The Picture-in-Picture tracks are now equipped with a much more powerful motion control applet. This allows you to use a shape as a border, although not a custom one. Alongside the preset motion paths, you can also now fully customise the paths, adding keyframes, although there is no control over how the motion eases in and out of keyframes. So it's not as powerful as Adobe Premiere Elements' motion control, but is pretty easy to use and another welcome addition. You can also save your motion control settings as a new preset, and even share them via CyberLink's new DirectorZone community. It's a shame filter effects can't also be saved out in this way.
Subtitling is another new area for PowerDirector. These appear as a track in the timeline, and can be easily lined up to coincide with dialogue using the tools available in the Subtitle Room tab. The Slideshow Designer is also new, and here CyberLink has gone further than most applications. It's still a template-driven process, with seven initial options. But Cyberlink has created much more elaborate image slideshows than can be found in most applications, using segmented screens and animations. Some templates have Advanced settings that provide a fair amount of user customisation, too. Photo animation can also be made to match the music you choose, using CyberLink's own automated detection algorithms. However, slideshows can only be created on the first video track.
As hinted earlier, the output stage has been one of PowerDirector's stronger areas for some time, with its early adoption of new file formats. This aspect of version 7 hasn't changed much. The Produce tab calls up a wizard with six options. You can write back to DV and HDV tape. Streaming video can be encoded in WMV, RealVideo and QuickTime formats, although it's not possible to edit the presets provided for each. But writing to other video file formats is not confined to presets. You can choose between AVIs, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and three flavours of MPEG-4 - DivX, PSP/iPod compatible, and AVCHD - with full control over each codec's settings.
CyberLink even includes the ability to write back to a hard disk-based camcorder, but only if it was made by JVC. Unsurprisingly, you can also upload straight to your YouTube account, as with the previous version. If the output format you choose is the same as the clips being edited, you can toggle SVRT smart rendering, so only changed sections are actually rendered. This now includes support for H.264-based files, although only with the Ultra version of PowerDirector as the Deluxe one can't write back to this format.
Disc creation has its own section, and can burn video to DVD, SVCD, VCD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray on DVD, and AVCHD. The authoring tools are extensive, but haven't changed much in the last few versions, apart from the ability to share and download custom menus via the CyberLink DirectorZone.
CyberLink PowerDirector 7 still misses a few tricks compared to competitors from Adobe, Ulead, and Pinnacle. It doesn't have anywhere near the level of control of Adobe Premiere Elements 4, and lacks a few features found in Ulead VideoStudio and Pinnacle Studio, such as the latter's excellent 5.1 Surround Sound editor, or the former's DeBlock and DeSnow filters. But all the major components of a serious videomaking contender are now there. At last, PowerDirector is worth considering alongside the mainstream alternatives.