REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements 7

Premiere Elements: Think “instant movie”


Premiere Elements Instant Movie

InstantMovie is easy to use in Premiere Elements and will basically put together decent movies with just a handful of clips.

Like Photoshop Elements, the new version of Premiere Elements is designed to make simple things simpler. The crown jewel of version 7 is InstantMovie, which utilizes new technology in order to reduce the moviemaking process into just a few steps. InstantMovie is powered by scripts developed by a professional video editor, which serve more or less as canned video themes. The “Fairytale” theme emphasizes pretty colors and calming panning while a theme like “Extreme Sports” uses quick cuts and a lot more motion. There are several other themes, such as “Family Memories,” “Comic Book,” “Secret Agent” and more.


Smart Tagging

Premiere Elements tags clips with Smart Tags, depending on what kind of shot it is. This helps Premiere Elements know how to put InstantMovies together.

InstantMovie technology uses the Smart Tags found in movie clips to select the best clips and edit them automatically with music, effects and transitions. There’s really no work required by the user, although everything is editable which is very important and not always easy to do with similar video software. It should be noted that Smart Tags are not the metadata tags users give to clips, but are automatically assigned by Premiere Elements based on analysis of clips’ audio, blurring, panning and camera shake, video quality and several more factors. These combine with InstantMovie to put the right clip in the right place at the right time.

Clips can also be searched according to their Smart Tags via a pull-down menu. I’m glad to see this happen because now users can target blurry clips, HD clips or other clips according to a variety of technical factors. Premiere Elements also allows for Smart Albums now, so clips can be dynamically compiled based on any user-define metadata, Smart Tags or criteria such as video format, resolution and frame rate.

Making background removal and soundtrack editing easier


Premiere Elements videomerge

Videomerge technology makes chroma key effects really easy. Click the image for a larger view.

It seems the rationale for upgrading both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements seems to be simply making things a little easier. I’m glad to see the ease of use with Videomerge, the technology behind chroma key effects in Premiere Elements, and soundtrack technology that adjusts music to fit your videos. Videomerge allows users to shoot subjects on any background—blue or green backgrounds are not required—and still achieve good automatic extraction for use on another background video. The application analyzes the subject video, chooses what the background color probably is, and then analyzes the rest of the video and removes the background as necessary. The process is sophisticated enough that it accommodates subtle changes in background color and texture, though I found you have to be careful with beige backgrounds (fleshtones are also somewhat beige) and backgrounds that are too similar to subject elements.


SmartSound

The SmartSound interface.

The soundtrack technology, powered by SmartSound, does its job extremely well. The SmartSound software is embedded in Premiere Elements, so using it requires accepting a license agreement and working with a dialog box, but basically all you have to do is figure out your video length, tell the software what music to use and for how long, and it takes care of the editing for you. Sound editing without the proper software can be a real hassle and it’s no good to simply cut music off, so this is a wonderful addition and it works well. I still think it can be improved: rather than require users to manually input the duration time, why not allow users to drag a sound clip onto the timeline and let the software figure out what to do automatically? Premiere Elements could have a preference to “resize the sound clip to fit” or just insert it as is.


AVCHD

Premiere Elements can now import video from AVCHD camcorders, which opens the consumer base up to those using some of the latest camcorders.

Photoshop.com: Great for consumers, good for professionals


Welcome screen

Both Elements applications show their Photoshop.com connection in the Welcome screen that opens upon startup.

Adobe’s new online photo/video service, Photoshop.com, is available for free to buyers of Photoshop Elements 7 or Premiere Elements 7. Photoshop.com is a new venture that responds to websites like Picasa, Flickr, YouTube and other “creative community” websites where users display their photos and video—now Elements users have a similar solution free with their purchase. Elements users receive the Basic level of Photoshop.com membership, which grants 2GB of online storage and does not expire. Upgrading to the Plus membership level requires a yearly subscription fee but offers anywhere access to photos and videos, tutorials, artwork, and effects, interactive sharing, and automatic online backup. Pricing is broken down according to storage space:

  • $49.99/year for 20GB
  • $69.99/year for 40GB
  • $129.99/year for 100GB

Photoshop.com includes an online organizer similar to the Organizer in Photoshop Elements, and the synergy between them is a major benefit of Photoshop.com. Users can synchronize images between both Organizers, which means you can keep a library of images both on your computer and online. If you delete an image at Photoshop.com that you decide to restore, it will still reside on your computer. Adobe’s press materials say the Organizers work exactly the same way, but there are some differences such as a missing online Keyword Tags panel and some cosmetic interface differences, but by and large they do feel the same.


Inspiration Pod

The Inspiration Pod can be found at the bottom of the interface for both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. The Inspiration Pod offers links to various tutorials found through Photoshop.com.

Tutorials are curiously unavailable through Photoshop.com, but they feed directly into Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements—you can access them through links at the bottom of the application windows or use the Inspiration Browser built into each app. I’m impressed with the quantity and quality of the tutorials: there are a lot listed in the Inspiration Browser, and they run the gamut from beginner to expert techniques. The only downside to the experience is the slow speed of the Inspiration Browser: it’s an Adobe AIR application pulling data from online, and it takes time to boot up and access the data.

All Photoshop.com users enjoy:

  • Automatic backup via synchronization—select which photos you wish to back up
  • Online access to files
  • The ability to upload photos from your Windows Mobile phone with the Photoshop.com Mobile app, currently in beta
  • Private photo/video galleries to share your creations


Inspiration Browser

The tutorials offered through Photoshop.com are fun and well-done, but pulling the data from online can be a slow process. Click the image for a larger view.

The synergy between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop.com is the best selling point for users to actually use their Photoshop.com accounts with their purchase of Photoshop/Premiere Elements, but users who already have a backup strategy, online storage space and places to show their work may not want to handle one more online photo storage/display solution. Photoshop.com does link with Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket and a few other photo websites, so maybe it would be the ideal “command center” for a coordinated online photo venture.

Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements
Adobe Systems
US$149.99 full/$119.99 upgrade/$179.99 including Photoshop.com Plus membership
Rating: 8/10 (Photoshop Elements), 9/10 (Premiere Elements)
Each application is also available individually for US$99.99 full or $139.99 including Photoshop.com Plus membership.