Adobe Premiere Elements Review: Turn Home Movies into Masterpieces
Review of: Adobe Premiere Elements
Use: Video Editing
Excellent video editing with very limited device support
A bit pricey compared to other more capable video editors
Ease of Use
Extremely easy to use, with excellent built-in tutorials and support
Lots of support as long as you don't run into new problems
What I like:
- Very User-friendly
- Built-in Tutorials
- Keyframing for Animation
- 4K / 60 FPS Support
- Social Media Uploading
What I dislike:
- Adobe Account Required
- Limited Device Support
- Relatively Slow Rendering
- Limited Social Media Export Presets
Summary: Adobe Premiere Elements is the scaled-down version of Adobe Premiere Pro, designed for the casual home user instead of movie-making professionals. It does an excellent job of guiding new users into the world of video editing, with a helpful series of built-in tutorials and introductory options that make it easy to start editing videos. There is an excellent set of tools for editing the content of existing videos, and a library of graphics, titles and other media available for adding an extra bit of style to your project. Rendering speed of your final output is fairly average compared to other video editors, so keep that in mind if you plan to work on large projects.
The support available for Premiere Elements is initially good, but you might run into trouble if you have more technical issues because Adobe relies heavily on community support forums to answer almost all their questions. I ran into a fairly serious bug with importing media directly from mobile devices, and I was unable to get a satisfactory answer about why.
Why You Should Trust Me
Hi, my name is Thomas Boldt, and I'm a graphic designer with experience in motion graphic design as well as a photography instructor, both of which have required me to work with video editing software. Creating video tutorials is essential for teaching some of the more complicated digital editing techniques, and high-quality video editing is a necessity for making the learning process as smooth as possible.
I also have extensive experience working with all types of PC software from small open source programs to industry standard software suites, so I can easily recognize a well-designed program. I've put Premiere Elements through several tests designed to explore its range of video editing and exporting features, and I've explored the various technical support options available to its users.
Disclaimer: I have not received any kind of compensation or consideration from Adobe to write this review, and they've had no editorial or content input of any kind.
What Is Adobe Premiere Elements?
Premiere Elements 2018 is the latest version of Adobe's video editing software marketed to the average home user and video enthusiast. It offers a range of solid editing tools and the ability to easily export finished videos for sharing to social media sites including Youtube and Facebook.
Is Adobe Premiere Elements Free?
No, it is not free software, although there is a 30-day free trial available. The trial version allows you to test the full functionality offered by the software, but any videos you output while using the free trial are watermarked with the text 'Created with Adobe Premiere Elements trial version' across the center of the frame (as you'll see in later screenshots).
If you wish to purchase the program, you can do so from the Adobe store for a one-time cost of $99.99 USD. If you're upgrading from a previous version of Premiere Elements, you'll receive a slight discount to $79.99.
There's also the option to purchase Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements together for $149.99, which gives you a bit more flexibility when it comes to creating your own graphics and other elements for your movies. Upgrading from a previous Elements package costs $119.99.
Premiere Elements vs. Premiere Pro
Premiere Elements is a video editor designed for the general public with no previous experience in video editing, while Premiere Pro is a professional-level program that expects users to understand the ins and outs of video production before starting to use it.
Premiere Pro has been used to edit Hollywood blockbusters including Avatar and Deadpool, while Premiere Elements is more suited to editing home videos, gameplay footage and Youtube content. You can read our Adobe Premiere Pro review here.
Adobe Premiere Elements Tutorials
The product contains an excellent array of tutorials built into the program, including the eLive area that is constantly updated with new Elements tutorials and inspiration.
If you're looking for more basic and structured tutorials, the Guided mode will walk you through the process of performing basic tasks until you get familiar with the process.
But there's even more out there for those of you who want a more thorough grounding in how Premiere Elements functions:
And for those who want an offline reference, there's also a book available from Amazon.com, The Muvipix.com Guide to Adobe Premiere Elements 15.
A Closer Look at Premiere Elements
Note: the program is designed for the home user, but it still has more tools and capabilities than we have time to test in this review. Instead, I'll focus on the more general aspects of the program and how it performs.
