The world of free video editing software is hugely variable. While there are some truly excellent options that combine ease of use with great results, there are also dozens of lower quality products around with limited features or strangely designed interfaces.
PowerDirector Essential is a new addition to CyberLink’s lineup of media editing software. A pared-back version of PowerDirector, it offers a generous portion of the features you’ll find in the full software, with a few exceptions.
PowerDirector Once the 30-day trial expires, you’ll be prompted to either upgrade to one of the premium options (a one-off lifetime license, or a rolling subscription) or proceed with the limited free version.
This is still an excellent program, but has one key drawback: all exported videos will be watermarked. This may be a dealbreaker depending on how you intend to use your edited videos, but the branding is quite subtle (the words ‘Edited with PowerDirector’ in translucent text in the bottom right corner) and won’t obscure the content of your video.
We also appreciate that CyberLink makes it clear in advance that the watermark will be added – it’s visible when you select the ‘Produce’ tab to export your clip, and it’s explained in the pop-up that appears when your trial expires. There’s no attempt to catch you out.
Some other features exclusive to the premium software include the ability to capture video from a connected webcam or video camera, view 360-degree and 3D video, great discs, perform content-aware editing, output in full HD, and have videos produced automatically using CyberLink’s smart Magic Cut tool. There are also fewer export formats available. Selecting a premium option will result in a pop-up appearing prompting you to upgrade.
That might sound like a lot, but PowerDirector Essential still gives you an impressive suite of editing tools that leave most free editors in the dust. There’s hardware encoding for Windows systems, stereo audio, access to CyberLink’s full set of tutorials, special effects and overlays, wipes, titles and transitions.
You get a smaller selection of filters and effects than the premium software offers, but those available are high quality and easy to apply.
You also get a choice of interfaces: Storyboard, which lets you drag and drop video clips and photos in sequence; the more conventional Timeline, with multiple tracks for video and audio; Slideshow, which lets you select a collection of photos and applies a theme to turn them into a stylish presentation.
If you're not sure whether to invest in a premium video editor and are testing the waters, or you're planning to keep your video sharing to friends and family who won't notice a small watermark, CyberLink PowerDirector Essential could be just what you need. If not, you've nothing to lose by trying it.