The workspace in Premiere Elements. Click to enlarge.
The ease of use that has been perfected in Photoshop Elements is also in Premiere Elements. This application has a built-in Organizer that has a few less features than the Photoshop Elements Organizer (can’t hide/show individual items, no Find Faces For Tagging features, no map, no thumbnail size controls, among others). Some of these features show up elsewhere in Premiere Elements (Quick Share is in the Tasks panel), while others make sense for photography but not for video, while others may show up in future releases. Since the two applications are designed to work together, I’d use the Photoshop Elements Organizer to manage media for both applications.
I think the Organizer within Premiere Elements is less robust than that in Photoshop Elements.
Anyway, back to Premiere Elements’ features: the Get Media pane makes it easy to pull media from a digital camera or camcorder, files or the Internet, and the packaged software also ships with a cheat card to help users hook up their media devices and get the media. Creating movies is pretty easy, implementing the drag-and-drop method found in Premiere CS3, iMovie and many other video applications. There’s also various themes, effects and transitions that make it easier to clean up and polish video, which I think is vital for consumer and prosumer users who don’t necessarily have camera costing multiple thousands of dollars. Along with the robust video tweaking, I wish Premiere Elements offered some sound editing and tweaking as well: I know from my experience that Soundbooth was vital for cleaning up the audio that came from my camcorder, the same as Premiere was vital for cleaning up the video. Premiere Elements has strong video features but audio is only lightly covered with an audio mixer/equalizer. Audio presets would be most helpful.
Premiere Elements’ effects have controls similar to those found in Premiere CS3.
Creating menus in Premiere Elements is a lot of fun! Click to enlarge.
Premiere Elements does a better job of creating menus than working with audio: 12 very good templates are available, and you can always pull images and media into your menu to customize it. Note that all menus must start with a template of some kind, so there’s no working from scratch the way you can with Encore CS3. For more consumer and prosumer video users this will work out just fine. Sharing video is also easy, with simple options from DVD burning to exporting for mobile phones to uploading video to YouTube.com or other Web sites. These features are easy to use and robust enough for most users, but I can see some users growing out of this very quickly. The disk-burning settings are adequate but relatively meager, and not well-explained. Photoshop Elements does a great job of making advanced features accessible for users who want them, but Premiere Elements could improve in this regard. The application is a bit younger so I expect it to be improved to Photoshop Elements’ level by the time it reaches version 6.
Integration between the two applications is good. In Premiere Elements, you can “freeze” a frame and send it to Photoshop Elements for tweaking or retouching. Unfortunately the two applications’ tools and features are foreign to the other: no “Photoshopping” video or anything like that (not that it’s really needed, thanks to Premiere Elements’ many effects). I think there’s some real opportunities for these two applications to work together more closely, but Premiere Elements is relatively new and it deserves time to grow its branches into Photoshop Elements. Anyone who wants to create both photography and video would love this bundle: the applications by themselves provide lots of value and power, and the integration they provide side-by-side offer some unique features.
One of the touted features of this new bundle is improved performance. I haven’t worked with the previous versions so I can’t compare the two, but I found performance with these two applications to be shaky sometimes. Photoshop Elements performed well, with no major speed issues though intensive tasks seemed to take some time to initialize (loading images in the Edit screen, generating photo book layouts). Premiere Elements performed markedly worse: stringing four large clips into a single video project took a good deal of time to process, and sometimes I wasn’t sure if the application was working on inserting a clip or frozen in some way. I got the task done but I had to wonder if my system was inadequate. For the record, I’m running a MacBook Pro with maximum RAM and processor speed, though I am also running these applications in a virtual Windows environment. I’m not sure if this is a factor in the performance hit, but Photoshop Elements works smoothly so I have to conclude Premiere Elements just had a tough time working with my large clips. Users shooting small video clips should not have a problem, but HD users or those shooting lots of footage may want to look at upgrading to Premiere CS3.
One more thing about the help pages: over the course of the review I learned the Help files that ship with the software are not as thorough as the online Help pages on Adobe.com. There were a few features I couldn’t find in the application’s Help pages that were found online. For reference, here’s the links to help for Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements.
Reviewing this bundle was a real joy, because I’m happy to see first-hand how easy and fun it can be for first-time photographers and videographers to make great work. I remember the thrills I got when I first got my hands on SuperPaint and Canvas, and I’m sure there will be some 15-year-olds who go on to be creative professionals because of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. At the same time, this bundle is just right for adults who are getting into photos and video for the first time, or who want to print their photos without going to Wal-Mart and convert some cherished home movies to DVD.
$149.99 bundled with Premiere Elements/$119.99 bundle upgrade
$149.99 bundled with Photoshop Elements/$119.99 bundle upgrade