as well. I can’t remember off the top of my head, the number of visual effects in it, but it is a large proportion of that. And I think at NAB, we were saying that Express had something in the region of about 75% of the total features out of Pro.
Wow, it’s awesome.
Yeah, we’re still giving a lot away because that’s what we believe in, and we think that people should have access to these tools. We obviously still want to stay in business hence why we have the levels, but Josh, in particular, is this is his life. This is what he wants to do. He wants to give people the ability to make whatever the hell they want.
So what are you most proud of? I’m looking at all of this, and I’m thinking okay, Kirstie, you as a wonderful person working in this wonderful place, what are you most proud of?
Oh my gosh, I’ve never been asked that question. I think I’m just proud of the people in the company more than anything else. Yes, the stuff that we put out is excellent, and from my point of view as a marketer, of course, it makes my job 100 times easier when the products we’re putting out are ones that people already love. But it’s kind of the people that you work with. And I’m sure you would agree with this in some of the stuff that you’ve done. But it’s the passion that I see every morning when I’m coming into this job both from my own team, which are made up of visual effects artists and other marketers and designers, right through to the developers who are on our forums every day talking to the users which you don’t find anywhere else, and are constantly coming up to us and saying, “How do we improve this? What are people saying? What can we do to make this better and better?” And just a general pride, I felt awful a lot. I can’t give a specific thing, but it’s just a good feeling here. We’re doing a lot more work in 2020, particularly our community, because we have such an intense Internal good feeling about the people we have on board. We have fantastic user ambassadors already with us. We are going to be doing an awful lot of focus on that community and locally here in the UK trying to provide a space. We’ve got a new studio, and we’re going to be opening that up to local creatives as well, so that they can come and, again, just make something cool.
I’m very, very lucky. I have the best job in the world, in my opinion.
Well, this is great. When I hop off here, I’m going to start playing with it. I love that you have all levels of users and that you’re giving back to the community and creating something that we all need. So we’re going to be watching you. Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that we need to cover because there’s a lot here.
Obviously, we have that project coming up soon. So if anyone’s interested in seeing a really cool Star Wars fan film, either sign up to our newsletter, you can check out our website, it will be coming in the next week-ish also, So keep your eyes peeled. The great thing about HitFilm is that it can be developed by you and it also can develop your own skills, and it doesn’t matter what level you’re at. So our Pro users continually find really cool things to do with it as well. But I think you’ve covered everything, as you said there is always quite a lot to cover because we move so fast, but that’s the name of the game, that’s what we want to do. We want to stay in front and keep up.
Absolutely, you are. And I think there’s a link here for training and support that people probably will be very interested in going to. So go to fxhome.com and check it out, learn what you can learn, get in there and dive deep, and if you love it, then go ahead and buy the Pro version to help support people like Kirstie and the whole team at FXhome, Josh and the team. And we’re going to be watching you, Kirstie. Thank you for taking the time to do this, I know you are in the UK, so you are quite a few hours ahead of me, and it’s getting a little bit late there, so I’ll let you go have a life. It’s fun to connect up with you again, and thanks so much.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me on again, and I really look forward to chatting with you about it soon.
Yes, we’re going to be stalking you, so I’ll hurt you again. And everybody listening, remember what I always tell you, get up off your chairs and go do something wonderful today. This is Cirina Catania with Kirstie Tostevin, and we’ve been talking to you about all of the new features of FXhome and HitFilm. I urge you to try it out, get creative, and get moving. Have a great day.
- Kirstie Tostevin
- FXhome – YouTube
- After Effects
- Foundry Camera Tracker
- HitFilm Express
- HitFilm Pro
- How to create the Upside Down from Stranger Things
- Imerge Pro 5
- Joshua Davies
- Jurassic Park
- Kevin Bourke
- MacBook Air
- MacBook Pro
- Red Giant
- Star Wars
- Stranger Things
- Video Copilot
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