Adobe Premiere Elements 14 review: A modest update

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I’ve changed my mind about Premiere Elements a few times over the years. It started life as by far the most powerful consumer video editor around, thanks to its Premiere Pro pedigree, but years of dumbing down and feature sprawl took their toll. It rose from the ashes in 2012 with a radical makeover, but this year it looks like Adobe is treading water once again.

Adobe Premiere Elements 14 review: A modest update

You know the bar has been set low when two headline features are Guided Edits to reveal features that have been included in the software for years. Color Pop shows users where to find the Red Noir effect, which converts footage to monochrome while maintaining saturated reds. The tutorial then shows how to adjust settings using the HSL Tuner filter to isolate a different colour.

The other new Guided Edit shows how to use the Time Remapping tool to create variable slow- and fast-motion effects. It’s a great feature, but not particularly hard to figure out without assistance.

To be clear, I really like Premiere Elements’ Guided Edits. While Photoshop Elements’ similarly named feature presents advanced functions with simplified controls, Premiere Elements’ implementation just points to the controls required to achieve various functions. This makes it much easier to go off on a different tangent, and apply the skills to other parts of the application. The disappointing thing is that they’re trickling out at a rate of two per year. Guided Edits are nothing more than an interactive manual, and there’s no excuse not to cover the whole application with a few dozen tutorials and be done with it.

Premiere Elements 14 review: Listen up

Audio View is another new feature that’s largely cosmetic. It reveals buttons on each audio track for recording a narration and for soloing the track, but, surprisingly, there’s no mute button. A master level meter and fader help you avoid distorting the audio output, but there’s no fader for individual channels, despite what the pop-up mixer suggests. Instead, levels are set per audio clip. When in Audio View mode, the Tools, Transitions and Effects buttons in the Action Bar show audio-related functions by default, but all this amounts to is an interface tweak and little more.

The new animated titles are more substantial. There are 32 preset templates to choose from, organised by genres such as Sports, Travel and Wedding. They’re unusually elegant for consumer-oriented software, with simple illustrative graphics that shimmy into view along with a few lines of editable text.

The trouble with the more elaborate templates is that it’s trickier to give the user free reign to customise them. The total length of these animated titles is fixed, and inserting longer words than the template allows sometimes causes them to overlap. Text can be resized, reformatted and moved around, but it’s a little awkward. The presets are downloaded on demand, but doing so is painfully slow — 4MB downloads consistently took over a minute.

Adobe Premiere Elements 14 review: Support for 4K

Another key new feature is 4K support, with Adobe making specific references to the Panasonic GH4, Sony AX100, GoPro Hero 4 and a few other cameras. We had no problems importing 4K footage from a variety of sources, but preview performance was predictably poor on our Core i7 3517U laptop. Sony Movie Studio Platinum was no better when handling 4K footage directly, although it has the significant advantage of proxy editing – where temporary 720p copies of footage are generated to speed up preview performance.

A long-running complaint of mine is how tricky it is to maintain consistent frame rates and resolutions from import to export. This is much improved in version 14, with a revamped Export dialog box that automatically matches the frame rate to the source footage and offers various popular resolutions such as UHD 4K (in XAVC-S format), 1080p and 720p.

Meanwhile, the Advanced Settings panel gives options to adjust export settings manually, including detailed control over compression and the ability to save user presets. There are tick boxes to force the resolution, frame rate and compression profile to match the source footage. Frame rate mismatches should, therefore, be a thing of the past.

There’s an opportunity to set the resolution and frame rate of the timeline when creating a new project, although you may as well ignore this since the software automatically changes these to match the first imported media. Confusingly, the timeline counts up to 30 frames for each second, regardless of the source footage. In fact, it does use the correct number of frames per second on the timeline. For lower and higher frame rates, it skips or duplicates the numbered frames as necessary to give the required number.

There’s still no support for 2.7K resolutions on the timeline, but while this won’t be an issue for most people, it means the software refuses to apply its excellent Shake Stabilizer effect to 2.7K GoPro footage.

Adobe Premiere Elements 14 review: Verdict

The revamped export facilities are the unlikely highlight of the Premiere Elements 14’s features, but as for the rest, it’s frighteningly slim pickings. This is not an update existing users will be queuing up to move to.

Premiere Elements remains the best editor for newcomers who want a video editing package they can grow into. However, I prefer Sony Movie Studio Platinum with its streamlined efficiency and greater attention to detail.

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