Adobe Premiere Elements 7 review

£75
Price when reviewed

Adobe is clearly not a big fan of the numbers five and six. The previous version of Premiere Elements was four, but the latest iteration has skipped directly to seven. This is mainly to bring it in line with the longer-running Photoshop Elements 7, with which Premiere Elements is frequently bundled. But the leap to seven also indicates Adobe thinks this version has earned the right to be considered as mature as its image-editing sibling.

In many ways, it has. At last Adobe has added support for AVCHD camcorders – long after most rival packages. But we have to say the facility was worth waiting for. Responsiveness is about the best we’ve seen from any package – highly commendable given how processor-intensive H.264 is.

We tried importing footage from a broad section of current camcorders, and found Elements had no problems handling AVCHD from Canon, Sony, Panasonic and JVC devices. MPEG-2-based TOD files from JVC were also imported without a grumble. Two camcorders that did give it a few issues were Creative’s Vado and the Flip Video. The software picked up the audio but failed to display the video in both cases.

Premiere Elements is meant to be for video-editing beginners, but in the past its origins in the professionally orientated Premiere Pro have made it one of the more complex contenders. Successive versions have added friendly widgets, and this version sees the addition of InstantMovie. This builds on the Themes, which arrived in version four, and is yet another take on the wizard-based editing found in most consumer-orientated video software. Once you’ve imported your footage you simply start the wizard, select your footage, choose one of the 20 different theme presets, and set the process going.

The software analyses the video content – a slow process – and the individual clips are cropped and stitched together, with graphics, transitions, titles and even music added. The end results can be pretty cheesy, but if you can’t be bothered to do the editing yourself, the system has some use. The automatic footage analysis can also be used independently of InstantMovie via the SmartTagging wizard. This tells you if footage is blurred or in focus, if it’s shaky, and other quality-related assessments. But it seemed to find something wrong with most of our clips, reducing its utility.

While Premiere Elements 7 hasn’t added much in the way of new effects, it does have one major inclusion, designed to help with chroma keying. This is one of the most fun video effects around, but was fiddly to create with Elements. Enter Videomerge, which you can simply drag and drop onto a target clip.

Another important way to make your videos more engaging is by adding a music soundtrack. But with record labels clamping down on the use of copyrighted music on sites such as YouTube, it’s a risk to use your favourite commercial songs. So Premiere Elements has added SmartSound Quicktracks, a loop-based royalty-free soundtrack creation system which has found its way into numerous video editing apps. It was previously available as a third-party plug-in for Elements, but now you get it in the box, along with 14 music libraries, each containing a couple of different options and numerous variations. The end results range from corny to relatively cool.

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Premiere Elements still lacks one important feature for audio: surround sound mixing. Although the stereo audio mixing tools are very good, and you can import footage which already has 5.1 sound (such as from the top-end Panasonic HD camcorders), the inability to mix your own positional audio leaves a major box unchecked. The competition has had this one covered for some time.

Details

Software subcategory Video editing software

Requirements

Processor requirement 1.8GHz CPU with SSE 2 support, dual-core for AVCHD

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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