Adobe Premiere Elements is probably one of the best known editors on the market. Adobe, maker of professional tools for the creative industries such as Photoshop and Premiere Pro, also makes cut-down versions of two of its apps for home use. Premiere Elements is for video editing, and Photoshop Elements is for editing images (we mention it here only because it’s available as a double pack with Premiere Elements). You buy this software outright, instead of subscribing as you do to its Premiere Pro big brother. We have Elements on our list of the best video editing software because it's easy to use, and scales for users from beginner to expert, making it a great all-rounder.
Since it’s initial release in 2004, Premiere Elements has evolved into something much more than a tool for creating DVDs from your home camcorder footage. Now that we carry video cameras around in our pockets all the time, Premiere Elements gives us many things to do with the movies we capture, and with its broad suite of tutorials, the program teaches you video editing from the very start, with no existing knowledge required.
Elements’ recent releases have also upped the amount of automation on offer. Using Adobe’s cloud-based Sensei tech, it will automatically trim your clips so only the interesting bits remain, as well as combining them with still images to create a movie from your raw materials. You can intervene at any time, or take complete control and play with the program’s enormous library of transitions and effects to your heart’s desire.
Adobe Premiere Elements review: Ease of use
Premiere Elements comes with the Organizer, a separate application that not only collates your video files and makes them easier to find, but will automatically tag them based on what - and who, thanks to facial recognition - they feature. The 2020 version also adds support for HEVC (H265, High Efficiency Video Coding) movies shot on iPhones and many of the other best smartphones.
While the Organizer is used for organisation and selecting the clips you want to edit, the main Editor application is split into three modes: Quick, Guided and Expert. Quick is the simplest of the three, and is for those times when you just want to bash a couple of clips together, whack a simple transition between them, maybe add some music, then get it shared to social media or YouTube as quickly as possible.
Expert mode takes off the training wheels and leaves you to get on with it. It’s got a strong range of features, including image stabilisation and the insertion of transitions, titles, and effects. There’s a small amount of help available in the form of templates, but most of the time it’s up to you. Your movie clips are imported into a project file, and the edit isn’t finalised until you export a version as a new file, so your original footage is never overwritten.
The middle mode, Guided, is where Premiere Elements is at its cleverest. This mode teaches you how to use the software, and thereby teaches you video editing too. Select one of its guided tutorials, and you’ll be taken through editing tasks such as animating graphics, adding titles, splitting and trimming clips, and even slow motion or picture-in-picture effects. The edits you make are reflected if you flip into Expert mode, enabling you to see precisely how they affect the timeline, and how to do them yourself next time.
Adobe Premiere Elements review: Speed
Combined with the Organizer, Premiere Elements is a fast application to use - as long as you stay on top of tagging clips and allowing facial recognition to run. Once this is done, finding the clips you want to edit can be achieved in a flash, and editing itself is carried out on a straightforward timeline that makes it easy to keep your audio and video in sync and generally see what’s going on.
As with every video editing app, you’re going to need quite a beefy system to run it on. A seventh-generation Core i7 (quad-core) processor and 16GB of RAM are recommended if you intend to edit 4K video, and improving on these specs will only increase performance. You should also keep on top of operating system updates - Premiere Elements 2020 no longer supports Windows 7 or 32bit environments (or versions of macOS before 10.13). If you need to upgrade we have a guide to the best home computers on site.
You’ll also need plenty of storage. While content such as templates and transitions are only downloaded from the internet as needed, it’s easy to amass a lot of data when trying things out - Adobe suggests the complete application can take up to 17GB on your hard drive. Add to this the storage needs of a large raw video clip collection, and laptops with small SSDs can start to groan. Faster storage always helps too, and a clip library on a slow external drive will lead to long waiting times. Premiere Elements isn’t GPU-accelerated, but will use the Quick Sync cores on recent Intel CPUs to speed up final rendering and export.
In use, Premiere Elements is intuitive. With up to 99 video and audio tracks supported in Expert mode, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and having fun with video and effects. Editing options and fixes are kept at the right-hand side of the interface, and include both automatic and manual tools. Some are more useful than others - the motion-tracking graphics seem a nice idea until you see the range of images provided - and others better suited to stop-motion animation than feature film development. There’s also a selection of musical accompaniments that you can weave into your creation, and a full title and credits generator capable of handling all sorts of text overlays.
Adobe Premiere Elements review: Value
Adobe clearly doesn’t want to cannibalize subscriptions to Premiere Pro, so while Premiere Elements is a fine 1080p/4K editor, there are some features missing. You won’t be able to edit 360-degree footage, 8K, or do jam-synced multicam editing here, but for anyone with lesser needs this is one of the best applications you can buy.
Cost is an issue, as other applications offer similar features for similar money, and some are free. The strength of Premiere Elements is in its Guided mode, the tutorials that teach you how to edit video as you go, however, and that’s something other apps can’t compete with.
Should you buy Adobe Premiere Elements?
For anyone who’s starting out, dipping a toe into the world of video editing, then this is a great buy. Other applications may be free, but Premiere Elements takes you through the fearsome world of video and makes it seem friendlier. Anyone who’s experienced in video editing can leave it in Expert mode, and enjoy video editing the Adobe way without having the pay the subscription to Premiere Pro. Just make sure your PC or Mac is up to the task of running it.