CyberLink PowerDirector 9
The fastest consumer video editor around gets even faster with the latest release of PowerDirector 9, now available as a full 64-bit Windows app. PowerDirector 9 is the first consumer video-editing software that makes this boast. That's in addition to its already taking advantage of any graphics processers on your system. This is important for basic things like starting the program up and scrubbing through the timeline, and even more so when it comes to rendering a complex movie production with picture-in-picture and other effects. CyberLink offers just about everything you could want in a video editor at this level. The only noteworthy omission is the ability to tag videos for easy classification.
CyberLink splits its main interface into three sections: a preview window on the top right, a content browser on the top left, and a timeline at the bottom. You can resize any of the sections, but you can't pull them out into separate windows. You can, however, open a Media Viewer preview window if you want to see your work on a full screen, and a dual-preview option shows your movie preview on a separate full monitor. This is a big help, but you need a powerful graphics card to pull it off smoothly. Sony Vegas Movie Maker HD Platinum 10 also offers separate monitor preview, but has a busier interface with four sections instead of PowerDirector 9's more-common three.
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PowerDirector's interface is also broken down into "modes" and "rooms." The former are just four in number and are entered using the tabs right across the top of the app window—Capture, Edit, Produce, and Create Disc. Of course, the second is where you'll spend most of your time. The timeline view is quicker to respond to moving and resizing than that of Adobe Premiere Elements 9. But PowerDirector 9's storyboard view's thumbnails are small and not resizable (Elements' are). This view also doesn't offer a transition drop target, and doesn't show transitions even after you've added them. So you're better off spending your editing time in in the excellent, responsive timeline view of the PowerDirector Vegas doesn't even offer a storyboard view, though.
TypePersonal, ProfessionalOS CompatibilityWindows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7Tech SupportOnline help. More
Importing and Organizing Video Clips
To get raw material for your movie into the app, you have several avenues: You can hit the Capture tab to create a video clip from your attached webcam; pull it in from a DV, HDV, or AVCHD camcorder; or from a TV tuner attached to your PC. When you add video clips to PD, it starts creating a "shadow copy" file, allowing it to display your edits faster. Alternatively, you can just click on the folder icon, while in Edit Mode's Media Room tab, to bring in video, audio and images from a folder on your hard disk. It's simple.
Maybe too simple as you don't get Premiere Elements' clip tagging, auto-tagging, and analysis, so you're pretty much left on your own when it comes to organizing media. PowerDirector 9 does, however, make it easy to switch between showing everything and just showing video, just images, or just audio.
Magic Movie Making
If you just want to have the program create a wrapped up nice movie for you without much fuss, you can use the Magic Movie feature. Clicking its hat-and-star icon starts a wizard that asks where your media is and what theme style you want to use. The default installation only offers three 2D and one 3D choice. I chose the latter. Unlike iMovie and Premiere Elements, PowerDirector makes you supply your own background music—there's no canned mood music to go with your theme. You can, however, choose the sound mix between your movie track and the background music, and you can fit your movie to the background track. A slider also lets you choose whether you want more stills or video clips. Once it's done, you can dump the movie into the timeline for further tinkering.
Basic Video Editing
PowerDirector 9 makes it easy to fix the lighting, color, and stabilize your video, from the Fix/Enhance button above your timeline. Other buttons offer Split, Modify, Trim, Multi Trim, Fix/Enhance Power Tools, and Keyframe. The trim tool allows precise control (down to the individual frame) with two sliders, and the multi version lets you mark several In and Out points on your clip. But if you're not that fussy, you can just delete a selected part of a clip right in the timeline. Splitting video and deleting sections are a pleasure, with PowerDirector's unique and intuitive selection cursor. Premiere Elements doesn't offer a separate precision trimmer, and Sony Vegas Movie Maker doesn't offer the excellent control of PowerDirector 9's double sliders or its scene detection. Fix/Enhance also includes video denoise, audio denoise, and enhancements to punch up color and sharpness. You can independently adjust the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, and white balance. And for each of these adjustments, you can set keyframes to designate when it should be turned on and off. Premiere Elements makes you choose separate effects for each of these, rather than offering PowerDirector's unified Fix/Enhance options.
Effects and Transitions
From the Effect Room, you have access to over 100 effects, from Abstractionism to Zoom Out. You can limit the display to just those in five categories or your designated favorites, but I miss Premiere Elements' search box for effects. I'd also like to be able to preview the effect on my own clips before applying, as you can in several other consumer video editors. But the choice of cool effects is what's most important. Sony offers more built-in effects, but you can find thousands more at CyberLink's DirectorZone site.