There’s a good reason every staircase begins with a first step. Without that solid first foothold, it’s harder to reach the next one. Don’t believe it? Find a staircase and try jumping to every third step. Not easy, huh? Same thing goes for editing software, too. Most beginners need a program that will serve as a first step into the world of video editing. A good place to start is CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64.
Laying the Groundwork
Inside the box are a manual and an installation disc. The manual has six chapters that clearly guide the user through the editing process, a hot key appendix and an ample index. After a simple installation, PowerDirector 9 starts up in the main window. There are no capture device setup, frame rates or timeline settings to puzzle over. There’s no obligatory dialogue that pesters you as to what kind of project you’re making either. There are four buttons that easily traverse the workflow across the top of the main area: Capture, Edit, Produce and Create Disc. CyberLink made PowerDirector 9 simple to get started editing.
The software captures from MiniDV and HDV camcorders, TV signals, webcams, microphones, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs and AVCHD camcorders. When the software detects an input, the icon lights up and it’s ready to record. The interface is simple, there’s a handy record button and a pie chart showing the amount of drive space available. Seeing the available length of a video capture at seven days, or the microphone audio capture at 40 days is pretty cool all by itself.
Making it Happen
The editing area is composed of three main areas: the library, preview pane and timeline. Captured clips and imported files appear in the library pane. The timeline has tracks for video, audio, effects, titles, and voice-overs. This keeps all the files separate and easily modifiable. Each track can also be locked, resized or temporarily turned off. As with the capturing menu, there aren’t a zillion buttons crowding every toolbar and window. It’s simple, clean and functional. By selecting a video clip, a few extra buttons appear above the timeline, showing what functions are available to perform with it. It’s easy to split, unlink, modify, trim or even keyframe effects and changes in opacity.
Under the Effect Room tab, there are more than 100 different effects to enhance footage from blurs, tiles and even crazier stuff. The next tab is the PiP Objects Room with a fair amount of graphic elements to place over video footage. There’s also the Particle Room tab to add particle effects, from falling flower petals to snowflakes. Amazingly, the particles aren’t just stock footage either; they are quite adjustable.
The remaining tabs allow the addition of more standard items like text, voice-overs, transitions, chapter markers and subtitles. These options, much like the rest of the program, are very functional yet simple to use. It’s also easy to manipulate subtitles and chapters on the main timeline to just the right length of time.
Completing the Project
The third step in the workflow is the produce button. Here you can export the timeline as a video file, custom made for a device, or upload the video directly to YouTube or Facebook. PowerDirector doesn’t leave the user to sort through resolutions, aspect ratios and compression codecs either. There are handy settings to export for iPhone, PSP or iPod. If the video is heading for Facebook, just type in a title, description, select a quality, hit the start button and away it goes.
Lastly, the Create Disc tab allows the user to export their work directly to CD, DVD, Blu-ray or AVCHD disc. There’s a selection of template menus as well as the option to go without. There isn’t much ability to create custom menus directly in the editing software, however, that’s usually what more advanced and complicated programs do. PowerDirector 9 lets the beginner get their video on disc by keeping the process simple.
Overall, PowerDirector 9 is a simple first step in video editing. It gives the new-to-video enthusiast and beginners a chance to edit and produce their videos without running smack into a frustratingly hard learning curve. If you’re looking for an easy introduction and a good foothold in the world of video editing, PowerDirector 9 could be just what you’ve been looking for.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7, Vista or XP (XP Service Pack 2 is required for HDV capture)
Minimum CPU: Pentium II 450MHz or AMD Athlon 500MHz (AVI Capture/Produce only), Pentium Core 2 Duo E6400 or AMD Phenom II X2 (AVCHD and BD burning)
Minimum RAM: 512MB
Minimum Hard Drive Space for Installation: 5GB
Capture Formats: 3GP, 3GPP2, ASF, DAT, DV-AVI, DVR-MS, FLV (H.264), JTS, M2T M2TS, M4V (H.264), MKV (H.264), MOD, MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MTS, TOD, TPD, TX, VOB, VRO, Windows-AVI, WMV, WTV.
Batch Capture: Yes
Automatic Scene Detection: Yes
Nesting Tracks: No
Audio/Video Level Envelopes: Yes
Audio Scrub: No
Background Rendering: No
Realtime Software Previews: Yes
Optimized for Dual Processor/HyperThreading: Yes
Third-party Plug-in Support: No
Encoding Formats: AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.264 AVC, WMV, MPEG-4, MOV, WMA, WAV, M4A.
DVD Authoring Software Included: Yes
- Simple layout
- Uncomplicated capture and export
- Step-by-step instruction manual
- Some content must be purchased
PowerDirector 9 Ultra64 is a great editing program for beginners and anyone who needs to simply edit without the complexity and learning curve of high-end editing suites.
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Mike Houghton is a freelance videographer.