Cyberlink PowerDirector 7 review

£39
Price when reviewed

Although CyberLink added some useful capabilities to PowerDirector 6, it still lacked a couple of key features. So although version 6 was a considerable improvement over its predecessors, it was merely promising – not quite a valid replacement for the mainstream alternatives from Adobe, Ulead and Pinnacle. But CyberLink hasn’t stood still. A lot has been added for the latest version, which may be enough to tempt budding video editors over to PowerDirector 7.

Although the overall layout hasn’t changed much since the last version, PowerDirector 7 has adopted the dark grey look currently fashionable with Adobe. The biggest new interface feature is the ability to create subfolders in the media library, although only one layer. So now you can organise your media according to criteria other than media type.

As with previous PowerDirectors, version 7 has adopted all the latest camcorder file formats. We tried progressive Full HD AVCHD from Canon’s HF10 and the MPEG-2-based equivalent shot on JVC’s Everio GZ-HD6, and the software didn’t miss a trick. In fact, it could handle both on the same timeline. We couldn’t find a single incompatible file format. Even MP4s from Toshiba’s new Camileo Pro HD were supported.

Where PowerDirector has made its biggest leap forward, however, is in its editing capabilities. Where version 6 added a single picture-in-picture track, version 7 allows up to six of them. This is still fewer than the competition, but there will be very few occasions where you need even six extra tracks. Video effects could already be layered in version 6, and there is still a limit of up to seven at a time. However, now you can vary the parameters of these effects over the duration of a clip using keyframes. The interface is easy to use, although unfortunately you can’t export your custom effects settings as presets.

The Magic tools added in the last few versions also can’t be keyframed. You wouldn’t expect the automatic editing functions to have keyframing, but the image-improvement tools should. At least these can now be added on top of effects without erasing them. The Magic Clean used to only allow one improvement method at a time, but now you can apply Lighting and Colour Adjustment, White Balance and Backlight Compensation all at the same time.

The previous version of PowerDirector already had a fairly powerful motion-control applet, with editable keyframes, onscreen motion paths, and the ability to save custom presets. Now you can also post those presets directly onto CyberLink’s community sharing site, the DirectorZone, or download someone else’s creations. Disc authoring menu templates can be shared in the same way.

This brings us to another new feature, which is unique to PowerDirector. The software links directly to the Flickr and Freesound online services, allowing you to import image and audio content from either, straight into your media library. You can access Flickr without registering, but Freesound requires a login. From within PowerDirector, you can search by subject to call up royalty-free sound effects from Freesound, or photos from Flickr. If you do log into your Flickr account, you can download your own photos.

it_photo_5799PowerDirector 6 was due to include an elaborate Slideshow Designer, which we were shown in preview beta code. But this never made it to the shipping version, instead being replaced by a much more simple tool. At last, this is seeing the light of day in PowerDirector 7, and it’s one of the most elaborate still-image animation applets we’ve seen in any video-editing app. The SlideShow Designer is still template-based, but offers much more than just fades and the odd gentle zoom. Pictures can be placed in frames, and there’s control over cropping. The slideshow can also be set in time to music using automatic beat.

Details

Software subcategory Video editing software

Requirements

Processor requirement 2GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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