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Adobe Premiere Elements 9 offers editing alternative

Adobe Premiere Elements 9 offers editing alternative

The Organiser

In addition to the Premiere Elements application, a major new component is the Adobe Elements 9 Organizer, a separate program for storing and managing media files. It lets you rate clips, assign keywords, and group source footage into albums. (The Organizer is shared by Photoshop Elements, which in version 9 replaces Adobe Bridge for similar tasks.)

The Organizer isn't just a video vault. When activated, it automatically analyzes clips for characteristics such as blurry frames, high contrast lighting, and the presence of people, and applies smart tags accordingly. The Auto-Analyze feature does a good job performing a first pass review of your footage, marking things you'd likely toss or keep due to such characteristics. Tagging is key to many helpful features in Premiere Elements, such as Smart Trim. Potential problem areas are marked on the timeline, with pop-up notes describing why they were flagged. You can then remove a section, which is automatically replaced by a quick cross-dissolve transition to cover the edit.

But little annoyances mar the utility of the Auto-Analyzer and Smart Trim. If you apply the edit in the Sceneline and switch to the Timeline panel, you'll see that the clip was not split, and there is no transition object there to let you change the type or duration of the break.

Also, the Auto-Analyzer feature detects what it thinks are scenes, splits them into separate clips, and lumps them into a scene group. That's fine when importing a long block of footage from tape, but the feature also chopped up a few continuous shots I recorded with cameras that save to memory cards, where each clip is recorded as a discrete file. Once split, there's no way to easily make Elements recognize the fragments as a single clip, nor is there a way to turn off scene detection; you must expand one in editing and delete the others.

DVD and sharing

One thing that definitely sets Premiere Elements apart from its Apple cousins is built-in capability to create DVD projects from the movie, including chapter markers and theme menus. If you need to share projects on disc, you don't need to hand off the project to another application, such as iDVD. The feature doesn't boast nearly the amount of customization as iDVD, and the supplied templates travel all over the map in terms of style and professional appearance.

For those who want the presentation features of a DVD, the Web DVD feature creates a Flash-based version of a DVD template for saving on a hard disk or for uploading to a free account at Photoshop.com or your own server.

Premiere Elements also knows which way the online wind is blowing, and has added support for uploading media to Facebook--sort of. The feature does not appear in the Share panel, as you might expect (even in the Online option to "Upload to video sharing Websites"), but is located in the Organizer. So, if you want to upload the video you just edited to Facebook, you can't do it directly: you must export the video to your hard disk, add the video to the Organizer, and then upload from there.

Irritations add up

Despite the array of features in Premiere Elements, several annoying aspects recurred that distracted or impeded my editing.

In every video editing application I can think of, the spacebar is a universal Play/Pause button. In Photoshop Elements the same is true, but it depends on where you are in the program. Countless times I pressed the spacebar to play a clip and nothing happened because the Tasks panel was the last area in which I clicked, not the timeline or the Monitor panel.

At times, the interface demonstrates a surprising lack of interactivity. Dragging to increase the height of a track in the Timeline does not animate the action, so you click to drag, reposition the cursor wondering if you actually clicked in the right place, then release the button, at which point the track height changes. Not only does it feel un-Mac-like, but it's un-computing-in-the-twenty-first-century-like.

In the Sceneline, the timeline in the monitor performs an irritating animation when you put the playhead into another clip. The timeline centers the playhead in the window and zooms in to expose more of the clip's duration for finer frame control. That sounds helpful, but the result is a four-second wait every time you position the playhead into a new clip and release the mouse button.

When attempting to import video from an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 3GS, I was not able to successfully use the media capture module in the Organizer to import media. In Premiere Elements, there are two import options, one under Video and one under Photos; the former worked fine, but the latter crashed Adobe's media importing utility. (Adobe is looking into the problem.) Transferring clips to my hard drive using Image Capture first and then importing them worked fine.

Adobe Premiere Elements 9's strengths lie in its multi-track editing capabilities, along with editor-friendly features such as Smart Trim and DVD creation and burning capabilities within the program.

Although I found several irritations with the Sceneline interface, the program provides a simplified environment for casual editors that quickly leads to the expanded options of editing on the timeline, especially for how much flexibility you get for the money. Get your feet wet with the Sceneline, use it to learn more advanced editing, and then abandon it altogether for future projects.

If you've been looking for a replacement for iMovie HD 6, but haven't wanted to jump into Final Cut Express, Premiere Elements 9 offers a way to make the transition toward more advanced video editing techniques. However, the Sceneline mode might present too many irritations for longterm use. Still, the program does offer a wealth of video editing capability at a competitive price.

