CyberLink always integrates the latest technology trends as quickly as possible, and with version 16 of PowerDirector it’s hoping to get ahead of the curve on 360 video. Even if creating VR videos holds zero interest, there are numerous other handy new features as well.
There are four different versions of PowerDirector 16 available – Deluxe, Ultra, Ultimate, and Ultimate Suite, ranging in price from £60 to £210. We focus on the £80 Ultra version, but will also be looking at the key new features in AudioDirector 8 and ColorDirector 6, which come with the top Ultimate Suite bundle. (Avoid Deluxe: you lose features such as the capable multi-cam editor, so it’s a false economy.)
One of the key new 360 facilities is image stabilisation, because regular 2D tools won’t work with this kind of video format. The video stabilisation can be found in the Action Camera Center, and was effective with footage I took walking through a wood. You can also output footage with a “Little Planet Effect” where the 360-degree sphere is squished into a 2D frame so it looks like you’re viewing everything from a godlike position above.
A significant problem when you’re editing 360 video arises when you want to add titles. If you use a regular titling tool, these will be 2D graphics placed over the top of the spherical footage, and won’t move when you pan around. But PowerDirector 16 comes with a collection of titles that are designed to work in 360, moving around as the viewer pans. They can even have motion tracking applied so they follow something in the frame as it changes relative location within the 360 sphere.
There are also plenty of features that aren’t just for 360 footage. A collage designer has been added for creating rapid multi-clip opening sequences. This includes a selection of presets that can be animated. You simply decide which clip goes where via drag and drop, and whether all will start at once or in sequence. You don’t get any control over how clips are cropped in the final effect, however.
Another rather high-end addition is colour matching. This is something found in dedicated grading tools such as Adobe SpeedGrade, and is extremely useful if you’re shooting the same subject with different cameras or settings. You can select two clips and colour correct one so that it matches the other more closely by choosing that clip as the reference. I found it effective at making clips shot on different cameras look more uniform. Another grading-oriented update is support for Look-Up-Tables (LUTs) in standard 3dl, mga or m3d formats. No examples were included, but you can readily download some classic looks from third parties.
Although CyberLink leaves the most sophisticated audio editing to the separate AudioDirector, the core sound functions in PowerDirector still receive a useful upgrade in the form of audio ducking. This is where the volume of a music soundtrack can be set to automatically fill gaps in a speech audio track. We found the default parameters need careful tweaking so the volume changes don’t sound too abrupt, but it isn’t hard to achieve good results and this tool saves a lot of time over doing this manually.
If you purchase the Ultimate Suite, you also get the latest versions of ColorDirector and AudioDirector in the bundle. ColorDirector 6, unsurprisingly, also has support for 360 video. You can now grade this in the same way as 2D footage. Whether grading 2D or 360, the one-click tone adjustment can detect different scenes in a sequence and will adjust the grade separately for each one. AudioDirector 8 can also import 360 video so that you can edit the soundtrack, but there’s no facility to pan directional audio within the 360 space. AudioDirector can also automatically splice up music to fit a given length, so beginning, middle and end still flow smoothly but the length fits exactly. You can also sample the ambient background noise and add it to areas of silence, so these don’t stick out from the rest.
CyberLink PowerDirector 16 Ultra review: Verdict
With version 16, CyberLink PowerDirector maintains its position as a serious contender, particularly if you opt for the Ultimate Suite bundle. A wealth of extras are included in all the premium options, such as powerful plugins from NewBlue, ProDAD and Boris FX, making CyberLink PowerDirector 16 one of the most powerful consumer video editing tools on the market.