Technology advancements come from all directions, some flowing from professional products to consumers, others flowing from consumer to pros. This column is about the second category—specifically, several enhancements in the $99 Adobe Premiere Elements 7 that professional editors would love to have in Premiere Pro.
What’s new and impressive in Premiere Elements? Most significant is Smart Tagging, which analyzes your footage, breaks it into scenes, identifies scenes containing one or more faces, and identifies clips that are out of focus, shaky, underexposed, or overexposed. Using this qualitative data, Premiere Elements then categorizes all clips as high, medium, or low quality.
In the current version, you can triage your clips based upon these tags. In a wedding video, you can identify all shots containing faces that were at least medium quality, which means they were shaky or improperly exposed, but not both. Then, using a manual tagging paradigm that first appeared in Photoshop Elements, you can further organize your clips. For example, create categories for bride, groom, bride and groom, bridal party, parents, etc., then drag all scenes into one or multiple groups.
This manual stuff sounds like a lot of work, but it goes quickly. When it’s time to create a montage of the bride and groom or to find all shots containing the bride’s mother, the raw clips are one or two clicks away. You can even sort the clips by time and day, a great way to separate clips from the rehearsal dinner and wedding day.
In the wedding videos I’ve done, easy access to these types of tags would have saved hours over the lame approach I used, which was copying and renaming scenes with names such as brideandmother.avi. Imagine what tags could do for coaches analyzing game film, documentarians assembling rough cuts, or producers working with any kind of video where they have to create a greatest hits or similar compilation from mounds of source footage.
Tagging is great, but where do I think Adobe is going with this? Well, think about it: Adobe just classified clips as shaky, overexposed, or underexposed. What’s the next step? Applying anti-shake and brightness and contrast filters, of course. It really wouldn’t be that hard.
In Premiere Elements, most adjustments are fully “auto” anyway. Just apply the auto-brightness effect to the clip that’s too dark, or apply image stabilization to the shaky footage. Place an icon on the footage so the editor knows it’s there, but save her the effort of applying the necessary filter herself.
Adobe hasn’t confirmed (or denied) that this is coming, but you can imagine future versions of Premiere (Pro and Elements) analyzing your clips; identifying all of them with motion, exposure, or color-related problems; and suggesting solutions. It could even group problem clips from the same tape so you can correct one and apply the fix to all. This type of analysis could save literally hours of work.
Next up is InstantMovie, which is the merger of Smart Tagging and Themes. Briefly, a Theme is a type of “auto-movie” function that analyzes your clips; finds the best scenes; adds a theme-specific array of cuts, effects, transitions, and the like; and distills the whole affair to match the duration of the background music (or any selected duration). In previous versions, as well as version 7, you can apply Themes to clips you’ve added to the timeline.
InstantMovie, which lets you apply Themes to clips analyzed with Smart Tagging, is new in v7. When this occurs, Premiere Elements analyzes the selected clips, eliminates the poor shots, finds the shots that best match the tone of the Theme, and applies the Theme to those clips. When this process is complete, Premiere Elements deposits the InstantMovie on the timeline, which you can edit to your heart’s delight. Creating a montage of clips of the bride and groom together over their wedding weekend would literally take minutes.
In the weddings I’ve done, I created short montages to help bridge the gap between major sequences. For example, 25 minutes of footage shot while guests arrive at the synagogue might convert into a short music video to introduce the ceremony, showcasing all the noted guests.
Creating these 2–3 minute segments manually can literally take hours, and it did, before I started using muvee autoProducer as a starting point. The problem with muvee is that you can’t easily delete unwanted sequences on the input side or edit the result. You can only output the finished video and input that into your editor to carve out unwanted scenes or add a few must-haves.
Certainly auto-movie functions play a limited role in professional production, but if you’re producing montages of any type, these tools are worth a look. With Smart Tagging and easy post-creation editing (that is, the ability to edit the project in the timeline after the application creates the auto-movie), Premiere Elements does it best.
Premiere Elements lacks many of the features needed for full-throttle professional productions, including multicam tools, multiple sequences, scopes, and manual color correction tools. Still, it might be a great add-on to your current toolset for some editing activities, and it’s definitely a harbinger of features to come in pro-level tools.
Jan Ozer (janozer at doceo.com) is a contributing editor to EventDV and Streaming Media.