Review: Adobe Premiere Elements 8

by Lee Hopkins on January 22, 2010 · 7 comments

in tools,video

Adobe Premiere Elements 8:

End of Year Report: Student (aka ‘PE’) has great ideas, but must try harder to answer the question set in the exam paper. Is not able to deliver a concise answer within the time allotted.

Score: 5 out of 10 (but your mileage may vary)

May God be patient and help those friends of mine with teenage families who’s idea of when to upgrade their computer is when the mahogany varnish wears thin. They and their offspring are going to spit chips when trying to get this software to work.

But if Adobe want to furnish me with a brand new state of the art laptop, I’m very happy to try again.

Seriously; it would make for a good test and case study of why computers should be upgraded every three years.

image

I’ve been using Corel ProStudio X2 for a while now as a step-up from the basic and free editing features of Windows Live Movie Maker.

I started creating my BCR videos with Windows Movie Maker, but forked out $99 for next-level Corel because it allowed me to have window-in-window effects. Thus I could be talking about, say, the World Correspondent’s Vest and be showing a picture of it at the same time, all the while still keeping me in shot, not something that Windows Movie Maker could do. If you wanted to show an image in MM you had to split the video clip in two, and pop the image in the middle of the cut. There’s no keeping the soundtrack going and overlaying the image on top of my beaming, handsome visage.

Incidentally, Windows Movie Maker is no longer bundled with Windows – there was no ‘Movie Maker’ in my menu system when I installed Windows 7. You have to download it from Microsoft’s cloud instead. Anyway, back to the story…

I installed the review copy of Adobe Premiere Elements 8 that the very nice folk at Adobe sent me and noticed something straight away: the second dvd with ‘content’ on it installed the extra goodies I know not where. You know how installer software always picks a default place and gives you the opportunity to change that place if you want? Well, whilst you *can* pick the landing spot for the main program, you have no choice over the extra gubbins that turns this program into something worth considering. Why is this relevant? Stay tuned…

I figured that I’d take the video I had shot that ended up as BCR 057 and use it as a testbed for Premiere Elements (hereafter ‘PE’). So I fired up the software and this is what I got once I had ‘imported’ my original video file.

my original file in an otherwise empty workspace - where's the additional content?

You will note the lack of any ‘additional’ content – you know, sound files to add ‘ambience’, video files to use as titles, titles to use as credits and intros, and so on. No amount of looking helped me find them.

“Ah-HA!” I said to myself. “Just look in the ‘Reviewers Guide’ that the nice folks at Adobe gave me on a usb stick accompanying the software.

I scoured the Guide… nope, no helpful suggestions in there as to how to find and add the appropriate ambience-creating content.

I searched my hard drive. THIS is where knowing where the extra content was located would have been handy! Then, I figured, I could just ‘import’ it as I had my video file and then play around with it.

At this point I cursed the software, as Corel makes it very easy to find the additional content – it’s all there as soon as you crank the program up. With PE, I figured, I had to go ‘find and catch’.

The Premiere Elements user manual to the rescue?

Alas not. At least not at first. I had to carefully wade (definitely NOT skim read) through eight closely-typeset pages to get to the section, ‘WORKING IN ELEMENTS ORGANIZER AND ADOBE PREMIERE ELEMENTS EDITOR’.

It was there, snuggled warmly in amongst other text, was the phrase, “…you can work with video files in the Adobe Premiere Elements Editor.”

That sound you can hear faintly in the distance is the sound of a penny dropping in what some laughingly call my brain.

Back to PE, click on the monkey-shit-brown ‘EDIT’ tab and VOILÀ !

ahhh-HA! Here's the additional content I was searching for! Happiness.
[click on the image to enlarge it]

All of the additional gubbins there and ready for the use thereof! MARVELLOUS!

Lots of jiggery-pokering later and I had figured out how to ‘InstantMovie’ my base video file, choosing the ‘Spy’ theme, since I am an international man of mystery.

‘Danger’ is my middle name.

