Video editing has suddenly become a huge hobby for many with the popularity of YOUTUBE and other online video sharing websites. I have never been a fan of software that comes packaged with the video hardware equipment. If it was possbile to purchase the hardware only and save a few dollars I would do so. Many professionals use software from a company called Avid which makes the Avid Media Composer 3.5. This is an online and offline editor which allows you to create a low res copy of the original as a working copy and then transfer all the reference data back to the master copy for final rendering. Great piece of software but unfortunately for most of us, the software is just too expensive @ $2500.00 USD and has a high learning curve. This is where a software program like Cyberlink’s PowerDirector 7 comes in.
The alternative for most of us is to use software in the $100.00 USD price range. Current price for PowerDirector 7 is $119.95 USD. This program is one that certainly has the power as the title of the software suggests. To really appreciate this product and to be fair in it’s evaluation, I have broken up the review into a number of sub categories.
- Video Capture and Playback
- Video Editing
- Audio Editing
- Disc Mastering
- Conclusion and Final Score
PowerDirector 7 is designed for Windows XP and Windows Vista based PCs with at least:
- 1024 X 768 16 bit color video support
- Minimum 450 MHz processor for AVI video and upwards of 2.2 GHz or better for DVD quality video rendering
- Minimum 512 MB memory for AVI and 2 GB for Hi-res DVD video rendering.
- Minimum 500 MB hard drive storage space free for AVI rendering and 20 GB for hi-res DVD rendering. 60 GB for Blue-ray Rendering and a Blue-Ray writable drive required
- Video and Audio input interface ( Only if you have old VHS or 8 mm video to transfer. Newer SD memory card or digital video recorders only need a compatible reader adapter or USB cable.
The hardware requirements may seen high for many users but if your main interest is to share the video with friends, family and posting on YOUTUBE, DVD quality video rendering is certainly not necessary. 1 GB memory with 5 GB free hard drive space should be plenty for most. If DVD quality video is yuor final goal then an investment of $500.00 USD or more for a new PC is recommended if you do not have the required hardware already. If you already have the interface cabling and suitable PC then all that is missing is a good video editing software program.
Video Capture and Playback
If your video is not in a standard digital video format like Mpeg or AVI, you will need to import the video into your PC. Typically a 20 minute video will take 20 minutes to import. Basically you play the video on your video recorder and import/convert to a digital video file format. A standard PC does not have the proper video input ports therefore you will need an add-on to convert the video to a digital video file format. If the original video is already in a compatible digital video file format like quicktime, all you need to do is load the video into PowerDirector 7. Once you have imported the original video into PowerDirector 7, you can play the file back in the editor.
Editing the video can be a complex and time consuming process but it does not have to be. Most important is to have some idea ahead of time what you would like to have in your final piece. Once you have an overall idea, the first step is to cut down the video to a comfortable size using the Trim button. You select the Mark IN and the Mark Out points. Anything outside the two points will be deleted. You can also use the Multi Trim function. This function will separate your video into sections based on a number of conditions like lighting changes or complete scene changes. Then each unwanted section can be selected and deleted instead of trimming only the start and end sections of the complete video timeline. If you still find these steps too time consuming for you, PowerDirector 7 also has a quick and dirty edit called Magic Cut. You specify the total time you would like your video to be and also indicate the scene transitions you would like inserted. PowerDirector 7 will automatically insert the transitions and reduce the whole video down to the desired length. This is not perfect but can save you time on projects when available time is limited. If you have a section of video that has visible camera shaking, the section does not have to be automatically removed. There is a tool called Magic Fix that can remove some of the shaking. Try this first before committing the section of video to the cutting room floor. An old saying which was commonly used when actual analog film would be edited.
Once all the unwanted sections have been removed, you now have sections that can be individually rearranged in any order via the timeline or storyboard. Just click, drag and drop the section anywhere you like. You can also adjust various aspects like the lighting, color and white balance easily using Magic Clean. In a perfect world, the video will have the proper white balance, contrast, color and saturation. Unfortunately most videos we take will not have the perfect settings through out the whole video timeline. Making the adjustments before and during filming will really minimize the efforts during editing and also produce far better image results I feel. PowerDirector 7 does a good job.
Audio editing can also be a time consuming process but thankfully PowerDirector 7 has a great feature called Magic Music. This feature allows you to select various types of royalty free music soundtracks. Magic Music will automatically create a beginning, middle and end to precisely match the length of your video section.
You can also get additional audio to import into PowerDirecor 7 from FREESOUND.
