Titanium nitride films have been deposited on the surfaces of tungsten, 304 stainless steel and 2014-T6 aluminium alloy using the hollow-cathode-discharge (HCD) ion plating technique. The characterization of titanium nitride films has been analysed, mainly by using high resolution pulsed-laser atom-probe field-ion microscopy (FIM) and the X-ray diffraction (XRD) technique. XRD indicates that the film consists predominantly of the TiN phase. The atom-probe spectrum is also found to contain molecular ions of this species. Depth profiling discloses the existence of a rather thin interface of about 15 atomic layers and also reveals that the impurity TiO is concentrated not only in this interface but also near the top film surface. Both surface temperature and nitrogen gas pressure as well as energetic ion impacts have an effect on the film deposition. Thus it is proposed that an energy enhanced and surface catalysed reaction is predominant in the formation of titanium nitride compounds during film growth.