Is After Effects necessary for realistic VFX?

I have been using Hitfilm for a very long time now and I was starting to wonder, is After Effects necessary for me to start creating really realistic composites? Can I keep moving ahead and improving with Hitfilm? Or should I switch to AE?

I don’t necessarily think switching to AE alone will help you get more realistic results. To me, realistic results have less to do with the specific software and more to do with the artist. I haven’t used HitFilm in at least 3 years, but last I used it it was more than powerful enough for me to get great results out of it. It looks even more powerful now based on some of the new features the current version has.

Wheat do you feel is not realistic enough about the results you’re getting in HitFilm? I’d like to understand more where you’re coming from.

Either way, I would still recommend you learn AE because it does have some great features and that can only help you grow as an artist. Just don’t expect that AE alone will make your results more realistic.


Well, I’m a FORMER After Effects guy who walked away from Adobe and never looked back. On the other hand, there are people here - @Rodolphe comes to mind - who started on Hitfilm and shifted to AE.

Honestly, when it comes to “realistic” composites, that’s all about matching lighting, color and contrast - especially if you’re working mostly with footage and stock footage. You can do a “realistic” composite in Vegas Pro, Premiere, Avid or FCPX. While those are editors they all have the basic keying and color tools required.

It’s more about mograph and animation where the differences between Hitfilm and Ae (and Nuke, Fusion, etc) start to add up, and there aren’t as many as you think…

My general advise is to not get into After Effects unless you are a working artist needing to interface with studio workflow, or aspiring towards that position and working towards it, but it’s less about capabilities than money.

Bluntly, you BUY Hitfilm (or Resolve/Fusion) you RENT Adobe, and, once you stop paying Adobe they will shut off your software. I can no longer access any of my own Ae projects. On the other hand, earlier this year I had to revisit projects from 2001-2015 for a retrospective. All my Vegas, Boris FX and Hitfilm projects I could pull from. The Adobe stuff? Nope. I won’t pirate the software.

Otherwise, if you’re an independent, use whatever works. I worked doing graphics and intros for two local TV stations for years using Hitfilm. As long as the product was good they didn’t care what I used. That said, I HAVE lost work because I don’t use Adobe. In a significant portion of those, they came back to me because the Adobe artist they hired just wasn’t as good as I am.

It’s more about the skill than the tools. Remember, entire movies have been shot on iPhones and it was considered experimental and daring when “House” shot an entire episode on a Canon 5d mkII. “OMG, you shot on a phone or DSLR to 8-bit 4:2:0 h.264? That’s not a “professional” format!”


The part about the skills vs the tools is of course only partially true.
When you get 4:4:4 10 or 12-bit video, pulling keys, grading, compositing is much easier then it is when working with 4:2:0 8-bit h264. You can get decent results with the latter, but if you see the skills parts as a constant, then you will get better results from a ‘professional format’ just because of the technical aspects of it.

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Thanks everyone! Makes me feel better about where I’m at! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: My shots are improving slowly but I probably need to practice more often and keep gaining knowledge from tutorials like that the ones @danasa is doing.:grin:


I did use Hitfilm for some time and switched then to AE. I feel good with that decision and I can recommend AE. Also the high number of really good toutorials for AE is impressive I think.

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Thanks for sharing Rainer. I really do like the massive amount of AE tutorials as well.

True, but a skilled team that matches lighting, remembers details like cast lighting and shadows, and performs excellent correction/grading will coax better results from 4:2:0 8-bit sources than a beginner shooting Blackmagic RAW but plopping a keyed actor onto a BG shot from a different angle and white balance and calling it a day.

I’m thinking of a specific guy on a specific forum who is shooting on a BMPCC but never ever matches his lighting and his stuff always looks fake. He’s inexperienced (but improving), but we’ve discussed matching lighting before and he’s hit that wall where his work won’t improve unless he learns and lives lighting.

On the other hand I’ve seen things that looked like big budget films shot on a Canon t3i. Now I’m thinking of another artist where I still can’t believe he used Mocha to replace a character’s belt during a high speed fight sequence. No freaking clue until I saw his VFX breakdown.

I stand by skill beats tools. The skilled/experienced artist can wring every nuance possible from their tools while the inexperienced/unskilled won’t be able to take advantage of their tools.


Yes! Skill absolutely beats tools! I really appreciate everyone helping me out! Thank you.


You’re still comparing skilled artists with bad source material to unskilled artists with good source material. My point was that skilled artist can indeed →

The skilled/experienced artist can wring every nuance possible from their tools

but they will prefer decent source material to bad source material. There is - by its very defnition - less nuance possible with 4:2:0: h264 then 4:4:4 uncompressed raw footage. So having to apply all of your skills to salvage stuff just isn’t as much fun.


When I got my start in VFX I used Motion, and for maybe 10 years I was exclusively a Motion user because I couldn’t get AE. It worked fine for me – and there are a few things it does BETTER than AE. But once I had access to AE I never looked back.

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In general, just understanding fox theory and having the willingness to go well outside of the box to get what you want will take you further than any one piece of software will.

Having been a fan boy if one particular package at one time or another, I can tell you… use what you have or whatever is in reach to get the job done or get help, advice, etc when needed.

PC or Mac?
Adobe or Autodesk?
Etc… none of these questions matter more than your willingness to always learn and go further than your comfort zone whenever you can.


That’s a great point Richard! Thanks for sharing!

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after effect is really a good platform for create realistic content but you can go with your comfort. but in my opinion we have to create illusions without software.

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Thanks for sharing @snavi8000! Great to have you as part of our community!:smiley:

I recommend blender! It has many many tools built in, and you can do anything from animation to compositing in it! (With a powerful enough computer, which I don’t have! :rofl: )


Hey Alex, I actually am already using blender and I love it! Thanks for the insight!:smiley:

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What do you think of it?

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I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Could you go in to more detail?

I meant do you think blender is good.

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