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There is one other very welcome addition to the capture stage, however. The applet now also includes a Stop Motion tab, which provides facilities to make stop-frame animation easier. You can use the Stop Motion capture tools with a camcorder in camera mode, a webcam, or even grab frames from a tape or a file you have already captured. Time lapse capture is available, too. You can set a duration and a frequency, and the applet will grab a frame at the required interval, so you could record the motion of passing clouds, for example.
The Stop Motion tab in the capture applet lets you create stop-frame animation with relative ease.
We found Stop Motion very easy to use. There are a number of free (and some not so free) utilities available which can perform the same function, but Adobe’s version is slick. In particular, the onion-skinning facility makes the creation of smooth motion easier, by putting a ghost of the previous frame onscreen while you line up the next one for capture. Once you’ve finished your frame capture, Premiere Elements will automatically stitch all your files together into a single AVI. However, you can’t use either Stop Motion or time lapse with an HDV source.
One area where Premiere Elements 3 doesn’t appear to have changed much since the last version is the core editing capabilities. Aside from the HDV support, we couldn’t find any new filters or many other new features in Edit mode. It is now possible to preview your edit full-screen at the touch of a button, but the ability to record narration is the most significant addition. Considering this has long been possible with Pinnacle Studio, and how important it is for the home videomaker, it’s a relief to see the facility in Premiere Elements at last.
There are a few new options when it comes to the output stage, though. The DVD authoring abilities are the same, and there is no support for HD-DVD or Blu-ray. But you can export Flash video, as well as to video iPods, Sony PSPs and mobile phones in 3GP format. Along with the expected QuickTime and Windows Media encoding, the export options are comprehensive, with the exception of HD optical discs.
At long last, Premiere Elements includes the ability to record narration live as you preview the timeline.
In the UK, Premiere Elements 3 will also be shipping with the Family Director’s Kit, which includes a clapper board from Smiffy’s, three readymade stories to shoot and edit, and a blank DVD-R. The clapper board usually retails for £7.99, and the storylines are amusing. Adobe is also running a competition at www.adobe.co.uk/play2day where you could win a family trip to EuroDisney in Paris.
Overall, though, Premiere Elements 3 is a double-edged release. The improved interface will no doubt make it easier for newcomers, and tempt those who would have found it too complicated before. But existing users might not find this a particularly compelling update, unless they’re dying to edit HDV or could really make good use of the Stop Motion ability. If not, the £45.82 upgrade price might seem a lot for a limited set of new features. If you’re new to editing or own the original release, Premiere Elements 3 comes highly recommended. But if you already own Premiere Elements 2 you may not find there’s enough here to warrant the update.