Adobe and Apple seem to have a love hate relationship. Apple disparages Adobe’s products, Adobe disparages Apple’s control-freakiness, both love to take our money.
Adobe’s latest effort to separate us from our money is Premiere Elements 9. The #1 selling consumer video editing app now available for Mac users, now bundled with Photoshop Elements 9. It’s more than iMovie, less than Final Cut Studio.
Yet Another Way To Edit Video
If you know the difference between analog and digital, then you’ll agree that digital video and production of the 21st century is the place to be. Video tapes? Bah, humbug.
Expensive editing decks and effects generators?
Bah humbug. Any mid-range Mac today, coupled with a decent digital camera, makes for a stunning video production system. Apple covers the high ground with Final Cut Studio. And the low end with iMovie.
In between is where Adobe wants to live, hence Adobe Premiere Elements 9 (PE9). It’s a $99 Mac app for video editing—far more than iMovie, much less than Final Cut Studio, not as easy as the former, easier than the latter.
Mac Features Go Non-Mac-Like
I’ve been into video for over 30 years and survived the transition from analog and non-linear video systems, to the digital age, digging into Final Cut almost 10 years ago. I love digital video editing and the current trend toward competent competition.
Other than the charcoal motif, Premiere Elements 9 doesn’t look like iMovie and doesn’t look like Final Cut. It’s Adobe’s hybrid-Windows-look through and through. In typical Adobe fashion, it’s not a quick video editor to master, but it’s loaded with eye candy features.
PE9 imports video clips from most popular video cameras, flip cameras, DSLR cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, and video enabled smart phones. You can edit HD video, too, and tack on a number of effects, filters, transitions, and titling features not available in Apple’s iMovie, or extra cost in Final Cut.
The video clip timeline looks more like Final Cut or the older version of iMovie, not the timeline of Apple’s current dumbed-down iMovie from iLife. Import clips, drag and drop to the timeline. You can enhance the video and audio in each clip.
It all starts with PE9’s Organize tab—a far different paradigm for managing video clips than the limited functionality in iMovie. Click to select specific, multiple video clips and click Instant Movie to bring all the clips together for a nearly finished video—with music, titles, effects, and transitions.
Manual video clip editing has smart options (similar to those found in iMovie) galore, including video image stabilization, color enhancement, lighting adjustments, and quick deletion of bad clips. You can add animated graphic elements right on top of your video clips. That’s slick.
Special effects, filters, transitions, and title options number into the hundreds. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Uploading video clips to YouTube or Facebook is a mere click away. Taking another page from the past and iMovie’s unloved cousin, iDVD, PE9 does DVDs, too, complete with special themes, transitions, and effects. An animated film look is easy to apply to a video clip in PE9. Sliders make it easy to make changes to provide that so-loved animated cartoon look.
Adobe claims that high quality, polished movies are just minutes away. Based on the numerous gaudy special effects, funky filters, and strange transitions, quality and polish are in short supply. On the other hand, the audio adjustment tools are quite useful considering that most amateur audio suffers from loud background sounds from inexpensive microphones. A few simple clicks can clean up poor audio on a video clip.
Clips imported into PE9 are stored and managed in yet another Adobe app—Organizer (different than the Organize tab, and the one shining star in PE9), which allows you to add clips and photos, manage video projects, and make adjustments to clips and photos without dumping them into PE9. The Organizer also prints photos, creates photo books and greeting cards, produces photo collages, and handles creation of Instant Movie, CD and DVD jackets. Clips, photos and albums can be shared via Organizer’s Share tab, including uploads to Adobe’s online album service, email attachments, mobile devices, Flickr, Facebook, and SmugMug.
The user interface is cluttered but straightforward (yet may scare casual users as it appears more complex than iMovie). Tabs? PE9’s got tabs. Click the Organize tab to review video clips. Click Edit to add effects, transitions, titles, themes and tweaks to any clip on the timeline. Drag a transition to the space between clips. Ditto for text. The number and style of text options highlights the differences in taste between Adobe and Apple. The latter is lean and clean, the former cluttered and gaudy and Windows-like.
My experience on a hefty Core 2 Duo iMac with plenty of RAM was mixed. PE9 is not as responsive as iMovie (not all that responsive, either). Clicking buttons doesn’t get an immediate response (some buttons, like the Spacebar for play and pause, don’t actually work everywhere in PE9). Video clips really need to be rendered for best playback results.
Overall, Premiere Elements 9 is a competent, nearly complete video editing app—more features than iMovie, nearly the capability of Final Cut Express (not Final Cut Studio), but priced far less. The bundle of Photoshop Elements 9 with Premiere Elements 9 may be particularly attractive to Mac users who find iMovie and iPhoto limiting, but don’t want to go to the expense of Photoshop, Aperture, or Final Cut.