I always felt that Premiere Elements is the second best video editor in the consumer market, second only to Sony Vegas Platinum. It is a serious editor that has a long tradition, compared to the more visual and cheapo editors like Ulead's. So I tested it for two weeks to assess how good it is. Installing Premiere takes a while and requires a reboot.
After a while the application is up and ready to be used. Using a number of presets for DV/HDV or direct camera capture/stopmotion, you can start a new project in it. The application captured from our Canon HV20 without any problems. Premiere Elements 4 (PE4) is a heavy application, heavier than Vegas. It requires over 1 GB of RAM when a web browser and email client are also open at the same time and well over 1 GB of RAM when encoding. Overall interface speed is good though and preview speed of HDV is real time on my P4 3Ghz with 3 GB RAM.
PE4 has a brand new interface, featuring a dark theme. On the left side you will find the preview window, below it the timeline/sceneline, and on the right side there is the "Edit" tab which lets you control your Media, themes, effects, transitions and titling, the "Create menus" tab that lets you put together and export in DVD or Blu-Ray, and the "Share" tab which offers a number of ways to export your edited footage.
The new PE4 feels more like a client to your media rather than a stand-alone application. And using the sceneline and the included movie themes, you can put a movie together in seconds, like you can with the new iMovie '08. In this new version PE4 comes with a lot of Newblue's filters, a company known for their special effects filters. Filter examples include the lighting effects, posterize, levels and contrast (not user controllable), distortion, lens flare, ripples, page curl, chroma keying, sketching, motion blur, stylization, transformation and my favorite, video stabilization. Unfortunately, adding 1 or 2 of these plugins pushed RAM utilization to 1.6 GBs, which is a bit high compared to the competition.
Regarding editing, the application allows you to de-interlace, interpret footage as 24p (although no 24p timelines are supported), audio mixing, have many tracks, easy slow-motion/fast-motion and more. Overall, it only takes a few hours to learn how to use PE4, which is a good track record for a video editor. Not as easy to pick up as iMovie, but possibly easier than Vegas.
Regarding exporting options, you can choose from a number of presets, e.g. DVD/Blu-Ray, Youtube and other online sites, PC viewing, mobile phones and PMPs and print back to camera's tape. Under PC viewing you can choose to export in Flash, mpeg/mpeg2, DV AVI, WMV, and Quicktime. I found the WMV export dialog to be the most complete of all, and the h.264 dialog to be the second best (it was only missing the ability to save as .mp4 instead of .mov, which completely kills the ability to play back your HD files in XboX360/PS3). Most of the exporting dialogs allow you to customize the frame rate, video size, bitrate which is another plus compared to Vegas Movie Studio.
Overall, I'd say that Premiere Elements 4's best features are its DVD integration, fully customizable exporting dialogs and its Video Stabilization plugin, but it loses points on RAM usage and dumbed-down project properties customization (e.g. no custom frame rates).
Now, regarding Photoshop Elements 6, this application has not only seen a UI redesign, but also a whole philosophy redesign. It is not anymore Photoshop's little sister, but a completely new application in terms of target market. By default it starts up with a splash screen that asks you if you want to organize, edit, create or share.
Among the main features of Photoshop Elements you will find tagging with keywords, save query searches so you can create smart albums, put together elements of different but similar picture in order to "fake" the perfect shot, create new images with pre-defined purpose, e.g. DVD labels/photo books/calendar, export in Flash instead of just a static image, get realistic skin tones, red eye reduction, fix exposure, easily remove unwanted elements from photos, user filters for sketching/painting/sepia etc and more. The usual, and then some more.
In other words, Photoshop Elements has become this big "service" application rather than just a photo editing application. They even have added an option to backup online. Will this new philosophy succeed? I think it will, given the direction multimedia is going. At $150 for the bundle, it is a very good price. I still find Sony Vegas Platinum a better video editor than Premiere Elements overall, but with the addition of Photoshop Elements, Adobe competes in equal terms and at a similar price.