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Getting to DVD 
    with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0  (11/2005)

    by Douglas Dixon

Interface Enhancements
Importing Video from Camera Devices
Burning DVDs
References

See also: JVC Everio Disk Camcorders

Too hot, or too cold? Too spicy, or too bland? Too complex, or too dumbed down? Are you attracted to the power and potential of higher-end products like Adobe Photoshop CS and Premiere Pro, but put off by the steep learning curve required to become proficient with these kinds of professional tools? Does that mean you have to settle for the basic functions built in to entry-level consumer applications, and thereby limit your ability to grow into more sophisticated editing?

        Photoshop Elements 4.0 and Premiere Elements 2.0

Software developers like Adobe face the same challenge in re-designing their professional products to fit a more enthusiast audience. The software must be approachable for occasional users, who cannot be expected to invest in intensive training to become expert users, and still must provide much of the power of the full professional products. This is the tricky balance: You want easy access to common editing functions, but not dumbed down so far that it prevents digging deeper to grow into more sophisticated editing capabilities.

Adobe really has seemed to find this balance in Photoshop Elements for images and then Premiere Elements for video -- not just stripping away pro features and adding help and tutorials, but going further to add new helpful approaches for more casual editors. In Photoshop Elements, these included the Photo Downloader to manage acquiring photos from digital cameras, the Photo Browser for organizing and tagging your albums, and Quick Fix for fast answers to common photo problems. Some of these new design ideas even then migrated back up into the pro tools.

After working through three versions of Photoshop Elements, Adobe brought this approach to the first version of Premiere Elements, released in September 2004. This was an even trickier balancing act -- providing an approachable editing environment, while still exposing powerful editing features like multi-track timeline editing, advanced transitions and effects with fully configurable options, and even keyframes with Bezier interpolation. This was clearly not for the totally casual consumer, but certainly was intoxicatingly powerful for motivated enthusiasts who wanted to do more interesting video editing.

With the new version of Premiere Elements 2.0, Adobe has worked hard to rethink the video editing experience to make it even more approachable (www.adobe.com/products/premiereel). Premiere Elements 2.0 was released in September 2005, along with the new companion Photoshop Elements 4.0 (SRP US $99 each, or bundled together for $149).

At first glance, not much has changed with Premiere Elements -- It's timeline-based editing, with all that power from the underlying Premiere Pro engine still visible. But there have been some really interesting tweaks to the interface that make the process much more convenient. In addition, the whole end-to-end process of going from video on tape to a production on DVD is both easier, and more flexible in terms of customizing the look of the final DVD. A key part of this ease of use is supporting interfacing to a wide variety of consumer camera devices, including disc and memory-based camcorders, but also providing support for the kinds of formats that these devices use, including native editing of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 clips.

        Transitions

Interface Enhancements

In reworking the editing interface in Premiere Elements 2.0, Adobe has found relatively small changes that make an amazingly big improvement. The first change was to adopt the paneled interface from Adobe Audition, with the windows defaulting to being laid out in interlocking panels that automatically adjust as you resize them. Instead of constantly fiddling with resizing a collection of overlapping palettes, you just drag a window edge or corner, and the adjacent windows adjust to fit. Each window also can collapse to show only the title, so you can use a standard window layout, but quickly adjust to enlarge the area of the window that you are working with.

Of course, you still can have floating palettes if you prefer (especially if you have multiple displays), and save customized Workspace layouts. As you drag a window tab, Premiere Elements now displays a cool targeting overlay so you can select whether the window should float, be inserted as a new tab in an existing window, or added as a panel on one side of another window.

Another idea inherited from other Adobe applications was to do away with dedicated option palettes like Effect Controls and instead just have a context-sensitive Properties palette. Other subtle improvements include adding a dedicated Split Clip button to avoid needing to select the separate Razor tool for quick editing, dedicated Opacity and Volume options for instant Fade In and Out, and animated thumbnails in the Effects and Transitions window to preview moving transitions.

