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Easier Editing: Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
and Photoshop Elements 5.0 (12/2006)
by Douglas Dixon
Timeline to Sceneline
Direct Editing in the Monitor Window
Import and Capture
Exporting to Portable Devices
Integration with Photoshop Elements
See also: Summary: Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0
More power! But also easier to use. More formats and more
devices! And yet drag-and-drop simplicity. It's a tough challenge for the
developers of consumer-oriented video editing software. We want to import from
any camcorder, edit with ease and sophistication, share to any portable device,
and burn nice-looking DVDs -- and not have to spend any time fussing and
learning about the software.
The result of this demand has been two types of video
for the $49 - $99 consumer market: consumer-only editors like Pinnacle Studio,
Roxio VideoWave, and Ulead VideoStudio; and consumer-focused
derivatives of professional tools like Adobe Premiere Elements and Sony
Vegas Movie Studio. The siblings of the pro tools offer a better growth path
to more sophistication as you gain experience, but can be more confusing because
of their higher-end legacy. Yet while the consumer-only applications are
designed for getting started quickly, they can become limiting as you get more
The latest evolution in this trend is Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0, announced in September 2006 (www.adobe.com/products/premiereel).
In this release, Premiere Elements still keeps much of the underlying power of
Adobe's professional Premiere Pro product, but further simplifies the editing
experience by adopting more features from traditional consumer-only editing,
including Sceneline (storyboard) layout and direct editing in the Monitor
Adobe has been working hard to evolve Premiere Elements as
the consumer version of its flagship Premiere Pro editing tool by simplifying
the editing experience. The resulting innovations have even flowed back into its
higher-end products. For example, after the previous release of Premiere
Elements 2.0 and Photoshop Elements 4.0 in September 2005, Adobe's pro tools now
use the paneled interface design which automatically adjusts neighboring windows
as you resize the display, and Premiere Pro now includes built-in DVD export
with menu templates and customization.
The new versions, Premiere
Elements 3.0 and Photoshop Elements
5.0, became available in October 2006 for US $99.99 each, or bundled
together for $149.99.
Let's take a quick preview of some of the new innovations
in the new Premiere Elements.
The most obvious
new feature in Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 is the addition of a storyboard
editing mode to compliment the traditional timeline editing from pro tools. The
Timeline editing view provides up to 99 parallel tracks so you can precisely
adjust the timing of video and audio, text and video overlays, background audio
and narration, transitions and effects.
The new Sceneline
View lets you focus on assembling your story by laying out a sequence of clips,
much as we are used to with photo editors and for slideshows. As with other
consumer-focused editors, you can drag and drop to add clips from the Media
panel, rearrange clip thumbnails in the Sceneline, add transitions between clips
from the Transitions and Effects panel, and apply effects directly to clips. As
you click on different elements in the Sceneline, the Properties panel changes
to display the associated options for further adjustments.
The previous version of Premiere Elements simplified the
interface with a single consolidated Properties palette (instead of multiple
dedicated option palettes) and by adding dedicated buttons like Split Clip for
common actions. Premiere Elements 3.0 takes this further by really focusing on
direct editing in the Monitor preview window. For example, click the Add Text
button to create and edit titles, apply and adjust effects, and Shift-drag to
the Monitor to overlay and adjust picture-in-picture videos.
But the major innovation is to add a
"mini-timeline" display under the Monitor window that automatically
adjusts to show the context of the selected clip within the full production.
Using this hybrid from the traditional timeline, you than can trim, split, and
adjust clips directly in the Monitor window.
Monitor window with
Adobe also added a voice recording function -- click the
Add Narration button and use the Voice Narration recorder to capture a separate
narration track as you play the clip.
The last version of Premiere Elements also stepped up to
support import from the wide array of consumer camera devices that have become
available, including disc and memory-based camcorders, and also provided native
editing support for the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 formats used in these devices.
Premiere Elements 3.0 now can import video, audio, and
still images from virtually any media device, including DV and DVD camcorders,
web, digital still and mobile phone cameras, unprotected DVDs, MPEG-4 video
recorders, and Windows Media Center. It also moves into the high-def world with
support for capturing and editing HDV footage in its native compressed format.
