Tag Archives: premiere

REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements 10

Elements 10 box

The Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements bundle version 10 has been on the market for several months now but I wanted to review the product and give my impressions of it. Ironically, it has been just a couple weeks since Adobe released the Adobe Creative Cloud, which delivers their Creative Suite applications via a subscription. This is pertinent to the Elements products because, out of all Adobe’s products, they probably have the highest hurdles to overcome in order to convince home users to upgrade.

Photoshop Elements 10

The most game-changing and impressive new feature in Photoshop Elements 10 is the Smart Brush and its variety of effects and pattern overlays. The Smart Brush is comparable to Photoshop’s Adjustment Brush, but instead of adjustments you can apply one of almost 100 artistic effects, filters, adjustments, patterns and color fills. These are applied with a mask based on where you brush with the Smart Brush.

Smart Brush

The Smart Brush does a good job detecting boundaries for masking, similar to the quality masks produced by Photoshop Touch (though not as good as ones you can create in Photoshop). The Smart Brush effects are layer-based, so you can revise your work in the Layers panel or just click on other effects in the drop-down menu to apply them. This is a feature that seems simple but has a lot of usefulness, especially if you enjoy creating fun and interesting images. Users who just want to color correct and polish up their family photos might want to browse the Portrait subset of Smart Brush effects but otherwise won’t have too much use for this feature. There are better tools for color correction, such as Levels and Curves.

Elements’ Organizer has become smarter in version 10 and offers a few new features based on detection algorithms. Duplicate Photo Search, for example, uses a simple algorithm to detect and warn users about duplicate images. The Visual Search algorithm—which is new to Mac users in version 10—is integral to the new Object Search feature, which runs Visual Search on selections of photos in order to detect and display photos with a common object like a building or animal. It does a remarkably good job but the results depend on the clarity of the photos it’s given. Typical tourist photos and photos with a clearly defined foreground are great candidates. There’s not much control over Object Search: you can refine your search to focus on color or shape just like Visual Search.

Visual Search

People Recognition, which has been in Elements Organizer for some time, is still your best option for facial recognition. Adobe has integrated Facebook data with People Recognition to enable users to tag photos with Facebook friends. I think this is a really smart use of Facebook’s API to make photo tagging more fun and less hassle. It’s particularly cool for users moving a lot of photos from Photoshop Elements 10 to Facebook albums.

Photoshop Elements 10 also has three new Guided Edits to steer users through complex effects:

  • Orton Effect provides a soft, dreamy look for portraits and glamour shots
  • Picture Stack will segment an image into individual layered images suitable for a collage
  • Depth of Field produces a bokeh-like blurring of image backgrounds
  • depth of field

    Guided Edits have been a part of Photoshop Elements for a few versions and with each upgrade they release a few new ones. These are fun to use and I am glad two of them are for more professional-looking images—bokeh is a professional term for basically what the Depth of Field edit provides. However, the new features are not groundbreaking. The same can be said for Photoshop Elements’ new “Text on a Path” features, which insert text on a path, shape edge or selection.

    Photoshop Elements 10 Plus hasn’t changed from earlier versions and still provides 20GB of storage—the regular product provides only 2GB—as well as some tutorials and the ability to share photos on iOS and Android devices. Other than the Smart Brush, most of Photoshop Elements 10’s new features are nips and tucks, extensions of existing features or additions that should have been in place already (such as the ability to save JPEG and PDF files).

    Premiere Elements 10

    Premiere Elements 10’s most exciting new feature is the Pan & Zoom Tool, which lets users put together movie clips based on photos and animated with pan and zoom implemented by a framed interface. To use the Pan & Zoom Tool, you use rectangular frames to define where the shot should focus, the duration of the pan/zoom and how long it should hold at each frame position. Animators and anyone who has dabbled with Flash, Edge or web animations will be familiar with the approach. I’m frankly surprised the Premiere Elements team would have considered an animation paradigm to build a video production feature, but it is intuitive and makes sense. I think the user interface might be a little clunky and it can be hard to revise frame durations after the fact, but it’s a powerful little tool as is and I think it’s a nice addition.

    Pan and Zoom

    The Pan & Zoom Tool might be the most exciting new feature in Premiere Elements 10 but the AutoTone & Vibrance effect might be the most useful. This effect applies high-quality color correction to clips and I know from my experience in color correction with Photoshop that quality color really makes both videos and images look their best. I think color correction is given less attention in home video production so AutoTone & Vibrance is sorely needed. And since the Elements Organizer integrates with Premiere Elements 10 now, the application uses a Project Bin to provide file management for projects.

