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Ever since the first beta-stage 64-bit operating systems arrived, video editing has been one of the tasks suggested as most likely to benefit. Even in its compressed form, video takes a few megabytes per second, and once you uncompress it to individual frames, with 25 of them every second, the requirements are even more. So it’s a surprise that although its professional-grade video editing app, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, went 64-bit in 2010, Adobe hasn’t yet made this technology available in its consumer-grade Premiere Elements 9. Instead, the accolade for first 64-bit consumer video editing app goes to CyberLink, with PowerDirector 9.
The advantage of a 64-bit operating system is that it supports more than 4GB of memory. Whilst you can run a 32-bit app on a 64-bit operating system and get some benefit, with a true native 64-bit app your software can address as much memory as the system allows. If you’re shunting around huge blocks of video data, you can keep more in RAM and therefore offer a smoother editing experience, with real-time previews at a higher frame rate. The TrueVelocity 64 engine CyberLink has now placed at the core of PowerDirector 9 promises this benefit, but there are other technologies to back it up.
Virtually all current desktop CPUs are multi-core, and PowerDirector’s TrueVelocity Parallel splits the processing tasks into multiple threads that can be farmed out to individual cores to run at the same time. Graphics card grunt can be harnessed, too, with both AMD and nVidia graphics supported. This is called into play for the encoding and decoding of video, as well as some effects, indicated by the logo of your graphics card manufacturer in the bottom right-hand corner. So it aids both editing and final project output, particularly encoding H.264.
Well, that’s the theory, anyway. We tested PowerDirector 9 on a rather mid-range system using a 2.2GHz quad-core AMD Phenom 9550 with a 64-bit build of Windows, 6GB of memory, and a nVidia Quadro FX 1700 (a mid-range professional graphics card a couple of generations old). We found this system could mix three streams of HDV quite smoothly, four streams with some jerkiness, but more than five streams chugged to a halt after a few seconds.
Nevertheless, this is significantly better than Adobe Premiere Elements 9, which couldn't even cope with three simultaneous streams on the same system. During playback, PowerDirector 9 was using 100 per cent of processor time, so multi-threading was clearly fully operational. We also noted an improvement in playback frame rate when we enabled GPU acceleration, which had to be performed manually within the preferences.