In the past year or two, the amateur video landscape has advanced considerably, and CyberLink's consumer video editing software is usually among the first with support for new formats. Before 4K content could be shot on most smartphones PowerDirector supported it. Now we're starting to see 360-degree video and new high-efficiency codecs like H.265, and once again CyberLink is in the vanguard. And it's still loaded with tools that help you put together a compelling video, complete with transitions, effects, and titles. It handles the standard trimming, joining, and overlaying of clips and effects with aplomb. PowerDirector's fast, powerful video-editing tools make it the Social Media Content Creators video editing software to beat.
In the last half decade, the video post-production arena has leveled off, much in the same way its brethren on the acquisition front (production) has. Gone are the early 2000’s chase amongst Nonlinear Editors (NLE), for the holy grail (broadcast quality) and feature, effects laden wars waged during the end of that decade (mission accomplished on both fronts). The rise of social media, YouTube and shifting of the bar from the professional camera to the smartphone drove the debate of what constituted a “Professional’s needs” Thus the mandate for a complete editing solution has changed. Broadcast, is no longer the grail quest for Producers and Editors. Platform superior has become the litmus for which solutions are judged. The multitude of various platforms available today require solutions to be flexible and powerful in their offering. It is with that mandate in mind that Cyberlink’s PowerDirector excels, putting it squarely at the top of the various platform specific channels it attempts to service.
Social Pro Editing
When describing the offering of solutions such as PowerDirector (along with competitors Final Cut Pro, Vegas, Premiere Elements, VideoStudio, iMovie, Nero Video, Magix Movie, Vine) it is important to separate editing solutions not by the old standard of professional versus prosumer versus consumer. Today’s solutions are almost identical along that range in features, effects and horsepower. PowerDirector easily outpaces “Professional offerings such as MediaComposer, Premiere CC and Blackmagic Resolve in its offering of effects, built-in support for VR 360 degree video and templates. Version 16 includes support for professional features such HDR support, 3D LUTs (Look up tables), a new 9:16 (vertical smartphone) aspect ratio, automatic clip color matching, and platform specific features such as Video Collage Designer and 360 degree stabilization and titling.
This puts the $299 (Available as of this review for as little as $79) PowerDirector squarely on par with established professional offerings and on top of the professional social media production market. PowerDirector provides best in class performance for today’s professional Social Media Producer/Editor. What separates it from solutions geared toward the Cinematic/Broadcast/Documentary market is its limited support for professional acquisition formats such as RMD, ProRes, CinemaDNG and high performance Float editing (4:4:4 colorspace, 32bit linear end to end workspaces). But in the field of social pro editing, PowerDirector provides an enormous array of export options, including to all major social media platforms, mobile hardware friendly formats (Samsung, iPhone, iPad, etc.) and the legacy DVD/Bluray market.
Interface and Workflow
What separates most of the offerings in the social pro market are the ease of use of the interface versus feature/effect and access to such tools without disrupting an editor’s workflow. To that end, PowerDirector has found a happy balance. While not as intuitive as the Apple solutions (iMovie, Final Cut Pro), Cyberlink’s adoption of wizards and modes is pretty common fair for the beginner Producer/Editor as on launch you are presented with a welcome screen offering large mode buttons, Timeline Mode, Storyboard Mode, Slideshow Creator, Auto Mode and 360 Editor Mode. For the Social Media Producer, looking for easy solutions to posting videos, this provides a simple option and matches its competitors in workflow. More seasoned Editors have the ability to turn this welcome screen off (via a checkbox) and dive right into the program’s Timeline (Sequence) editor.
Once inside the editing mode, a traditional editing interface is available with the Source Monitor on the left and the Timeline Preview Monitor. The mode paradigm continues with the ability to filter what is displayed by video, photos and/or audio. This provides access to a simple workflow. On the downside, the top of the interface is somewhat crowded, as the need to bring everything within reach of the user can overwhelm the novice editor.
PowerDirector provides a lot of power, but struggles once a user needs to precede out of the wizard paradigm to maintain its ease of use mandate. While not to be confused with an Avid or Resolve workflow, to really drive a creative project, build in some time to learn best practice techniques.
PowerDirector follows the traditional editing solution paradigm. Clips are added to a repository, In’s and Outs are established with the result being added to the timeline. Basic tools such as Select (Move) All, Overwrite, Insert and Crossfade abound, while snapping of a clip by dragging into timeline is not automatic (a button at the bottom of the interface provides automatic insert/snap to existing clips. The selection cursor is a powerful Razor Tool, sensitive to whatever clip the cursor is above. The Timeline (Sequence) presents the user with 3 banks of Stereo A/V tracks (expandable to 100). MultiCam editing really shines (100 audio tracks, 4 video tracks) and it plays well with footage acquired from separate engines (smartphone, tablet, camera) analyzing, syncing and editing with moderate ease. GoPro Camera editing (with lens distortion tools), motion tracking, image stabilization and Content Analysis tools allow the software to analysis each clip for motion, face detection, binning by lighting and a host of other user defined parameters. The Audio syncing tool rounds out the analysis front as it allows syncing of separate audio (from a Zoom H series recorder for instance) to existing camera footage. While not in the league of Avid’s offering or Adobe’s dialog detection solution, it performs more than adequately.