Perhaps the most unexpected feature in the new Premiere
Elements 3.0 is the new Stop Motion video capture mode. Popular in Japan and for
education, the idea is to step through a video sequence and extract
representative frames in order to create a stop-motion look.
To aid in this process, Premiere Elements displays an Onion
Skinning effect to overlay a transparent version of each previous frame, so you
can see the progression of the animation as you build it. Or use the Time Lapse
option to automatically create a time-lapse animation from frames at regular
Thanks to its legacy from Premiere Pro, Premiere Elements
already provides extensive support for exporting to common video formats
including DV and now HDV for camcorders, Windows Media and QuickTime for desktop
playback and Web sharing, as well as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4.
Premiere Elements 3.0 provides a broad set of export
presets for most devices, plus the option of advanced settings for custom
control of the compression settings. These now include MPEG-4 presets for
portable devices including the Apple video iPod, Sony PSP (PlayStation
Portable), and mobile phones (3GP). Premiere Elements even can download clips to
edit directly from selected mobile phones.
But perhaps the most interesting new export option is a
result of Adobe's recent acquisition of Macromedia -- export to Flash Video (.FLV),
which is becoming a very popular Web format due to the ubiquitous Flash player
-- and especially for social networking and video sharing sites.
Premiere Elements already has featured an extensive Create
DVD option, with template designs for easy menu creation, plus the ability to
design and customize in the DVD Layout panel. Drag in a new menu background
(including motion video), background audio, change button design and position,
plus titles and additional text. You can set DVD markers for chapter points, or
create them automatically from clip editing points. You also can adjust the
poster frame used for button thumbnails (and video buttons).
The new Sceneline view in Premiere Elements 3.0 now
provides a quick two-step option for transferring video direct from camcorder to
DVD. First use Capture Video to transfer the video from your camera,
automatically find the scene breaks where you starting shooting new segments,
and arrange the clips on the Sceneline. Then click Export / To DVD to burn a
quick disc directly from the Sceneline. Of course, since the clips from the tape
can be saved as a Premiere Elements project, you then also have the option to do
at least a little tweaking -- perhaps removing a few unwanted segments and
adding a simple title slide -- before burning more copies to share.
Premiere Elements does support both traditional TV (4:3) or
widescreen (16:9) aspect ratios, and both the NTSC or PAL TV standards for the
U.S. and worldwide. And it can automatically convert audio to industry-standard
Dolby Digital stereo, keeping full quality but reducing the size to make more
room on your discs.
Adobe has focused Premiere Elements 3.0 on making editing
easy. It is designed for absolute beginners, and to scale up for serious
hobbyists (before the option of moving on to Premiere Pro).
In comparison, Adobe
Photoshop Elements 5.0 is targeted to serious hobbyists, people who are
beyond beginners and are proud of their photos (www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelwin).
Used together, Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements offer
interesting possibilities for integration between the applications. You can use
the Freeze Frame option in Premiere Elements to automatically hold a frame for a
period of time (splitting its clip to insert the still segment), and optionally
transfer the still to Photoshop Elements to enhance. Similarly, you can create
automated slide shows in Photoshop Elements with nice effects and then transfer
them to Premiere Elements to further enhance and then burn or export.
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 takes a big step to really span
the best of both worlds -- from straightforward storyboard-based editing for
beginners with the Storyline view and Monitor window, to the underlying strength
for enthusiasts with Timeline editing and Properties options inherited from the
industrial-strength Premiere Pro.
Adobe describes Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements as
the "No. 1 selling consumer video and photo editing software in the
US," and you can see why with this attention to blending both ease of use
and sophisticated power. These products also have the Adobe legacy of solid
reliability and performance, and provide the comfort that you can experiment and
even recover from mistakes with multiple Undos, Auto Save, and the History panel
to jump back multiple steps in time.
Even better, you can try them out for yourself. Adobe
offers free download trial versions that run for a full 30 days, or you can
order a free DVD by mail.
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0
Originally published in Camcorder & Computer
Video magazine, 22, 8, Dec. 2006.