But it was at this stage that things started to come unstuck. Try as I might I could NOT get the newly created themed movie to play in the built-in preview window. I even output the movie as a flash file, ready for YouTube, and STILL it wouldn’t play.

Using Adobe’s Media Player, I could ‘scrub’ along the playline and see that the movie had rendered correctly, but no way could I get it to play via the ‘play’ button. Grrrr…

I remembered seeing something about how to deal with playback problems in the Reviewer’s Guide; switching off the GPU acceleration would fix things, apparently. Not knowing wtf a ‘GPU acceleration’ was, I switched it off anyway, saved the file, closed down PE, restarted it and tried again.

Nope.

So I re-output the movie as a flash file and tried playing it in the Adobe media player.

Nope.

"“Grrr… by Grrr…” as my carpenter friend says.

On top of that, add in the frustration that hitting the ‘X’ button in the top right corner of PE does NOT shut it down – a quick look in Windows Task Manager showed it still very much alive and chewing resources. So if I wanted to shut it down completely and restart it I had to ‘X’ and then finish the shutting down via Task Manager. Not impressed.

The annoying thing was the movie, when scrubbed along the playline, looked really cool and definitely something I wanted the world to see.

Eighteen hours later…

Errr, that’s eighteen ‘production’ hours later, not a mere 18 hours of which half is spent sleeping…

I STILL cannot get the damn software to stop crashing. Despite having recently upgraded my laptop to 4gb of ram, it runs at a snail’s pace when rendering.

My ‘core’ video file, because the soundtrack to it is very quiet, isn’t recognised by PE when it comes to mixing in the rip-snorta spy-genre music and sound effects. So I either get one or the other – either no music so I can hear what I said in the video, or else exciting music but visuals of me mouthing something unintelligible (I pity any poor person trying to lip read me).

After 18 hours of work on what, prima facie, would appear to be something quite simple, I gave up. After all, I’m not a professional reviewer paid by a publisher to rate products all day; I’m a working consultant who, if he isn’t working on a client project, is not making any money.

Reviewer’s Guide

I think that Adobe ought to consider including a re-badged version of the excellent Reviewer’s Guide in with the software. I know that for 99.9% of the population it would be an unused waste of bytes, but the Guide really was a fantastic learning tool. It’s a pity a few typos crept into it, and that the first half of it was taken up with ‘housekeeping’ rather than ‘how to get the most out of this software’ type content.

In the Guide Adobe says there’s stacks of new and improved features, and that PE 8 supports Windows 7. Given my ‘challenges’ with crashes, inability to do simple things like preview a file (yes, even after rendering to create a preview, the ‘play’ button didn’t) I can only assume my three-year old laptop isn’t up to it, despite having cold-installed Windows 7 and upgraded the ram to 4gb and having a graphics card with stand-alone ram.

Being shown that your three-year old laptop is already ‘way over the hill’ is a chilling experience – another capital expense looms large in front of me. Yet frustration *also* looms large; Adobe’s ‘System Requirements’ on the side of the box say it should run:

  • 2Ghz or faster processor (I have Intel Core Duo @ 2Ghz);
  • Microsoft Windows XP with SP2 or 3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 (I run Win7 Professional);
  • 1 GB of RAM (I have 4 GB);
  • 4.5GB of available hard drive space (I have 20.5GB free).

Conclusion

There is no doubt this software is powerful. I really liked how it almost transformed a dull video of me into something far more exciting and energetic (it’s hard to believe you can have *anything* more energetic than me, but there you are – you can!).

Were I living in Sydney I would have dropped into the boys and girls at Adobe and asked them to help identify where my technical problems lie.

But I don’t live in Sydney, which is a major blessing – because not only do I not have to deal with Sydney’s laughable political system, its appalling public transport infrastructure and its interminable traffic congestion, but more importantly by not living in Sydney I can give you feedback based on what a REAL punter, living in the outback township of Oonawoopwoop is potentially going to face when he stumps up the $$ to buy this kit.

