Once upon a time, only the fastest computers--and the wealthy Mac users who owned them--could afford to edit video on their machines. The rest of us had to do manual edits with two VCRs and twitchy fingers on the pause button. Those were dark times indeed. Fast-forward a decade, and there are more video-editing programs than you can shake a Media 100 at. Adobe’s Premiere Elements is aimed at advanced consumers looking to elevate their edits beyond iMovie’s capabilities, borrowing some firepower from more advanced editors.
Positioning itself in the sweet spot between iMovie and Final Cut Express, the application lets you edit in Timeline mode as well as in Sceneline mode if you’re not quite comfortable with a pro timeline. iMovie users are accustomed to sceneline, which represents the video or audio clip as an icon. Editing happens in the preview window alone, while timeline editing allows you to edit both in the preview window and on the timeline itself, a technique used by pro-level editing apps. If you’re moving from iMovie and you want to expand your editing chops, Premiere Elements allows you to switch on the fly between Timeline and Sceneline modes. That gives you the ability to take baby steps toward video-editing godhood.
Once in Timeline mode, you’ll find all the major features you need to cut your video. Adobe introduces a Smart Trim mode to help users find bad footage to scrap. In our tests, it easily found scenes with shaky camera work and abrupt exposure changes, such as when you’re switching from one subject to another. Problem footage is highlighted blue and can be trimmed with a simple right-click.
As far as tools go, Premiere Elements offers a selection tool and a bunch of mode tools. Simple edits, like splitting a clip, are easily accessible in the menu bar, but we do miss a real toolbar in Timeline mode. Instead of quickly splicing clips with a tool, you’re placing the playhead on the clip you want to split and hitting a quick key or heading up to the menu bar and wasting time.
Transitions and effects are a simple drag-and-drop affair. Selecting a track with an effect, navigating to the Edit tab and selecting Edit Effects brings up precise editing options for said effect. The options rival those found in After Effects, Adobe’s high-end motion graphics software. From timing options to granular control of lighting effects, it’s that extra bit of control that really impressed us in Elements.
The Share tab is straightforward, offering options to export to DVD, Blu-ray, YouTube, and more. And since DVD authoring happens in-app, you won’t even need to juggle multiple applications to burn a disc for grandma of your vacation to the Grand Canyon.
Premiere Elements offers compelling features at a great price. We wish the toolbar was more robust, but the amount of control users have with video is impressive, and the bundled Organizer application is helpful for those of us who failed Organization 101.
Premiere Elements 9
REQUIREMENTS: Intel processor, Mac OS 10.5.8 or later
Great value. Impressive control over effects. Perfect for iMovie users looking to step up.
Toolbar is meh. Some of the themes won't win any design awards.