Adobe Premiere Elements 4 review

We wonder if home movie editing can get even simpler

Our Verdict

Power, simplicity and fun for video editing

For

  • Good value
  • Impressive features
  • Easy to use

The original version of Premiere was a proper brain-teaser. Built for professional video editors and multimedia developers, it was power-packed and full of features, and came with a steep learning curve.

By contrast, even though the new edition of Premiere Elements packs a punch with high-end features like picture-in-picture, chromakey and compatibility with Premiere Pro plug-ins, it aims to be simple to use.

Our initial experience, however, was more one of frustration, after completing a lengthy 2.7GB download of the trial version, only to find that it refused to run until the registration code was purchased and entered.

With home video-editing growing in popularity, there's no shortage of software on the market, with the likes of Ulead MovieFactory, Magix Movie Edit Pro and Pinnacle Studio all being widely available for as little as £30.

Features like smart scene recognition and trendy transition effects are all but ubiquitous, yet editing can still be fiddly and cumbersome, turning what should be a joy into a chore. Premiere Elements 4 puts this right with some radical streamlining.

Quick start

Stealing simplicity from Photoshop Elements 5, Adobe has used the same neat charcoal grey background, which plays host to an almost identical new Organiser.

This enables you to tag video clips by category and apply ratings to them for future filtering. This makes it a doddle to manage your entire video collection.

Maintaining the "quick and easy" theme, another neat new feature enables you to create entire movies from a collection of clips in just a few mouse clicks.

You can use either a style-based system to create, for example, music videos or silent movies, or you can go for an event-based approach, which is more suited for birthday parties or weddings.

A wide range of templates generate neatly coordinated sets of transition effects and enable you to add music and insert stylishly designed titles, disc menus and finishing touches.

Keeping abreast of new technology, Elements 4 is directly compatible with the latest hard disk-based and high-definition camcorders, as well as digital cameras, Web cams and mobile phones.

Delivery of finished projects is equally flexible, ranging from optimised output for upload to YouTube from within the program, to high-definition video that you can burn to Blu-ray discs.

However, high definition is memory-hungry, raising the minimum RAM requirement from 512MB to 1GB for Windows XP, and from 1GB to 2GB for Vista.

Sounding off

Audio editing can be problematic in video programs, especially when it comes to adding narration, backing music and sound effects.

Here again, Elements 4 scores another victory with its new Audio Mixer.

A multi-track mixing desk in its own right, this comes with intuitive sliders to adjust the levels of individual audio tracks, as well as balance controls so you can pan sound between left and right. It's a joy to use.

For improvements in speed and practicality there's a new Sceneline, which enables you to drag-and-drop entire clips, effects and transitions for rapid movie creation, although you still need to revert to the more conventional Timeline when you want full control over your project.

Equally impressive is just how fast the program is at executing and displaying edits, making full use of the latest processor technologies to produce practically instantaneous results.

On top of this, Elements 4 puts a barrage of new, high-quality special effects at your disposal. For the best in home video editing, look no further.