    AutoTone

    AutoTone & Vibrance’s primary benefit is to punch up color saturation without making skin tones look excessive. I tried this effect on a few clips and generally the performance is very good—colors look snappy but faces and hair remain natural. The effect also makes the shadows darker and richer, which generally improves the contrast. To maximize what you get out of AutoTone & Vibrance, be sure to click Edit Effects after applying it, uncheck Auto under AutoTone and edit the settings manually. There are five settings: Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Black (shadows) and White (highlights). There’s also a single Vibrance slider to manage color saturation. These settings provide a simple but powerful way to color correct your clips.

    3 Way Color

    Adobe also added one more color correction effect: the Three-Way Color Corrector. Unfortunately, this effect is very complicated compared to the simple AutoTone & Vibrance effect. The Three-Way Color Corrector basically provides a large interface for changing the saturation and balance of highlights, shadows and midtones. You can use an eyedropper to set the balance or drag an anchor point on a color wheel in the effect settings. The results are effective but the user interface is complex, perhaps too complex for average users. The good news is the Three-Way Color Corrector encapsulates aspects of Curves and Levels, the two most important color correction procedures, which AutoTone & Vibrance does not do (that effect is more closely related to Camera Raw). However, I think the Three-Way Color Corrector can be made more efficient and easier to use.

    Premiere Elements 10 has been able to import AVCHD video since last version but now the application can also export and share movies in the native AVCHD format. You can also burn AVCHD footage to a DVD or Blu-ray disc for playback on a DVD or Blu-ray player. And one more note for Mac users: Premiere Elements 10 now includes the SmartSound feature which will let them add music to movie and dynamically adjust the length to match the movie length. This is a really nice feature I like to use, and I’m happy to see it now on the Mac.

    Users who like to post their movies on Facebook and YouTube will be happy to learn version 10 of the Elements Organizer has an interface for posting videos to both social media sites. The uploading process to YouTube is easy and clean but doesn’t leverage all of YouTube’s settings, such as tags. You also can set a video to be public or private (restricted to specific YouTube users) but not unlisted, which I think is more useful in several situations. The interface for sharing to Facebook is more robust but Facebook actually has fewer settings to manage anyway.

    Conclusion

    Adobe deserves praise for staying on top of the photo/video industry’s changes—their support of AVCHD and social media sharing are all important features that needed to be in this release. Both applications have received a worthy upgrade in version 10 but, as with many software upgrades, the necessity of upgrading depends on the user and I think the Photoshop/Premiere Elements 10 bundle has wide appeal but isn’t for everyone. I think many would make the switch just to work with AVCHD footage. Photoshop Elements 10 doesn’t have a new killer feature like Premiere Elements 10 has, but the Smart Brush is quite useful.

    Users should look at the upgrade price, look at their existing and future cameras and camcorders, and make the decision. Upgrading to version 10 offers a lot of new features—particularly for prosumers—but not everyone needs them.

    Photoshop Elements 10 / Premiere Elements 10
    Adobe Systems
    US $149.99 full, $119.99 upgrade
    Rating: 8/10
    Buy from Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9

psepre9-boxes

Adobe Systems announced today that Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 have been released and are immediately available at www.adobe.com, and will be available soon at retailers. The Elements applications are Adobe’s consumer photo and video editing applications and I’ve always been impressed by the amount of advanced features and also the clean organization of the tools and digital asset manager, the Organizer.

Photoshop Elements 9

pse9-photomerge

Content-Aware Fill is used to finish up panoramas and fill in the gaps caused by warped edges.

As with Photoshop Elements 8, Photoshop Elements 9 borrows the best technology from its professional counterpart, Photoshop CS5. The Spot Healing Brush has been enhanced with Content-Aware painting, which was a hit with the Photoshop community from the beginning. Content-Aware Fill has also been added to the Photomerge Panorama creator so the unavoidable gaps left by stitched photos can be filled in automatically. I thought this was a great way to make Content-Aware Fill even more useful.

pse9-healing

The Spot Healing Brush has been improved with Content-Aware technology.

Other additions to Photoshop Elements 9 include:

  • Five new guided edits including a Lomo effect, portrait retouching workflow, reflection builder and a step-by-step process for making foreground subjects “break the frame” of the photograph.
  • Photomerge Style Match, which applies the tone and color of one image to another. This reminds me of Photoshop’s Match Color feature.
  • The Photoshop Elements product manager tells me Facebook is now the number-one way to share photos online. Photoshop Elements integrates with Facebook and will resize and upload images, and also create albums.

