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My love-hate relationship with Premiere Elements

New Here ,
Jan 01, 2021 Jan 01, 2021

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Brace yourselves. This is a long one. I suppose I should begin my laying some cards on the table.  I wrote my first mouse-based graphical editing program in 1978 on an obscure machine known as the Three Rivers Perq.  In 1978 this machine was like something that had fallen through a wormhole from another galaxy.  It was also the Cambrian Era of graphics software – the basic grammar of the UI was up for grabs and all sorts of weird things evolved.  As a result people started to look seriously at human-machine interfaces and came up with rules about how they should behave.  To prevent this become my personal rant I looked up some of these rules and found this great article written by a guy called Nick Babich from a company called Adobe.  He opens by saying “The user interface (UI) is a critical part of any software product. When it’s done well, users don’t even notice it. When it’s done poorly, users can’t get past it to efficiently use a product”.

He goes on to cite four golden rules of UI design:

  1. Place users in control of the interface
  2. Make it comfortable to interact with a product
  3. Reduce cognitive load
  4. Make user interfaces consistent

Brilliant!  Now I get to the reason for this post.  Premiere Elements breaks all these rules and the result is often an infuriating and inefficient experience.   What is more annoying is that it is completely unnecessary and speaking as a software developer of 45 years experience I suspect not hard to fix!  Let’s take the rules one by one.

Place users in control of the interface 

Another way of stating this rule is “don’t do stuff unless the user has asked you to do it”.  The primary way PE breaks this one is by ‘warping’ the selection – so without your permission the clip you have selected gets mysteriously de-selected and a completely different clip is selected instead. 

To reproduce:

  1. Select a clip on any track apart from Video/Audio 1.
  2. Play the project
  3. Stop the project
  4. A clip on Video 1 is now selected.

Before you know it you have split the wrong clip, deleted the wrong fragment and all sorts of chaos has ensued in your timeline.  You then start figuring out how much you have to unwind to get back to sanity.  This used to be even more annoying as the Fx pane would collapse and you would lose sight of the effect you were editing (or start editing the effect in the wrong clip).  At least in PE2021 the Fx pane stays open though the effect parameters still collapse.

Make it comfortable to interact with a product

Some examples of difficulty:

  1. Ripple Editing.  I assume someone finds Ripple Editing useful but in the many projects I have completed over a decade and more it has just been a pain.  I read somewhere that the target demographic for PE was a ’40-something woman editing the family memories’.   This might explain all the auto-doo-dahs that I have never found a use for though I find it had to believe such a person exists.  40-something women are pointing their iPhones at the kids and the videos are magically squirrelled onto some Facebook server for later monetising.  By contrast all my projects are multi-track and usually synchronised to music (either multi-camera or in pandemic-2020 remote collaborations).  Ripple editing is a hazard.
  2. Slider Controls in Effects.  It requires maximum concentration to operate the sliders – as soon as you stray from the horizontal they just stop changing and the numbers at the ends aren’t much better.  You are not looking at the slider – you are looking to see what it is doing to the clip.
  3. The Title Editor. Why can’t I sort and search the styles? Why are they not in alphabetical order?  Why is the current style of a clip not selected when I open it in the title editor?

Make user interfaces consistent

The primary sin here is ‘modality’ – things behave differently depending on some mode you are in.  This happens in various places in PE:

  • Deleting a clip on Video 2 (it deletes it) behaves differently from deleting it on Video 1 (it deletes it and tries to close the gap).
  • Dragging the end of an Audio clip on any track other than ‘Music’ changes the length (as for a Video clip) but on the Music track it starts a ‘Remix’ (I have never waited long enough to find out what that was).   So to extend a Music clip I have to drag it onto another audio track (always a tricky manoeuvre), extend it and drag it back.
  • On Windows, PE is inconsistent with the GUI behaviour anyway.  Menus do not behave like Windows menus and for some reason the application does not obey resizing rules like dragging to an edge.  I don’t know whether this is because it is really designed for a Mac – is it a bit odd there too?

Reduce cognitive load

I’ve put this last because the Cognitive Overload in PE arises from the earlier failures.  A Video Editor is never going to be an easy piece of software but in PE you have to keep your wits about you all times.  Is it Shift-Delete here or just Delete?  Do I need to keep Control down when dragging?  This all reduces fluency and makes it harder to use.  I am constantly on edge that everything is just going to go berserk on the timeline as gaps open up and everything suddenly shifts around.

So why am I still using it?

The simple answer is that it’s the devil I know and like a domestic abuse victim I keep going back for more.  The really frustrating thing is that these issues are not hard to fix and would make a massive improvement in usability with a corresponding reduction of mental effort.  The market department however needs fancy features no-one needs to sell the next version…

So what am I asking?

