Tuesday 24 September 2019

Cyberlink PowerDirector 18 Review

PowerDirector 18 Ultimate £99.99 / $129.99
Subscription plans also available starting at £5/month

If you are looking for video editing software capable of professional results but without a professional price tag, PowerDirector is hard to beat. It is packed with powerful recording and editing features and outputs or ‘produces’ videos blazingly fast. When I reviewed PowerDirector 17, last year, I wrote “While it is priced towards the hobbyist end of the market, don’t be fooled into thinking it is for amateurs only. In fact, it now has an excellent range of pro-level features. For the serious video editor on a tight budget, PowerDirector is my top recommendation.”

PowerDirector 18 is a fully-featured video editing suite
This month sees the release of PowerDirector 18. This version adds a range of new features, (see What’s New In PowerDirector 18). It has ‘audio scrubbing’ which means it plays back audio as you move the playhead over a track so that you can more easily find a specific location (for example, where the subject says a certain word).  It makes it easy to create perfectly square videos, suitable for some social media sites, additional file format support for pro cameras, an improved title designer to create and animate titles(see example), it has the ability to undock the media library and timeline (handy if you are using more than one monitor) plus a variety of interface and usability improvements such as hotkey customisation, snap-alignment of objects and a shape designer for adding vector shapes to videos. These are all, in my opinion, fairly small changes – there are no huge new ‘gee-whiz’ features – but cumulatively they combine to make worthwhile improvements to PowerDirector.

If you have two monitors, you can dock the media panel and timeline on one monitor (here they are on my left screen) and show the video preview on the other monitor (here on the right)
The new features are just the icing on then cake, however. PowerDirector is already packed with a range of excellent features from its previous editions (see my reviews of PowerDirector 17 and PowerDirector 16) including camera and screencast capture, powerful multi-track editing, a huge range of effects, transitions and colour correction tools, split-screen videos, particle effects, audio editing and synchronization and much more.

You can create your own vector shapes and callouts, change the colours and even add animation. These are then saved to the library for easy use in your projects
It has a few irritating features too.  For example, its video editing tools are spread about in a variety of different places – to change the colours and lens effects, you can either load up some pages containing scrollbars from the Fix/Enhance menu or you can apply presets from the Effects library. To crop and zoom you can either select a popup Cross/Zoom window from the PowerTools menu or you can load up the PiP (Picture In Picture) designer and do it there. The PiP designer is also where you apply Chroma Key (to remove green-screen backgrounds) and make other adjustments to video clip animations. To be honest, I find that there are so many menus, dialog boxes, drag-and-drop effects and popup video editing panels that I often forget which one I need to use in order to make the edits I want to make.

Another peculiarly annoying idiosyncrasy is that when you unlink the audio from a video track then move the audio relative to the track (say to synchronize sound and video) and then relink or group the two tracks, you can no longer load the video into the PiP editor. In order to do that, you have to unlink the tracks all over again, do the desired edits, then relink them.  Similarly, if you group audio and video and then split the clip, you can’t delete one side of the split without first ungrouping the clips, then doing the deletion, then regrouping them.

PowerDirector includes screen and webcam recording tools. Here I am simultaneously recording my computer screen and the webcam which is useful for software tutorials that include videos of the teacher
Overall, I believe PowerDirector continues to offer the best range of professional-grade features for video editors on a budget. And, as already mentioned, its production speed is second-to-none so if you are rendering big videos, it’s a real time saver. At its price, this is a remarkably powerful and versatile package.

Whether you are making pro-grade 4K videos, online educational videos or just simple YouTube videos, PowerDirector 18 is a great program at a very reasonable price.