There’s several more new features in the reviewer’s guide but I want to test them and report back in my full review.

pse9-edits

Five new “fun edits” help consumers create some cool effects without handling advanced tools. Layers are created during the guided edit process so users can dive deeper and tweak things with other tools.

pse9-reflect

Convincing reflections can be created with a new guided edit in Photoshop Elements 9.

pse9-popart

A new guided edit creates “pop art” out of your photos. My first graphics on the computer were colorized clip art in the pop art style, so I have a soft spot for this feature.

pse9-frame

Step-by-step directions help users “break the frame” and make three-dimensional pictures.

pse9-lomo

Lomo camera effects give images a saturated, vignetted look.

Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5 Review

I use both Premiere and After Effects for a few different projects specific to my web design and DVD work, such as producing graphics and video for websites or building DVDs of clients’ personal photos and videos. As such, my review won’t be as technical as true video professionals but I hope it will show some things that become easier in my work now that CS5 has been released.

prcs5-box

Premiere Pro CS5: Performance and data

Premiere Pro CS5 is a totally different beast than its predecessor, thanks to its new Mercury Playback Engine and a GPU designed to fully leverage it (see my NVIDIA sidebar below). The Mercury Playback Engine represents a redesigned playback engine for Premiere that’s designed to handle HD footage and even ultra-HD footage coming from the newest cameras on the pro market. I’ve not handled such material in my work but I do shoot HD video and it’s never been very easy to work with until now. Premiere Pro CS5 gives you a performance boost even without a GPU, but when paired with one playback is practically in real time and there’s no need to grab a cup of coffee when rendering a project at the end.

The other major advancement is Premiere Pro CS5’s embrace of metadata from other applications to create a tighter workflow. Adobe Story, an online service for pre-production scriptwriting, will produce metadata that marks up a Premiere project with shot lists and placeholders for footage to be capture with OnLocation CS5. The metadata also helps Adobe Media Encoder CS5 transcribe better speech for captioning and other uses and even remains in Encore CS5 so Encore-exported video is keyword-searchable.

All the metadata improvements above foster a tapeless workflow, where footage and story can go from the camera straight to the computer and then out to DVD or online video. Like many groundbreaking features, I think all this will be better in CS6 than CS5, where it remains an incomplete solution depending on your needs. The shot lists aren’t too detailed and working with the metadata requires actors and actresses to stick with their scripts. Speech Search is much improved from CS4, but it can be improved further too. Still, I really like the thought behind the new paradigm and the buzzword of the digital photography industry for years—”metadata”—now has a potentially strong application in the video industry.

There’s several small improvements to Premiere Pro CS5 as well:

  • Automatic scene detection is now available for HDV tapes.
  • You can import assets from DVDs.
  • Premiere can find and remove gaps between clips on demand.
  • You can drag a clip on the New Sequence button to create a new sequence that matches the clip’s attributes.
  • Adobe’s keyed application, Ultra, is now included with Premiere. Ultra has also been enhanced to better tackle uneven lighting and real-world imperfections during capture.

Premiere Pro CS4 users may not find Premiere Pro CS5 to be a compelling upgrade unless they are working with ultra-HD footage—perhaps from a RED camera, which Premiere handles very well—or are interested in a tapeless workflow. Those who have the funds to buy a GPU like NVIDIA’s Quadro FX 4800 for Mac along with Premiere Pro CS5 should consider the upgrade even more just for the extreme speed increase. But CS3 users who skipped the CS4 upgrade should definitely make the upgrade—things have changed since 2007.

Sidebar: NVIDIA’s Lightning-Fast New GPU for Mac

quadro-fx4800

Performance is always one of the “new features” in Adobe’s creative applications—with every upgrade it seems they find new ways to eke out faster functions, though they’re not always as fast as hoped. Premiere Pro CS5’s Mercury Playback Engine is yet another new feature focused on performance, but this one delivers: it’s the greatest performance improvement I’ve seen in any of Adobe’s products ever.

What makes it truly awesome is GPU acceleration, and to achieve that users will need a GPU—a graphics processing unit that replaces the weak video cards that usually ship with all computers. The Mercury engine is designed to work especially well with NVIDIA‘s CUDA technology, and I had the chance to test Premiere Pro CS5 with the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 for Mac. NVIDIA supplied me with some extremely impressive charts and graphs showing unbelievable improvements. Playback that Premiere could run only at quarter-speed ran at practically the full frame rate. A HD timeline exported to MPEG2 Blu-ray took 75% less time than with the software alone.