Jeff Carlson is the author of iMovie '09 & iDVD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press; 2009) and the managing editor of TidBits.

The Organiser

In addition to the Premiere Elements application, a major new component is the Adobe Elements 9 Organizer, a separate program for storing and managing media files. It lets you rate clips, assign keywords, and group source footage into albums. (The Organizer is shared by Photoshop Elements, which in version 9 replaces Adobe Bridge for similar tasks.)

The Organizer isn't just a video vault. When activated, it automatically analyzes clips for characteristics such as blurry frames, high contrast lighting, and the presence of people, and applies smart tags accordingly. The Auto-Analyze feature does a good job performing a first pass review of your footage, marking things you'd likely toss or keep due to such characteristics. Tagging is key to many helpful features in Premiere Elements, such as Smart Trim. Potential problem areas are marked on the timeline, with pop-up notes describing why they were flagged. You can then remove a section, which is automatically replaced by a quick cross-dissolve transition to cover the edit.

But little annoyances mar the utility of the Auto-Analyzer and Smart Trim. If you apply the edit in the Sceneline and switch to the Timeline panel, you'll see that the clip was not split, and there is no transition object there to let you change the type or duration of the break.

Also, the Auto-Analyzer feature detects what it thinks are scenes, splits them into separate clips, and lumps them into a scene group. That's fine when importing a long block of footage from tape, but the feature also chopped up a few continuous shots I recorded with cameras that save to memory cards, where each clip is recorded as a discrete file. Once split, there's no way to easily make Elements recognize the fragments as a single clip, nor is there a way to turn off scene detection; you must expand one in editing and delete the others.

DVD and sharing

One thing that definitely sets Premiere Elements apart from its Apple cousins is built-in capability to create DVD projects from the movie, including chapter markers and theme menus. If you need to share projects on disc, you don't need to hand off the project to another application, such as iDVD. The feature doesn't boast nearly the amount of customization as iDVD, and the supplied templates travel all over the map in terms of style and professional appearance.

For those who want the presentation features of a DVD, the Web DVD feature creates a Flash-based version of a DVD template for saving on a hard disk or for uploading to a free account at Photoshop.com or your own server.

Premiere Elements also knows which way the online wind is blowing, and has added support for uploading media to Facebook--sort of. The feature does not appear in the Share panel, as you might expect (even in the Online option to "Upload to video sharing Websites"), but is located in the Organizer. So, if you want to upload the video you just edited to Facebook, you can't do it directly: you must export the video to your hard disk, add the video to the Organizer, and then upload from there.

Irritations add up

Despite the array of features in Premiere Elements, several annoying aspects recurred that distracted or impeded my editing.

In every video editing application I can think of, the spacebar is a universal Play/Pause button. In Photoshop Elements the same is true, but it depends on where you are in the program. Countless times I pressed the spacebar to play a clip and nothing happened because the Tasks panel was the last area in which I clicked, not the timeline or the Monitor panel.

At times, the interface demonstrates a surprising lack of interactivity. Dragging to increase the height of a track in the Timeline does not animate the action, so you click to drag, reposition the cursor wondering if you actually clicked in the right place, then release the button, at which point the track height changes. Not only does it feel un-Mac-like, but it's un-computing-in-the-twenty-first-century-like.

In the Sceneline, the timeline in the monitor performs an irritating animation when you put the playhead into another clip. The timeline centers the playhead in the window and zooms in to expose more of the clip's duration for finer frame control. That sounds helpful, but the result is a four-second wait every time you position the playhead into a new clip and release the mouse button.

When attempting to import video from an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 3GS, I was not able to successfully use the media capture module in the Organizer to import media. In Premiere Elements, there are two import options, one under Video and one under Photos; the former worked fine, but the latter crashed Adobe's media importing utility. (Adobe is looking into the problem.) Transferring clips to my hard drive using Image Capture first and then importing them worked fine.

Adobe Premiere Elements 9's strengths lie in its multi-track editing capabilities, along with editor-friendly features such as Smart Trim and DVD creation and burning capabilities within the program.

Although I found several irritations with the Sceneline interface, the program provides a simplified environment for casual editors that quickly leads to the expanded options of editing on the timeline, especially for how much flexibility you get for the money. Get your feet wet with the Sceneline, use it to learn more advanced editing, and then abandon it altogether for future projects.

If you've been looking for a replacement for iMovie HD 6, but haven't wanted to jump into Final Cut Express, Premiere Elements 9 offers a way to make the transition toward more advanced video editing techniques. However, the Sceneline mode might present too many irritations for longterm use. Still, the program does offer a wealth of video editing capability at a competitive price.

Jeff Carlson is the author of iMovie '09 & iDVD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press; 2009) and the managing editor of TidBits.


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