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Cyberlink PowerDirector 12 Ultra review

Ben Pitt
25 Aug 2014
PowerDirector MultiCam Designer
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
52
inc VAT

Packed with powerful features, but PowerDirector needs tighter integration and better attention to detail

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Specifications

OS Support: Windows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8/8.1 (64-bit for 4K), Minimum CPU: Pentium 4 3GHz (Core i7 or AMD FX for 4K), Minimum GPU: 128MB (1GB with OpenCL recommended), Minimum RAM: 2GB (6GB recommended), Hard disk space: 5GB (100GB recommended)

Cyberlink PowerDirector is video-editing software that aims to span the gap between casual home users and demanding enthusiasts, which is an an admirable ideal considering everyone has to start somewhere.

There's certainly something new for everyone in version 12. When animating graphic elements around the screen, there's now an option to add motion blur so that frames blend into each other and mimic the look of live action footage. It's not the easiest feature to find because it’s hidden below a long list of motion path presets, but it's something advanced users will really appreciate. With sophisticated keyframe animation already in place, PowerDirector's animation features are now on par with Adobe Premiere Elements 12. Premiere Elements includes precise control over acceleration and deceleration but it lacks motion blur effects.

^ Motion blur makes animated graphics move around the screen more convincingly. 

THEME DESIGNER

For beginners, Cyberlink introduces the Theme Designer. This template-driven editor lets you mix and match sequences from different themed templates and rearrange them as necessary. Next, you drop one or more of your own videos or images into each sequence and, depending on the template, add music, a background image and your own text. It's also possible to trim video clips and drag and drop effects onto them.

^ Theme Designer strikes a pleasing balance of manual and automatic editing.

These effects tend to be pretty over-the-top, though, and the pop-up window for adjusting their settings could have been added as an afterthought. Whereas the main interface shows a tick beside media that has already been used in the project, Theme Designer doesn't bother to keep track. Once you're done with the Theme Designer, the resulting video is sent to the main timeline, but sadly there's no way to view or edit the individual elements contained within it.

Even so, Cyberlink has made a decent stab at keeping casual users in control of their video projects without leaving them to grapple with overly complex controls. It's certainly much more successful than the existing Magic Movie Wizard, which provides barely any control and tends to produce clumsy, nonsensical results. It's unfortunate, then, that the Magic Movie Wizard is featured so prominently in the interface. There's a big button for it as soon as the software is launched. Theme Designer, on the other hand, is only accessible by clicking an innocuous jigsaw icon above the Media Room panel. We doubt many casual users will ever find it.

PowerDirector MultiCam Designer

^ Synchronise and cut between four video streams with the MultiCam Designer

MULTICAM DESIGNER

The other new feature that resides behind this jigsaw icon is aimed at a completely different kind of user. The MultiCam Designer takes up to four video clips recorded at the same time, synchronises them automatically based on their soundtracks, shows a split-screen preview and lets you cut between them in real time by clicking on the four previews during playback. It's a common feature in pricier video-editing software but rare in consumer editors. It's also much more useful than the implementation in Magix Movie Edit Pro, which only supports two video streams. Thanks to PowerDirector's efficient playback engine, our Core i7-870 PC had no problem playing four 1080p AVC streams simultaneously. It's easy to switch between streams during playback, and also to amend the timing of edits and switch to a different stream using the timeline controls.

After exporting from the MultiCam Designer to the timeline, individual clips are visible on the timeline and so can be treated individually with effects. However, we couldn't find a way to add transitions without making all subsequent clips lose synchronisation with the soundtrack. We were able to adjust the timing of cuts on the main timeline, but not switch to a different camera angle. To do this, we were forced to reopen the MultiCam Designer, but doing so discarded any edits made on the main timeline. For us, these flaws are a deal-breaker. It's only the most ambitious users who are likely to be shooting footage with multiple cameras, but they won't be willing to live with these kind of limitations. Sony Vegas Pro is a much better choice for them with its support for up to 32 multi-camera streams and the ability to switch seamlessly in and out of multi-camera editing mode.

There are four new effects. Tilt Shift blurs parts of the frame while keeping a central rectangle or ellipse sharp. Water Reflection creates a rippling mirror image at the bottom of the frame. Lens Flare adds starbursts and circles of across the frame. Magnifier creates an ellipse or rectangle that acts as a magnifying glass to the footage. They're all welcome additions but, once again, they can be hard to find among the many less impressive effects.

^ The Lens Flare and Water Reflection effects in action.

PowerDirector is packed with useful features, many of which are well implemented. The trouble is that by trying to please everyone, Cyberlink risks failing to please any. Premiere Elements 12 is more successful at straddling the beginner-enthusiast divide with features such as its Guide Mode. Ultimately, though, most home users are best served by Sony Movie Studio Platinum, which combines powerful effects with fast, straightforward timeline editing. That’s something all types of user can appreciate.

System requirements
OS SupportWindows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8/8.1 (64-bit for 4K)
Minimum CPUPentium 4 3GHz (Core i7 or AMD FX for 4K)
Minimum GPU128MB (1GB with OpenCL recommended)
Minimum RAM2GB (6GB recommended)
Hard disk space5GB (100GB recommended)
Buying information
Price including VAT£52
Supplierwww.ebuyer.com
Detailswww.cyberlink.com
Product codePDR-EC00-RPU0-00

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