I also tested the Quadro FX 4800’s performance with a sample project of my own, and I was impressed again. I had roughly 80–85% speed improvements to encoding to Blu-ray and also to FLV from a HD project. The Blu-ray export took seven minutes with Premiere alone and one minute with the GPU enabled. The FLV export also took seven minutes without the GPU and one minute with it.

As impressive as that is, my HD project performed better yet when I tested the full resolution playback. The target frame rate was 23.98 and the display frame rate was 23.00. Without the NVIDIA GPU, Premiere achieved only a 7.67 display frame rate and dropped 1,029 frames. The GPU restored the performance to 100%, achieving a 23.67 display frame rate and dropping zero frames. I don’t know how the GPU was able to score such a high display rate, but that’s what Premiere’s statistics reported.

What does this mean for everyday users? First, if you work with HD or other intensive formats like RED 2K or 4K, you will want to make the most of the Mercury Playback Engine. This engine is designed to handle the high-definition and ultra-high-definition video being produced today. Second, I learned that no one can really get by with the stock video cards anymore. I run a new Mac Pro and figured my video testing would perform well with or without the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800, but the card Apple put into my machine was really a sorry excuse for the GPU. I think the GPU might be as important or more important for video producers than the machine itself. I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Quadro FX 4800 for Mac users serious about getting the most out of Premiere Pro CS5. Without it, Premiere Pro CS5 is half the upgrade it could be.

aecs5-box

After Effects CS5: Remastered for HD and ultra HD

Like Premiere, After Effects has made HD and ultra-HD video a primary focus in CS5. There’s no rewritten playback engine like what Premiere Pro CS5 has, but After Effects CS5 is now a 64-bit application and thus takes advantage of large amounts of RAM. RAM previews now run very smoothly, and I rarely have trouble with them anymore. I don’t work with ultra-HD footage so those users may still pine for a better solution, but for the average user working with a HD camcorder After Effects CS5 will work much more beautifully.

After Effects CS4 users received mocha for free, and at the time I said it alone made the CS4 upgrade more valuable because of its motion tracking abilities. mocha was really just an add-on to CS4, but now it’s updated with handling of hand-drawn masks and feathered masks with variable widths. The result is a more natural mask that can handle camera movement and more complex composites. mocha also works better with After Effects CS5 and now shares its motion blur data, making it possible to recreate the same motion blur with other elements in After Effects.

I was introduced to After Effects through my work with Flash, which at the time used a fundamentally different timeline. I still grapple with After Effects’ timeline sometimes, especially with the notion of creating keyframes manually all the time. After Effects CS5 offers an Auto-keyframe mode that will create keyframes whenever major parameters are changed (including position, rotation, mask properties and camera changes among others). The only thing I wish is that Auto-keyframing could be turned on by default on all compositions, but if you click the button in the Timeline panel you’ll be set for the entire project.

My favorite new feature in After Effects CS5 is the Roto Brush, which will automatically rotoscope objects from their backgrounds. I’m an old Photoshop user so to me it functions somewhat like that app’s Quick Selection tool. To use the Roto Brush, draw a stroke on the foreground object to keep it or the background to mask it out, and After Effects detects the object’s edges and modifies it with each frame. The end results always seem to come out wonderfully and After Effects even compensates for motion blur, background color in transparent foreground edges, and edge chatter across frames. After Effects’ paint tools provide any final touches to the mask.

And now some key features that I also like in After Effects CS5:

  • If you work with some high-end Panasonic or RED cameras, After Effects CS5 natively supports the AVC-Intra 50 and AVC-Intra 100 codecs, plus R3D files of various permutations.
  • You can align layers to a composition’s boundaries for a better layout.
  • Photoshop adjustment layers are supported in After Effects CS5 and can be applied to any After Effects layer. Other Photoshop features, including Repoussé 3D elements, are supported.
  • You can color-code panel tabs with colors from the composition, footage or layer’s label.
  • A new Refine Matte effect will apply the Roto Brush’s superior edge tracking to alpha channels, making cleaner keyed footage and masked elements.
  • If you like to script, After Effects CS5 has added some parameters to access motion blur, text tracking and per-character auto-orientation.
  • The Color Finesse plug-in has been upgraded to version 3 and includes new hue/sat curves, vibrance control and a highlight recovery tool designed for high dynamic ranges.
  • Another plug-in included in After Effects—for the first time—is FreeForm by Digieffects. FreeForm produces some nice 3D effects such as bent and warped layers and distorted text. I keep saying Adobe needs to produce a 3D application, but for now they seem content to add 3D tools to After Effects and Photoshop.

