Premiere Elements 7 preview: Finally, AVCHD

Adobe plays catch-up with the competition with new features like AVCHD support and rudimentary chroma keying.

As with its sibling, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements Adobe pushes the Web subscription message a bit too hard. Take, for instance, the Welcome screen, which is your first encounter with either one of the applications. The InstantMovie, Open Project, and New Project options get relegated to a task bar that's relatively inconspicuous compared with the large, rotating slide show heralding the many benefits of the free and $49.99 Plus membership for Photoshop.com (more project templates, remote access, and 20GB-plus of storage space). Adobe might as well have sold the space as an ad; it's that annoying. (For more on the online and mobile aspects of the Elements release, read our coverage on Download.com.)

This version really feels like an attempt to catch up to competitors. It now includes AVCHD support, for which Adobe has lagged far behind its competitors for a long time. The good news is that it handled every AVCHD file format on my hard disk--from a variety of Canon, Sony, and Panasonic camcorders--without problems.

Its new InstantMovie basically rolls selected clips into prefab templates. They're nice templates, and it does a good job. But when compared with innovations like Pinnacle Studio Plus 12's Montage themes, which allow for some really clever, sophisticated effects, and a friendly implementation for editing them, InstantMovie seems fairly basic and uninspiring. Ditto for its basic SmartSound music-generation implementation. Adobe licenses it like everyone else, but didn't even bother to give it a similar interface to the rest of Premiere.

Using technology from Adobe's Ultra, Premiere Elements now supports rudimentary chroma keying. On one hand, this Videomerge feature is dead simple to use. When you drag a video with a (relatively) solid-colored background into the timeline or onto another video, the program asks if you want to treat it as a Videomerge clip and automatically combines them with the background chroma keyed out. However, Adobe provides no controls for you to tweak the results. Even a simple color tolerance slider could have prevented the flag from showing through Dan Ackerman's skin here.

Granted, orange isn't your standard chroma key color, but in a consumer product, not everything that's shot is intentional. If the point was to find fun new ways of using the clips you have, the implementation just missed the boat.

The one interesting new capability is Smart Tag, which can automatically analyze your clips and keyword them based on video characteristics such as blurred, shaky, high quality, in focus, and so on. You can then, say, choose all the clips that are "high quality" and "in focus." Since it shares much of the organizer with Photoshop, you have access to all the same album and search features. Unfortunately, it can't display basic information such as video resolution without popping up the properties of each individual clip.

This beta was quite sluggish and unstable, at least on my system (which more than meets minimum requirements), but I'm assuming that will disappear by the time the product ships at the end of September ($99.99). I'll let you know, and give you an update on these first impressions.

 

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