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CyberLink PowerDirector used to be held back by a distinct lack of features compared to the Adobe and Corel/Ulead alternatives. It was fine for simple edits, but very easy to outgrow. With PowerDirector 7, however, CyberLink brought the app much closer to the competition, making it worthy of consideration. PowerDirector 8 is another huge upgrade, with both new effects capabilities and changes to the underlying engine.
However, one area which hasn't seen a massive change is the interface, at least not in appearance. The icons for the Magic functions to the left of the timeline are now coloured, but other than that things look the same. There are some new features, here, though. In particular, CyberLink has increased the number of timeline tracks still further over version 7, to 16 in total. Nine of these are for picture-in-picture video, up from the previous six. But the increase to four audio tracks is the most significant upgrade. The two audio tracks allowed by the previous version were too much of a limitation if you wanted to create a complex soundtrack involving music, voiceover and foleys at the same time.
There are more fundamental changes to the code beneath the interface, however. Two main innovations have been added to help boost productivity. The most generally useful is the new Shadow Editing system. This creates proxy files when you import high definition footage. It's an optional feature, and you're prompted to turn it on when you import the files. When enabled, Shadow Editing mirrors your HD with standard definition MPEG-2 files, which are substituted during the editing process.
The files are rendered in the background, and take a little while to create. But you can start editing straight away. When the Shadow Editing proxies are ready, the workflow becomes a lot smoother. Even when we layered multiple clips and added effects to each, a real-time preview remained available, albeit not without dropped frames, although the use of lower-resolution proxies was obvious. Still, editing the HD directly would have made the preview far too sluggish. The full resolution files are then used again for final rendering, so this is performed at the best possible quality.