Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 Review

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 9.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

  • 64-bit support
  • Non-CPU hardware acceleration
  • Slick, intuitive interface
  • Cons

  • Illogical layering in timeline
  • Some features can be difficult to find
  • No tutorials

By Dustin Sklavos

I’ve stated as much that I’m not a big fan of consumer grade video editing software. While skills adopted in Final Cut Pro are just as useful in Premiere or Avid, consumer video editors all require an unreasonable amount of adaptation. The learning curve winds up being worse than just going with the professional grade stuff to begin with. So that said, if I had to pick one out of a crowd of “meh,” up until this point I chose Pinnacle Studio 14. The best of a bad bunch, Pinnacle Studio 14 actually did a pretty reasonable job of streamlining the video editing process. But if I say they’re a bad bunch that means there’s room for improvement.

Enter Cyberlink PowerDirector 9.

PowerDirector 9 makes me wonder where I was for entries one through eight, because at least on the cover, Cyberlink is leveraging some pretty awesome stuff for version 9. The checkboxes just in terms of the technology are impressive: Cyberlink claims first-to-market bragging rights on 64-bit consumer video editing software, and they bring support for GPU acceleration to the table — from both AMD and NVIDIA. While Adobe is very proud of their CUDA-powered Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro CS5, Cyberlink went ahead and got in touch with the competition, too. In many ways, this actually puts PowerDirector 9 ahead of the curve, though it still isn’t quite as robust as professional grade kit.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE INTERFACE

First open screen in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9Honestly, what struck me about PowerDirector 9 more than anything was the user interface. I found Pinnacle to be a robust piece of kit, but PowerDirector 9 is actually remarkably logical. From the moment you open the program, it drops you into what will hopefully be familiar territory: a new project.

Cyberlink breaks things down into four subsections: Capture, Edit, Produce, and Create Disk, but the entire layout struck me as being incredibly thoughtful. Above those buttons are the basic menus you’re used to from Windows applications, alongside a series of common buttons (save, undo, redo), and then an aspect ratio toggle for the project. It’s a simple idea, but it works fantastically, and it abstracts project formats in a way that greatly simplifies things.

I’m actually incredibly enamored with the interface and as we break down the individual sections you’ll begin to understand why.

CAPTURE

Capture in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9We won’t spend too much time here, but suffice to say I was very happy with the layout. The icons above the capture window light up depending on what may or may not be available (although the AVCHD icon remained enabled despite the lack of AVCHD connected hardware); just click the one you want to capture from and you’re pretty much good. PowerDirector 9 gives you only as much information as you need to get footage into your project.

EDIT

Editing in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9The Edit screen is actually the one PowerDirector 9 opens to, and it’s another thoughtful design, though not without its flaws. The project bin is in the upper left corner, with tabs to toggle between effects, titling, particle effects (the purpose of which eludes me), and even “Audio Mixing Room” mode, which smartly lets you adjust the audio levels of individual clips on the timeline along with mixing between stereo channels.

Timeline organization is mostly logical, and Cyberlink wisely pairs the audio and video tracks together while still giving them separate timelines. Right-click and you can choose to unlink them and edit them separately. You can always add more sets of timelines, but what really struck me is what happens when you click on a clip on the timeline: instead of there being a series of tools to manipulate clips as in a more conventional editor, a series of text buttons come up that give you different options as to what you can do with the clip. It’s remarkably clever.

Editing in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9If there’s one fatal flaw to the timelines, it’s the stacking order. The lower on the timeline a clip is, the higher the layer it is in the rendered video. It’s nonsensical and runs completely counter to basic logic. If one video is on top of the other on the timeline, it stands to reason that it should also be on top of the other in the monitor, but the program actually stacks them the opposite way.

Before I finish with the Edit section, though, there’s something that I have to deem a killer feature of PowerDirector 9: multi-monitor support. For editing in Premiere Pro, I stretch the main window across two screens then use the third as a pure playback monitor. In PowerDirector 9, you can actually set it to use a secondary screen as a playback monitor. You don’t have to stretch the application across two screens, you just set a toggle and it works. With 1080p monitors under $200 these days, camcorder jockeys would do well to pick up a second screen if they plan to use PowerDirector 9 for editing.

PRODUCE

Rendering in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9The Produce screen couldn’t make exporting your finished video project any simpler. There are four tabs that separate the types of renders you can…well…produce, and it’s broken down fairly logically.

Under “File,” PowerDirector 9 will just output your project to the file type of your choice, with selections offered in big, smart buttons. Within each format are presets you can choose from, and some of these can actually be hardware-accelerated through using an NVIDIA or AMD video card, or even the integrated hardware encoder block on the upcoming Core 2011 Intel processors. Switching to “Device” brings up the usual suspects, allowing you to export to tape, to camera, phone, iPod, or even Sony and Microsoft consoles, and again certain formats allow for hardware acceleration.

I’m always happy to see YouTube integration in consumer video editors, and PowerDirector 9 makes getting your video on YouTube staggeringly easy. Rather than worry about which codec or format to render to so you can upload your project, you can instead just choose the resolution you want your project rendered at, log in to YouTube through PowerDirector 9 and you’re golden. Encoding here is hardware accelerated, too.

Finally, there’s Facebook integration, too. Facebook is becoming a popular way to share video and, again, PowerDirector 9 keeps rendering simple.

CREATE DISC

Create disc in Cyberlink PowerDirector 9Ending our one-stop shop is the Create Disc screen, which allows you to author your video to any of the popular optical media formats. Chapter breaks are defined under the Edit screen, but from here you can produce a fairly simple set of menus and layering, and PowerDirector 9 supports producing Video CDs, DVDs, and even Blu-rays if you’re one of the lucky devils to catch a sub-$100 writer after Black Friday.

CONCLUSION

It’s probably painfully obvious, but I’m extremely fond of what Cyberlink has done with PowerDirector 9. Essentially they’ve created a reasonably robust consumer-grade video editor that’s able to leverage every ounce of modern technology at its disposal. Even beyond those underpinnings, PowerDirector 9 boasts a smart, usable interface that should make video editing neophytes feel right at home. While I still ultimately feel like consumer-grade video editors may be more trouble than they’re worth, I’m overjoyed that I finally have a program on hand that I can suggest to PC users. iMovie on the Mac is actually fairly solid and easy to use, but PC users haven’t had anything that simple.

PowerDirector 9 is a little more complex, but the layout is smart, thoughtful, and polished. The suite is complete in a way that feels organic, and it easily earns my recommendation.

PROS

  • 64-bit support
  • Non-CPU hardware acceleration
  • Slick, intuitive interface

CONS

  • Illogical layering in timeline
  • Some features can be difficult to find
  • No tutorials


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