Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 is a package containing two products. Sharing individual bits of content between the two products — photos, video clips, audio clips, etc. — is easy because both Photoshop and Premiere now share a common Organizer. That makes the whole Adobe world and everything in it play nice together. The Adobe Plus package adds online access to a host of features and functions on the Adobe web portal including 20GB of online storage, artwork, themes, templates and special effects with which to enhance all of your photo and video editing, and excellent new tutorials to help you quickly learn dozens and dozens of things in the software. Making the bulk of the best tutorials available only through Plus is a bit of a downer, but for an extra $49 it's all well worth the price. That said, even at US$149 this package is a competition killer.
The main beef we had with the previous iteration of this package, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 & Premiere Elements 7, was that the packaged nature of the bundle implied extensive integration between the two products (organizing, editing, automation), but didn't deliver as much as we expected. That has been resolved with some significant degree of flair in version 8. Organizer in Premiere Elements 8 now uses the exact same sort of keyword and descriptive tags as the Organizer component in Photoshop Elements 8. An integrated Organizer is obviously logical and something which should have been a part of this package years ago. It's here now though, and it basically catapults the product head & shoulders above the competition.
The Auto-Analyze component of the Organizer is great — about the best you'll find actually (it uses face recognition, photo or clip quality recognition and other technical tricks) — but don't believe for a moment that it will do absolutely everything for you. Let's face it, the advents of digital photography and digital video brought with them the habit of shooting enormous numbers of photos and enormous amounts of video footage. No film or videotape costs to bog us down in that silly old notion about trying to get the shot right in the camera. Nope. Just hold down the shutter button to spray & pray. Sooner or later you're bound to get the shot just by accident, right? Well, um, actually, wrong. Nevertheless, and in keeping with all the bad habits we've developed, Adobe offers us the Auto-Analyze function to automatically scan all of our photos and video footage and make its best guess about categorizing and grouping. Note that you still have to actually determine keywords and descriptions and type them into the appropriate text entry fields. Keep that in mind the next time you decide to hold down that shutter button.
Premiere Elements 8 is more stable than previous versions. We've always been pleased with the performance of Premiere Elements, at least since v5, but v8 seems notably quick and also seems to be rock solid. All is not perfect however. We accidentally clicked & dragged the orange audio bars in Timeline mode and for ten minutes couldn't figure out why our audio levels were suddenly hot, so this visual feature really seems fiddly and non-intuitive. Use the Mix Audio button in scene or timeline mode and save yourself some grief.
Adobe calls the package a multimedia management hub and we agree. It's simple to bring in sort, organize, tag or find, view, and protect all your photos and video clips in one convenient place using the new Organizer. Photoshop Elements has caved in to the ever-increasing demand for so-called High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography and post-processing by automating some of the work for you. Basically, you can either bracket a couple of shots, or alternatively make one photo with the flash on and one with the flash off, and Elements 8 will combine the shots into a perfectly lit photo with an apparently huge dynamic range. You can still use layers and masks to do your own HDR work, but the automatic thing is really quite good. Think of something to edit in a photo — RAW file processing, wonderfully implemented JPG processing, curves, saturation, hue, light channels, color channels, layers, masks, size, orientation and on and on — Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 can do it.
We tested Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 on three different PCs: a Core 2 Duo Dell Vostro laptop running Windows XP Professional (4GB RAM), an Acer Aspire One netbook running Windows 7 (1.5GB RAM), and a custom built Core 2 Quad Windows Vista Ultimate machine (4GB RAM). Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 ran acceptably well on the little Acer netbook, very well on the Dell laptop, and at true productivity speeds on the Core 2 Quad Windows Vista machine.
Cons: There are quite a few tutorials which aren't available to basic users because they're hidden behind the Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 Plus online membership wall. Our view is that this sort of pay wall is just not going to get the positive reaction Adobe wants from the newest users of its products, nor will it encourage new users to quickly become proficient with the product and better evangelists for it therefore. Time will tell, but we think tutorial content should be made available to all. This sort of problem — the deteriorating quality of online help systems and the bundling of product training into pay-per-use — is becoming pervasive in the software industry and represents a terrible mistake. We accidentally clicked & dragged the orange audio bars in Timeline mode in Premiere Elements and for ten minutes couldn't figure out why our audio levels were suddenly hot, so this visual feature really seems fiddly and non-intuitive. The usefulness of the tutorials on tv.adobe.com is frequently hindered because they're presented in such a small format/window that button text in the software, feature and function names, and the Presenter's mouse movements are usually hard to see clearly. The problem is mainly that the prevalence of so many 22" and larger monitors commonly found on home desktops means the usual 800 x 600 pixel (or smaller) size of these videos is lost in the screen real estate and absolutely needs to bump up to 1024 x 768 for better visibility. Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 pack such an enormous amount of easy-to-use power and versatility into this US$149 package, that it makes us unhappy about the stratospheric pricing of Photoshop (and Premiere) Creative Suite 4 and Lightroom 2.
Pros: The new, integrated Organizer is reason enough, on its own, to purchase Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 or upgrade from v7. Auto-Analyze isn't perfect, but it's extremely useful and a massive time saver. There seems to be a ton of new, high quality clip art supplied in this version, which is useful in both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. Layering, cropping and motion control in Premiere Elements 8 is improved over the already-good quality in v7. Using Organizer to connect with Photoshop.com is easy and seamless. Adobe has made it easy for Photoshop.com members to maintain a synchronized set of files on multiple computers, a major benefit to anyone who frequently uses more than one machine for photo or video editing. For organizing, editing, printing and producing wonderful quality photos and videos, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 are at the top of our list. At this price too, you can't go wrong. With the prevalence of all sorts of digital SLR and micro four-thirds cameras which combine high resolution still shooting with high-definition video shooting, Photoshop Elements 8 & Premiere Elements 8 seems to be ideally positioned as the one-stop product for all your editing, publishing and production. Highly recommended.