Please also note that the screenshots below are taken from Premiere Elements 15 for the PC (Windows 10 64-bit), so if you're using Premiere Elements for Mac the interfaces will look slightly different.
The interface for Premiere Elements is very user-friendly, and offers a number of different ways to use the software. The primary UI options are available at the top navigation: eLive, Quick, Guided and Expert. eLive provides up-to-date tutorials and inspirational pieces designed to help you expand your techniques, and the Quick mode is a stripped-down version of the interface designed for quick and simple video edits. The Guided mode walks you through the process of working with video for the first time and introduces you to Expert mode, which gives you a bit more information and control over the way your movie is put together.
You can also use one of the wizards in the 'Create' menu to create a Video Story, an Instant Movie or a Video Collage, three quick ways to turn your videos and photos into a movie without having to learn too much about editing by simply answering questions about the content. If you don't want to focus too much on a custom video but you want something nice quickly, these options can save you some time.
Working with Media
Working with Premiere is quite easy, whether or not you've taken the time to go through some introductory videos or tutorials. If you have any experience working with other video editing applications, the process will be immediately clear to you. If not, you can follow one of the guided processes to help learn how the program works.
Importing media can be handled in several ways, whether you want to use the Elements Organizer, add files directly from your computer, or from a variety of video devices including webcams, smartphones and camcorders. I did have a few issues with importing, some more serious than others.
I ran into a bit of a hiccup on my very first media import, when the Videomerge feature mistakenly thought my clip was used a chroma key (aka 'green-screened'), but a simple 'no' was enough to get me right back to my project.
Once your media is imported, working with it is extremely easy. Imported media gets added into your 'Project Assets', which is essentially a working library of everything you've imported or used in your movie. This makes it easy to re-use graphical objects or text set in a particular style, saving you from having to recreate them each time you want to use them.
Adding effects, transitions and graphic overlays is as simple as dragging and dropping from the appropriate panel on the right onto the appropriate clip or section of the timeline. The 'Fix' section contains a number of useful tools allowing you to tweak the various aspects of your media elements, and it is context-sensitive. If you've got a movie clip selected in the timeline, it will show you tools for adjusting your video including color adjustments, shake reduction, and smart fixes which automatically adjust your video for contrast and lighting. If you've got a title or text selected, it gives you options for customizing it, and so on.
There is also a fairly large selection of graphics, titles and effects that can be added to your movie, and of course you can create your own graphics and titles to include. The only issue with these is that some of them are a bit on the ugly side (or at least outdated, if you want to be nicer) compared with some of the built-in assets in other programs, and they need to be downloaded for the first time before they can be used. This helps to keep the initial program download on the smaller side, but you'll need to have an internet connection the first time you try to use them.
When it comes to working with audio, Premiere Elements is a bit more limited than other video editors. There don't appear to be any noise cancellation tools or options, which are extremely useful for videos shot outdoors when it's even remotely windy, although you can perform basic corrections like volume normalization and equalizer adjustments.
Those of you who are constantly shooting videos and photos will be happy to know that Premiere Elements comes with the Elements Organizer, a piece of software designed to help you manage your media library. It allows you to tag, rate and sort through all your content, and quickly add any element you need to your current project assets.
For those who are totally new to video editing, Premiere Elements offers a very helpful 'Guided' method of working through the various steps involved in working with video.
The guide information appears in the top-left of the screen, but it's not just prompts - it's actually interactive, waiting to ensure you follow the steps properly before moving onward.
This is one of Premiere Element's biggest strengths - you can go from no experience at all to editing your own videos without help in under 15 minutes. It even takes you all the way through the finalization process into the export section, so that your video will be ready to share or send to any device.
My first attempt at using the video importer to import video from my Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone was a dramatic failure. It first didn't detect my device, then when I attempted to refresh the device list, Premiere Elements crashed. This happened repeatedly, leading me to conclude that their device support might need a bit more work. As far as I can tell, the number of supported devices is extremely small and none of my mobile devices were on the list, but that still shouldn't be enough to crash the program entirely.
