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Adobe has been the dominant force in professional PC photo and video editing for the majority of the Windows era. But the company took quite a while to take the entry-level market seriously, particularly for video. Where the latest version numbers of Ulead Video Studio and Pinnacle Studio are now into double figures, Adobe Premiere Elements has only just reached its fourth iteration, with Photoshop Elements a mere two instalments older.
Still, considering Adobe's unquestionable professional heritage, it was always going to be a player when it did finally turn its attention to the budget-conscious end of the scale. Both Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements are now mature applications, with a healthy share of users. So the latest versions of both remain contenders as the software of choice for non-professional video and image editing.
Premiere Elements 4
Although originally based on Adobe's flagship Premiere Pro video editing app, Elements has now diverged significantly from its look and feel. With a new interface for every new version, the latest iteration focuses on the video preview, giving it pride of place in the top left hand corner. The editing tools are now exclusively contained in the right-hand pane, with the timeline along the bottom as always. Adobe's main aim with this latest redesign is to make the program more approachable for new users, claiming that Premiere Elements 4 can now take you from camcorder to output in as little as 15 minutes.
To help with this, the editing process has been simplified to three stages represented by colourful buttons in the top right-hand corner. The contents of the pane beneath then changes with context. However, the tasks aren't very equally divided. The edit stage is where you will be spending most of your time, and this is subdivided into five categories. Aside from the usual media organisation, effects, transitions and titles, a new Themes category has been added. This is yet another nod to the new user. If you're short on ideas, applying a Theme bundles together matched opening titles and closing credits, plus it also adds a selection of filters to your video. The Themes are matched to DVD menu templates, as well.
However, we found a few of the filters included with the Themes were a little questionable. For example, a static lens flare looks very strange on any footage involving a camera move, and is best restricted to clips where the frame is steady. You also need to add your Theme at the right time - after ordering your clips on the timeline and trimming them, but before you add any of your own effects, as these will be overwritten when you add the Theme.