Adobe Premiere Elements 14 review - still the best but not perfect for everyone
OS Support: Window 7 (SP1), 8, 10, Mac OS X 10.9 or 10.10, Minimum CPU: 2GHz with SSE2, Minimum GPU: DirectX 9 or 10, Minimum RAM: 2GB, Hard disk space: 10GB
Video editing can be complex and demanding for both the PC and its owner; the challenge for consumer editing software is to make it look easy. Premiere Elements has scored well in this department, with an interface that’s clean and straightforward for simple tasks, but which delivers a range of sophisticated editing techniques to those who are willing to dig a little deeper.
Adobe has clearly done its research, and the focus groups have told them they want more help to unlock these advanced features. This is where Guided Edits come in, providing interactive tutorials that overlay directly onto the interface to show users exactly where to click to achieve various tasks.
There are two new Guided Edits in version 14. One shows how to convert a video to black and white except for one saturated colour. It’s an attractive effect that’s not easy to locate by chance. The Guided Edit goes a little further than just applying an off-the-shelf effect, as it explains how to isolate different colours.
The other new Guided Edit explains where to find and how to use the Time Remapping tool for variable slow- and fast-motion effects. It’s useful to explain the overall objective of the feature, but it can’t have been much more than a few hours’ work for someone at Adobe. When Guided Edits first appeared in version 12 we had hoped that new tutorials would appear every couple of months to give users something new to try. At their current rate of two per year, it’s going to be many years before the whole of Premiere Elements’ many advanced features are covered in full.
We’re relieved to see that a lot more work has gone into tidying up the export facilities. A Quick Export option generates a 720p MPEG-4 file that should play on pretty much any device. Click the Devices, Disc or Online tab and various preset resolutions are offered, all sensibly chosen and clearly labelled. Templates go up to 4K (3,840x2,160) resolution and the only missed trick is that it doesn’t warn users not to bother upscaling exported videos to a higher resolution than the original footage.
^ The revamped export facilities make it easy to export at common resolutions and help to avoid frame rate mismatches
These export templates don’t include a choice of frame rates. Instead, the frame rate is matched to the project settings, which in turn are matched to the source footage. This is exactly as it should be, as it avoids frame rate mismatches that result in uneven motion. This is the first time we’ve seen it done properly in consumer software. If you’re determined to alter the frame rate - perhaps to convert 50fps to 25fps - this is possible via the Custom tab, which also includes detailed control over compression and audio encoding settings. Even here, there are tick-boxes to match each setting to the source footage, so it couldn’t be easier to preserve optimal quality.
Premiere Elements’ keyframe automation tools allow for some extremely sophisticated animations, but they’re inherently complex and tricky to master. The new Motion Titles provide a quick fix for people who want glossy animations without the rigmarole of programming them from scratch. There are various templates arranged by theme such as Travel, Sports and Wedding, although with just 32 in total, it won’t take long before you’re forced to reuse the ones you like the look of.
^ The new Motion Titles look the part but editing them is fiddly
They’re reasonably attractive, but customising them proved to be tricky. Placeholder text can be replaced with your own words and reformatted, but in some cases the design is heavily dependent on the text fitting together neatly, and so entering custom text makes it look messy. The duration of the animations is fixed, and it’s not possible to replace the background image with your own. The interface looks neater than the similar new feature in Magix Movie Edit Pro 2016, but in use it feels clumsier and more restricted.
In most other areas Premiere Elements takes a clear lead over Magix for ease of use. Designing a consumer editor that caters for both novices and advanced users is a tall order, but Adobe has managed it better than anyone else. It also scores highly for preview performance, with smooth previews of 4K footage on our Core i7 870 test PC. Sony Movie Studio Platinum is still our top pick, simply because its timeline controls are quicker to use, leaving more head space to focus on creative decisions. However, Premiere Elements has a shallower learning curve for beginners, and it also goes further with advanced tools and effects. It’s not the most enticing update for existing users, but the improved export facilities alone may be worth the cost of admission.