After Effects CS5 seems like a less necessary upgrade than Premiere Pro CS5, but that’s probably because After Effects doesn’t have a game-changer like Premiere does with its new Mercury playback engine. Still, the Roto Brush is a beautiful improvement that will change the way users rotoscope in After Effects and the 64-bit rewrite makes the application more powerful. All its other small improvements make After Effects CS5 a smart upgrade for particular users who need its specific features or hardcore users who can’t say no to an upgrade.

Premiere Pro CS5
Adobe Systems
US$
Rating: 9/10

After Effects CS5
Adobe Systems
US$
Rating: 8/10

Photoshop/Premiere Elements 8: New technologies, same ease of use

pepe_8_boxshot_3in

Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 are interesting upgrades because some cutting-edge technology from the professional-grade Creative Suite 4 (CS4) has migrated to the Elements consumer lineup. CS4 users like myself who have used this new technology for a year now know that consumers will be excited about the new features because they represent the most jaw-dropping advances found in CS4.

The first basic difference previous users will notice is a change in the interface: Elements 8 applications now use the same panel-based system in CS4. This includes the tabs, buttons and double arrows familiar to CS4 users. This interface was met with some debate a year or two ago but I think people have become used to the interface and I don’t hear any complaints about it. Perhaps this is because it’s easy to maintain the same palette layouts longtime users are used to (including myself). Elements users should feel pretty comfortable with the new interface, though it does function differently.

Auto-Analyzer and People Recognition

One of the major additions to Elements 8 is the Auto-Analyzer, an automatic tagging and rating system that analyzes images upon import. Metadata handling and tagging is probably the most tiresome aspect of digital asset management and professional workflows for products like Photoshop Lightroom have always assumed photographers would be looking at every photo, rating or flagging every one. The Auto-Analyzer and the “Smart Tags” it adds to images is designed to do all this automatically.

pse8-analyzer

I think the Auto-Analyzer works very well: imported images are given quite a few tags and the keyword make sense most of the time. If anything, the Auto-Analyzer can add too many tags to an image, even ones that are debatable. But the Auto-Analyzer generally gave appropriate tags to almost all images and made it very easy for me to separate good and bad photos. When used in tandem with other keyword tags, the Smart Tags helped me find good photos for specific subjects very quickly.

pse8-tagcloud

Quick Tip: It’s easy to miss the Keyword Tag Cloud feature, new to the Keyword Tags panel in the Organizer. An image’s tag cloud can help you differentiate between an image’s major tags and minor tags.

The Find Faces feature in the Elements 7 Organizer has been replaced with a People Recognition feature in Elements 8. Find Faces was simple and easy face recognition but People Recognition is smarter: it finds more faces and it also tags names to images in a more intuitive way. This is done by asking the user who people are—the more people the user confirms, the smarter People Recognition gets and the more images are tagged automatically by the Organizer. It’s an improvement over Find Faces and the “Who’s this?” questions don’t get annoying, but I find that People Recognition can be easily thrown off by a variety of things such as changes in headwear, photo angles, stuff on the lens (like water droplets) and others. The Organizer recognized many more people in still portraits and not many at all in candids and active shots.

pse8-peoplerecog

Quick Fix is surprisingly helpful

pse8-quickfix

I say “surprisingly” because I’m an experienced professional so I am used to seeing sliders labeled “Vibrance” or “Midtone Contrast,” but I still fiddle with sliders often because I’m unsure what modifications a slider will produce. Enter the Quick Fix previews, a set of nine icons that appear below a slider to show potential results (very similar to Variations in Photoshop). Sliders in Photoshop Elements 8 now have an icon beside them that reveal the Quick Fix previews. Click a preview and the modification is applied to the image. You can also click and drag within a specific preview to tweak its settings. This is a great consumer addition, and also helpful for professionals. Photoshop Lightroom could benefit from a similar preview feature.

