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Adobe Premiere Elements version 8 has some added new features to an already full featured consumer level video editing application. It competes with other similar NLE's on the market, but remains, like most of its competition, a Windows only application. As with the majority of consumer level video editing tools on the market, Premiere Elements takes a tabbed approach to creating and finishing a task. The application is divided into four tabs; Organize, Edit, Disc Menus, and Share.
The idea with the tabbed approach is to make it easy to create a project using the tools available in a logical manner. This approach was introduced with Adobe PhotoDeluxe way back in the late 1990s, and continues with Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. The application supports the latest video formats, and outputs to popular video formats for playback on disc, online, personal computer (Flash, AVI, and MPEG-2, but no QuickTime), as well as the capability to upload your finished projects directly to YouTube. Within the scope of this review, some of the new features will be covered.
The Premiere Elements Organizer enables you to quickly locate and view your videos and images quickly. In fact, after saving some new content to the hard drive and launch Premiere Elements, it searched the hard drive, found, and imported thumbnails of the content into the Organizer for viewing. From the Organizer, you can preview videos and still images by double clicking them. Video files will have an icon in the upper right corner of the image to let you know that the file is indeed a video file. Still image files do not have any icon.
The Organizer will also auto analyze the files as they are imported into the application. It does a proficient job in determining the quality, focus, volume, contrast, and other aspects of the media. This enables you to quickly decide if you wish to include specific files that you have imported into Organizer into your projects. For example, an iPhone video file was imported into the Organizer and it was of marginal quality. The Organizer determined that the file was medium quality, blurry, low volume, fast pan right, shaky, and a single object, all without opening the file, and all within the new Organizer. As with the Organizer in Photoshop Elements, you can tag and rate your files, hide still images so the Organizer only shows video files and vice versa, set a date range for searching, view files with information such as frame rate and media duration visible, add comments in a comment field, and even create an Instant Movie from the Organizer.
A new feature in version 8 is the capability to add clip art or dialog bubbles to your video and have those elements move along within the clip via motion tracking. Premiere Elements will auto generate a motion path of your subject's movements and create a data path that the dialog bubble or clip art will follow. The software will auto-analyze the clip when you select the motion tracking mode
Smart Trim is a new feature in which Premiere Elements will analyze the clips on the Timeline or Sceneline and make suggestions on where to trim out what it sees as suspect video. The video could be blurred, or shaky, low light, or any number of factors. The reasons are pointed out as you hover over the Smart Trim suggested areas of the clips, which are highlighted with diagonal blue lines. You can also select the Smart Trim Options to determine if you want Smart Trim to cut based on quality level or interest level.
If you drag a clip onto the Timeline/Sceneline that has quality issues, a new feature called SmartFix will prompt you and ask if you want to fix the quality problems with the clip. Click yes and Premiere Elements will automatically run SmartFix in an attempt to "fix" the quality issues. This feature was hit and miss for the most part. On a clip that was shot at night, the application prompted asking to fix the quality problems. Yes was selected and the software proceeded to make its corrections. However, the corrections introduced all kinds of garbage to the original clip, rendering it useless. The original untweaked video clip was better. So you have to be careful when choosing to use SmartFix. Other times SmartFix indeed fixed the clip. It all depends on your footage.
SmartMix enables you to adjust your background music so your subject's dialog can be heard. SmartMix will automatically search for dialog and lower the background music so the dialog is not drowned out by the background music. When there is no dialog in the clip, the background music reverts back to its original volume. It is a pretty nifty feature that works well. You can also customize the SmartMix as well by specifying how you want the audio tracks (audio, narration, soundtrack, audio 2, and audio 3) to play in the foreground, background, or if you want to disable that particular track.
Premiere Elements 8 adds a few new features that help to make video editing easier. The Organizer is a welcome addition to the application, and the SmartTrim is also handy. SmartFix was hit and miss at least with me, but the SmartMix works very well. The application is still very easy to use, and lays out everything to make the editing session more efficient. There is no support for QuickTime, but there is a way around this by using the iPod/iPhone settings for video export. Premiere Elements has all the bells and whistles for an NLE in this price point, and if you pony up some more dollars, you can get the Plus version n($139.99), which adds movie themes, 20GB online storage (versus 2GB), tutorials, and other features that aren't available in the regular version. Call me old school, but this approach, which the competition also pushes, should be done away with and the company should offer a single, solid solution, without having to nickel and dime you. Overall, Premiere Elements 8 ($99.99) remains a solid entry level video editor that offers a wealth of professional features. It is easy to use, sports plenty of effects and transitions, and runs considerably well on a run of the mill PC (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, Windows 7 64-bit). www.adobe.com
John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at email@example.com