“This YouTube thing might be catching on.” Two years or so after that dawned on most people, Adobe has caught on, adding an upload-to-YouTube feature to its consumer video editor, Premiere Elements 4. But despite that and an overhauled interface, I wasn’t as thrilled with this update as I have been with past versions.
Enter your YouTube user name and password, and Elements saves it for future use. It outputs your movie directly to YouTube’s preferred Flash format, so you save time by skipping the step of outputting to some other format first. However, you can’t change any settings, and the quality wasn’t so hot. For now, it’s only YouTube, though Adobe says other sites could be added in the future.
Adobe calls Elements’ updated interface “decluttered,” and it certainly has fewer buttons and sliders. But it felt dumbed down to me: Some useful things are hidden or simply gone. For example, Elements 3’s interface let you move panes around the app and put them wherever you wanted, even on a second monitor. Elements 4 lets you resize panes, but you can’t move them. And it lacks graphical elements to delineate tracks in a timeline–I had to hover my cursor near where lines used to be and try to make the resizing icon appear.
The Media bin now has a Project sub-bin and an Organizer sub-bin; if you preview a clip in the Project window, you’ll see Elements’ familiar trim window, with rudimentary playback controls such as fast-forward, fast-reverse, and a “scrubber” to go to a certain point in a clip so you can evaluate it. But if you preview clips in the Organizer window, you’ll see it in a tiny window that has no controls; you can’t tell how long a clip is, and you can’t fast-forward to see whether material at the end is useful. And while the size of text in menus and other elements is much more consistent than in previous versions, it’s also pretty small, often uncomfortably so, and raising several settings didn’t help.
Premiere Elements has an audio mixer pulled from Premiere Pro; it lets you adjust audio levels as your timeline’s playing. That’s very useful for making sure your soundtrack doesn’t drown out voices in your captured video. A new image stabilizer works with moderate success; it automatically zooms and crops to smooth movement. A new feature detects beats and music and automatically matches scene changes to the beat; with a series of still images, I had to futz with the settings to get a pace I liked, but it provides you with a good starting point, and you can adjust further in the timeline.
In the past, a common criticism of Premiere Elements has been that it’s too complicated for novice users. That may have been true, but some compromises the new version makes to appeal to newbies will frustrate existing users.