Stealing from CS4, Part 1: Photomerge Exposure

I believe it was Picasso who said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” and I have no quarrel with products that borrow great features from other products. Photoshop Elements 8 has borrowed two great features from Photoshop CS4, both of which were exciting when released over a year ago and still excite CS4 users.

pse8-exposure

The first is Photomerge Exposure, which borrows technology from Photoshop CS3 and CS4’s Auto-Blend Layers feature. The original feature was designed to composite images with different depths of field but Photomerge Exposure uses it to automatically composite images with different exposures. The user marks the foreground object with the Pencil Tool; Photomerge Exposure transfers it to the image with the good background. The result avoids the poorly exposed images that are hard to avoid at night or in odd lighting situations.

Stealing from CS4, Part 2: Recompose

pse8-recompose

Photoshop Elements 8 offers Recompose, which Photoshop CS4 users will immediately recognize as Content-Aware Scaling. Content-Aware Scaling predicts which objects belong in an image’s foreground and manipulates the background for seamless stretching and resizing. The end result is magical. Recompose uses the same technology and even offers a couple improvements:

  • Protect and Remove brushes help fine-tune the Recompose process: paint over objects you want to keep or lose and Recompose will get a better result. This gives Elements users the added ability to remove people or objects during the process.
  • Select a print size from the Preset pull-down menu and Recompose will make the image the proper size, removing and protecting pixels where needed. This feature makes Recompose even smarter.

pse8-protect

The only downside to Recompose is its interface, which you have to use in order to apply Recompose to an image. I’m not used to it because Content-Aware Scaling in Photoshop CS4 doesn’t have one—it’s built into the general editing interface. However, Photoshop Elements has always been designed around multiple interfaces for things like this so I’m not surprised, and regular users of Photoshop Elements will only be blown away by Recompose.

Premiere Elements now integrated with Organizer

In the past, the Organizer was exclusive to Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements had a different organization tool built into the application. Adobe has moved away from that arrangement and Premiere Elements 8 now shares the same Organizer as Photoshop Elements 8. I think this is the right approach and now Premiere Elements users can organize assets, auto-analyze clips and more. The Organizer can also do a few nice tricks with video clips, such as full-screen previewing with sound and transition options for quick and dirty slideshows. It didn’t make much sense for Premiere Elements not to share the Organizer with its still-image counterpart, so I approve of this change.

Making things easy with Online Albums

pre8-album

The Premiere Elements team really focused on making things easy and “smart” in version 8. One of the new features designed to make things easy is Online Albums, basically online templates for building simple video albums. They’re easy to produce and the album designs remind me of iMovie’s album designs. There are a lot of designs to choose from (and more on the way for Plus members) and in the usual categories (fun, family, travel and more) but while iMovie merely makes designs difficult to modify it seems Online Albums can’t be customized at all. Users select their images or videos, select an Online Album and then publish to FTP, hard drive or a couple other options. It always surprises me how users almost always want to use canned designs like this but then modify the heck out of it, so I am disappointed Online Albums have no customization options.

A suite of “Smart” adjustments

Premiere Elements has gone “Smart,” introducing three adjustment features with the “Smart” moniker and one, motion tracking, that could have been. These four new features are designed to “make video editing less work” for customers.

  • pre8-smartfix

    SmartFix is basically an automatic exposure and camera shake adjustment tool. Premiere Elements will change brightness and contrast levels in a clip for optimum exposure, highlights and shadows, and it will also reduce camera movement. Exposure adjustment is often hard to pull off realistically so I found that SmartFix worked well for minor cleanup of video clips or to increase contrast, but caused some unwanted effects when handling very underexposed or overexposed clips. These effects included murky or shifted colors, plugged shadows and other problems. I think SmartFix does as good a job as it can but it shouldn’t be counted on to save bad clips.

  • pre8-smarttrim

    Smart Trim is a very convenient tool for trimming boring or poorly shot segments of a clip, or trimming to fit a specific duration. Thanks to the new Organizer and its Auto-Analyzer, Smart Trim can use the clip’s Smart Tags to decide what to cut and what to keep. The result is a more interesting video, and it does a really good job. I like to use Smart Trim to cut clips to a specific duration. Smart Trim also handles fade transitions around each cut so the automatic trimming is seamless.

  • pre8-smartmix

    SmartMix maintains a healthy volume when sound and video tracks play together. This is probably the easiest of the “Smart” tools to apply: Audio Tools > SmartMix > Apply will take care of it, and it does a great job of reducing the audio clip volume so it doesn’t drown out audio brought in with the video clip. There’s also a SmartMix Options window for fine-tuning the results, but I didn’t need to really use it to get a good result.

