CyberLink PowerDirector 15 Ultra: Top Pick for Windows

CyberLink PowerDirector 15 Ultra ($99) is a consumer video editor with prosumer appeal and an emphasis on new and cutting-edge features like full 360-degree video editing, vertical video design mode, mask designer, video blending, and new stop-motion and zoom-and-pan effects in the software's action camera toolkit. Those features, combined with under-the-hood technical improvements in the rendering and color engines, puts a powerful set of tools in videographers' hands, and makes PowerDirector 15 Ultra our favorite editor for Windows users.

Versions

CyberLink PowerDirector comes in three stand-alone versions and two suites, differentiated by features and premium content add-on packs. The Deluxe version ($69.99) offers all the basic features, while the Ultra version ($99.99) includes 25GB of space on the CyberLink Cloud for one year. The Ultimate version ($129.99) is augmented with extras like multiple NewBlue and proDAD video-effects packs and specialized templates.

The PowerDirector 15 Ultimate Suite ($249.99) adds ColorDirector 5, AudioDirector 7, over $1,000 worth of premium content and 50GB of space on CyberLink Cloud for one year, while the Director Suite tops off all the Ultimate Suite's features with PhotoDirector 8 for $299.99.

Interface

Launching the new version of CyberLink's PowerDirector 15 Ultra is like walking into a rave. There's plenty of action — and it can look flashy and chaotic — but in a totally good way. It has a similar dark look to iMovie and Corel VideoStudio, both of which look a bit more restrained.

CyberLink's PowerDirector splashes with 360-degree video-editing mojo.

Nonetheless, a cursory examination of the interface reveals a highly organized app that uses icons and color strategically to make the environment as friendly as possible. The menu bar's functions, like Capture, Edit, Produce and Create Disc, are easy to find, as is the classic layout of the media bin and video viewer atop the timeline.

It may look a little busy at first, but CyberLink PowerDirector's expertly organized interface is intuitive.It may look a little busy at first, but CyberLink PowerDirector's expertly organized interface is intuitive.Alongside the media library is a column of controls, including special animation effects, a Picture in Picture objects room (seriously), a particle room, all kinds of text, along with 3D, transitions, audio, voice-over recording and subtitles.

The Action Camera Center lets you stabilize video, correct color, and do lens correction.The Action Camera Center lets you stabilize video, correct color, and do lens correction.The timeline provides a storyboard view, the addition of audio and video tracks, and a whole movie viewer.

MORE: Best Photo-Editing Software From Beginner to Pro

Features

Marking the arrival of 360-degree cameras, the newest version of CyberLink's PowerDirector — like Corel VideoStudio and Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus — splashes with 360-degree video-editing mojo. But CyberLink goes beyond the capabilities of Corel's 360-degree software implementation.

In addition to breaking out 360-degree video into a separate module within the app, it lets you import footage or create a 360-degree project and edit it with a large spectrum of design tools, including titles, effects and transitions.

View Designer interfaceView Designer interfaceYou can also export your project to a 360-degree file format for viewing on YouTube or Facebook, or use the View Designer to select parts of your 360-degree footage to incorporate into standard videos and output in familiar 2D. This simulates the look of shooting the same scene from different angles.PowerDirector 15 piles on cutting-edge features, offering a discrete interface for editing 360-degree camera output.PowerDirector 15 piles on cutting-edge features, offering a discrete interface for editing 360-degree camera output.Acknowledging that people shoot vertically with their smartphones — and that those videos are always showing up on Snapchat, Periscope and Facebook — PowerDirector has decided to join the crowd with a new 9:16 vertical ratio mode. It also added a button in the editing interface that lets you switch from 4:3 to 16:9 or 9:16 directly from the main menu in Edit mode without diving into the project settings to change formats after the fact. While this would not be the sole reason to choose PowerDirector, it goes beyond the competition for ease of use.

A specialized interface helps you edit videos shot vertically with a smartphone.A specialized interface helps you edit videos shot vertically with a smartphone.

The new Mask Designer lets you apply transparency to create intriguing titles and effects. Video Blending allows merging of video clips on different timelines to create an array of arresting effects, while the app's True Theatre color enhances and eases color correction. Like Adobe's Premiere Elements, CyberLink's Zoom and Pan lets you choose parts of the video to focus on.The new Mask Designer adds eye-catching features to your footage.The new Mask Designer adds eye-catching features to your footage.The dedicated Action Camera Center provides camera profile corrections for fisheye, vignette and color, and also corrects for camera shake. In addition, it facilitates new stop-motion and pan & zoom effects as well as time alterations like slow motion and freeze frame.

MORE: Best Video-Editing Software Under $100

Sharing

You can upload your movie directly to FaceBook, Vimeo and DailyMotion, just like Corel VideoStudio, Adobe Premiere Elements and VideoPad. CyberLink also supports direct uploading of 3D and 360-degree files to YouTube.

It may look a little busy at first, but CyberLink PowerDirector's expertly organized interface is intuitive.It may look a little busy at first, but CyberLink PowerDirector's expertly organized interface is intuitive.

CyberLink was among the fastest performers in our roundup, racing through 60 fps encoding and coming in second for 30 fps.

Performance

I tested PowerDirector on an HP Spectre x360 laptop running Windows 10 Home. Its 64-bit Intel Core i5 processor with a 5200U CPU runs at 2.2 GHz on an HD Graphics 5500 system with 8GB of RAM. I combined five clips into a 2.5-minute video shot at 60 frames per second and rendered the projects to MPEG 4 at 720p. We timed rendering at both 60 frames per second and 30 fps.

This CyberLink package was among the fastest performers in the group, racing through 60 fps encoding at 3:07 and coming in second for 30 fps at 1:58. That mirrors the app's responsiveness to commands throughout the interface and its overall smooth and stable operation.

Bottom line

CyberLink PowerDirector 15 Ultra is a fully loaded Windows-based video editor with everything you need to create a movie —  from basic to special-effects masterpiece. CyberLink seeks to simplify and make accessible cutting-edge video editing technologies like 360-degree video editing and advanced masking, so that prosumers and even semipros get a variety of ways to make their movies shine. But it doesn't leave behind cat video fanatics who shoot vertical videos with their smartphone. It offers plenty of opportunity to learn and grow, and is bursting with new, useful features for all users.

Screenshots: Jackie Dove

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