My video camera, a Sony Handycam, is slightly over six years old. I bought it in anticipation of the birth of my first son. Oh did I have plans for that camera. I would take videos, capture them on my computer, edit them, and make amazing home movies of my new baby which I could share with friends and family. Oh the plans.
Unfortunately, my plans did not account for two significant factors. First, babies do not really move for most of the first six months. Pretty boring videos of Ben lying in one place for hours at a time (though I do wish he would do more of that now). Second, and probably most importantly, babies take a lot…and I mean a lot…of time and energy. When you have a newborn, you are really in no position to start learning a new hobby. So, instead of high quality videos which I could share with friends and family, I ended up with a shoebox filled with six years worth of raw footage which I had never had much time to do anything with.
Time passed. My second son was born, and then my daughter. With the birth of my daughter, I decided now would be the perfect time to try this again. One of the factors in this decision was that I had a chance to play with some video editing software and found that the industry had made considerable progress in the six years I had been away. These programs were much easier to learn and use than the ones I had tested in 2002.
So, with that background in mind, I set out to find the perfect video editing package. This was an endeavor which took almost no time. Like most multimedia programs for Windows, my search started and ended with Adobe. Specifically, the consumer level Adobe Premiere Elements 4. Let’s go ahead and find out what this thing can do.
Getting Started: When you start the program, you will be met by the Welcome Screen. One thing I did note was that startup time took a few minutes. Though it was not quick to reach the Welcome Screen, however, once you got there, the program moved pretty smoothly. This handy Welcome Screen allows you to get started in a flash. From here, you can choose to:
- — start a new project, which will take you straight to a blank slate;
- — open an existing project, which will take you to the standard open dialogue;
- — continue one of your listed recent projects; or
- — capture video, which is where most of us are going to want to begin. This is how you get a newly recorded video from your camera to the computer.
If you need some extra help, you can also access the fantastic tutorials or change your setup options from here.
Capturing Video: One of the reasons I really had no interest in editing my videos in the past was that the software was always just too complicated to learn. It never really seemed worth my time. Just capturing video required a maze of settings and options, and often required several attempts to get it right. As such, I was very impressed by how easy Adobe Premiere was to capture videos.
To start, of course, you will want to name the video and decide where to store it. Once you have done so, you will automatically be taken to the capture screen, where you can capture video (please make sure your camera is hooked up and ready to go) with the push of just one button.
Just hit , “Get Video.” This will simultaneously begin playback on your camera and record on your computer. When you are done, just hit the “Stop Capture” Button. Again, this will simultaneously stop the playback and recording so there is no lag between them at all.
If the video in your camera is not quite set to where you want it to record, use the on-screen controls to set it. For you advanced users, you can even use this screen to capture time-lapse or stop motion videos as well.
One thing you will notice is that in order to capture the video, you actually do have to playback the full video. This means that capturing this 10 minute video of my son’s soccer game took 10 minutes. It would be nice if there was a way to playback the clip at a faster speed when capturing so that it would take less time. If you have a longer movie, you’ll want to just set it recording and go do something else for a few hours.
Once you are done capturing video, just click out of the capture screen to enter the main user interface (below). What you will notice here is that the video you captured has been automatically split into clips by evaluating the natural breaks in the video. This is extremely useful and will save you a lot of time later.
User Interface: The user interface of the main program consists of several different areas. The main area, which looks like a big black box is your viewing area. When you select a clip, it will be displayed here.
Beneath the viewing area are the on-screen controls, which allow you to control the playback of the video to find exactly the spot with which you plan to work or edit.
Across the bottom of the screen is the your clip viewer. This is where you can arrange the clips, add music, and generally manipulate your video. There are two modes, sceneline mode and timeline mode.
Across the right hand side of the screen are your tabs. There are three tabs, which will allow you to perform almost any action you want in order to make a nice polished home video:
— Create Menus
Let’s take a closer look at all of these options, and find out just how easy it can be to turn your raw footage (in this case, my son’s soccer game) into a polished video to share with friends and family.
Viewing Modes: Once you have your video in place, it is time to start manipulating. You will want to cut, edit, and rearrange all of those clips. For all of that, and much more, you will use the sceneline and timelines modes, which are located at the bottom of the screen.
In sceneline mode, you can view your clips graphically, like a storyboard. Initially, these clips will be arranged chronologically. All you need to do is grab the one you want and drag it to its desired location. Drop it in its new spot and give yourself a hearty slap on the back for a job well done. Then, call your boss or wife and tell them how hard you worked and how badly you need a day off from this difficult endeavor.
Once you have everything arranged in a rough storyboard, it is time to switch over to timeline mode. This mode will show you the progression of all of your elements together. This is critical when you are determining what will be left on the cutting room floor and how your music will sync with the appropriate clip. If you are like me, then you will find yourself frequently switching between the two modes; using sceneline to get the clips and images in order and then switching to timeline to fine tune them into place.
Most impressive for me was how easy these modes were to use. I found this to be in stark contrast to many other editing programs, which offered extremely complicated and confusing interfaces, making it difficult just to arrange the clips in the correct order. Adobe’s drag and drop, graphically oriented interface was a refreshing change from my past experiences. And don’t think you will use these and move on. These viewing modes will be your primary workspace throughout the movie making process. So, even as we discuss the other tabs, we’ll be coming back here on a regular basis until the video is complete.