I can just copy the files from my phone to my computer first, but I can't understand why such a simple operation would cause Premiere Elements to crash. The option to import photos got a little bit further, but was no more effective. It didn't crash, but instead simply stopped responding at the screen you see below.
I could open my S7's folder directly when using the standard file browser to import both photos and videos, but it wouldn't actually import anything, and no matter what I did it would always crash when trying to import video directly from the device using the import wizards.
After searching through Google and the Adobe online help, I resorted to making a post in the support forums. As of this writing there are no answers to the question, but I'll keep you updated as things progress. Until then, you can just copy files to your computer first before importing them into your project.
Exporting & Sharing
The final stage of any creative process is getting it out in the world, and Premiere Elements makes it extremely easy to turn your work into the next viral video. You can use quick export presets for a number of different situations from 4K televisions to burning a Blu-Ray to sharing online, or you can create your own custom presets if you have more specific requirements.
The online sharing worked easily and flawlessly, which is a nice change compared to some other video editors I've worked with. Some of the social media presets are a bit outdated, but I noticed the first time I opened the Export & Share wizard, Premiere Elements checked with Adobe and made sure the presets were up-to-date. Hopefully, they'll be including some more varied options soon that take advantage of Youtube's new 60FPS and 4K support, but you can still export at those settings and upload them manually.
The Reasons Behind My Ratings
The program has almost all the features that you'll need for casual video editing, whether you're making home movies or content for your social media channels. It's not a good idea to try to use this for professional video unless you're working on fairly simple projects, especially since the rendering performance isn't the best out there. The support for importing media from mobile devices is also limited, although it's possible to simply copy files to your computer before importing them to your project.
$99.99 isn't a completely unreasonable price for a good video editor, but it's possible to get an editor that matches most of the features from Premiere Elements at a lower price. Alternatively, you can spend the same amount of money and get something with more features and better rendering speed - as long as you're using a PC.
Ease of Use: 5/5
Ease of use is where Premiere Elements really shines. If you've never used a video editor before, you can find yourself creating, editing and sharing videos faster than you might expect. There are plenty of built-in, guided tutorials to help you learn how the program works, and the eLive feature offers additional tutorials and inspiration to make your video creativity shine.
Premiere Elements has a strange support structure which is based very heavily on the Adobe community support forums. This may be different for users who purchased the full version of the software, but I was unable to find an effective solution to the issue I experienced while attempting to import media from my smartphone. Despite that, the community forum is usually active and helpful, and there is an excellent knowledge base online that answers a number of more common support issues.
Premiere Elements Alternatives
Adobe Premiere Pro (Windows / MacOS)
If you're looking for some more powerful editing options, look no further than Premiere Pro, Adobe's original video editor that has a few Hollywood movies to its credit. It is definitely not user-friendly in the slightest, but that's the trade-off for more powerful editing options. It's only available as a monthly Creative Cloud subscription, either alone for $19.99 USD or as part of the whole Creative Cloud suite for $49.99 per month. Read our full review of Premiere Pro here.
Cyberlink PowerDirector (Windows only)
PowerDirector isn't quite as user-friendly as Premiere Elements, but it has more features like 360-degree video editing and H.265 codec support. It's also one of the fastest renderers available, so if you're going to be doing much video work you could boost your productivity a bit. The Ultra version costs $99.99 USD, and the Ultimate version costs $129.99. We reviewed PowerDirector here.
Wondershare Filmora (Windows / MacOS)
Filmora is almost as easy to use as Premiere Elements, although it doesn't have the same level of built-in help. It uses a more attractive modern style for its graphical elements and presets, but it has some issues working with social media accounts. It's also much more affordable than these other options at just $59.99 USD for a lifetime license. Read our full review of Filmora here.
Adobe Premiere Elements is a great program for users who are new to the world of video editing. It has excellent introductory tutorials and step-by-step creation wizards to quickly turn media into polished videos, but it's also powerful enough that you can customize almost every aspect of your video production. The device support is fairly limited, but this issue is simple enough to work around as long as you're comfortable copying files between your devices manually.