Adobe Premiere Elements 13 provides useful, but not essential enhancements

While the updates to its Shake Stabilizer is welcome, the rest of the program's updates don't feel terribly compelling.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
4 min read

Favorite Moments is Premiere Elements' way of selecting only the clips that you want to keep and automatically stringing them together with transitions. Lori Grunin/CNET

Adobe attacks the most common requests for video editing with the latest update to its consumer video editor, Premiere Elements 13. With an interesting new approach to trimming, a couple of additional Guided Edits, enhancements to its Shake Stabilizer, and a new Video Story tool, Adobe adds some handy capabilities to the software.

Its price remains the same as the previous version: $100 in the US, £78.15 in the UK, and AU$130 in Australia, for the full version. Various upgrade and bundle prices are available as well, direct from Adobe.

Premiere Elements incorporates the same eLive (Elements Live) center as Photoshop Elements 13, a curated selection of Elements how-tos, news and so on from around the Web. So (in theory) you don't have to search the Web for help anymore to compensate for the fact that finding the information you're looking for in Adobe's help system tends to be frustrating.

Video Story gives you templates with chapters to help arrange your video clips into a coherent narrative. Lori Grunin/CNET

It's also designed to engage you and spur creativity when you boot up the software. It is pretty effective at giving you an overview of new features and techniques to try, but it really needs a way to pin or bookmark specific items so you can go back when you actually need to know about that feature.

Favorite Moments is a new tool for trimming video, that is, cutting a longer video down to a series of clips. Normally with video editing, you mark in and out points that delineate the parts of the clip you want to get rid of. With Favorite Moments, you toggle on and off based on the segments of the clips you want to keep. Then the software automatically strings them together with transitions. You can then rearrange the clips, edit the transitions, fix the in and out points and so on. It's not bad for a quick-and-dirty way to piece together some clips.

The Effects Mask Guided Edit walks you through creating one. It was useful, but I found the Guide confusing and somewhat buggy. Lori Grunin/CNET

Another new tool is Video Story, template-based projects that fall into typical categories -- weddings, travel, birthdays, and so on -- with different chapters into which you drop your content. PRE 13 automatically analyzes the clips and adds graphics and music. You can change the music track, mood, speed and intensity of each chapter, delete chapters or add your own. While it all feels a little cookie-cutter, and sometimes slightly cheesy, it's a good way to organize your thoughts (and clips). Once it's done, you can bring it into the full editor and change it. And I hope there's a limitless supply of these templates, because they get old fast.

There are also two new Guided Edits: Effects Mask and Adding Video in a Title. While they're both useful, the implementation feels buggy and incomplete. For instance, you can't back through the project; you can back through the instructions, but it doesn't undo anything. Nor does it seem possible to undo without exiting the guided edit and then undoing your way back. And you'll need to go backwards, because the Guided Edit assumes you haven't done anything before starting it. It frequently seems unresponsive too, or does something unexpected.

For example, I did the Effects Mask edit, then went on to the Title Guided Edit. But the latter assumes that the second video track is empty. And if you've already done it once, it doesn't take into account that you've already created the necessary asset (in this case, a black video) and forces you to recreate it. Also, though it walks you through creating them, it doesn't really tell you why it needs to be done that way. That said, after a bit of trial and error you figure out what's going on, and those techniques are pretty useful tools to have.

The advanced Shake Stabilizer options. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

The last important update to the application is improved Shake Stabilizer. Previously, it performed it completely automatically. Now, you have the option of quick (automatic) or detailed (slower, but better quality) as well as more adjustment options in Expert mode. These include how smooth it should be, rolling shutter reduction, and what the tradeoff should be between smoothing it out and cropping the edges of the video. It seems to do a pretty good job, although I didn't try to run any action-cam footage through it, just basic no-IS handheld video.

Overall, Adobe Premiere Elements 13 has some useful enhancements, but really only if you're completely new to video editing or to the program. It remains a solid entry-level video editing suite, but except for more control over the image stabilization there isn't much here for users of version 12 to upgrade for.