CyberLink's PowerDirector is designed as a miniature post-production studio that handles all phases of filmmaking. Despite the severe abbreviation of the standard version, there's plenty to dig into.
The most recent Deluxe version introduces Express Projects, which helps novice moviemakers quickly whip up their first video. It also offers improved performance — when it is working with the WMV format — as well as new FLAC and H.264 import and export features.
Choose from a ton of transitions.
Sadly, the low-end Deluxe version does not support new headliner features such as the Action Camera Center or Motion Tracking — for those, you'll have to shell out $30 more. There's no 4K or multicam support, either, unlike comparable consumer titles such as Adobe Premiere Elements and Corel VideoStudio Pro X9.
The PowerDirector interface manages to pack in lots of elements while making the product look like fun. Nonetheless, the Deluxe version shares the improvements of the higher-end PowerDirector editions for important under-the-hood boosters such as TrueVelocity 5, SVRT smart rendering and Intel Skylake optimization.
We tested the program on an HP Spectre x360 laptop running Windows 10 Home. Its 64-bit Intel Core i5 processor with 5200U CPU runs at 2.2 GHz on an HD Graphics 5500 system with 8GB of RAM. We combined six 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 fps and 30 fps. There were no problems with any operation performed in PowerDirector — all creation and rendered playback was stable.
VideoStudio is among the friendliest video editing tools. The drag-and-drop interface and the basic edits in the timeline make the app intuitive.
I was impressed with the rendering speed, especially with the software's rendering feature set to Intel Quick Sync Video. Standard rendering was fairly quick, too, at 2:49:24 for 30 fps and 4:80:73 at 60 fps. But it definitely pays to use the Intel Quick Sync Video rendering option, which turned out 30 fps and 60 fps renders at roughly twice the speed of the standard setting, at 1:34:37 and 2:10:85, respectively. Those speeds still could not beat Pinnacle, which took only 1:19:93 to render the same file at 30 fps.
The Intel Quick Sync Video also gave CyberLink an advantage over the fairly swift Corel VideoStudio 60fps standard render at 3:31:24.
The Deluxe ($69.99) version reviewed here is the most basic of three PowerDirector editions: The Ultra ($99.99) and Ultimate ($129.00) variations ship with a huge list of advanced features. There's even a PowerDirector mobile app for Android and Windows phones. An Ultimate Suite ($249.99) includes AudioDirector 6, ColorDirector 4 and PhotoDirector 7 (the only cross-platform Mac program in the group).
CyberLink PowerDirector is incredibly easy to use, and each step flows logically. Upon launching the program, you can choose Easy Editor, Express Project, Slideshow Creator, Theme Designer or Full Feature Editor. The interface is highly adjustable, enabling you to resize the clip bin and timeline frames, and even float the preview window.
Splitting clips in multiple places offers much flexibility. One confusing thing you might encounter is an error message regarding a slight difference in frame rates if you have chosen 30 fps — the default for an iPhone video. The short answer: Don't worry about it. It will not affect your final project. It has to do with the fact that NTSC color video actually has a frame rate of 29.97, triggering the error message. You can turn that alert off in Preferences > Confirmation.
The DirectorZone online resource offers tons more templates, transitions and other materials. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to move elements around the timeline.
A right click reveals lots of options. Despite CyberLink's huge number of components, they are neatly arranged and manage not to overwhelm or intimidate. The interface is clean and adjustable, making it easy for new users to figure out where to access editing tools and assets. Video, audio, special effects and titles are easy to work with. A right click in the timeline reveals an abundance of features: everything from choosing and trimming clips, linking and unlinking audio, and adding sound effects.
To join clips on the timeline, just drag and drop. The same goes for adding transitions and special effects. You can use the audio and video portions of the footage together, or you can detach them, move bits of audio to different parts of the film or replace recorded audio with music or a voiceover.
Placing overlays in the timeline.You can fix any flaw caused by lighting, noise, bad exposure or shaky video. Movie and audio tracks are clearly marked, as are tracks for effects and voiceovers, text and musical tracks.
Add original titles from an abundance of styles
When you're done with your movie, an integrated upload feature hooks into YouTube, Facebook, or Dailymotion, or you can burn your finished video to a disc. The software also outputs to Android and Windows phones, game consoles like Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox — much like competitors Pinnacle, VideoStudio and Sony. PowerDirector ships with several menu-creation templates, but it also lets you build custom menus.
CyberLink's PowerDirector is impressive. It mixes an abundance of features into an enticing interface that novice videographers seek. However, it is hard to recommend the Deluxe edition, since it's missing most of the groovy new features found in other PowerDirector versions, such as the Action Camera Center, Motion Tracking and high-frame-rate video. Considering all the ultra-HD video being shot with new smartphones these days, lack of 4K capability hobbles the low-end version.