  • pre8-motiontrack

    Motion tracking should have been named “SmartMotion” or “SmartTrack,” because it’s another new feature that automatically analyzes and applies effects to your video clips. In this case, motion tracking finds movement in a video clip, defines the moving object and then will track another object to the same motion path for synchronized motion. Premiere Elements 8 has new libraries of clip art that make this easy but I prefer to add color keyed video that has had its background removed. In any case, it works well and it’s a very exciting addition for consumers. As with Photoshop Elements 8, Premiere Elements 8 has outdone itself in terms of the intelligence and jaw-dropping effects of its new features.

Now synchronize content across multiple computers

The Elements Organizer has had a backup/sync feature that takes advantage of the 2GB of space offered for free with Photoshop.com membership, included with Elements 8. 2GB isn’t much space anymore but it can be helpful and it can be upgraded to Plus, which provides 20GB.

pre8-sync

With Elements 8, backups can now sync across multiple computers—this is handy for multi-computer families and users with multiple computers such as a laptop and a tower. There’s also a new Backup/Sync icon at the bottom of the Organizer. It’s at the bottom of the interface and not very visible, but it gives access to all the backup and synchronization preferences, allows manual syncing and resolves conflicts manually among other things. Handling backups is one of the major pain points of consumers, who don’t often see the need for backups until personal photos are lost for whatever reason. Any tool that helps make backups easier and personal photos safer is a major benefit.

Pricing and conclusion

The cost of Elements has remained the same:

Standalone products (Photoshop Elements 8 or Premiere Elements 8)

  • $99.99 full
  • $139.99 full, includes Plus

Bundled product (Windows only)

  • $149.99 full
  • $179.99 full, includes Plus

There are also some holiday deals coming soon, see below!

Black Friday (Nov 23-30)

Holiday – North America (Dec 7-21)

There aren’t a whole lot of new features for either application, but what’s been added are major advances in organization and in ease of use for consumers. In particular, cutting-edge technology that Adobe has acquired or developed is now paying off for Elements users as much as CS4 users—Recompose and the “Smart” tools in Premiere Elements 8 are prime examples.

Some of the new technology, such as People Recognition and SmartFix, are solid but not foolproof, and I’m not sure they can ever be foolproof. I do think they can and should be improved in the next release. But both Elements applications are excellent consumer choices and a good value for the money.

Photoshop Elements 8
Adobe Systems
Rating: 9/10

Premiere Elements 8 (Windows)
Adobe Systems
Rating: 9/10

Photoshop/Premiere Elements 8 Bundle (Windows)
Adobe Systems
Rating: 9/10

Welcome, Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8

ele8-boxshots

Today Adobe announces the upcoming release of Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8, available now at www.adobe.com (Windows only—Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac will be available in October 2009). I enjoyed working with the previous version of both applications (you can see my review of Elements 7 here) but version 8 looks like it might be an awesome upgrade. I’m also very happy to report that Mac users no longer need to wait to upgrade Photoshop Elements: Adobe has fast-tracked development of the Mac version and it will now be released almost at the same time as its Windows equivalent!

Adobe’s strategy

I haven’t seen the actual software yet—this article is not a review—but I did see a demo by Adobe’s Bob Gager and Mike Iampietro. I was able to cull some of Adobe’s strategy from their presentation and comments:

  • Adobe’s consumer division, which controls the Elements product line, makes it clear their mission is to empower customers to “tell their stories.” The Elements products are therefore designed for personal media, such as photo collections and home videos.
  • Bob mentioned they are looking with version 8 to strike a balance between ease of use and “headroom,” allowing users to get creative and produce more “wow” moments.
  • Bob also said, “Intelligence enables ease of use.” This is reflected by the integration of some smart technologies we’ve seen in other products in the past year, such as Content-Aware Scaling (Photoshop CS4) and face recognition (iPhoto ’09).
  • Mike, who presented on Premiere Elements 8, said their objective was to “make video editing less work” for consumers. The development team’s focus on “smart” editing tools makes this obvious, and in fact such tools comprise the bulk of the improvements in version 8.

Photoshop Elements 8: Leveraging new technology

It looks like Photoshop Elements 8 is using new technologies to add new features that will make consumers ooh and ha. One is the Auto-Analyzer, which will add Smart Tags to photos upon import so you don’t have to manually tag photos. Another is People Recognition: the Organizer can recognize photos of faces and will ferret out other photos of the same people. It works best when the user can devote a little time telling the Organizer what it gets right and wrong, but after looking at a couple batches the Organizer gets uncannily good at finding people, even in older photos. The other thing I notice in my reviewer’s guide is a new keyword tag cloud feature, which will be appealing to users of services like Flickr, who have had tag clouds for some time. Click here to download a demo of the Elements Organizer (Flash video).

