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    Elements siblings offer power and economy

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business in Vancouver February 2 - 8, 2010 issue #1058

    High Tech Office column

    In December (issue 1050; December 8-14), this column proposed some high-tech gift suggestions. Only one software product made the list: the new versions of Adobe’s Photoshop and Premiere Elements. Some of you may have found digital cameras or camcorders under your Christmas tree and may have bumped up against the limitations of the software bundled with your new gadgets or the Windows or Mac operating systems.

    Adobe has been offering Photoshop Elements since around 2001, and from the outset the software provided about 80% of the power of Adobe’s pro-level Photoshop for about 20% of its cost.

    A few years later, Adobe added a similarly powerful but economical Elements version of its Premiere video editor. As a bonus, Adobe has worked hard to make both of the Elements siblings easier to use than their high-end cousins.

    The Elements programs can be bought on their own ($130) or bundled together ($200) – at least by Windows users. Only Photoshop Elements is available in a Mac version.

    Adobe redid Photoshop Element’s interface for the previous version. The current generation looks and feels similar. Perhaps its most noteworthy new feature is a Recompose Photo tool. For instance, based on the content-aware scaling in Photoshop CS4, it lets you crop unwanted people from a photo while bringing the remaining people closer together.

    Also new: a Photomerge Exposure option blends multiple images letting you combine under- and over-exposed shots to end up with something that looks just right.

    For photo organizing, Mac users get the powerful Adobe Bridge, identical to what is included in the professional Adobe CS4 package. Windows users get a less powerful Organizer, but with improved tagging that includes face detection. Mac users can choose to ignore Adobe Bridge and set Apple’s iPhoto to use Photoshop Elements as its editor. Similarly, Photoshop Element’s File/Open menu can open photos stored in iPhoto’s library. Like its sibling, Premiere Elements 8 looks pretty much like the previous version, which is not a bad thing. And like Photoshop Elements, it now adds face recognition and tagging. The new SmartFix can automatically cut redundant footage and address shakiness and lighting issues. The new SmartMix also works with audio tracks to try to keep the dialogue on top.

    Motion Tracking can be used to blur a face in one frame and keep the subject anonymous even though he or she is moving in subsequent frames. Similarly, an added thought bubble will move with its subject. Completed video projects can be output as DVDs or even Blu-ray discs or exported to YouTube, iPhone or other destinations, including Adobe’s online albums.

    While offering a well thought out set of features aimed at non-professional video creators, Premiere Elements 8 sometimes felt sluggish on my test systems, and owners of Photoshop and Premiere Elements 7 may find little motivation to upgrade. But both Photoshop and Premiere Elements 8 continue Adobe’s tradition of offering near-professional photo and video editing power at an attractive price. Recommended. Favicon

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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