CyberLink's PowerDirector 7 strikes a near-perfect balance between usability for novices and prosumers. For those just starting out, this application has plenty of visual cues, a few written ones, and a movie-making wizard to guide you through your first video. For the seasoned video editor, PowerDirector 7 can also function as a straightforward, no-nonsense editing suite.
Installation and User Interface
PowerDirector 7 installs in about 10 minutes and includes PowerDVD, which plays high-definition movies. When you first launch the program, you're greeted with a layout that seems flip-flopped fromSony Vegas Movie Studio 8: The timeline covers the bottom of the screen, the preview window is on the upper right side, and the explorer, called Media Room, resides on the upper left side.
Along the left side of the screen are a series of other "rooms," which essentially function as tabs to access effects, picture-in-picture objects, titles, transitions, audio mixing, voice-over recording, chapters, and subtitles. The interface is uncluttered and clean, and each room is assigned an icon that, when moused over, shows its name and corresponding keyboard shortcut.
While we wish the icons were a little more decipherable, we enjoyed that the keyboard shortcuts were included in such an easy-to-find format. For example, pressing F6 makes all of your titling options appear. Ready to mix your audio? F8 will take you to the audio mixing room. If you can't remember the shortcut to the media room where all of your clips are stored, simply hold the mouse over the clapboard icon and you'll see that its keyboard shortcut is F3. Once you become familiar with the program, you'll find yourself using these shortcuts often.
One Sweet Wizard
Through its Magic Movie Wizard, PowerDirector 7 instantly creates an edited video based on your media, using an algorithm that detects action scenes and close-ups, and pairs it with appropriate music elements. While it's similar to the CineMagic option inRoxio's MyDVDand the MovieShow Maker inMagix Movie Edit Pro 14, we found the PowerDirector 7 wizard to be easier to work with. A simple slider bar lets you select more video or more music.
We like that the wizard actually changes your video: PowerDirector 7 adds many more transitions, overlays and split screens than the other programs, and you are able to view and edit the wizard's changes on the timeline. By comparison, Movie Edit Pro 14 merely adds beginning and end credits along with a music bed.
The wizard is a practical way for someone new to video editing to learn how to combine various elements. While it seemed accurate for the most part, Magic Movie Wizard is most useful for condensing long party videos or putting together a slideshow.
Without a doubt, PowerDirector 7 has more goofy and fun effects than other suites, even more than Magix Movie Edit Pro 14. More important, this editing suite was by far the most fun to experiment with, thanks to its usability and ease of customization. From conversation bubbles to oversized glasses and purple afros, families could easily spend hours playing with and exploring its myriad options. Our only reservation about these effects is that some of them seem better suited for still photos than for the continuous action of video, although the option of animating these effects is helpful. However, keeping the effects as stills comes in handy for creating photo slideshows or mixing photos and video either through your own editing or through PowerDirector 7's movie creator.
Adding Audio and Titles
LikeAdobe Premiere Elements 4, you have the ability to mix and adjust audio levels in real time. Quickly editing and adding titles to projects is also easy, although we were a little confused that the text titles could reside only on the title track. Additionally, we were frustrated that you could not add an additional basic video track, but you could add multiple picture-in-picture tracks, which allow you to insert video or images on top of the exisiting video track. By comparison, Premiere Elements has specific tracks for title, narration, and soundtrack, but the program lets you place elements on whichever track you wish and add multiple video tracks.
On the whole, Cyberlink's PowerDirector 7 is an affordable video-editing suite for families and beginners that users can grow with as they become more experienced. It's not as intimidating out of the box as Sony's Vegas MovieStudio 8, and it comes with more effects, titles, and transitions than does Adobe Premiere Elements 4. PowerDirector 7 combines the power of these programs with the intuitive interface of Roxio MyDVD 10 to create a well-balanced editing suite for editors of all abilities.