So how do you create a hands-on, working review of this sort of combo product? It's a question we ponder every time Adobe releases a new version. This time, we insinuated Photoshop Elements 7 & Adobe Premiere Elements 7 into a property management office, and also consigned it to the tender mercies of a good friend & neighbor (with one pre-teen, one teenager, and a wife who happens to be a very good photographer). The results, after two full months of use, trials and tribulations, were creative, satisfying and very productive. The property management office needed something for the production of promotional videos of their commercial properties as well as something to help them manage a growing collection of digital photos (trashed apartments, burned out electrical panels, renovated suites, etc., etc., etc.). My neighbor, technical novice though he is (sorry Lou!), nonetheless has a flare with a video camera, and has regularly produced short, good quality, family videos that people (friends and family mainly) always enjoy. But Lou has always shown his videos by plugging his camera into the TV. He wanted to try something — with some guidance from Kickstartnews — that would help him refine his short videos into something slick, with at least the basic appearance of professional production. Lou's wife is a dedicated photography hobbyist and has won a number of local and regional competitions, but she has struggled to fully organize her rapidly growing collection of digital photos into something searchable and well managed. In addition to that, she was hitting some limits with respect to the amount of editing she could successfully do on NEF/RAW files (she's currently using a Nikon D300).
That's the background — the environments into which we inserted Photoshop Elements 7 & Adobe Premiere Elements 7 — and a basic description of the uses to which both programs were put. During our observations of everyone's efforts, we were less concerned with the intricate details of their work than we were about how quickly everyone came up to speed on the software and began cranking out useful efforts. As usual, Photoshop Elements proved to be easier than Premiere Elements for everyone to use (except for the Instant Movie feature — more on than below). Let's face it too. Photography is still a much more common visual paradigm than video, and photography terms are much more widely understood. But Premiere Elements 7, at least in our observations, looks like the easiest-to-use version ever. That's a definite gold star for Adobe, because (as we've expressed in our reviews of previous versions), Premiere Elements has always presented some conceptual difficulties for a lot of people who are relatively new to digital video editing. Times are changing for the better.
The philosophy underlying the design of Photoshop Elements 7 & Adobe Premiere Elements 7 is based on the idea that it should be easy for almost anyone to use the software to tell a story using photos or video. Since most consumers don't want to string together a series of software programs from different makers on order to deal with their digital photos and video, Adobe set out to get closer to the goal of providing us with a one-stop shop. It's all about organizing and editing your photos or video to help you tell the story you had in mind when you made the photos or shot the video in the first place.
Premiere Elements 7 provides better (read: more stable and more broadly compatible support for all the import and export file formats you're likely to need: ASF (import only), AVI, AVCHD, SWF (import), Blu-ray Disc (export only), DV, DVD, Dolby® Digital Stereo, H.264, HDV, JPEG, PNG (import only), PSD (import only), MOD and TOD (JVC Everio, import only), MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MP3, WAV, QuickTime, Windows Media, WMA (import only), 3GP. During the review period we pounded out a large number of AVI, AVCHD, H.264 and MPEG-4 productions. Although we didn't have any problems producing our 2-3 minute long videos, we found the best results — faster rendering times, best quality audio, cleanest image — using computers with either a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad processor. Older Dual Core processors work too, but if you're producing any more than a few minutes in length, be prepared for a long wait. Note carefully too that you need at least a 3GHz processor if you're planning on messing around with AVCHD. Without it, things just won't work properly.
Capturing video footage directly from your camera is generally a smooth and uneventful process. However, some dark clouds gathered when we plugged in a couple of older Sony cameras (we tried Windows Vista and Windows XP), so hardware compatibility, as usual with video editing software, is not universal. Check with your camera manufacturer's web site and the Adobe site for camera and hardware compatibility information. Keep in mind too that not all Firewire cards are created equal, so capture problems can originate from that source too. Most of the consumer and prosumer digital video cameras we tried (Canon, JVC, Sony and Panasonic) were recognized immediately and we were able to control the camera and capture video easily. We didn't see much difference between USB 2 hi-speed and Firewire 400 connections with respect to camera compatibility. We had the smoothest and most productive experience working in AVI and QuickTime formats. Import and export of MPEG-2 & 4 files remains a bit more finicky, but that didn't prevent both review groups from producing the sorts of MPEG-4 projects they wanted.