ProsNearly endless capabilities; great if ever-changing price; fast video processing via hardware-based accelerators
ConsUser interface is overwhelmed by the plethora of options and needs a complete overhaul (and greater stability)
Update: On September 18, 2018, CyberLink released PowerDirector 17 Ultra, which is the version we now recommend.
While The Tech Buyer's Guru typically reviews hardware, from time to time, it makes sense for us to share our thoughts on software products, many of which we use on a daily basis for content creation. As it happens, in May of 2017, we decided to begin production of videos for distribution on YouTube, which meant of course that we had to get up to speed on the best options for video editing available. While we'd used older Microsoft video editing products, and also dabbled in YouTube's built-in video editors, we quickly realized that we needed something more powerful... a lot more powerful. Luckily for us, Cyberlink and recently approached us about reviewing its most popular video editing suite, PowerDirector 15 Ultra. Testing it out on a few real-world projects made a lot of sense to us, so we agreed to give the package a run-through producing a number of YouTube videos for public consumption. In other words, we actually had to spend hours upon hours getting familiar with the various features of the software, and the results had to be good!
So, how did PowerDirector 15 work for our content creation needs? Read on to find out!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Cyberlink for providing us with a review copy of PowerDirector 15 Ultra.
Description and Features
As with other Cyberlink software packages we've tested, PowerDirector 15 has multiple user modes, which are essentially entirely separate applications selected from a single launch window. You can see a screenshot of the launch options up above. While many of the options take you to the same place, "Easy Editor" is truly a separate application, albeit one that uses the same underlying code as PowerDirector. We found that it was quite limiting, and would be best used to create a simple project like setting a home video to music. The editing options are very limited, so it was of little use to us in our testing. Suffice it to say, if you're buying a serious software package like PowerDirector 15, you'll probably want to skip right by the "easy" mode and get into the good stuff!
When you start up PowerDirector "full-featured" editor, you're greeted by a multi-windowed interface, as well as a number of sample clips and images. You have the available clips for your project in the upper-left, the current movie in the upper-right, and the included clips down below. As you can see, you'll really want a monitor with sufficent vertical resolution, i.e., something greater than 1080p, in order to best see all the content on the screen. Oddly, we found that no matter what, these sample clips ended up listed in every new project we started, which was somewhat annoying. We had to manually delete them every time to avoid clutter, and it seems they really shouldn't be loading by default. This is just one of many interface quirks that slowed us down a bit when using PowerDirector 15.
In terms of features, PowerDirector 15 offers a robust set of transitions, so many that you could use a different one every time and probably never run out, not that you'd actually want to do that! We gather that you get even more third-party transitions in the "Ultimate" edition of PowerDirector, but what we found in the Ultra edition was plenty.
But that's not all! You also have a huge set of effects, many of them GPU accelerated, which can turn your videos into a work of art. We've provided a screenshot below of a sample clip of a windsurfer rendered in the "colorize" effect, which looks pretty simple in a static shot but looks amazing in motion. And there are a huge number of these effects at your disposal, allowing some very cool attention-grabbing moments in your video. For example, if you're shooting a baseball game, you might use the "Color Edge" effect as the bat hits the ball to make the moment really stand out. Alas, the interface quirks make themselves known here too, as effects settings are controlled in a number of overlapping windows and dialog boxes. There's an "FX" menu, an "Effects" control window, and an effects list that pops up when hovering over your video clip, but can't be selected. There's no simple standard applied in the interface design, and we just can't help feeling it was created by committee (or perhaps over many years of iterations).
But wait, there's more! Also on the features list are robust 3D and 360-degree VR video editing options, which we unfortunately couldn't test out given our source material. Even if these options don't provide truly pro-level results, the fact that Cyberlink has included them along with standard 2D video tools is quite amazing.
Now let's get into some of the other powerful options PowerDirector provides, as well as its blistering encoding performance!