I’m going to start this review by letting you know that my usual application for video editing is Vegas Pro. I find it far easier to use than Adobe Premiere and having used it for many years it feels comfortable and familiar. I tried not to think about Vegas when using PowerDirector but it was very hard not to when they essentially do the same thing.
The Steam store price for PowerDirector 15 without any sales is £59.99 and Vegas Edit, the entry-level package starts at £299 so it would be unfair to base my conclusions on a comparison because with these price tags in mind they are clearly aimed at a different market, or so you would think.
After using the software to produce a few videos I was very impressed with the ease at which I could produce content and absolutely blown away at the render speeds compared to Vegas. The interface is familiar yet very different but after just an hour or two it became clear how to work with the software. I watched a few tutorial videos and so came to my conclusions I hope, based on the merits of PowerDirector 15 and not a comparison between it and other software available.
The first thing a new user notices is that there are actually several different “user modes”. One of these, Easy Editor, functions like separate application and can be selected from the initial launch window.
I was unable to find a use for the Easy Editor. I would imagine using it for phone videos of your cat or a baby eating would produce something worth looking at, however, why would you spend £60 on a piece of software to create videos no more interesting than using the simple edit functions included on a smartphone? Hopping over to the full editor I was presented with a far more familiar environment to create content.
There is a timeline at the bottom of the screen, a preview window and a plethora of other useful “boxes” to click and mess around with. I spent the first hour messing about and using a 5-minute clip I added some titles, threw in some effects and cut and pasted some bits around. I set the video to render at 1080p as I was unable to select 2560×1440 at 60fps (more on this later). I pressed start and was about to stand up to go and get a drink when I realised how quickly the video was rendering. I am used to renders taking longer than the content, a 30-minute video typically takes around 6 hours to render after I add effects. I thought I had done something wrong so sat back down to make correct my errors. I must have only taken a few moments and already a ¼ of the time till finished had passed. I let the render finish and clicked to see what I had actually done. I was very impressed. A 1080p render had taken less than 5 minutes. I worked out how to get a 2560x1440p 120fps custom profile setup then after 7 and a half minutes, the same 5-minute video clip at 1440p 120fps had rendered!
Did it look good? Well, yes. I was sure something was wrong so I played the video in several different players, I checked the properties and then I thought to try it with something else. The same result. I couldn’t believe it, PowerDirector 15 was rendering about a minute of 1080p footage every 24 seconds or so. I played around a little more and got the footage I would have been happy to upload to render at around 110 seconds per minute of footage.
I had to stop and think, this is not just another editor, this could actually be a serious piece of software that I need to consider for editing my videos full time. It would save me hours and hours of time. When you first open the full editor, you can see the familiar layout, clips in the upper left corner, preview in the upper right and a timeline at the bottom of the screen.
So, I started to properly edit a video and this is where the questions I was asking myself about the possibility of this being my new editing software stopped. I found the interface and interaction to be less than perfect for me. I am not comparing this software to Vegas I am just stating that I am coming from years of using Vegas. I am used to things working a certain way. I don’t think when I use Vegas, I just do, now I find myself clicking in the timeline and wanting to split a video, I can’t I have to click at the top of the timeline, in the actual time section, then I have to press CTRL+T, why? Why is split clip CTRL+ T, why not just T, even though T is not a logical key for splitting why a key combo, why not just bind it to S for split or C for Cut? Maybe the reason Vegas and Final Cut use those keys is that it makes sense.
This is one example of many where the interface is less than optimal. However, an old dog can learn new tricks so I persisted. I found after a time I was getting used to how things worked but I never really felt comfortable. I never really felt like I was working efficiently.
I have a 1440p monitor, front and centre, then two widescreen 1080P monitors left and right. I like to have my preview on one, I can see what I am doing better this way, the other is where I have my open files, this gives me a nice, big area to edit. I was able to move the preview out of the editor to a second monitor and this gave me enough room to fit the timeline in. I was unable to change the structure of the timeline and I like to add tracks as I need them so that I have as much room as possible. After much clicking, I was able to set my tracks up as I like them and I appreciated how much customisability there was in PowerDirector 15.
I imported my clips and started editing a video, I needed more footage so decided to start a different project, the clips I had imported from the last project showed up. This was irritating when I say new project I mean project. Every time you start a new project you have to delete the clips from your imported media or you will end up not being able to find what you need.
So far, I had found whilst the render speeds were impressive the interface itself was getting in the way, it was actually slowing me down considerably.
After I had all the cuts made and the video was as I wanted I started to browse through the bling. There are more transitions (149 in total) than you will ever need and if somehow you needed more there is a limitless library available online for you to create all the over edited video YouTube can handle.
I started looking through all of the different bundled effects, there are 124 FX, 89 objects in the PiP objects room, 89 in the Particle room and 124 in the Text room. I was staggered, how is this software only £59.99?
