Review: Premiere Elements 7

One of the most successful consumer video editors out there is Adobe’s Premiere Elements. The new version, version 7, adds some interesting new features that help take editing time away from the user.

Installation on my Vista laptop was smooth like a butter, although it was somewhat long. Loading the application takes only 2-3 seconds which is pretty good for a full-featured video editor. The interface is largely the same as in the previous version (v4, there were no version 5 & 6). In my tests, performance was acceptable, especially for .m2t HDV files. I rate stability as so-so, as I had it crashing twice during some longer edits.

The most important new feature of Premiere Elements 7 (PE7) is its support for AVCHD. This feature was probably the driving force behind having a new Elements version in less than a year from the previous release. The vast majority of new camcorders are AVCHD-based and so far no Adobe product supported it, leaving a huge number of users disgrantled on forums everywhere online. AVCHD worked ok my PC with PE7, performance was acceptable on my CoreDuo laptop.

The second biggest feature is good chroma key support, that lets the editor make use of a “green” or “blue” screen. And of course, now there’s Blu-Ray burning. The rest of the exporting/rendering options haven’t changed since the previous version, with h.264/AAC being the prefered exporting way.

Other interesting new features include the usage of “templates” that lets the editor decide on special effects on videos rather than having the user edit each scene and add plugins manually. This feature is of course a recipe for disaster for advanced users, but it might prove useful and “acceptable” for complete newbies.

An interesting new usability feature is the SmartTag feature, that asks the user to tag clips based on certain technical elements: e.g. in focus, high quality, shaky etc. This way, the user can categorize clips via several ways in order to find clips faster if he/she has over 40-50 clips in the library.

Premiere Elements now supports SmartSound Quicktracks out of the box, a loop-based royalty-free soundtrack creation system. It comes with 14 music libraries. Speaking about audio though, there is no surround 5.1 support, only stereo.

Other things missing from the editor is 24p support editing (exporting in 24p is supported), a frame rate which is now found on many consumer cameras (although there was a hack for the previous version that added the feature), and proper visual effect customization. The current customization of these plugins is minimal and don’t allow for much flexibility.

Finally, Adobe recently unveiled their web service Photoshop Plus which allows users to upload photos and videos and share them with family. This sounds like a neat service, but with YouTube & FlickR around, I personally see little value there.

Premiere Elements is probably the second best consumer editor, with Sony Vegas Platinum 9 being the best with a somewhat large margin. However, while Vegas Platinum is very flexible and powerful, it comes with a steep learning curve. All this power doesn’t come for free. Premiere Elements is definitely easier to start with but sooner than later you might bump into (sometimes artificial) limitations, should you want to use your editing imagination in its full potential.

Rating: 7/10

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