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Adobe Premiere Elements 12 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £73
inc VAT

Packed with impressive features for both novices and experts, but there's room for further refinement


The big news for advanced users is the introduction of Adjustment Layers, another concept that’ll be familiar to Photoshop Elements users. An Adjustment Layer is a virtual object on the timeline, and its effects settings are applied to any objects that sit below it on other timeline tracks. It could be used to apply a blanket effect to a sequence of clips or an entire project without having to add it to each clip in turn. It’s also handy for applying effects to clips that are stacked vertically, such as a video with text and graphic overlays.

Adjustment Layers bring other advantages, too. The Opacity control makes it easy to adjust the overall strength of the effect and fade it in and out. Adjustment Layers also make it much easier to use the FilmLooks effects introduced in version 11. These aren’t distinct effects in themselves, but are presets that draw on various other effects to give video a film-like appearance. Think of them as the video equivalent to Instagram filters. Applying them as an Adjustment Layer makes the FilmLook effect much easier to use across an entire project. Adobe has added four new FilmLooks presets, bringing the total to 16.

We had hoped that Adjustment Layers would also provide a way of applying effects to a limited area of the frame. We could do so by adjusting the Adjustment Layer’s size and position using the Motion settings, and we could even animate its size and position. However, it was limited to a rectangular shape. We tried creating circular, soft-edged masks by applying the Image Matte Key effect to the Adjustment Layer object but, disappointingly, this resulted in black pixels rather than limiting the effect to a small area.

Adobe Premiere Elements 12 - Composite
Premiere Elements 12 includes some sophisticated tools for combining clips, but using them in tandem can be cumbersome

We encountered similar obstacles when we attempted to use Premiere Elements for an advanced editing project involving various green-screen and masking techniques. There’s no shortage of powerful tools here, but attempting to use them in combination left us feeling that Premiere Elements isn’t refined enough to deliver its full potential. The lack of track mute and solo buttons made it hard to manage complex sequences involving lots of stacked clips, and the lack of ripple-editing options (which dictate how clips move on the timeline) posed further complications.

For advanced projects, it’s noticeable that Premiere Elements isn’t based on the same underlying code as Adobe Premiere Pro, despite their operational similarities. Sony does things differently, with Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 being the same as Sony Vegas Pro 12 but with various features omitted. On paper, Premiere Elements comes top for advanced features, but in practice Movie Studio Platinum feels more capable and precise. Both are ideal for home users, but Sony’s Movie Studio Platinum remains our top recommendation.

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