I may seem as though I have been coming down on PowerDirector 15 for being a bit clunky. Believe me, when I say this, I have never seen software with these many features presented so professionally in this price range. This is on par with pro software at a fraction of the cost. If you haven’t used Vegas or Movie Studio at all or for too long, you will find this software fabulous. The lack of familiarity with it coupled with the entrenched way I have done things for so long makes it very hard for me to move away from Vegas however, PowerDirector 15 is in good company as I felt the same way about Adobe Premiere and many people prefer it to Vegas.
The effects don’t stop there, I noticed a motion capture button shortly before writing this review and whilst I was playing around with it I started thinking that if you wanted this ability in Vegas you would need to either, use keyframes manually and that takes a long time or you would need to pay for the Suite, at £799. I was flip-flopping between feeling restricted by the interface and the sheer awesomeness of this software.
I added some effects to an Arma 3 helicopter scene, laid an AC/DC track over the top and marvelled at my brilliance. I then started to mess with other effects and suddenly I realised something, I had forgotten to not like the interface. I was just using the software and having a blast, I was really impressed at the way I could add effects to a piece of footage and not see any slowdown or degradation of quality in the preview, the software is extremely well optimised. I was feeling like the king but then that interface got in the way again. You see, when you add an effect the settings are in an overlapping window. At one point I was trying to mess around with one clip and had three different windows opened. I think the issue is that this software has been around for a long time and instead of integrating the new features they appear to be dropped in, on top, so if you want to edit a movie and have a couple of clips, you have to treat each separately, once you double-click a clip a window will pop up and you then have to edit the clip in there independent of the movie. It’s very confusing and I think that PowerDirector 15 is getting in the way of itself. I couldn’t make my mind up whether I loved or hated the software. I was back to feeling frustrated at the interface.
Staying with the effects and features of this software there is something I haven’t even mentioned yet. PowerDirector has another ace up its sleeve in the 3D editor. That’s right, this software has a 3D and 360-degree video editor. I did not have footage in this format to use but having watched a few tutorials and seen it in action it again looks like another solid offering.
After I had finished editing my video which took at least 3 times as long, as usual, I moved on to rendering. I wanted to render a 30-minute video, I needed to render in 1440p (2K) and I wanted to produce the highest quality footage possible. I found out that there is not 2560x1440p profile. I had to edit the profile.ini in the %appdata% folder. This is a reasonably common resolution so I thought it was odd for it to not be supported natively, however, this is another reason I think Cyberlink should spend a little time getting the interface and usability of the software in line with more modern offerings.
After setting up the render I let it loose and whilst I don’t pretend to understand how it works, True Velocity 6, Cyberlinks own render engine was busy utilising all of my Graphic cards power and zipping through the render at a crazy speed. In total, a 30 minute 2k 120fps video rendered out in just over 52 minutes. It would probably have taken less time if I had stopped using the computer but this is incredibly fast. Think about that for just a second. To complete the same task it would take Vegas 14 pro between 3.5 and 6 hours depending on what I had done with the footage. I have heard on higher end graphics cards, the 1080 and 1080 ti specifically that even at 4K you can render faster than real time. That is to say, you could produce a minute of footage every 40-50 seconds.
I tried the H.265 render next and I have to say, I really don’t like the video results of this using any software. I think we have a wait for 4K to be the standard before we need to worry about H.265. The amount of compression was not necessary on my 2K footage and what I did produce looked awful, to say the least.
To sum up I think that Cyberlink’s PowerDirector 15 Ultra is incredible. It is incredible in both senses of the word. Incredible that such a fantastic piece of software is held back but a clunky useless interface. Incredible that you get so much for so little, incredible that so much potential feels stifling. Whilst I had moments where I was just using the software more often than not I felt decidedly angered by the lack of intuitiveness. I found myself referring to tutorials constantly and having huge issues getting things right. On the other hand, I made some fabulous video that, through a stupid mistake is completely useless. That’s right, all the footage I have been talking about is gone. Why you ask? Well, the biggest reason I cannot use Cyberlink as my daily driver is that it didn’t pick up the second audio track from Shadowplay, the software I had used to record my footage this time. I had been so focused on the visuals that I had not noticed that there should have been a second audio track. As if an inner monologue had filled the blank space of my voice. I made several attempts to rescue the footage but the ship had sailed. It was an error on my part but equally a failing of the software. I tested the footage in Vegas, 14 and 15, then in Adobe Premiere, Motion Studio and no other software had an issue with the second audio track. It matters not, it was my own mistake, I should have used different footage but it did make me feel that my hours of work were pointless.
My recommendation has a caveat, PowerDirector 15 should be the software you buy to edit your videos, provided you are not overly familiar with other editing software. It has everything you will ever need to make any type of video you want and so much more. It is without a shadow of a doubt the best editing software in its price range and in my personal opinion is better than Adobe Premiere. The render times alone make it a worthy addition to your library and I wonder how I would have scored it had I not been editing videos with Vegas for the last 5 years?
This is the software for all you budding YouTube content creators. It has more features than software 5 times the price. What are you waiting for?