Feel the Power
PowerDirector 4.0 is CyberLink’s answer to Pinnacle Studio and Microsoft Windows Movie Maker. It retails for $70 with a street price a little lower.
The target market is schoolteachers, casual editors, ambitious parents, precocious children, people who want to simply and quickly edit some video and make a DVD but don’t need a lot of custom controls.
CyberLink PowerDirector 4.0 sports four "magic" features:
- Magic Cut: a scene finder which intelligently chops your bulk capture into places where the camera view changes or people start and stop talking. A 20-minute clip could be cut down to two minutes based on a choice of combinations between scene length, camera motion, and speech. This could be useful for perhaps distilling down video of a party, or something where one scene isn’t particularly more important than another and you just want to get it down to size with very little effort on your part. Predictably, it doesn’t do a good job on something you’ve already edited.
- Magic Music: a music library which allows you to easily add background beats to your flick–26 free tracks are included, many more can be bought .
- Magic Motion: what is often called the "Ken Burns Effect."
- Magic Clean: auto levels and automatic color correction.
For the most part the Magic features are collections of some of the more useful filters available on other edit softwares, but presented for the editor that doesn’t want too much control over them. Sure, you can probably do your own levels better manually, but Magic Clean just requires one click.
Capturing is pretty straightforward, though I couldn’t find mention in the manual of how to connect your camera to the computer, which might be obvious to most users, it is certainly a place many new users might find themselves stumped.
PD4 has some time saving features such as 6X scanning and an easy to use batch capture, as well as the ability to detect "scene" changes based on changes in the picture. This is very useful when importing, say, a tape from a trip to the zoo, where scenes could drop into easily identifiable clips "Olivia eating ice cream", "Sawyer looking at the lion", etc.
The capture devices are DV, TV, Webcam, Microphone and Audio CD. For those of you who, like us, have tons of VHS and 8mm tapes, PowerDirector can also be set to import analog video. Making things even simpler, PD4 auto-detects the presence of playback devices and only gives you options for ones actually available.
If you’ve used any editing software before, you’ll be able to navigate fairly quickly through PD4. One thing that threw us for a slight loop was the single-track video. Typically, we’re used to editing on multiple tracks with transitions jumping from one to the other. PD4 cleverly does everything in one track; you drop the transition between two clips and set a duration. If you prefer storyboard rather than timeline editing, PD4 supports that as well.
Transitions, titles, and effects are kept in browseable folders, (called "rooms,") which allow you to preview before choosing and applying. There are a lot of nifty title effects (such as letters blowing across the screen like leaves to magically line up and form your title), and the transitions go far beyond page curls and page turns, you can spin and flip your video if you’re so inclined as well as more than a hundred other ready-to-go effects.
The "Produce" function of PD4 is our favorite — mostly because it’s always the most cryptic part for beginners. PD4 has four huge buttons: Disk, File (in a number of formats such as DVD, VCD and SVCD), Streaming file, or Tape. Choosing one of these buttons takes you to a wizard, which helps you create your desired product. Friendly on-screen info shows you the relative size of the clip, as well as your currently available disk space. And for those not familiar with terms like DivX or SVCD, the help feature has easy to understand and useful definitions to help users pick the file format that’s right for them.
PowerDirector has what it takes to get an ambitious amateur editing and producing digital video. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles that would keep an advanced amateur happy for very long, but its lack of confusing features is often a boon. Instead of a bewildering array of custom filters, PD takes a guess at what’s likely to be wrong with a video clip and makes a "magic" option that gives a good guess. People who just want to get something done will find it a welcome product.
ESD Price: $60
Trial Version Available: Yes (limited edition, 30 days)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP or 2000
Minimum CPU: Pentium III/600MHz or AMD Athlon 700MHz or faster
Minimum RAM: 128MB RAM
Minimum Hard Drive Space for Installation: 600 MB required minimum (note: 400 MB is for Smart
Sound Quicktrack Library), 4GB for VCD/SVCD/MiniDVD
production, 15GB required for DVD production
Capture Formats: live video, DV-AVI, DAT, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VOB, VRO, WMV, MOV, MOD, DivX, MP3, WAV, WMA, Audio CD, JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF
Batch Capture: yes
Automatic Scene Detection: yes
User Interface: time line and storyboard
Number of Video Tracks: 1
Number of Audio Tracks: 2
Nesting Tracks: no
Audio/Video Level Envelopes: yes
Audio Scrub: yes
Keyframe Animation: no
Number of Video Transitions: 128
Number of Video Filters: 31
Background Rendering: no
Realtime Software Previews: yes
Optimized for Dual Processor/HyperThreading: yes
Third-party Plug-in Support: no
Encoding Formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVI, DivX
Batch Render: no
DVD Authoring Software Included: yes
Other: 1024x768x16-Bit color or higher screen resolution required, optimized for CPU with SSE, SSE2, 3DNow!; CD or DVD
burner for optical media export; compatible capture device
for DV import, microphone for voice-overs
- Simple, intuitive and easy to use
- Excellent publishing feature
- "Magic" tools useful
- Music is royalty free
- Not feature rich — curious amateurs will outgrow it
Although CyberLink’s PowerDirector doesn’t have a lot of features, it’s an easy-to-use video editing program.
Contributing Editor Kyle Cassidy is a network engineer and co-author of Enterprise Internetworking and Security.
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