Our love affair with Premiere Elements is just about over
Get Robert Stack on the phone! In what could be the greatest tech unsolved mystery since the disappearance of Intel’s Tejas, someone has kidnapped Premiere Elements 5.0 and 6.0!
Just kidding. There’s no crime here unless you believe that it’s flat-out wrong for Adobe to jump from version 4.0 to version 7.0 just to ensure that Premiere Elements matches version numbers with Photoshop Elements 7.0.
One thing we hoped for that’s definitely not present: three full upgrades’ worth of new features and improvements. Adobe continues to use its dumbed-down interface, which we initially viewed with disgust. Oddly enough, the more we’ve used it, the more forgiving we’ve become; we’ve grown quite fond of the newb-friendly front end, despite the fact that it’s basically unchanged. The menus and titling in the consumer video editor continue to be top-notch, as well.
Changes to the program include AVCHD editing support, which we welcome, and the addition of wizard-like features, some good, some so-so. InstantMovie, for example, allows you to easily turn a bunch of clips into a movie, parsing the best clips and adding transitions and effects for you automatically. Similar features have been a big disappointment to us in the past and InstantMovie isn’t a noticeable improvement. The pain of being forced to watch someone else’s home video isn’t lessened just because it’s automatically dressed up with transitions, filters, and a soundtrack. On the other hand, SmartSound makes creating soundtracks a snap. It includes some free music, or you can add your own MP3s to create copyright-violating home movies. Our favorite wizard is the SmartTags feature, which mitigates the tedium of organizing your clips. After you import clips, it scans them for close-ups, crowds, small groups, blurry images, shaky shots, and even focus problems. It’s not perfect and it lacks actual facial recognition, but it does help if you have a lot of footage to wade through.
Our biggest problem with Premiere Elements is that it suffers a host of problems (both minor and major). The first glitch occurred when we were trying to capture HDV footage via FireWire from a Canon HV10. The app’s preview screen would simply stop showing the preview footage. The content would capture, but we could not watch it as it was captured. OK, not a show stopper. More serious was our inability to burn more than one hour of HD footage to a Blu-ray disc. The app would either hang or reboot Windows Vista 64-bit. And it’s not like we didn’t bring enough firepower. We tested using this month’s Gateway FX6800 (page 76), which was equipped with a 2.93GHz Core i7-940, Radeon HD 4870 X2, and 6GB of RAM. We checked online and others have reported problems getting lengthy high-def video to Blu-ray disc, as well. Only by tweaking OS settings were others able to complete their projects. For the record, we had no problems burning the same project at DVD resolution.
When we contacted Adobe, our rep initially said the app is limited to burning roughly an hour of high-def resolution video. Adobe then later claimed to successfully burn two hours of high-def with no problems. So what’s the truth? All we know is that our project burned when we edited it to 17 minutes but choked at 59 minutes. As Madden says, “Boom!”
As a sanity check, we loaded Cyberlink’s PowerDirector 7 on the same box, took the MPEG-2 HDV files and encoded and wrote a one hour, 15 minute Blu-ray disc without a hitch.
Our other issues with Premiere Elements go back to the roots of the program. Since it’s based on the DNA of Premiere Pro, its main purpose is to make videos from traditional DV, HDV, or AVCHD cams. Try to feed it weird exotic video codecs and it chokes. The program, for example, can’t do something as basic as handling MS-DVR files, which can be created by almost any Vista PC with a TV tuner. Given people’s growing interest in consuming, editing, and “mashing up” video from dozens of sources, developers with stronger codec portfolios, such as Corel and Ulead, will likely win out.
With sub-par codec support and problems burning to Blu-ray discs, it’s pretty hard to recommend Premiere Elements 7.0. Maybe version 11.0 will be better.
Premiere Elements 7.0
Top-notch menus and titling; SmartTags and SmartSound features.
Problems burning to Blu-ray; subpar encoding performance.