Not long ago, I had the opportunity to review the Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements Bundle. It was one of my favorite programs to review, and I still use both parts of the bundle on a regular basis. Since that time, however, Adobe has updated the bundle and released the Photoshop and Premiere Elements Bundle 7, which I have been using for the last couple of months. The basics of the updated version are much the same as the previous version, so I am not going to waste your time rehashing everything I said before. You can read those reviews at your leisure. What I want to do here is take a look at what is new in this bundle, and especially spend some time with the new online component, photoshop.com. Ready, let’s get started.
PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS 7
I have used a number of different photo organizing and editing tools over the years. And while some may have been smaller or easier than Photoshop, none have been more powerful. And just when I thought it was packed as full of tools as it could be, Adobe goes and releases a whole new version with even more tools, some of which you wonder why they have not been around for years.
Like I said, I am not going to rehash everything I said before. I just want to quickly comment on some of the highlights of the new package. Starting with the new Quick Search feature.
Photoshop has always offered quick and easy tagging. In the past, however, it has not always been terribly intuitive to find your items once they were tagged. This has been fixed now, though, with the quick search option. In the Organizer pane, just looks for the search bar on top of your images. Just type or drag (from the sidebar) any keyword tag in this space and Photoshop will instantly locate the pictures meeting your search criteria. In teh above example, I tagged two photos with my wife’s name (Sarah) and later quickly found them with the new and improved tag searching. Just another way Photoshop continues to make working with your photos easier at every turn.
But finding them is not where the ease stops, because they have also made it significantly easier to edit and enhance your pictures with a myriad of new tools. For example, we have all heard of the red-eye removal tool. Photoshop has had it for years, and most other photo editing packages include it as well. It is pretty standard fare for even the simplest programs. But what next? I mean, you get the red removed from those eyes only to realize what? That your subject’s teeth are too yellow? That the blue sky is not blue enough? Yeah, I thought so. And Adobe did too. Both of these tools are included in the new version, and both are even conveniently located right in the sidebar menu, along with a really cool black and white brush. That black and white brush may be just be my favorite new feature of the package.
That is only the start though, as there are a number of additional brushes and enhancements which have been added, giving you a whole host of new opportunities to be creative and make your memories fit…well, the way you wish they had happened, rather than the way they actually happened. But before we move on to Premiere, I would be remiss if I did not mention a few new guided editing options which I think many of you will really enjoy.
First, there is a whole new guided edit menu called Photographic Effects. This gives you some really cool new options to make your pictures mimic other media. Chief among these is the Line Drawing Effect, which turns your photo into a pencil sketch. Now, I can tell you, I could pay hundreds of dollars for a similar idea from an artist. I give him a photo, and he sketches a picture (OK, maybe it was more like dozens of dollars, but you get my point). Here, Photoshop gives you the same thing…free, and in only a fraction of a second. Just hit the button and print. A really cool addition to the program. In addition to line drawing, however, you can also choose from old fashioned photo or saturated slide image, in order to give your pictures exactly the look and feel you need.
The final new feature I wanted to mention here was the latest Photomerge option. When I reviewed Photoshop previously, I fell in love with these Photomerge features, which let you mix and match elements from similar photos. Take the eyes off this one and the smile off that one to give your subject exactly the expression you wish you had captured originally. Well now, in addition to Group Shot and Faces, Adobe has added Scene Cleaner.
Have you ever had this experience? You are walking past a historic building or monument, only to realize that you just walked through some tourists picture? Yeah, picture ruined. Well now, Adobe might have something to say about that. With Scene Cleaner, you can quickly and easily remove unwanted elements by comparing multiple photos of the same scene. Just load up several shots of the same scene, and mark off the elements which you wish to remove. What’s that? You only took one picture and moved on? Yeah, well that is kind of the problem with this tool. It really requires you to have two or more practically identical pictures to compare. I had a hard time testing this new tool because I did not have very many opportunities to take multiple images of the same shot. In the sequence above for example, I used photos provided by Adobe to remove the man in the red jacket walking in front of the photo. In doing this, I also found that, like the other Photomerge features, Scene Cleaner is extremely slow and resource intensive, causing my computer to hang and freeze repeatedly for long periods of time. Still, if you do find a random stranger walking through the perfect shot, just take the picture a second time and use Scene Cleaner and a whole lot of patience to fix it when you get home.
PREMIERE ELEMENTS 7
Like Photoshop, Premiere has also been significantly enhanced leading up to version 7. Most of these enhancements are improvements upon features we discussed in the last review, and I will not get into all of that here. However, there are a few new features which bear a closer look.
First, as with Photoshop, Premiere Elements 7 sees the addition of Smart Tagging your video clips. Smart tagging your video, however, is going to work a little bit differently than smart tagging photos did.
