PROS / This program helps beginners learn the basics of video editing without sacrificing the needs of more advanced users.
CONS / There is no Mac version of this software.
VERDICT / With the power of a full-featured editor and the ease of an entry-level program, PowerDirector 15 Ultra is an ideal program for beginners and casual users.
PowerDirector by CyberLink has topped our rankings of the best video editing software since we started reviewing the category. It does so because it strikes the delicate balance of making the program accessible to new and novice users without sacrificing the functionality and tools that hobbyists, prosumers and professionals demand. And the newest version, PowerDirector 15 Ultra, is no exception. It has again earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
During our review of the best video editing software, our video experts evaluated the workflow of every product on our side-by-side comparison chart. They tracked how easy it is to perform common tasks, access advanced tools and export finished products. At the end of the evaluation they determined that PowerDirector has the most intuitive workflow of all the products in our lineup.
One of the tests our experts performed was creating an identical video with each of the movie maker programs in our review. They were able to construct the 40-second test video in just under a half hour, which is the fastest editing time among the programs we reviewed. The average time across all the products was 43 minutes.
Once the video was complete, we timed how long it takes to export our project. Again, PowerDirector performed better than all the other products in our review, clocking in at just 25 seconds when some programs took up to two minutes to export the same video. The average export time in our testing was 71 seconds to make a 40-second video.
Finally, we used each program to compress a 4K video file into a smaller resolution. Our video experts then examined the results looking for imperfections in the picture such as compression artifacts, motion blur, distortion, ghosting and more. PowerDirector’s results were simply outstanding. We could find almost no indication that the video had been compressed, even when viewed on an ultra-high-definition monitor.
This editing software offers three main ways to create your video projects. You can use the Full Feature Editor, which is the familiar timeline, or storyboard, layout used by industry professionals since time immemorial. But in case you're not ready to jump into that quite yet, there's also a simplified editor that automatically creates a video for you in just minutes. Additionally, you can use the Express Project module that allows you to fill in preprogrammed templates with your own content, which teaches you how to use the Full Feature Editor to its fullest potential.
The Full Feature Editor contains simplified versions of nearly all the tools available in professional video editing software. For example, you have access to an audio mixer that lets you fine-tune your sound, the chroma key that allows you to create green-screen effects, and a surround-sound configurator that optimizes your video for home entertainment systems and even movie theaters. These tools and others allow you to make the same type of videos as Hollywood professionals. PowerDirector is a great program not only for creating great videos, but also for learning nonlinear editing in case you decide to upgrade to professional video editing programs.
The Easy Editor launches the Magic Movie Wizard to help you create a finished video in just a few minutes. All you have to do is load the clips you want in the video, select the style of video and pick your background music. The program then analyzes your footage with its Magic Style algorithms to pick out the best shots in your footage and arrange them into a finished project. When you preview this generated video, you have the option to do some fine-tuning in the Full Feature Editor.
The Express Projects module offers a library of preprogrammed video templates to choose from. PowerDirector walks you through sorting your footage, choosing the best shots for your video and letting you experiment with where to place footage in the template. This is important for two reasons: First, it allows beginner and novice users the opportunity to complete a project without being intimidated by the complexity of the software; second, it does so in a way that teaches you to use the tools in the Full Feature Editor, making the jump that much easier.
All the other tools you would expect from consumer-level video editing software are present and work excellently. You can add titles, closed captions and other text to your video project with a few simple clicks. You also get a video stabilizer that smooths out shaky video, as well as a library of over 500 effects and transitions for you to choose from.
One new feature added to PowerDirector Ultra is True Theater Color, which analyzes the color of your footage and enhances aspects like hue, saturation and brightness. It's a great way to get Hollywood-style color treatment on your video project. You get more than enough tools to create a video that looks like it could have been made in a movie studio. You may never edit a full-length feature film with this software, but you could.
While this program is a great tool for computers that run Windows, CyberLink has not released a Mac-compatible version. The sheer breadth of tools and its usability would make PowerDirector a great alternative to iMovie.
While PowerDirector has great tools that help newbies learn the ropes of video editing software, it also has powerful advanced tools to take your videos to the next level. It’s the only program in our review of the best video editing software to include every one of the advanced features we look for in this category.
This video editing software is capable of importing, editing and exporting new cutting-edge footage such as the ultra-HD 4K video resolution. Additionally, PowerDirector has a new module that allows you to manipulate 360-degree video. This video editor also features an integrated action cam center that eliminates the need to edit footage captured with cameras in a separate application and importing them into PowerDirector.
Another great advanced tool found in PowerDirector 15 Ultra is the multi-cam module. This allows you to import footage of an event taken from multiple sources, sync them up and then switch between angles easily. The result is a seamless single video that has the look and feel of a professionally produced piece. This is especially useful for events that have been recorded on several smartphones.
The motion tracking tool is great for advanced editors who want to give their videos a special look. It allows you to isolate a moving object, person or other element and then apply effects that will follow them through the video. This is great for situations such as when you want to brighten up the colors on a person but keep the background the way it is, or even change it to black and white. Lots of potential here.
Export & Production
Editing is only part of the story with PowerDirector. Once your video is finished, you need to get it in front of an audience. This could be your friends and family through social media, the whole world via video sharing sites like YouTube, or any individual you wish by burning a disc. PowerDirector has robust solutions for all of these situations.
The most basic way to produce a finished project is to export it as a video file. You can then use this file as a master copy of your video and keep it for archiving purposes. But you can also manually upload that file to various internet sites where it can be seen and shared. However, you can skip that step by uploading your finished project directly to YouTube, Facebook, Dailymotion and other sharing sites from within the program's interface. It allows you to input all the necessary information, metadata, descriptions and keywords to optimize your video so as many people see it as possible.
There are times when you don't want to share your video with the entire world. Burning a disc of your video is an excellent way to finish and personalize your creation. PowerDirector comes with several menu templates, but it also allows you to build custom menus. You can add chapters to your videos as well as features such as subtitles for the hearing impaired. You can create a disc for any purpose, whether it be as a gift for family, a screener for an independent film or a professional presentation for colleagues.
Help & Support
As easy as CyberLink makes this software to use, there may be times when you need help. To that end, the company established DirectorZone, a community of videographers, filmmakers and aspiring editors. This allows you to connect to, collaborate with and learn from other video makers. DirectorZone is a great resource for editors of all skill levels.
CyberLink also offers a full array of support options. You can get answers to your questions by posting in one of its forums, submitting an email support ticket, or watching its free tutorials on its website or YouTube channel.
PowerDirector 15 Ultra tops our review of the best video editing software because it's easy and enjoyable to use for beginners, causal users and seasoned editors alike. It provides all the tools you need to transform the footage on your camera into a polished video you can share with family and friends. This program helps you learn video editing without compromising the power of the tools it offers.