By Daniel Grotta
Adobe on Tuesday unveiled Version 10 of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, applications widely regarded as the top Windows PC and Mac consumer programs for editing photos and videos, respectively. In spending some time on testing the new Elements programs, we found that they continue to deliver power and ease of use in the familiar tabbed interfaces. However, instead of a "knock-your-socks-off" upgrade, the new versions represent incremental improvements, with a handful of nice new features.
Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are two separate programs that can be purchased either individually or as a bundle, Each starts with an identical Organizer, which serves as the the hub for importing, organizing and sharing your photos or videos. If both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are installed, a single Organizer will connect with both, as long as there's a match between the versions of the two programs.
The Organizer’s primary role is to help you get control over your vast library of pictures and videos. Organizer’s interface offers four tabs: Organize, Fix, Create and Share. Choosing to edit a video will launch that video in Premiere Elements, while selecting a photo to edit will launch Photoshop Elements (assuming that both programs are installed on your computer.)
Version 10 supplies three new Search tools to help you manage your pictures and/or videos: Object Search, Duplicate Photo and Visual Simularity. (Visual Similarity, however, is new only on the Mac. It was already built into the earlier Windows product.)
With Object Search, you select a section of a photo to define what you want to find. The Organizer will find those pictures that seem to match. We were impressed that, when we searched on "hands, the Organizer found pictures of hands, even when hands were only a small element of the entire composition. Still, we came across quite a large number of false finds (pictures that had nothing to do with the human hand, such as cityscapes).
Through a slider, you can weight the search by color or shape. Yet you can’t further refine search results or teach the software by removing pictures or types of pictures from these results.
Meanwhie, the "Duplicate Photo" features seeks pictures that are similar. It also offers to Stack them together, so as to help organize tshe large volume of images that are typically shot at the same time.
Visual Simularity Search works in the same way as the Object Search, although it analyzes entire pictures to seek similar themes and subjects.
Basically, the Visual Simularity and Duplicate Photo tools possess the same pros and cons as Object Search. All of them help to cut down on time wasted on manual searches. Uet they they are essentially dumb features that cannot learn from user input.
In contrast, for some time now, Elements has offered Face Recognition, a feature that helps you keyword-tag your images. With Face Recognition, you learn from your own input which faces are good matches to names in your library.
The big change with version 10 is that you can import and leverage your Facebook Friends List. Then, as you tag pictures, Elements offers matching names from your Friends List when you type in names.
Alternatively, you can type a name that isn’t on the list. Then, when you upload tagged images to Facebook, the tags are automatically applied using Facebook’s system, saving time and effort.
Still the previous version of Elements already provided a nice selection of sharing options, including private online albums, email, Facebook, Flickr, Smugmug and CEIVA Photo Frame. It also supported just about all the image and video file formats a consumer might need.
Photoshop Elements' tabbed interface is organized into Edit, Create and Share. From there, Edit is further divided into sub-Tabs for Full, Quick and Guided Edits.
In version 10, these recipes continue in the tradition of providing guidance from which you can learn. The results remain fully accessible and editable in the Full Edit tab.
Adobe's new Orton Effect Guided Edit creates a custom-like bright blur on pictures that some feel imparts a more artistic feel to the picture.
Meanhile, if you have a point-and-shoot camera and you want to emulate the pro’s DSL-R ability to soften the background using certain lenses, the new Depth of Field Guided Edit does a decent job of emulating this optical effect.
In addition, Photoshop Elements has finally added the ability to fit text to a curve, shape or selection, thereby permitting you to use typography creatively.
Also in Photoshop Elements 10, the Crop Tool has been refined. New crop guides include photographic composition “ideals” of Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio.
The Rule of Thirds creates a nine-block grid, so that you can place important elements at the intersecting points. These are considered more “powerful” locations for composition elements.
In comparison, he The Golden Ratio uses a grid that emulates an ancient composition “rule” adding a visually appealing imbalance (often described as a spiral) to the Rule of Thirds, The Golden Rule provides several uneven sized rectangles at visually powerful points.
Premiere Elements 10
For its part, Premiere Elements offers a tabbed interface separated into Project, Edit, Disc Menus and Share.
The Project tab is where you assemble video clips, photos and audio into movies. In the Edit tab, you can add Special Effects, Transitions, Titles, Themed templates and Clip Art to your movie. The Disc Menus tab has templates for creating menus for the discs you burn of your video projects.
In recognition of the numbers of people who are now shooting video using still cameras, Premiere Elements 10 adds more emphasis on creating lively videos based on still photos.
For instance, you can rather easily create “Ken Burns” type pan and zoom effects. The results are comprised on moving frames that zoom in on sections of a photograph, then pan to show other areas or the full picture. (This is an effect that has been popular in competitors’ home video software for years, ever since Burns’ “Civil War” documentary.)
By the way, we also found that the Pan/Zoom Face Frame button does a very good job of using Elements’ face recognition capabilities. Premiere Elements will automatically select all the faces in the photo. Those selections can then be used to create a very effective pan and zoom around the frame, focusing on individual people.
The new edition also adds color correction tools. For instance, AutoTone & Vibrance is aimed at enhancing he colors in a video clip without making skintones look artificially saturated or adding strange hues to faces.
Much more powerful -- and more complex to use -- is the new Three-Way Color Corrector which gives you control over the color and saturation of the highlights, shadows and midtones of an entire clip.
By implementing the highligts controls, we could make a washed-out sky (and other highlights in the clip) appear bluer. In the Midtones, we achieved increased saturation without affecting the shadows or highlights.
Premier Elements 10 also includes support for 64-bit Windows. The Mac version adds SmartSound, previously available only on Windows. This makes it possible to automatically adjust your music to match the length of your movie.
Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are both mature programs that have worked well for consumers for some time now. Particularly with the enhancements in version 10, these products remain among the top contenders that we recommend.
Sally Wiener Grotta also contributed to this report.
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