Adobe's Premiere Elements has been the favourite consumer video-editing application, at least on the PC platform, for some time now. But while alternatives from Corel and Pinnacle haven't noticeably leapt ahead, there is stiff competition from CyberLink's increasingly accomplished PowerDirector. And so, conforming to Adobe's now annual cycle for its software releases, we have version 11 of Premiere Elements. But does it do enough to see off the challenge from CyberLink?
At first glance, a lot appears to have changed. Loading the application gives you a choice of opening the Organizer or main Editing environment, as before, although the dialog has been completely redesigned. But while the differences with the Organizer are relatively subtle, which we will describe shortly, the Editor's interface has had a major overhaul, and now bears even less resemblance to Adobe's professional Premiere Pro, from which it was originally derived.
There are two modes, which correspond to the storyboard (or sceneline) and timeline modes found in most consumer-grade video-editing applications, including previous versions of Premiere Elements, just with some differences. In Quick mode, your clips are positioned sequentially. Unlike many storyboard implementations, the width of the pictorial representation on the timeline indicates duration visually as well, with wider pictures being longer and the lion's share of the screen is taken up by the video preview.
Expert Mode reveals the more familiar multi-layer timeline, but the slightly smaller preview window still takes up more than the top half of the screen. The traditional source and programme dual preview workspace is conspicuous by its absence, as is the media and effects bin that took up the right-hand third of the interface in the previous version. So, the focus is on how the end result looks, rather than the process of getting there.
Further accentuating this, whichever view you are using, the various tools and effects categories are subtly positioned around the edges of the main window as icons. On the right can be found icons for adjustments and tweaking the settings on your special effects. The adjustments include adjusting colour by hue, lightness, saturation and vibrance, with automatic options. You can also adjust via red, green and blue channels, as well as gamma, lighting, temperature and tinge, for a relatively comprehensive range of tweaking tools. However, configuring these settings involves clicking an icon within a grid of nine icons corresponding to less or more of the parameter in question. This is a good visual way of working for novices, but seasoned video editors will long for standard sliders with a little more fine precision, and these are hidden behind a 'More' option that reveals them. The audio controls can also be found here, and use regular sliders.
Access to transitions, graphics overlays, titling and other text effects can be found along the bottom, alongside the filter effects, although once applied they are accessed via the 'Applied Effects' icon on the right. The special effects are essentially the visual filters of previous versions, although there are some new additions. In particular, a selection of new FilmLooks filters from NewBlue has been added. This includes Pandora, Old Film and Red Noir. Blending modes are now supported when you layer clips or still images, giving you the ability to mix video in more sophisticated ways than just by varying the overall opacity level. This option can be found beneath the 'Opacity' slider. You can also call up the 'Instant Movie' system via an icon on the bottom edge, and this has a few more themes than before.