There were some reports of incompatibility between last year's Elements applications and Windows Vista, but this version is designed to be compatible. We had one or two issues when we tested the software on Vista, but we were using a press beta. Overall, as much as we love Adobe Premiere Pro's interface for the experienced professional user, Premiere Elements is much better suited for the beginner now that it has taken its own course. So here Adobe has fulfilled its 15-minute claim.
However, one area where Adobe has oversimplified things, or at least hidden them too much, is the Properties panel. This is still available, but now you have to select a small Edit Effects button within the Effects mode of the Edit stage to get to it. If our description of its location sounds complicated, then that in itself shows how hard it is to find. Considering that it contains basic image enhancement, motion control and opacity, calling it Edit Effects is rather misleading, too.
Elements 4 doesn't actually include that much in the way of new effects capabilities. But it does bundle a fine selection of third-party plug-ins from NewBlueFX, including ten filters and 29 transitions. The titler now also offers a selection of animation presets, which go from simple fades to special effects such as twists and ripples, although they are all two dimensional.
Audio provision has been enhanced considerably, though. A fully fledged Audio Mixer is now available at last, which can be used for live mixing as you preview your project. The results will then be recorded onto the audio rubber bands on the timeline. But Elements still lacks the ability to mix a 5.1 surround soundtrack, even if you can burn Dolby Digital audio to disc. Both Ulead Video Studio and Pinnacle Studio have offered surround mixing for quite a few versions now. At least Adobe has added a consolation prize in the form of a utility to make editing in time with music easier. Simply place your music file on the timeline, select it and choose Detect Beats. The software will then analyse the sound and add markers to the timeline, which can then be used to time your cuts and effects.
With video distribution in a period of rapid change at the moment, it's no surprise to see this is another area where Adobe has made some significant changes to Premiere Elements 4. The built-in disc authoring now includes the ability to burn to Blu-ray, although not HD-DVD. Both H.264 and MPEG-2 video encoding are available, but you can't control the bit-rate, just ask the encoder to fit your video into the available space.