It’s important to note that Mac users will get Bridge CS4 instead of the Organizer. Bridge is a good file management application with some features above and beyond the Organizer, but I’m actually a fan of the latter with its leanness and ease of use, and Mac users don’t get any of the cool new features in the Elements Organizer.

ele8-exposure

There are a few new editing features, most of which look very exciting for consumers:

  • Quick Fix previews have been added to the Quick Edit controls. Clicking on the icon beside each control will bring up a 3×3 matrix showing what the control can do. This addition is based on user testing that showed users were far less likely to use a control if they didn’t know right away what it would do. Photoshop users will recognize it as a variant of the Variations command.
  • Photomerge Exposure (see the image above) lets users combine photos with different exposure levels. This is ideal if you have two photos of the same subject but with different exposures, and you want to use the foreground of one and background of another. It’s similar to HDR but is designed to be more functional and less artistic. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).
  • The Recompose tool (see the image below) is basically Photoshop CS4’s jaw-dropping Content-Aware Scaling, but does have a couple improvements including size presets and brushes to protect or remove objects during scaling. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).

ele8-recompose

I’m really looking forward to reviewing Photoshop Elements 8, and I expect consumers will really get a thrill out of the new features. Professional users have had these tools for awhile now but the consumer market is quite different (though they are converging). It stands to reason that their software would as well.

Premiere Elements 8: Everything’s “Smart”

ele8-smarttags

There are two big news items for Premiere Elements 8: it now uses the same Organizer (now dubbed the “Elements Organizer”, see the image above) as Photoshop Elements 8, and there’s a suite of “Smart” features designed to make video editing easier. Premiere Elements 8 sports all the new Organizer features such as the Auto-Analyzer and People Recognition, and I noticed during the demo that you can apply tags to video at specific points in the clip.

The “Smart” features analyze your clips and apply global adjustments or trims them as needed. It’s unclear whether these are non-destructive edits or not—I will learn more after I look at the software. For now we don’t have a whole lot more than the descriptions of the Smart features:

    ele8-smartfix

  • SmartFix, which will correct light or dark video.
  • ele8-smarttrim

  • SmartTrim, which can automatically detect bad video or segments with no action and suggest what to trim out. This feature can be used to simply improve a video or to trim to a specific duration. Click here to download the demo (Flash video).
  • SmartMix analyzes the sound in a video project and makes sure speech isn’t drowned out by noise or music.

ele8-motiontrack

The last feature that was demoed was motion tracking: Premiere Elements can define and track a moving object in video, and align and move graphics, text or effects with that object. Premiere Elements 8 also comes with a library of artwork, and in the demo a bird from the library was linked to a girl skating across the stage (see the image above. Motion tracking allowed the bird to follow the girl’s motion path. Out of all the new features shown in the demo, motion tracking was the most exciting! Click here to download the demo (Flash video).

And Plus…

In version 7, Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements came with a basic Photoshop.com membership and 2GB of online photo/video storage, upgradeable to Photoshop.com Plus membership. It’s still available but it’s now called Photoshop (or Premiere) Elements 8 Plus. There’s a yearly fee to upgrade to Plus and with it you’ll get:

  • 20GB of storage instead of 2GB
  • Access to seasonal artwork, templates, movie themes, special effects and more, delivered to the applications
  • Tutorials for photo and movie projects

Pricing and Availability

The pricing looks like it will not change from the previous version:

  • Standalone products (Photoshop Elements 8 [Mac or Windows] or Premiere Elements 8 [Windows only])
    • $99.99 full
    • $79.99 with mail-in rebate
    • $139.99 full, includes Plus
    • $119.99 with mail-in rebate, includes Plus
  • Bundled product (Windows only), available only at Adobe.com
    • $149.99 full
    • $119.99 with mail-in rebate
    • $179.99 full, includes Plus
    • $149.99 with mail-in rebate, includes Plus
  • Plus membership alone is $49.99/year.

Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 for Windows are available today, but the Mac version of Photoshop Elements 8 will be available next month. Both products will be available soon at retail outlets such as Amazon.com, Apple (Mac only), Costco.com (Windows only), Best Buy, Office Depot and OfficeMax.

Stay tuned for the review!