4 video editors for tech-savvy business users

Reviews and video previews of 4 packages that can help you create professional-looking videos, even if you're not a pro

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CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64

PowerDirector 9 comes billed as the "first native 64-bit consumer video editor," which means it can use more than 4GB of RAM in systems that have a 64-bit version of Windows.

CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64
CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64's Magic Cut function pre-edits a clip according to various adjustable parameters.

Like VideoStudio and Premiere Elements, CyberLink PowerDirector 9 has a tabbed interface designed to give the nontechnical user a leg up. In this case, the tabs include Capture, Edit, Produce and Create Disc.

The timeline at the bottom can be switched between storyboard and conventional timeline modes, and a number of sub-elements of the interface have organizational tabs (in much the same manner as Vegas' Project Explorer). Click on a clip in the timeline, and a set of tabs appears above the timeline that brings up different properties or editing functions for that clip: Edit Audio, Power Tools, Fix/Enhance, Trim, Keyframe and so on.

The way these tools are presented isn't terribly consistent, though. Modify (which lets you apply things like chroma-keying or masks) opens a pop-up window, but Power Tools (advanced editing functions like cropping/zooming) appears in a window that replaces the project organizer.

PowerDirector, like Elements, provides many automatic and assisted-editing options, although the mileage you'll get out of them also varies. Magic Movie Wizard most closely resembles Premiere Element's InstantMovie function: Pick a series of clips, select some background music, choose some basic parameters (e.g., ratio of videos to photos, if you have a mix of the two), and the resulting montage will automatically replace any existing footage in the timeline.

The results can be further edited and fine-tuned. As with InstantMovie, you're better off using this to assemble footage that doesn't depend on dialogue, since the edits can be rather arbitrary.

The Magic Style function lets you apply a style template to clips already in the timeline. Magic Cut lets you automatically trim footage based on specific kinds of action you want to include or exclude -- e.g., "scenes with people speaking" or "scenes with moving objects." Its detection heuristics are surprisingly accurate and worked well on a variety of clips I tried. Magic Fix automatically attempts to correct bad lighting, shaky camera movements and video noise, and -- best of all -- lets you preview the changes in a split-screen view.

The Produce tab renders video for output, providing a bunch of common-sense defaults but also allowing advanced users to create their own output profiles. You can select a file type, a target device or a video hosting site. Only YouTube and Facebook are supported in that last category, but uploads for both can be HD (up to 1920 x 1080). Create Disc sports all sorts of authoring options, for both Blu-ray and standard DVD, and chapter points for DVDs can be inserted directly into the timeline during the editing stage.

If you want to save a bit of cash, PowerDirector 9 also comes in a simpler $64.95 Deluxe edition that doesn't offer 64-bit capabilities and doesn't burn to the BDXL or AVCHD formats.

Bottom line

Despite PowerDirector 9's power features vis-à-vis 64-bit processors, the program's day-to-day features will be more important to most people. The best of those features -- Magic Fix and the detailed export options -- are worth checking out.

Using the Magic Movie Wizard feature that comes with CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64.

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