Adobe Premiere Elements is the Video/Photo Editing solution for folks who have hit a wall with the free tools that come bundled with their Windows or Mac systems, but are not ready for expensive professional tools like Final Cut X or Photoshop. It offers enough additional features that budding photographers and video producers might ask for, without going overboard. It is also a nice, cheap way to get familiar with Adobe’s flagship Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop product lines.
User Interface and Installation
The out-of-box experience with Premiere Elements features a fairly straightforward installation process. The primary installation is on a single disc; both programs are installed separately. There is a separate disc that contains a lot of extra content.
One issue I’ve always had with Adobe is their user interface. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you invest the time to learn it, you will be reworded with a menu system that is applied across their entire toolset – including all of their professional products. So at $149 retail, the Elements bundle is a good investment for those who want to get their hands wet and learn the basics of professional tools that easily cost thousands of dollars.
The interface has improved tremendously in the last few years and I give Adobe points for streamlining and making everything a lot more intuitive. It is still not as easy as I’d like, but it is a lot easier than before. I also like how seamless the integration between Premiere and Photoshop elements is. Working with native files in each application has never been smoother.
The Adobe Organizer
For fans of Apple’s iPhoto, Adobe Organizer comes with the Elements bundle and serves as an entry point into your photos and videos. It is the unsung hero and glue of the entire package. It contains a lot of nice features including full support of iPhoto for Mac Users and Windows Live Photo for Windows users.
You can drag and drop material into folders and edit photos directly from the tool. For better organization you can rate every photo in your collection, sort your collection by quality (High, Medium, and Low resolution), assign names to individual faces, and more. The Organizer supports multiple format types including movie files.
A lot of your more basic automatic fixes can be done directly in the Organizer. It includes options for AutoFix, AutoLevels, Cropping, AutoSharpening, and more. However, it is missing one key feature – you can’t resize your photo.
If you want more customization you simply click the Edit Photo or Edit Video button and it will automatically launch either Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements. Organizer includes an option to set a different default-editing tool to launch. Direct upload to various photo and video sharing services like Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, and YouTube are supported. Organizer is a surprisingly powerful and useful tool.
If you want more customization you simply click the Edit Photo or Edit Video button and it will automatically launch either Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements. You are not locked into Photoshop or Premiere. Organizer includes an option to set a different default-editing tool to launch. I also like how everything integrates with Adobe’s online toolset – Photoshop.com.
Considering how many issues I’ve had with iPhoto in the last year, as a Mac user this is certainly a tool that I may end up using instead. It’s been rock solid, fast, and stable. I have always considered Windows Live Photo pretty ugly and barely functional.
Highlights of this year’s video editing tool include better support for importing and exporting AVCHD video format. This format support is important because it is a “standard” format used by a lot of hard drive based HD Video Camcorders. New share functions include support for exporting video directly to Facebook.
Premiere Elements now has a much more sophisticated and robust Chromokey Editor. Chromokey is the process of replacing backgrounds, usually Blue or Green, with new ones. It is how professionals create those exotic Space Stations or how a weatherman does the weather. It is limited only by your imagination. A good dedicated chromokey system used to cost thousands just for the software alone.
Another highlight this year is the new 3-way color correction editing feature. This allows would-be editors to have more precise control over the color in video clips.
There are other reasons to use Premiere Elements over iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker, including its support for numerous codecs, its extensive support of multi-track editing (up to 99 tracks), a nice set of tools for audio enhancements, and a ton of built-in filters for enhancing your video (of which iMovie has none). You can spice up your video by using any of the numerous included transition effects and the built-in title editor.
When you are ready to export your project it supports all the current popular formats including AVCHD, MPEG4, MOV, AVI and numerous others. You can export directly to YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo.
I really like the Audio toolset in Premiere Elements. You can use the narration tool to add voiceovers to your clips a little easier than manually monitoring your levels; there’s built-in access to Sonic Fire Pro audio and there’s a full-featured audio editor included.
There is an instant movie function that automatically applies a built-in theme to your video clip. The theme includes graphics, automatic transitions, and letter designs. You can also apply a theme template to your DVD projects. I love the idea and the relative ease of use of this.
The only problem is, these templates are juvenile and mostly hideous. I’m not sure what Adobe was thinking when they approved them. But these canned selections are easily customizable so you can swap out the graphics with your own and create your own reusable set of the themes.
The other issue with Premiere Elements is that when you do use the themes or the instant movie feature, it is painfully slow. It took me 5–7 hours to burn a 30-minute DVD or create an “instant” movie. It was a lot spryer when it came to normal exporting – it took less than 10 minutes to render a 5-15 minute clip to my hard drive.
I really enjoy using Premiere, but don’t let the interface fool you; there is a learning curve. It took me a few minutes just to figure out how to import a video clip from my Camcorder.
There are new features included in this year’s Photoshop Elements. A new object finder lets you tag an object and then find every instance of that object later (this is also included in Premiere Elements). There is also the ability to Tag Friends from Facebook, and there are new Paint and Photo effects.
I’m not really a photographer so there is not much I can say about Photoshop Elements other than it seems to do everything that a non-professional would want it to do. Honestly, most of my basic photo needs are handled nicely in the organizer.
I would like to see Adobe expand the Elements line to include applications like InDesign or Adobe Acrobat for easier publishing options – especially ebook creation. Yes, if you are a Mac or Windows user you can get photo and video editing apps for free, but you will find yourself hitting a wall very quickly with Windows Live Photo/MovieMaker and iPhoto/iMovie.
While I do have some minor issues with this bundle, at $149 it is hard to really complain. This bundle is a nice stepping-stone to the more professional stuff.