Adobe Premiere Elements 8 makes significant strides over its predecessor, Premiere Elements 7. Premiere Elements 8 adds file organizing and keywording, plus greater integration with Photoshop Elements, while making it much easier to edit and use videos in style.
The most obvious (and most welcome) addition to Premiere Elements is the Organizer. Adopted from Photoshop Elements, the Organizer allows you to view, keyword-tag, and organize videos and photos; and when you have the two Elements programs installed, it acts as a conduit to both programs via a single interface. It automates keywording through Auto Analysis of image content (including face recognition) and Smart Tagging (of video quality), starting instantly when you import files. In addition, you can drag and drop tags onto a video while it previews, which can be quite useful since the most important content of a movie might not be in the first frame.
You can back up, share, and archive the Organizer database and media files, and even sync them with your other computers, using Adobe's Photoshop.com wizard from within Premiere Elements (assuming that your other computers have an Elements 8 program installed). Premiere Elements 8 comes with a Basic membership to Adobe's photo-sharing site, Photoshop.com, plus 2GB of online storage at the site. If you pay more, you get a Plus membership that includes 20GB of storage, as well as templates and tutorial goodies.
The interface provides two ways to create movies from your video: Instant Movie and manual creation. However, the two aren't divided processes so much as they are a workflow continuum. Instant Movie can use the new Smart Tags to create a movie, with music and transitions, based on your selected Flash template. Smart Tags attempt to guide the Instant Movie function away from using boring, blurred, or otherwise undesirable clips within the movie. In addition, Premiere Elements 8 offers more customisation tools for Instant Movie, such as sliders to adjust the clip speed and/or the number of effects that will apply automatically. Like any automatic tool, Instant Movie doesn't always produce great movies. The results do tend to be pleasant, though sometimes rough, with the clip order not always logical or smooth. You may prefer to use Premiere Elements 8's manual tools to edit the Instant Movie, or to start your own from scratch.
Other automatic tools include Smart Fix, Smart Trim, and Smart Mix. Smart Fix attempts to automatically correct the imperfections, such as an underexposed clip, that Smart Tags has flagged. Smart Trim uses SmartTags to determine which portions of a video should remain and which should go, as well as to weigh the interest of various sections. You can set Smart Trim either to work automatically or to mark the areas of video it recommends for trimming; if you select the latter, you can then manually trim, adjust, or retain pieces, all in an easy-to-use timeline.
Smart Mix balances different sound sources so that the background music doesn't drown out narration or dialogue. Again, you can override Smart Mix's choices. In our tests, both Smart Trim and Smart Mix worked seamlessly, taking the drudgery out of critical video editing processes. Smart Fix tended to do a good job on the most obvious fixable problems.
In Premiere Elements 8, you can now add still photos to movies, even if you don't have Photoshop Elements installed. The library of templates, effects, transitions, and graphics has expanded, and now includes animated clip art that you can drag and drop into a film clip. Afterward you can add the new Motion Tracking to move objects within the video, making an animated butterfly flit around the head of a skipping child, for instance.
A nice selection of Flash and Acrobat tutorials, categorized by the level of difficulty and the type of activity, is accessible within the interface, though the tutorials are not context-sensitive. However, only a few are available to the general user. To access Adobe's large and expanding library of lessons, you have to purchase a Plus Photoshop.com membership. We think such tutorials should be free to all registered users, as they are for many other programs. Similarly, extra templates and transitions will be available only to Plus members.
Premiere Elements 8 is an appealing upgrade for anyone interested in organizing videos, editing them, and compiling them into attractive, fun movies. With its underlying power and its significantly improved ease of use, it's a good value, and we even like the added value of Photoshop.com, though we'd like it even more if Adobe didn't require users to buy a Plus membership to access the tutorials.