Adobe Premiere Elements 4 review

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Like its Elements stablemate, this latest version of Adobe’s entry-level video editor sees a radical change of interface. The front end has been reworked to be more in keeping with the look and feel of Windows Vista, but the company is also hoping to win over those new to video editing with the promise of making fun movies in 15 minutes. Anyone experienced in desktop video editing will know that’s a tall order.

Aside from having a deeper shade of grey by default, the interface has also been reorganised, taking it still further from its Premiere Pro roots. The video preview has been moved to a prominent position on the left, and the editing stages simplified to Edit, Create Menus and Share. A second row of buttons underneath the main trio changes to fit the context of the current editing stage.

It results in a clean, mature, streamlined front end – plenty of editing power is still available for those who want it, but the complication of Premiere Pro has been mostly tamed. Our one criticism here is that although the Clip Properties panel is still available, it’s hidden behind Edit Effects. As the panel contains more than just effects, this is slightly misleading.

Adobe has added some other new features for the newcomer, although they’re not exactly original. You can now apply Themes (of mixed quality) to your video, which adds opening titles, closing credits and some filters in one bundle. Themes also include matching disc menus, which is handy. You still need to arrange your clips and trim them, plus add your own text to the titles, but the Theme will do the rest. You also need to apply Themes before creating any of your own effects, as the Theme overwrites pre-existing filters and transitions.

The titler now includes built-in canned animations that you can apply without having to create your own using the motion-control features. These include simple fades and special effects, such as water waves, although they’re all 2D. The animations bear a remarkable resemblance to text presets included in Adobe’s high-end After Effects, which is hardly surprising considering the company’s love of cross-product synergy.

Elements’ audio provision has been beefed up, too. You can call up an Audio Mixer with the familiar sliders and balance knobs, which can be used to tweak volume and panning live as you watch your project. However, although Dolby Digital audio can be burned to disc, Elements still doesn’t have a surround mixing ability, so you can’t create your own 5.1 soundtracks. Both Ulead and Pinnacle have offered this facility in their entry-level video-editing apps for some years now.

But Elements does have one unique trick – the ability to edit video to the beat of your background music. Simply click on your music track and choose Detect Beats. The software then analyses the rhythm and adds markers accordingly, which you can then use to position your edit points or visual events. This is handy for making music videos and easy to use.

Our first real surprise came when we tried to use the Adobe Media Downloader to pull video files off the AVCHD-based Sony HDR-SR8E camcorder. Despite AVCHD having been around for more than a year, and fast becoming the new consumer HD camcorder standard, Adobe has missed it out of two successive versions of Premiere Elements. Even MPEG transport stream files didn’t work, so HDV remains your only option when shooting HD video.

Adobe has embraced HD when it comes to output, though, as the built-in disc authoring can now burn to Blu-ray, with both H.264 and MPEG2 encoding available. That said, there’s no control over encoding settings, other than fitting your project to the available disc space. The other new addition is outputting to YouTube or your own online video server. The wizard handles all the optimal YouTube encoding settings for you, although only Flash 7 and 8 are available for custom servers.

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