CyberLink PowerDirector 8 Ultra review
PowerDirector has always had a beginner-friendly feel to it, but in recent years it has gained some increasingly sophisticated features. There are 10 video tracks, full-screen previews on a second monitor, plus keyframe editing for effects settings that vary over time. That latter could be better implemented, though.
Version 8 introduces the Particle Effects Designer, which generates flurries of sparkles or falling petals with which to adorn your videos. We’re more impressed by the new Video Speed control, which analyses footage and interpolates movement to create additional frames for smooth slow-motion effects.
PowerDirector 8 excels in its handling of proprietary camera formats. Virtually all editing software supports standardised camera formats such as AVCHD and HDV, but we’ve had less success with HD cameras from Samsung, Toshiba and others that don’t adhere to a recognised standard, even though the software in question supports the video and audio codecs used. PowerDirector had no problem with any of these cameras’ footage.
We like how the software warns when importing 30fps footage to a 25fps timeline and vice versa. It would be even better if it pointed users towards the control for switching the timeline’s frame rate. Importing 24fps footage doesn’t produce any warning, though, and it’s impossible to export at this frame rate, resorting instead to 25fps export with a repeated frame every second. Otherwise, export options are impressive, with the ability to burn DVD, Blu-ray and AVCHD discs. If you don’t need HD disc burning, consider PowerDirector 8 Deluxe, which costs £33 including VAT.
PowerDirector has the best preview performance of any home-oriented editing software, playing back seven simultaneous AVCHD streams on our Core i7 test PC. This is far more than most people will need, but it bodes well for AVCHD editing on slower PCs. Meanwhile, a proxy editing feature converts HD footage to standard-definition MPEG-2 files to speed up previews even further. It takes time to generate these proxy files, but afterwards we were able to use all 10 of the available video tracks and still only reach 65 per cent on Windows’ performance meter.
There is a downside, though, and it’s that the preview resolution is limited to just 320x180 pixels, regardless of the source footage, project settings or preview window size. This looks blocky, especially when using a second monitor for full-screen previews, and can make it hard to fine tune colour correction, text animation and various other functions.
Another frustration is that the interface was often slow to respond to our input. Basic timeline commands such selecting a clip or dragging its position sometimes responded a second or two after we clicked them. The controls occasionally hung for five to 10 seconds, leaving us to wonder whether it had crashed. It did crash a few times during testing, especially when Nvidia CUDA acceleration was activated in the preferences. That’s not ideal, but no home-oriented editing software is 100 per cent stable.
PowerDirector has much in common with Corel VideoStudio. Both can be unresponsive and their editing tools could be more refined, but both handle HD well on slower PCs and can export to AVCHD disc. There’s not much to separate them, but PowerDirector’s smoother previews make it the better choice.
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