Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, April 2007
Published by: Adobe
Requires: Intel Pentium 1.3GHz or faster CPU (3GHz Pentium HD video editing); Windows Vista 32-bit, Windows XP or Media Center XP both w/SP2; 1-1GB RAM, 4.5GB available hard drive space, minimum 1024x768 monitor resolution, DV/i.Link/FireWire/IEEE1394 port and/or USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port for direct video import from connected cameras; display and audio drivers fully compatible with DirectX 9 or later
MSRP: US$99.99

Adobe Premiere Elements 3 is a consumer/prosumer digital video editing and production program designed to ease the process of creating standard definition, high definition and wide screen videos. Premiere Elements 3 is a simpler and easier-to-use version of the Adobe Premiere Pro video editing suite. Although clearly aimed at home users and hobbyists, Premiere Elements 3 just as clearly offers a lot of video editing and production power in a comparatively inexpensive package. The software has the necessary controls and configurations to deal with all of the most popular digital video, audio and bitmap image formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, DV, AVI, Windows Media, QuickTime, WAV, WMA, Dolby Digital Stereo, Photoshop PSD, JPEG, PNG and DVD.

Competition in the video editing software category has increased dramatically since home consumer and hobbyist digital video editing became a realistic and affordable possibility in the late '90s. Mind you, as of this writing digital video editing is still not as easy as digital photo editing or digital slide show creation. The product competition and consumer choices are formidable. Pinnacle Studio, Cyberlink DVD Suite, Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD, ULead Video Studio (a Corel product as of April 2007), Magix Movie Edit Pro, muvee autoProducer, Cyberlink Power Director, Roxio Easy Media Creator Suite and Apple Final Cut Express HD are all being actively developed and compete heavily for consumer attention. An overview of these competitors can be confusing. Apple's Final Cut is owerful, can be difficult to use, and still suffers from occasional crashes. The video editing portion of the Roxio/Sonic Easy Media Creator is based on the lamentable MGI VideoWave product and is lacking in certain video editing functions compared to the rest of this group. Cyberlink Power Director has been popular, albeit feature-limited. muvee autoProducer is unique in its approach to greater automation at the cost of versatility. Magix Movie Edit presents some stability problems, but is comparatively easy to use. ULead Video Studio has always been easier to use than most of the competition, but has never attempted to offer some of the depth and breadth of features found in prosumer and professional suites. Sony Vegas has a big brother that is found, like Adobe Premiere Pro, in a lot of professional video production environments. Cyberlink DVD Suite tries to be a jack-of-all-trades only to end up being plainly functional but limited in all things. Pinnacle Studio, a product which originally helped define this category of software on consumer desktops, remains one of the most powerful and popular, but suffers from a sometimes difficult installation process and a usability rap held over from previous versions.


Adobe Premiere Elements 3 falls into the home consumer and hobbyist software category, but thankfully without much of the confusing configurations found in the professional products and in previous versions of Premiere Elements itself. Adobe has made great progress in its efforts to make Premiere Elements 3 more usable for some beginners. You'll still have to come to grips with video editing jargon, simply because video editing is a well-defined technology with specific names for specific functions, aspects, actions and features. Premiere Elements 3 works well on many of the standard Intel desktops being offered by all the major computer makers. Any system running Window XP/SP2, Windows Media Center/SP2 or Windows Vista 32-bit, any dual core Intel processor, 1-2GB RAM and a DirectX 9/128MB video card will likely handle all but the largest home video projects with ease. Throughout the review period we found Premiere Elements 3 to be stable and responsive. Most of the testing was done on an Intel E6300 Core 2 Duo running Windows Vista Home Premiere with 1.5GB of DDR2 RAM, and an ATI X1300 Pro PCI-Express video card,

To create a product of this type, the product designers and developers must determine how their chosen feature and function set will be presented to end users of the software. Simply put, the software must be designed with a specific workflow that leads users logically from one task to another, culminating in a completed video production ready for viewing on the computer, or for upload and streaming on the Internet, or for transfer to portable devices (video-enabled mobile phones, video iPod, Sony Playstation Portable which all handle MPEG-4 files), or authoring and burning to DVD. Adobe has succeeded in creating a structured workflow that, once you've taken some time to work through the supplied tutorials, makes sense and is easy to remember. Something beyond beginner computing experience is assumed however, so our advice is that absolute novices at both video editing and Windows PC computing should accumulate some general experience before tackling Premiere Elements 3 or any comparable software.