On your videos, when you capture video from the camera, the clips will be automatically tagged based upon the quality of the recording. When you stop capturing, all of your clips will be analyzed and tagged. This takes a bit longer to do, but the result is incredibly helpful. Not only does it rank your video by quality, but it also tells you what the problems were with each clip. I shot a lot of medium quality film with some shaky camera work. Looks like I should start using my tripod more often.
I love smart tagging, because it makes it a snap to identify your best video clips. I could spend hours going through my videos trying to determine which ones to use. Now, I don’t have to. Adobe will perform that time consuming task in a matter of minute. Now, you can sort by Smart Tag, selecting only the best video clips for your movie.
Once you are done with smart tagging, you are ready to put those clips together in a video. This was another time consuming step for me, which required a lot of patience. But if you are not George Lucas or another crazy film maker who just lives for the editing room, then Adobe’s Instant Movie feature is going to become your new best friend.
All you have to do is choose the clips you want to use (I went for the Smart Tagged clips) and then choose one of the pre-selected themes. I found these themes were nice, but a bit limiting. As we will see, however, new themes are always being developed through the Photoshop.com website. Now, just hit the “Apply” button and wait for your movie to appear.
I was pretty impressed by this. No more shaving clips to make them fit. Now more time spent adding effects and transitions. Just one decision to make: which theme should I use. And the rest is all done for you. Of course, if you want, Premiere does still allow you to do it the traditional way…but why? This one step editing feature allows you to make your movie in seconds and get right back to spending time with your family, instead of just watching the things they did yesterday on the screen.
Of course, you might still enjoy putting more of a personal touch on your videos, or maybe the Instant Movie themes just are not catching your eye. Well, don’t worry, because there are a few new tools to make even life and editing tasks a bit easier as well.
The first one is Video Merge. This is a pretty cool feature, which puts the power of the green (or blue) screen into your hands. All you have to do is select a background shot, and then film your video in front of a primarily single color background. I made the mistake of using a video clip in which the wall was too similar to my children’s skin tone, resulting in some ghastly and ghostly results. As such, I am using the stock videos provided by Adobe for this example. As you can see, I have a clip of a rock concert, and a clip of a girl playing guitar. I don’t care what Adobe says, you will want to use a blue or green background for this exercise. The more contrast between your subjects and the background, the better this will work.
The result, however, is a very cool effect, typically reserved for professional movies.
The second effect you will want to check out is the Smart Sound feature. And boy was this one a huge help for me. One of my biggest frustrations in making movies is getting the video and soundtrack to line up. I always end up with one being just seconds longer than the other, resulting in endless shaving of a few seconds here or there. Eventually, after most of the original video and about half the song has been cut, I end up with something relatively close to being synchronized. So, you can see why I feel a little like Adobe peered into my computer and ripped out the part which was giving me the most frustration when they designed this new version.
Smart Sound lets you pick any audio file on your computer to add as a soundtrack. But that is nothing new. What is new is the ability to input the length of the video clip. Your audio track will now be automatically edited in order to match the length of your video. Absolutely perfect.
As if all of these enhancements and new features are not enough, we haven’t even hit the main attraction yet…photoshop.com. This is Adobe’s new online photo and video album, which allows you to back up your work, share your masterpiece, and plenty more. Let’s get going with the biggest thing to hit Adobe since…Photoshop.
The first thing you will need to know is that there are two flavors of photoshop.com. Like most online resources, there is a free version (basic) and a paid version (plus). Both give you access to your photos and videos online, as well as provide backup support for your media. The basic membership, however, is limited to 2 GB of storage, whereas the plus membership will give you a whopping 20 GB of storage. More than enough to store most photo or video collections. Additionally, only the plus membership gives you access to downloadable content, such as new templates, movie themes, effects, and even tutorials.
The first thing I found when I visited the site was how slowly it loaded. It takes a good 30 seconds of so before you can see your content, which is quite unfortunate. Other photo upload sites, such as Flickr, PhotoBucket, and Picassa do not have this problem with loading the page.
Uploading photos and videos: The most important thing you will need to be able to do is upload content to the website. For photos, this is as simple as knowing where your content is stored. All you have to do is tap the Upload button and direct the browser to your photos folder. That’s it. Just sit back and relax.
Video is a bit more complicated, requiring what I felt were some difficult to find settings within Premiere. Both photos and videos, however, can be uploaded from the Photoshop or Premiere applications on your computer. The other problem I had with video was that it would not upload my finished project files when I made a movie in Premiere. It would only upload the raw .avi video clips.