If Joe or Joanna Humperdinck has any computer LESS than the very latest, if they have a graphics card LESS than a state-of-the-art expensive one, if they have a total ram of anything LESS than 8gb, they are going to earn themselves some brownie points if they don’t throw the computer or the software through the window, or under the ute.

I truly would have LOVED for this software to work for me. With all of its bells and whistles I could see it making my little videos even more fun to produce. I WANTED it to give me a reason to move from my beloved ACDSee image cataloguing software to Adobe’s integrated Media Management Hub called ‘Elements Organizer’ (which also sneakily hung around in the background – chewing resources – when you had no idea it was even running). I love Adobe’s high-end products  like Fireworks (I only use Photoshop when I am working on one client’s material, principally because it ‘stroke’s easily; everything else is done in Fireworks! Hint, Adobe: add a quick ‘stroke’ feature to Fireworks), Dreamweaver (“nothing compares to you”) and Soundbooth.

But because I don’t run a Cray supercomputer, or something that the boys and girls at Pixar use, PE 8 failed me because it kept crashing and taking forever to do the little it actually was able to do.

So for now I will continue to use Corel’s otherwise-excellent ProStudio X2, or Windows Movie Maker for really fast-and-furious output. There’s even the basic editing tools inherent in my Flip mino if time is really tight.

End of Year Report: Student (aka ‘PE 8’) has great ideas, but must try harder to answer the question set in the exam paper. Is not able to deliver a concise answer within the time allotted.

Score: 5 out of 10.

May God be patient and help those friends of mine with teenage families who’s idea of when to upgrade their computer is when the mahogany varnish wears thin. They and their offspring are going to spit chips when trying to get this software to work.

But if Adobe want to furnish me with a brand new state of the art laptop, I’m very happy to try again. Seriously; it would make for a good test and case study of why computers should be upgraded every three years.


  • http://www.swissotelsydneyhotel.com.au/ Lisa

    I am glad it was you and not me…thanks for saving me the 18 hour ordeal of trying to figure out that I am much better off sticking with my Flip and WMM. They do the job just fine – anything more complicated and I think I will stick to oursourcing!

  • http://www.steroids-pharmacy.com/ buy steroids

    Great! I usually avoid installing elements to my premiere because of the load time. I prefer make something up instead using AE. But after reading your post I'm tempted to try it out. btw, thanks for sticking to AP lots of people out there are all about FCP.

  • http://www.LeeHopkins.net/ Lee Hopkins

    I'm re-trying the software now, with a very expensive, high-powered laptop on loan from Lenovo. So far the results are very encouraging, but I stand by my original point that the purchaser of software aimed at the domestic retail market shouldn't have to upgrade their hardware to state-of-the-art levels.

  • Pingback: Product review: Lenovo W510 Performance laptop

  • David Wicks

    I've just upgraded to a brand new computer with as much memory as possible, loaded up Adobe PE 8, followed that with a 90 min cricket match to be edited down and PE8 crashes about every 10 mins. I keep on saving, knowing damn well the thing will crash again.
    It's a TURKEY of a programme, one I'll take pleasure in removing from my new computer and finding something else that will work.
    Adobe's lost the plot – as well as another customer.

  • Mike Forsberg

    I bought this thinking that it would run well on my aging P-4 Gateway 1-gig ram unit. No chance. It took forever to load and would crash before even loading a project. I will go back to Premiere Pro Cs2. At least it was stable on my machine! Don't waste your hard earned money!

  • http://www.LeeHopkins.net/ Lee Hopkins

    @David and Mike: I recently retried the program as part of a test review of a high-performance Lenovo laptop (http://www.leehopkins.net/2010/04/06/product-re…) and it was still a failure.

    Whilst the rendering *did* work, the standard, default settings for music, noise, audio balancing, etc., were shocking and despite several attempts I couldn't get a even-half usable working file to show on YouTube. #fail.

    I'll stick with Corel's software until Adobe sends me a courtesy of their flagship video software to test [I won't hold my breath]

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