Editing Tab: Once you have assembled the clips that will become your masterpiece, the editing tab is where you will find the glue that hold them all together. In other words, this tab is where you will add all of your transitions and effects. The easiest way to do this is by simply selecting a them.
There are nine categories of themes, ranging from Happy Birthday to Entertainment, and even Comic Books. Each theme constitutes a complete package of effects, transitions, and even title screens. Just select the theme you wish to use, click apply, and all of the heavy lifting will be done for you…automatically. The one thing I did notice, however, is that once you have added a theme, while it is fairly easy to switch to a different theme, there is not an easy way to cancel the use of a theme altogether.
Of course, if automatic is not right for you, then you can create all of your own custom effects, titles, and transitions in this tab as well. Effects are probably the most advanced feature you can access. This will change the look of each clip. There are dozens of effects which allow you to blur the segment, distort the image, change the lighting, even add shadows or pixelate the image, just to name a few.
In addition to the video effects, there are even over a dozen audio effects, which give you full control over any music or audio clips you might have added.
In order to add an effect to your audio or video clip, just select the clip and click on the effect you wish to add. Then, all you have to do is click the apply button. No need to second guess the location or timing of the effect. Just tap apply and it will be automatically inserted into your clip. Easy!
The most useful feature in the editing tab is the transition. This is what will move you from one clip or image to the next. As with all of the other elements in this program, transitions are easy to use. As you can see, in sceneline mode, there are arrows between each clip. This is where your transitions will be located. To add a transition, just right click on the arrow you wish and select the transition element you want to add from the pop up menu. If you are not sure what each transition does (and there are a lot to remember), don’t worry. Just tap the transitions button on the edit tab. This will display thumbnails for all of the transitional elements. Hover your cursor over any element and you can preview the transition and determine whether to add it. I absolutely loved this preview option. Once you have selected the transition element you wish to add, just drag it down to the arrow and drop it in place.
I was quite impressed by how many transition elements there were. I have used many video editing programs which offered so few transitions that I ended up using the same repertoire multiple times throughout a video. You will not have this problem with Adobe Premiere and its dozens of transition elements.
Once you have everything in place and ready to go, you’ll want to give your movie a title (and give yourself some credit). Just head on over to the titles button and you can select from the myriad of title formats and backgrounds. Just find the one which suits your movie, and drag it on top of the clip you wish it to precede (so, dropping it on the first clip will add the title to the beginning of your movie). Just type your title on the screen, and then scroll through the wide assortment of fonts and text animation. This will really help your movie stand out and allows you to show off your awesome movie making skills. You can also use this menu to make credits for your new movie and let everyone know just who made this film.
Create Menu Tab: If you are planning to post your video to Youtube, or some other online space, then you can quit now. You will not be needing menus. For the rest of us, however, let’s be honest. Your Mom has never been to Youtube and probably wouldn’t know a Youtube from an Ebay. You will need to save the movie on a DVD, and for that you want it to look professional. You don’t want her to have to wade through all of the good stuff just to get to the clip she wants, she needs to jump straight to that clip. For this purpose, Adobe Premiere offers the menu creation tool (which should offer no surprises to any of you who have ever used a DVD in the past.
In order to create a menu, just scroll through the multitude of menu options until you find the one that best fits your video. Then, just drag the menu into your viewing screen.
Of course, in order for a menu to be useful, you will need menu markers. These will tell the menu where to land when you jump to a particular scene. Don’t worry, though. Just say the word, and Adobe Premiere will add these for you, anywhere you want…free of charge. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can add them manually by using the add menu marker button.
Now that your menu is in place, it is time to customize it. Give each scene a name, and add the title for your video. Once you are done, just tap preview to check out your handiwork. Now, your video is ready to be shared with even the most technologically illiterate family members.
Sharing Your Movie: Now that your movie is finished you will want to share it. To do so, just head on over to the share tab. From here, you can:
— Burn it to a DVD
— Upload it to YouTube or other websites
— Export the files to be viewed on your computer
— Export it for viewing on a mobile phone or other mobile device
— save it to a DV video tape.
These options make it easy for you and your friends or family to watch your home videos from the next room, or a continent away, with just the tap of a few buttons.
Conclusion: Adobe Premiere Elements 4 is almost like the response to every excuse I have ever had for not doing more with my videos. It is too complicated to capture video. With Adobe, all you need is a cable and one button to push. You can capture all of your videos with a single finger. Well, it is too hard to manipulate and organize my clips. With Adobe, it is all drag and drop. Well, it is too difficult to add transitions, effects, titles, and menus. Drag and drop. Well, I’ll never share it with anyone. I mean, I can barely find my DVD burning software and…Exactly, Adobe has taken care of all of this as well. The biggest change I have noticed from previous versions of Adobe Premiere which I have tried was how easy everything was to use. Easy. Easy. Easy! Now, if Adobe could only find a way to add more hours in a day.
What I Liked: Did I mention how easy everything is to use. Most of the controls are intuitive and right where you would expect them.
What Needs Improvement: A bit slow to load.
Price: $99.99 alone or $149.99 bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
Where To Buy: