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CyberLink PowerDirector 7 Ultra review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £33
inc VAT

CyberLink’s PowerDirector has been growing in its capabilities and reputation.

Version 7 provides up to seven video tracks and support for keyframes to vary effects’ settings over time. Camera support is comprehensive, and the Ultra edition can create Blu-ray discs and burn AVCHD on DVD media.

AVCHD previews were surprisingly smooth on our test PC. PowerDirector was able to play an AVCHD clip with effects as soon as it was imported without dropping any frames. A few minutes later, after we had generated lower-resolution proxy copies of the raw AVCHD files, it was able to play seven simultaneous clips. However, the trade-off for great preview performance is a low preview resolution. Most of the time this wasn’t much of a problem, but it did mean that some of the effects looked quite different in the preview and final export.

This is the only editor here to upload successfully to YouTube while taking advantage of the website’s recent switch to widescreen. All the others added black bars above and below widescreen projects before uploading, at which point YouTube added bars on either side, enveloping videos in a black box. We had to switch from PowerDirector’s default export preset to WMV HD before uploading, but at least it’s possible. However, in other packages it isn’t hard to export to hard disk and upload to YouTube via a web browser, so this isn’t a make-or-break feature.

PowerDirector ticks a lot of boxes in terms of features, but their implementation is often unwieldy. The introduction of keyframes in version 7 is welcome, but it’s annoying that four keyframes are added each time an effect is applied. To adjust effect parameters to new static settings, we had to delete the two middle keyframes and adjust the start and end keyframes separately – it’s not possible to have one keyframe for straightforward, static effects settings.

Keyframes are also used to define curved motion paths for videos and images, but trimming or splitting the length of a clip changes the speed of motion. It would make much more sense to truncate the motion path, as Adobe’s and Sony’s editors – and CyberLink’s effects keyframes – do.

Despite the impressive preview performance, navigating the timeline sometimes made the interface unresponsive for a second or two. On the couple of occasions that the software crashed, it was unable to recover unsaved work. Worst of all, we found that editing the lengths of clips and transitions was unpredictable, not least because the audio waveform displays didn’t update correctly. This meant that even simple edits could be confusing to carry out.

PowerDirector lacks the power and finesse of Adobe’s, Sony’s and Serif’s editors, but it does go a long way towards making up for it with its excellent AVCHD previews and comprehensive import and export options. At this price, it’s worth considering purely for AVCHD and Blu-ray disc authoring, alongside Sony’s or Serif’s software for editing.

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