The newest update to Photoshop Elements 4.0 is just a bunny hop forward from the previous iteration. Adobe really sweetens the deal, however, by bundling the home-user edition of Photoshop with the home-user version of Premiere—Premiere Elements 2.0.
Don’t take that to mean that Photoshop Elements doesn’t get any worthwhile new features; there are quite a few, including some that had even our designers’ mouths watering. But the more noteworthy update is to Premiere Elements. While Premiere Elements 1.0 was a decent 1.0 version, it was a rough product.
The most noticeable change to version 2.0 of Premiere Elements is the removal of the surfeit of palettes that Adobe normally buries you under. With Premiere Elements 2.0, as you grow or shrink particular palettes, the other palettes adjust accordingly. It’s a nice touch that we’d like to see in other Adobe products.
Premiere Elements 2.0 also now lets you create your own DVD menu templates. You can set your background video or image and customize text but, sadly, button editing is verboten, as are edits to the graphical overlays used for the templates. The templates themselves, however, are quite polished and exhibit none of the general cheesiness you find in competing products. The titling capability of the program is also enhanced and the stock of included Adobe fonts is pretty spectacular.
The real gem of Premiere Elements 2.0 is its performance. Because it’s based on Adobe’s pro-level Premiere Pro 1.5 engine, Premiere Elements sings—just sings—with today’s hardware. If you’re running a dual-processor or dual-core machine, Premiere Elements’ multithreaded engine chews through video in a way that will make any hardware-head giggle with joy. Several of the video transactions are rendered on the GPU as well, for additional speed.
Rev 2 also allows you to import video using High Speed USB with cameras that support the interface (FireWire is also supported), and the app can encode audio to the space-saving Dolby Digital 2.0 codec instead of using uncompressed PCM audio. Adobe also catches up to the competition by letting you import VOB files for editing. The VOBs must be unencrypted, though—so you won’t be able to edit Sophia Copola out of The Godfather III, but you can re-import your movies once you’ve burned them to DVD.
With Photoshop Elements, Adobe mostly polishes the award-winning image-editing app. You still get a good taste of Photoshop without any of the pro-oriented pre-press stuff. The most notable changes are the skin-tone tool that lets you easily tweak skin tone in images, and the Magic Extractor. Every old Photoshop-hand knows what a daunting task it can be to clip images from photos; with the Magic Extractor, you easily separate your cat, kid, or car from the background. A similar tool called Magic Selection Brush lets you easily select objects. Both tools are far from perfect, but even if you think the Magic Lasso should be used exclusively by Wonder Woman, you’ll be able to clip and edit like a Photoshop pro.
Where Photoshop Elements 4.0 is lacking is in performance. Next to its multithreaded sibling, we found ourselves waiting an inordinate amount of time for Magic Extractor to complete. Admittedly our test clip is complex, but we were testing on a machine with four CPU cores and 4GB of RAM. Uninspiring performance doesn’t outweigh the positives of the program, but after coming off a hardware high from Premiere Elements 2.0, the lack of any real multithreading was a bummer.
Purchased separately, the apps would total $200, but as a bundle you get both for $150. That might still seem like a lot, but between the pair, you’ll be able to handle 95 percent of the image and movie chores you’ll ever be tasked with.
Month Reviewed: March 2006
+ 8MM: Dual-core and GPU support in Premiere Elements.
- VHS: Adobe Photo Downloader can be quite annoying.