In the past, CyberLink's PowerDirector has felt like an also-ran. It may be bundled with quite a few camcorders, but most video makers interested in editing will have wanted to move onto something more powerful fairly quickly. With version 7, however, CyberLink is hoping to make PowerDirector an application you might want to stick with a bit longer. Some new versions seem more like dot releases, but the shift from PowerDirector 6 to 7 is more of a leap than a baby step.
For starters, CyberLink has followed the trend and given PowerDirector a graphite finish to its interface, making it look vaguely like Adobe Premiere Elements 4. It's also available in two versions - Ultra and Deluxe. Both variants will import pretty much every format under the sun, including HDV and AVCHD. The differences show themselves at the output stage. The Deluxe edition can't create AVCHD files, can't author Blu-ray discs, and can't write AVCHD and other Blu-ray video formats to DVD. These are features most people will want to pay the extra £20 for, however.
In these days of camcorder format confusion, editing software needs to cope with a hefty array of different file types. So we threw everything we had at PowerDirector, from DV to MPEG-2, and HDV to AVCHD. The separate capture section has sections for DV, HDV, analogue capture cards, digital TV tuners, webcams, soundcards, audio CD and video DVD. However, there's no specific import wizard for pulling footage off a hard disk or flash memory-based camcorder. Instead, you have to copy the files manually to your hard disk, and then use the import command in the media library
Since CyberLink holds a few key patents in Blu-ray, we expected PowerDirector to cope with most things, and we didn't manage to find anything the software wouldn't import. Progressively scanned Full HD files from Canon's HF10 were handled without issue, as were the TOD files created by JVC's High Definition Everio camcorders (which isn't surprising, as a version of PowerDirector is bundled with these camcorders). The aspect ratios were correctly displayed in almost all cases, with the notable exception of the MOD files created by Panasonic's SDR-S7, which uses a slightly non-standard 704 x 576 frame size.
It's at this stage in the editing process that we start to encounter PowerDirector's plethora of new features. Instead of having one amorphous media library, you can now create a second layer of subfolders to assist file management - although only one. Annoyingly, importing files into the media library and folder creation are only accessible via icons at the top, not via a right mouse-button click.