We presented the software to a disparate group of 8 testers (personal friends, business friends and one of our IT managers), each of whom already had several years of experience with digital video cameras and digital video editing software. Each person was asked to either shoot some video with a 3 minute production in mind (any subject) or assemble some existing video clips suitable for a 3 minute production. Our goal for this review was to figure out how long it would take each person to become familiar with Premiere Elements 3, and to also observe the speed and effectiveness of the software. Over a period of three weeks, we booked several two hour appointments with each person to provide enough time with the software to work through the tutorials, read the printed guide, play around with controls and settings, and generally familiarize themselves with the product. We then booked an editing & production appointment with each person and gave them a couple of hours to edit and produce their 3 minute videos. The results were excellent overall. Six of the testers produced good home videos; two produced excellent videos that were genuinely entertaining and funny with a professional look and feel. Every tester needed at least an hour with the tutorials and guide to gain some basic familiarity with Adobe's workflow approach. After that was accomplished, the natural abilities of each tester determined how long it took to become comfortable with the software—times ranged from as little as one extra hour up to six hours. The tester who required the most time with the learning curve also ended up creating one of the best videos. Video editing is not like word processing. Most people can't just start the software and immediately produce something. If you understand this before getting into digital video editing of any kind, you'll be much more patient with the learning process and ultimately have a much more satisfying and successful creative experience.

Taken together, the videos we created made use of almost every single feature and function in Adobe Premiere Elements 3. Some of the testers captured video directly from several different DV cameras (Canon, Sony and Panasonic models); some loaded MPEG-2 or AVI files directly from portable hard drives, USB flash drives or DVD. Everybody made use of individual or combined audio elements including background music tracks, narration, sound effects and of course recorded audio. Two of the testers used HDV capture from Sony HD cameras. Some of the productions were overloaded with needlessly confusing transition effects; some used only straight cuts from scene to scene. Some used elaborate titles and excessive onscreen text; some used lead and closing titles only. One production was a dramatic and quite beautiful time lapse of snow melting on the banks of a slowly thawing stream, the water moving faster and faster throughout the video, all of which was accompanied by the last three minutes of the William Tell Overture. My other favorite was a jumpy, jerky video montage of a child's birthday party containing everything from a couple of slightly out-of-focus moments to a curious little doofus with absolutely huge brown eyes who managed to poke the lens with a cake-covered finger as he peered directly into the camera. People are really creative and I've got to say that having the opportunity to view each production at the end of the review period was worth the effort a dozen times over. I think that if we don't preserve these views of life and the world around us by spending a little time with some good software, life in general might be a little less entertaining.

Native DV/HDV camera support and control is very good. Capturing footage and building your movie in the visual Sceneline is quick and intuitive. The My Project panel provides a place to drag, drop and rearrange thumbnails of clips, transitions and effects—everything you're collecting for use in a project. Dragging one scene onto another in the Premiere Elements Monitor window creates picture-in-picture (PiP) effects among other things, and was used in one of our productions to narrate a silent main clip. The Monitor window is also a significant usability improvement, offering in-place editing and previewing which didn't exist in previous versions of Premiere Elements. Audio editing, adding narration at any point in a production or scene is easy and the results are very good.

Cons: Adobe's installation process can be a bit bold. I don't want a desktop icon, but the Premiere Elements installer doesn't offer a choice. I also want to modify the default storage folders for video clips, audio clips, bitmap images and productions because I prefer to use an external hard drive or a second internal hard drive for data storage (and easier backup). Manually changing storage locations is possible but the configuration could be easier. Although clearly aimed at home consumers and hobbyists, Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 is best learned by working through Adobe's straightforward tutorials provided in the online help system and the printed guide. Every video editing program offers its own approach to workflow, and Adobe certainly wants you to follow the Premiere Elements workflow very closely. That means the software is not something that digital video novices can dive quickly into without preparation. You'll have a much easier time of it by recognizing that Premiere Elements 3 is not just a collection of features and functions, but rather a carefully organized workflow that can be extremely creative and productive if you follow its rules. Support for AMD processors can be inconsistent, so before purchasing we advise downloading the Premiere Elements 3 trial version to try on your AMD-based PC.

Pros: Adobe Premiere Elements 3 installs lots of templates and source files to help you practice creating and producing videos, helping you become familiar and comfortable with the software in a short period of time. The 255 page printed user guide contains a fold-out Getting Started card which is very handy for beginners. The guide is well organized, clearly written, carefully edited and easy to understand. Results from both the tutorial materials and our own source video files in standard definition and HD were excellent. As long as you've got the computing and video horsepower to deal with the file formats and production resolutions you prefer, Premiere Elements 3 will provide you with the results you expect. Being able to jump back and forth between the Timeline and Sceneline is a welcome improvement to the user interface; it's convenient and provides a straightforward way to edit projects in different ways. If you don't like or have difficulty understanding the concept of timeline-based video editing, you can do almost everything in the Premiere Elements Monitor window instead. Once you understand the Premiere Elements 3 workflow, digital video editing becomes almost effortless. Adobe has continuously improved Premiere Elements since it was introduced a few years ago, providing an increasingly user-friendly experience with each new release. Adobe continues to find ways to make a technically intensive process easier and more approachable. Premiere Elements 3 is the best version of this program so far. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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