There is also a robust audio editing tool for voice overs and other sounds. You have the ability to adjust the volume levels of the actual video audio, the added soundtrack and voice overs individually. I suggest a good external microphone and not something $20.00 or less for voice overs.
All video editing software come with a selection of special effects. PowerDirector 7 has a few that are not readily available in other programs in the $100.00 USD price range that I have used.
6 Track PIP Effects. This feature allows you to add images and animation on top of your video section. Upto 6 tracks of effects can be added.
72 effects in total ranging from various fades (IN/OUT) to filters that mimic traditional movies like the old movie texture.
Advanced Key Frame Effects. Allows you to set key frames for anmation and effects.
Video Freeze Frame. Allows you to highlight a section by freezing the image and adding animated titling to that freezed image.
Pro Like Subtitles. The subtitling feature is very good. The subtitles can be directly added to your video like captions or selectable when you burn the final video as a DVD.
Transition Effects. Hundreds built in. Many more effects can be downloaded for FREE from the DirectorZone.
It is very important that you have the ability to create the final video in various formats to suit the end use of the video. If you want a DVD version, it makes sense to have the highest resolution possible when transfered. When uploading the video for hosting on YOUTUBE, a lower resolution and file size is recommended to reduce the upload time required since most personal highspeed Internet accounts have a slower upload speed. Also video to be emailed can be a problem when the file exceeds 1 meg in size with many email accounts.
PowerDirector 7 has the ability to create:
- Mpeg-1 / Mpeg-2 / Mpeg-2 HD
- WMV-HD: High Definition Format created by Microsoft.
- AVCHD: High Definition format used by Panasonic and Sony.
Certainly a good selection of file formats supported for a program in the $100.oo USD price range. As mentioned earlier, if you want to minimize the final file size, Quicktime is the file format you should select.
The program has the ability to create a file on a standard CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc. This section of PowerDirector 7 is pretty straight forward once you understand the selection options available. Viewing the video tutorial below is the quickest way to get a feel for this feature.
Installation Ease: 8 – Very slow in loading the installation file in Windows Vista at startup.
Fun Factor: 7 – Does the job but includes little WOW factor to impress the seasoned video editor or beginner. The iDVD program on the MAC which is included FREE has a higher WOW factor.
Documention: 8 - PDF file included plus online HELP
Online Support: 7 – Email + Forum Support. Typical support options.
Various Other Example Tutorial Videos:
- The user interface uses various shades of grey for the background and buttons therefore making it hard to see the overall program. Using white or pale yellow for each frames background would make a huge immediate difference in the overall screens visibility.
- Font colour should also be changed to a more contrasting colour or opt more for a more visible font style.
- Missing the standard Windows menu bar at the top of the program. Long time Windows users need to see recognizable Windows features otherwise will find themselves hunting and looking for standard file/open or file/copy features and give up quickly. Not all users are comfortable or understand using icons that have no visible text displayed always. The option to use the standard Windows Menu bar or the PowerDirector layout should be readily selectable. Being forced to use a non-standard menu means many users will choose not to try the program or give up quickly.
- Disabled tab text is too faint to read. Unless you use the program regularly or have the patience to get comfortable with what is where, these non readable tabs are visually annoying.
- No customization or preference options that I could locate.
- 20 Gb free hard drive space requirement for DVD rendering is too much for most users that have a PC that is at least 1 year old or older. Investing another $100.00 USD for an external hard drive can make or break the purchase of a software program costing around $100.00 USD. Unless you already have at least 30 Gb of free hard drive space, I would not recommend trying to render a DVD version. I was not able to create a DVD render since my FREE hard space remaining is under 3 Gb.
- Good low cost editor for High Resolution video and standard video.
- Great selection of automated Magic tools.
- Ability to create a video using a selection of still images. You can string a number of images taken from a still digital camera and create your own animated video.
- Easy to use once you spend some time reading the PDF manual carefully.
Certainly the program has much more than what I have covered in this review. If you have absolutely no need in creating a Blu-Ray version of your video production then the PowerDirector 7 Deluxe is the version for you. The current price is $69.95 USD which is a substantial savings over the PowerDirector 7 Ultra version. Beyond the CONS I have mentioned, the program does have many powerful features and are relatively easy to grasp. The laptop I used has a 1.8 GHz processor with 2 GB memory running Windows Vista. Overall, this is one video editing I would recommnd. Be patient at first and once you overcome the CONS I have indicated to you, you should be quickly on your way to creating some robust and interesting video files.
Overall Rating: 7.5
Available for Windows Desktop
YOUTUBE video clips inserted in to this review are created by authors not associated with this review and are inserted to provide a visual reference to the review details only.