        Effects

Importing Video from Camera Devices

The most visible new component in Premiere Elements 2.0 is the Media Downloader, which extends the idea of the Adobe Photo Downloader from Photoshop Elements. The Photo Downloader in Photoshop Elements automatically pops up when you insert a digital camera or other removable memory devices to assist in the process of importing and organizing the new photos.

The Media Downloader in Premiere Elements provides a similar function for importing clip files from DVDs, digital camcorders, or other external media devices. Under the Add Media drop-down, select From DVD Camera or Removable Drive to display the Media Downloader window. You then can select a disc in a DVD drive, or a video camera or removable drive, typically connected to your system by a FireWire (IEEE 1394) or USB connection. The Media Downloader scans the device, displays the video and/or photo files (since both digital still cameras and camcorders now can capture both videos and stills), and offers to import the selected media, optionally renaming the clips in the process. (The Media Downloader is just for importing removable collections of files -- you still use the Capture window for DV tape to detect and import scenes.)

For example, I tested with the JVC Everio GZ-MC200 digital media camera, which captures in MPEG-2 format to a removable 4 GB Microdrive CompactFlash (CF) card (www.jvc.com/presentations/everio). The camcorder also has a SD card for storing photos, so when you connect to a PC and fire up the Media Downloader you can browse through all the stored clips to download. Premiere Elements and the Everio also support the new USB Video Class 1.0 interface standard, which means that connecting using the High-Speed USB 2.0 interface provides both FireWire-like transfer speeds and full device control over the tape transport from Premiere.

        JVC Everio GZ-MC200 digital media camera

Finally, all these different formats are under your control -- you can import or directly open files from all those different portable cameras, and edit them directly in the Premiere Elements 2.0. These include camera phones and digital still cameras (MPEG-4 as MP4 and 3GP files), storage-based camcorders (MPEG-2 as MPG), and even existing DVDs (extracting MPEG-2 from VOB files).

Premiere Elements also provides export presets for converting media back into portable device format, particularly using Microsoft Windows Media (WMV) and Apple QuickTime (MPEG-4).

Burning DVDs

Once you're done editing, Premiere Elements 2.0 also has significantly enhanced your options for creating DVDs with customizable menus. You still can burn directly from the timeline as a single clip on the DVD, without needing any menus. And for quick menus, you can import from tape with automatic scene detection, and then automatically create menu buttons for each clip points.

To edit menus, choose a template menu design to be used for both the main menu and any scenes menus. To mark the scene points for your menu, drop DVD markers on the timeline (independent of any regular markers that you used in editing). For a short disc with a few scenes, the DVD markers get turned into thumbnail buttons on the main menu, so you can play the whole movie or jump directly to those scenes. If you have a lot of scenes, you can tag the DVD markers as Scene markers, which will become buttons on a separate scene index menu.

        DVD design

Even better, you can also place Stop markers, which cause playback to immediately return to the main menu. In this way, you can divide a long timeline into two or more separate clips that play separately, mark scene points along them for the scene index menu, and also mark the clip starting points to appear as buttons on the main menu.

Premiere Elements 2.0 also opens up the template menus for further editing. Double-click in the DVD Layout window to edit title text, and use the Property window to set text properties. Also edit button text, or select the video frame to be used for the button thumbnail, and specify whether the button is a still or motion video. And add your own menu background, with a still image or motion video and audio track.

(For more fun, you can notice that the menu templates are just Photoshop files with naming conventions for identifying special fields (as in Adobe Encore DVD), so you can use Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS to edit your own templates.)

Of course, you can preview your DVD from within Premiere Elements. As a bonus, you can see how your DVD will look on a TV by using the realtime previewing showing the video editing, titling and DVD menu windows played out thorough an attached USB or FireWire device.

Finally, you can burn directly to disc, or to a folder on hard disk, with support for 8.5 GB double-layer discs. By default, Premiere Elements will compress the video and audio as needed to fit the target disc size, or you can set the bitrate directly. Premiere Elements now also supports Dolby stereo audio, which compresses better to fit more stuff on disc.

References

Adobe - Premiere Elements
    www.adobe.com/products/premiereel

JVC Everio Digital Media Cameras
    www.jvc.com/presentations/everio