Adobe Premiere Elements 9 Review

What is video editing for consumers? Is it focused on quick trims, or should it offer more sophisticated timelines and layered effects? Is it about easy one-click sharing of cell phone videos online and to portable devices, or deeper handling of HD formats from AVCHD to Blu-ray?

Adobe does all of the above with its latest release of Premiere Elements 9, along with the companion Photoshop Elements 9. But for Adobe, video (and photo) editing is not for novice consumers. Elements is targeted to “enthusiasts,” the family memory keepers who are serious about organizing and preserving their library of media files, and want the headroom in their editing tools to be able to make sophisticated-looking productions. But more and more, the focus of the Elements product line is on the separate Elements Organizer tool that is included with both products, to help you catalog and tag and organize your photos and videos.

The Elements Organizer is a handy stand-alone tool in its own right for getting started with editing – you can use it directly to apply simple edits, create slideshows, templated movies and DVDs, and then share online and to mobile devices. But the real power of Adobe’s approach with Elements comes when you make the investment to organize and tag your materials (with automated help) – and then can leverage that information for automated editing and enhancement.

The new Elements 9 further emphasizes this focus, as all three components are now equally available on Macintosh as well as on Windows. Both Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements are available individually with the Elements Organizer for $100 list ($80 with rebate), or bundled together for $150 ($120 with rebate).


Adobe clearly believes that consumers need the headroom to step up to more sophisticated projects. Premiere Elements for video editing and Photoshop Elements for photo editing are not tools for casual consumers. Yes, they have accessible tab-based interfaces (e.g., Organize, Edit, Disc Menus, Share), with tool tips and the Inspiration Browser with how-to tutorials. But these are not simple interfaces with limited features – they are based on Adobe’s corresponding professional tools, and offer sophisticated capabilities including keyframed effects with keyed tracks for videos and layer masks for photos.

Besides moving fully to Mac OS, Premiere Elements 9 adds new technology from Premiere Pro, including optimized SD and HD editing including AVCHD, import from DSLR still cameras and compact HD cameras including Flip camcorders, and exporting productions as a Web DVD to post online, complete with scene index and chapter menus. It also adds additional sophisticated effects, including an animated outlined cartoon look and audio cleaning for background noise, volume and clarity. The Elements Organizer also adds other new sharing options including Online Albums with animated templates (based on Flash) and uploading directly to Facebook.

Similarly, Photoshop Elements 9 adds high-end technology including the Spot Healing Brush to repair photos, Layer Masks, PhotoMerge Style Match to adjust photos according to the characteristics of another, and enhanced Photomerge Panorama that fills in the edges of panoramas using the amazing content-aware fill from Photoshop CS5.

Organizational Skills

But, all this technology is useless if you can’t find your media files. Like other media browsers, the Elements Organizer is designed to help you browse and view your photos and videos, zooming in and out on thumbnails, and searching by name. But it’s the tagging tools that provide real leverage when working with a large media collection.

By categorizing your media, with albums, tags, and ratings, you’re just a click away from direct access to the media files that you need – from a particular event, or with certain people, or at a specific time or place.

Auto Analyze

But there’s more – Adobe has leveraged tags well beyond manual settings. The key technology behind the scenes in Elements is the Auto-Analyzer. As you import media files – photos and videos – the Auto-Analyzer processes them in order to set over 25 Smart Tags with information about them – for quality (e.g., low/high, focus/blurred, too bright/dark, shaky), and for characteristics including the number of objects, faces in the scene (one/multiple, close/long shot), motion (pan, tilt, zoom), and audio (dialog music, low/high volume).

It’s all this information about your videos and photos that then allows the other automated tools in Premiere Elements to perform human-like edits: Smart Trim to remove sections with low quality, Smart Fix to correct quality problems (shaky, color / lighting problems), and Smart Mix to balance music and sound effects. Similarly, InstantMovie can take advantage of the Smart Tags to automatically pick the best sections of footage in order to generate a polished movie based on your selected template.

All this magic requires significant processing, so you can’t install Elements 9 and expect to immediately get to work. For example, for an archive of 5,000 to 10,000 photos, or more, plus videos, the Elements Organizer will need to spend lots of time chewing through them to generate thumbnails (especially for the videos), and then an hour or more running the Auto-Analyzer to process them all.

Elements does run its processing in the background, and you can set the Auto-Analyzer to only run while your system is idle, and to run on startup to continue processing even while the Elements application is not running. On my test system the background Auto-Analyzer seemed to get stuck on certain PSD and JPG files, but I was able to work around this by stopping and restarting the process, and running it manually on specific folders.

Auto Magic

Adobe has a very clear focus for the Elements line, beyond general video editing – it’s for consumers, but really for serious enthusiasts who are willing to invest the time to leverage its full power. In particular, Premiere Elements provides tremendous assistance in automatically analyzing your footage to find good and bad clips, and then takes advantage of this information to provide automated editing, clean-up, and mixing. However, this does require significant processing, especially when you first import a large catalog, so you need to be patient and allow it work in the background.

Premiere Elements then provides the best of both – seriously sophisticated editing capabilities, with automated assists to do much of the heavy lifting. In particular, you can use Elements to do the heavy work of the first-pass analysis and editing of your footage, and then enjoy the fun part of tweaking and customizing the results.

Tech Specs – Windows

Video Recording Format: H.264 – 1920×1080/60i, 1280×720/60p,

Processor: 2GHz or faster processor; 3GHz processor required for HDV or Blu-ray; dual-core processor required for AVCHD

RAM: 1GB of RAM; 2GB required for HD editing (including HDV, AVCHD, or Blu-ray

Storage: 7GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 5GB to install content

Software: Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Media Center, Windows Vista, or Windows 7

Tech Specs – MAC OS

Processor: Multicore Intel processor


Storage: 7GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 5GB to install content

Software: MAC OS


  • Powerful video editing, with headroom for advanced work
  • Now fully on Mac and Windows
  • Separate Elements Organizer to organize / tag and for simple edit / share
  • Integrated video and photo management with Photoshop Elements bundle
  • Background automated clip analysis drives smart automated editing
  • Leverages online storage for backup,sharing, syncing between systems


  • Requires up-front investment in organizing media to enjoy full benefits of automation
  • Requires serious “enthusiast” interest in doing video editing; not for quick work
  • Automated processing can require significant processing horsepower and time
  • Cannot export HD to standard DVD to view on Blu-ray players (AVCHD)


Adobe Premiere Elements 9 is a tool for “enthusiasts” that adds optimized HD editing, new effects, and more options to share.

Adobe Systems, Inc.

345 Park Ave

San Jose, CA 95110


Doug Dixon covers digital media at

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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