Packed with impressive features for both novices and experts, but there's room for further refinement
Adobe Premiere Elements 11 presented home users with powerful video-editing features via a streamlined interface at a great price, and version 12 builds on this success. As with Premiere Elements 11, there are Quick and Expert modes, with the former having a simpler one-track timeline and the latter supporting up to 99 tracks. Now there’s a third Guided mode that provides various walkthroughs for common tasks, such as adjusting colours, adding titles and creating picture-in-picture overlays.
Guided mode is a great way to become familiar with Adobe Premiere Elements 12
Photoshop Elements has had a Guided mode for a while, but Premiere Elements’ implementation is much better. Pop-up boxes and animated arrows are displayed in the main interface to explain features and show users exactly where to click. As such, it’s more of a tutorial mode for using the software rather than an editing mode in its own right, and we think this is the correct approach. However, the nine tutorials can’t possibly cover Premiere Elements’ entire feature set. They start with a basic introduction and get as far as using keyframes to animate a graphic around the frame, but numerous other functions aren’t mentioned.
Guided Mode is surprisingly vague about which export templates to use and when. The supplied templates are badly organised, full of jargon and make no attempt to match the exported frame rate to the source footage. Apart from this, Premiere Elements caters to new users extremely well.
Auto Smart Tone provides yet another way to correct colours automatically
We’re less enamoured by the Auto Smart Tone effect, though, which presents colour correction in a results-oriented graphical interface. The user can then drag a handle around the screen to find their preferred balance of contrast and brightness. The purpose of this feature is to slowly build an idea of your preferred settings so that Premiere Elements 12 can automatically apply them in future. However, the Auto Smart Tone assumes you’ll always want the same look for every video clip, which probably won’t be the case. Besides, Premiere Elements already had good, accessible colour correction with automatic processes, detailed manual control and various levels in between.
We’re surprised to see Motion Tracking listed among the new features, as it first appeared in version 8 and was quietly dropped in version 11. However, the new implementation is better presented than the old one, and it’s just the thing for adding some light-hearted fun to productions. It animates graphical objects so they follow people or objects around the frame. All you have to do is draw a box around an object in the scene and then click Track. There’s an assortment of comedy hats, moustaches, speech bubbles, storm clouds, circling stars and throbbing hearts ready and waiting in the Graphics library. By themselves these graphics are pretty naff, but locking them to a tracked path in the underlying video clip brings them to life.
Add comedy hats with the Motion Tracking tool
Tracking accuracy was reasonably high for some material and hopeless for others, but it’s a fun feature. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to correct the tracking if it gets confused and starts following the wrong thing. You could correct each frame manually, one by one, but that course of action is impractical). However, there is an option to displace the graphic from the tracked area, which is useful for making the animated stars circle above someone’s head, for instance. It’s also possible to clone the animation to any other timeline object, such as an image file or text object, using the Paste Effects and Adjustments command, which gets away from the supplied clip-art and opens up the possibility of more stylish creative uses.