World’s most disappointing video editing software… Adobe Premiere Elements

Where do I start? I had prior experience of the full edition of Adobe Premiere, version 5.x. This impressed as a dependable, powerful software package on a PC, considering that Premiere was originally developed for the Mac. Premiere 5 was stable, and it did a lot of good things and it did them well. So I expected a lot from Premiere Elements 4 when we purchased it here at school, just one computer, my computer, so that I can author DVDs from footage shot of school events and occasionally a personal video as well. Unfortunately the experience with Premiere Elements 4 has proved to be extremely disappointing. I hate having to write a negative review of any product, but the cumulative problems add up to a lot of heartache. I expected that it would be possible with this package to put together a reasonable effort of a DVD based on previous experience using the basic DVD authoring package supplied with older versions of Nero. The experience of Premiere Elements has been so disappointing compared with previous experiences that I cannot recommend it to anyone. A large part of that is a perception that Adobe have invested inadequate resources into this package, in its design, and in supporting it.

Here is briefly a list of the major problems I experienced with Premiere Elements 4:

  • XP install is almost complete when the install suddenly self cancels and rolls back
  • When opening a project in XP it crashes with an error in <some file name.cpp>

So from these two errors, it’s a waste of time trying to make it work on Windows XP. If you can get it to install on XP you are doing very well indeed. The second issue is a glaring example of how not to write software. In programmers’ jargon, this is called an “unhandled exception”. Instead of getting a meaningful error message, you get a cryptic message about a line number in a file, which means nothing to most people.

  • Message about “running low on system memory. Please save and proceed with caution”.

Like, what does this mean? I am using a 500 GB HDD with over 200 GB free. In fact the PC has three HDDs, the other two have 50 GB each free. The PC has 2 GB of RAM and doesn’t have any antivirus package, and no other software running. So this is another example of a meaningless, useless error message.

  • Cannot change the menu structure

When creating a disc menu, I want my menu structure to have (I think) four menu items in the main menu, and no secondary menu. But this just can’t be done. The only menus you can use are the built in templates, which have a fixed structure that you can’t deviate from. If you try to insert too many main menu items, Premiere Elements completely ignores the fact that you obviously want them all to be on the main menu, and creates a Scenes submenu and puts your items onto that. I don’t want that at all, but the default behaviour can’t be overridden in any way.

OK that is a short list but it sums up a lot. You will see numerous frustrations in this package, it will crash a lot without warning, I try to change to a different menu and it crashes, I try to get ready to burn a DVD and it crashes, or it crashes halfway through burning as it did once. When you go to Adobe support, there are some user forums and that’s about it. Nothing can really disguise the fact that this is one flaky piece of software. I will never recommend Premiere to anyone, ever again. At the moment on this project I am up to about the 12th attempt to get even the most simple option put together, just all the clips one after the other, no menus or anything fancy because you just can’t do it, as I say this is about the 12th attempt because every other attempt the program has crashed and lost all the work I have done so far in spite of pretending to save every few minutes.

You can add in a lot more issues, like that it won’t work with any source format except AVI, which means that if you have files in another format, they have to be converted to AVI first, which is hours more work if you have a lot of video files. When it works, it works well, but more often than not, I find Premiere Elements finicky and temperamental. I tried to save something to MPEG as it has a file output to that format the other day, and somewhat predictably, it didn’t output anything. It just sat there and pretended to do something.

At the times when Premiere Elements 4 was working properly, I found it easy and convenient to use. I have not attempted to use some of the more advanced features, of which there are a lot buried in different layers of the menuing. The ever-present threat of a crash, however, overshadowed my entire editing experience and created an unpleasant overtone that is difficult to disperse.

I find it hard to understand how Premiere Elements 4  got such good reviews when it was released and can still be considered a satisfactory product for this type of application. With my experience I have a definite hesitation in recommending this product to anyone in the future. But there are a lot of other packages in its price range from Ulead and others that are a lot less temperamental, and can handle different file formats with greater ease.