A few weeks ago, I began a new journey in my life of creativity thanks to a wonderful gift from my family (see A new video camera). With a new video camera in my life, I needed to procure a new video editor. I found a neat package called AVS at AVS4You.com.
Since that moment in time, I ended up fighting several interesting problems (see, for example, Frustrated with Entry-Level Video Editors). Part of this had to do with the fact that I needed to work closely with timecodes. AVS is not streamlined to work with timecodes in video so I needed to find something better. See this article for more information about the specifics of why I was so tied to timecodes. In my quest, I purchased two other entry-level packages, Adobe’s Premiere Elements 9 and AVID/Pinnacle’s Studio HD. I was able to accomplish my work with Premiere so I have not really done much with Studio yet. This article will describe some of my discoveries while using Premiere Elements 9.
Premiere Elements in Use
It took a little time to get used to the Elements interface. In several places it is far more clunky than AVS and seemingly wastes screen real-estate. On the other hand, it does provide some nice functionality that makes video editing a bit easier. One quirk which defies all logic is the fact that it does not have a way to lock tracks like AVS and Pinnacle, and most (if not all) other video editors do. This is a severe oversight which Adobe really needs to address. Without the ability to lock tracks, one has to be extremely careful in executing one’s workflow to not cause major disruptions in adjacent tracks.
Like AVS, one can add additional tracks and unlike AVS, these tracks can be added either at the bottom or the top of the track stack. In other words, there is not a single “master” track which is immutable as in AVS.
A very nice feature is its ability to remove video or audio from any track at the click of a mouse or unlink the two components and move them independently of each other. Interestingly, one can also Ctrl-Click select a number of track components and then Group them to keep them in proper relationship with one another if any of them are moved.
Of course, one of the features that absolutely brought me to this is the fact that timecodes can be entered directly into the timeline monitor and the preview. It can be entered formally as hh;mm;ss;ff (or mm;ss;ff or ss;ff) or as a numeric string as hhmmssff or any subset thereof (where ff is the frame number). This simplifies complex editing.
The toolbar on the timeline provides several critical tools a click away. The are time-stretch, smart trim, motion tracking mode, properties, audio, and markers.
Accessing these tools permits powerful changes in the video. Motion tracking permits simulation of camera movement and zoom and the properties button accesses and permits tweaking all the attached properties for the selected clip. Under the audio tools is the audio mixer which permits fine-tuned mixing of the interaction between several tracks.
Effects, Titles, and Transitions
Like any good video editor, Premiere Elements exposes several effects. Here is actually one of the places in the program that I consider clunky and wasteful of space (especially when compared to the clean appearance in AVS). The effects (and transitions as well as titles) are divided into sections based upon common functionality. See the screenshot below of the Effects window where I highlighted the area I consider a total waste of space.
I believe that some developer in Adobe somehow thought (in a misguided way) that this is somewhat “cool” looking. It is a WASTE and makes interaction with this area a pain. It would be nicer to see more effects on-screen and maybe have the sample windows running down the side. Here is my suggestion to Adobe for a future release seeing that horizontal space is generally not as much at a premium as vertical on 16:9 monitors!
Anyway, there are also a slew of transitions with animation when clicked so that one can visualize the effect. The gray colors with A and B certainly are not as clear as AVS’s well thought out color schemes, but they are passable. Here is a sample of a section of the Transitions screen.
Titles and Themes follow the same basic interface model.
Really learning how to make Elements jump through hoops
Premiere Elements is a scaled-down version of Adobe’s flagship video editing application, Adobe Premiere, just as Photoshop Elements is a scaled-down version of Photoshop. I say this because both Elements applications inherit a considerable amount of powerful DNA from their parents. It is possible to work through the help system to determine how to basically use the application but to really unlock its potential, one needs to read a good tutorial book that walks through its powerful features.
I recommend the Adobe Premiere Elements 9 Classroom in a Book as a good starting point. At about $30 to $40, it may seem a bit steep but it really is worth it in the long run. Not only does it teach some of the great tricks available in this program, it is a good general tutorial on video at the same time. Many of the basic skills should translate easily to other packages over time. Lynda.com also publishes several tutorial videos that are worthwhile (see Lynda.com Premiere Elements 9 Essential Training) if you have a membership there. There are also several free tutorials on YouTube (search for “lynda.com premiere elements 9″ in YouTube for a number of videos).
The heart of the matter…
Adobe Premiere Elements 9 is a rather inexpensive but powerful video editor. The tricks learned here can translate easily into more expensive and powerful packages such as Premiere, Final Cut, and Vegas. It has become a very important part of my workflow especially working with HD video where AVS is currently unable to support properly (but we are promised this will change 1Q11).
Like most other Adobe products, this one requires an acclimatization period and careful study in order to discover how well it can work. AVS is simpler for the rank beginner, for example, but with a concerted effort to learn it, one will discover that Premiere Elements offers features that exceed simpler programs.
This product is definitely worth a look-see with Adobe’s free 1-month trial to determine if it will work for you.