When it comes to adding photos, though, photoshop has really done their homework. A lot of you are probably thinking, well, I already use some other service and I really do not want to transfer all of those files. Well, I agree. That is a pain. So, you don’t have to. Photoshop.com will can automatically log into most of the major photo sharing sites (including: Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, and Picassa) and display the photos stored in those locations.
Additionally, for those of you who are thinking, well, it is really a pain to remember to upload those files all the time, and who wants to go through all of that effort…well, Adobe has you covered as well. Just download the Air Uploader utility (if you have Photoshop Elements 7 installed, you can do this directly from there as well). This will ensure that your photo library and photoshop.com are always synced. On the fly syncing…without thinking. Now, I bet some of the other services are wondering why they did not think of that.
So, using these utilities, Photoshop.com becomes much more than a photo sharing service. It is essentially your command center for photo sharing. From here, you can access anywhere and everywhere in which you may have stored photos. Which other service can make that claim?
Of course, the problem I had with photoshop.com was the 40 GB of photos I currently have stored on my hard drive. I am well over double the limit of even the plus membership. Well, not to worry. If you have an enormous library like I do, Adobe has made it extremely easy to simply purchase additional storage space on their server.
Editing and Design: Ok. You are not going to have as much control to fine tune and tweak your photos from here as you would from Photoshop Elements 7 on your desktop. Then again, this does give you a pretty impressive array of tools which you can use to tweak your online photos. Most of the normal corrections for lighting, contrast, red eye, and more are here. You can also resize, crop, or rotate your photos.
In addition to simply editing or correcting your photos, you can also add some pretty nice decorations. These include text bubbles, costumes, and other images designed to spruce up you picture and have some fun. I found the content of available clip art to be a bit small, but decorations is also still in Beta mode, so it will hopefully grow along with the program.
Sharing: Probably the biggest reason to store your photos online is to share them. With Photoshop, not only can you email photos and albums to your friends and family, you can also download images or order prints to be delivered directly to you.
One of the problems I have always had with these kinds of online sharing programs is that I never remember people’s email addresses. So, I am constantly switching back and forth between the share screen and my gmail contacts. Well, Photoshop has thought of that as well. From the address book, just select import contacts to import your Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo contacts.
You also have a public gallery space, which you can use to share photos and sort through your uploaded items.
Themes and Downloadable Content: One of the cool things about signing up for the plus membership is the downloadable content you will receive. This can include movie themes, templates, special effects, and pretty much anything else. Often, these are seasonal in nature, so you might receive a cool new Halloween theme in October. Or a Christmas theme in December.
The best part of this content, however, is that you do not need to do anything to get it. Whenever a new item is available, Photoshop or Premiere will automatically download it and toss it in the appropriate menu. So, when you go to use it, the new item will show up as though it were there all along. Now that is pretty cool stuff.
Mobile Photoshop: Just in case accessing your photos from any computer was not enough, Photoshop also offers a mobile version, which allows you to access any uploaded photos directly from your Windows Mobile device.
While I thought this interface was nice, it was clearly not designed for the VGA screen on my Touch Pro (to be fair, the Touch Pro was not listed under the supported devices). The result was thumbnails which were far to small to be of much use. Still, I do think this is a pretty cool idea. It allows you to view any uploaded photos, or upload your own mobile photos directly to your photoshop.com account. Hopefully, they will continue to work on this program to add functionality as well as VGA phones to the mobile version of the site.
The other problem with the mobile version was that it does not allow for offline access to your photos. So, unless you have an unlimited data plan, you should probably use this sparingly.
I have always been a huge fan of Adobe and their photo and video editing packages. And I was not disappointed by the Photoshop and Premiere Elements 7 Bundle. Not only has Adobe gone through and given new energy to many of their standard features, but they have added a number of creative new features. Heck, with Instant Movie, I can honestly say that making a polished looking movie is easy. It still takes a long time, but that is time Adobe needs to process, not time you need to be staring at the computer screen. Toss in the addition of their online photoshop.com membership, and this could be the best $100 any amateur or family photographer will ever spend.
What I Liked: Dozens of enhancements to both programs. Fantastic new effects to work with both video and photos. Photoshop.com. New downloadable content
What Needs Improvement: Some features of Photoshop and Premiere caused my computer to hang for long periods of time. Photoshop.com is slow to load. Mobile site does not support VGA. 20 GB of storage is not a lot for photos and video.
Where To Buy: Adobe
Price: Bundle: $179.99 (includes 1 year photoshop.com Plus membership)
– Photoshop Elements 7: $139.99 (includes 1 year photoshop.com Plus membership)
– Premiere Elements 7: $139.99 (includes 1 year photoshop.com Plus membership)
– photoshop.com Plus membership: $49.95/year