New to version 16 is the TrueVelocity 7 rendering engine, which offloads a great deal of the workload for processing clips and effects to your computers graphics card. While GPU rendering is certainly not new, Cyberlink’s new algorithm provides a marked increase in performance (provided you have at least a mid-range graphics card, a GTX 1050ti or above). The only true disappointment is how clip trimming is handled. Unlike Broadcast, Cinema solutions like Avid, Premiere Pro, seasoned editors don’t have the ability to utilize preliminary trimming of a clip in the Source Monitor before dropping it into the sequence (Timeline).
The occasional editor can leverage PowerDirector’s Express Tool which similar to Apple’s and Adobe’s Story Tool, allows the user to choose templates, responding to the requirements (Photos, Video, Music) to replace and fill out the template. It also assist with structure (Wide Shot, Med or close up are suggested by Template and software. This defines the creative quotient down to media selection. There are additional Wizards for movie construction and the new Video Collage allows power user levels for doing social media video walls.
Effects and Titling
PowerDirector include as strong a bundle of effects (Ultimate, Director Editions) as any editing solution available. Keying, Masking and Powerful offerings from BorisFx, ProDad and NewBlue come bundled, with Pixelan and Muserk packages available at affordable prices (average $50 per package). Titling is a strong point, BorisFX and NewBlue provide a superior effects engine. Constructing lower third and end credit templates is a strong point and rendering the resulting clips is handled easily by the TrueVelocity Engine. However, constructing engaging Motion Graphics and opens would be better handled in another program.
Finishing (Color Correction, Audio Mixing)
PowerDirector’s new Color features are substantial, tonemapping, automatic clip matching and color LUT support. These provide the user with finishing abilities in uniformity and consistence in final presentation thru the Fix/Enhance Tool. A LUT can be used on a weekly video podcast for example, giving the finished video a consistent look subscribers will appreciate. On the downside, PowerDirector is primarily geared to work with low to medium bitrate H-264 and Quicktime Mov camera formats, meaning the footage will must often consist of 4:2:0 bit depth (Full bit (4) Red, Half (2) Green, and zero (0) bits of Green) This provide the amazing compression to quality ratios achieved by H-264, but makes it difficult to work with when applying template color matching solutions. As always, the quality of the footage captured matters. Color matching on various flavors of smartphone footage 1080/24p image front camera for example yielded barely acceptable results. While footage from my Panasonic Gh5 was impressive. NOTE: Consistency in production lighting, ISO and lens quality impact color correction results from any solution. Additionally, no package of LUTs come included with the software so a hopeful user needs to invest in a good LUT bundle such as those at Color Grading Central https://www.colorgradingcentral.com/
On the audio side, the new background leveling tool (termed Automatic Ducking) for Dialog/Voice-overs is a great add-on for the podcasters, event videos and mini-documentary Producers. It works as advertised on traditional music, but elements that contain the characteristics of normal dialog speech (Live event, wedding background, trade shows) can cause it to struggle. In keeping with the modes motif, there are dedicated panels for Voice-Over Recording, Audio Room, which includes the track mixer and track normalization.
The effects for Band equalization, template Noise reduction and volume adjustment are normal fare, including the support for VST (although not VST3) third party plugins. Beat detection for syncing music but if serious audio restoration (Band/Threshold/Frequency noise, hum and click removal), mastering is a goal, adding the AudioDirector (included in Director Suite) should strongly be considered.
PowerDirector supports almost every social media platform (Youtube, Vimeo and of course Facebook) with full customization and control (privacy, bandwidth, dimensions, tagging) of the video to be uploaded.
NOTE: As one of the first social pro editors to fully support VR 360 degree video, PowerDirector can stitch, edit and render to VR aware formats in H-264 but not HEVC (H-265) as of yet. The integrated support of VR cameras is an attractive selling point, just be aware that H-264 is the only compression option. To those not yet on the HEVC bandwagon, this is not such a huge inconvenience.
PowerDirector remains the best of class solution for Producers and Editors of Professional Social Media Content. It’s inclusion of almost every tool needed to provide winning content makes it a preferred solution in price and competition. The increases in speed and performance though, demand as fast a machine as one can afford (i7, 16gb Ram, 900 GTX Series graphic card, dedicated second fast Hard Drive) but PowerDirector will definitely reward the user with the best offering this side of the Avid, Premiere, FCP solutions.
This is a serious tool for Content Producers looking for cost effective content delivery tools this side of the subscription universe.