Please Adobe if you are listening – do some observations of how your products are being used!  I have endured some embarrassing moments in my own professional career standing behind a user trying to do something with my software that I thought was obvious.  There are some very simple things that would improve PE hugely:

  1. Never warp the selection. If the user selects a clip it stays selected until they select another one.  I suspect this comes down to commenting out one line of code in the ‘Stop Playing’ procedure (though fixing the automated test suite might be harder).
  2. Stop making Video 1 Special.  It should behave exactly like any other track (including hiding its Audio track when they are switched off!)
  3. Provide an option to Switch off Ripple Editing.  Better still a facility to lock clips on the timeline so that no matter how they are cut, extended and transitioned they never move in time.
  4. Fix some basic UI issues like slider dragging to reduce cognitive load.

I don’t know if full-fat Premiere is any different.  I suspect not as PE is just a nobbled Premiere.  Please let me know in the comments.

Sorry for that rant – it’s been brewing for more than 10 years.  I have been able to achieve amazing things with PE but often it is despite rather than because and it doesn’t need to be that way!

 

 

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New Here ,
Jan 01, 2021 Jan 01, 2021

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Sorry forgot the article link when posting: https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/process/ui-design/4-golden-rules-ui-design/

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 01, 2021 Jan 01, 2021

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This is a public forum with "some" Adobe staff participation, use the link below to make a report or request
-https://adobe-video.uservoice.com/

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New Here ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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Thanks for the tip - unfortunately Premeiere Elements doesn't seem to be 'Pro' enough to have a forum...

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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"I don’t know if full-fat Premiere is any different.  I suspect not as PE is just a nobbled Premiere. "

 

If you've been using PrE for 10 years, we started at about the same time.  I knew nothing so learned PrE as if it was the normal way of doing things.  It may be that I don't try to use it for complex, professional level videos.  So, for me, it works very well. 

 

For curiosity (and wanting to try out some multi camera editing)  I've been using Premiere Pro recently.  It has been a lot of fun and an eye opener!

 

It may be that PrE was once used "nobbled" code from Premiere Pro.  I am convinced it can't be the case now.   They don't work at all like each other!  Like all NLEs, they both import, edit and export.  But how they do that is like they are competitors, not pals.  

 

Now that I have a working knowledge of both, I prefer PrE for most projects.  The exception is if I want to syncronize footage from separate and multiple video and audio sources.    If I had not been silly enough to aquire 3 4K cameras and an external audio recorder with multiple mics,  I would have little, if any use for Premiere Pro!   If you work with stills, especially RAW format stills, using Lightroom, PrE has some better tools!

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New Here ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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I think it is more like 15 years I have used PE and in that time I have completed many multiu-camera projects with separate audio (but not 4K! Early ones were DV).   It is possible with PE albeit unnecessarily frustrating because of the issues I highlighted in my initial rant.

 

I would love to use Premiere Pro but for an occasional amateur like me it is simply too expensive.  If it was my job then it would be a no-brainer but I can't justify it for my level of usage (though there has been a lot in lock-down 2020!)  If Adobe had some sort of 'Pay as you go' option for occasional users I would be happy to go for it...

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Explorer ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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We are all Beta Testers who pay to be Beta Testers.

________________________________________________________________________________________ Fuji HS50EXR, Samsung S9+. Nikon Coolpix P950. Just transitioned from PSE and PE 9 to 2021

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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I am just trying to copy a video frame to clipboard . Has not been able to do this with premiere . Have to use screenpresso

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 05, 2021 Feb 05, 2021

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"Just transitioned from PSE and PE 9 to 2021"

 

That's impressive!  What do you think.  There are a few things left out!   If you open old projects, make copies first.  

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 06, 2021 Feb 06, 2021

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"I am just trying to copy a video frame to clipboard . Has not been able to do this with premiere . Have to use screenpresso"

 

I frequently use the Snipping Tool to put a video frame (or anything else) on the clipboard.  I sometimes use the PrtSc button to put the screen into memory and use windows Paint 3Dand to manipulate it.       

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Explorer ,
Feb 10, 2021 Feb 10, 2021

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LATEST

WestyB,

 

Being a former UI developer myself I totally hear you. I find PRE counter intuitive in many ways but feel I'm stuck with it because it is still the best budget option for amateur home video editors (alhtough I'm currently looking into Davinci Resolve).

 

Ripple Editing - I can understand this can be usefull to some but I find my self in constant battle against it. Like you, all my projects are music synced and fortunately I found a descent work around. At the start of each project, I add a black matte along the whole timeline to the Video 1 track and do my main editing on Video 2(+). This basically stops many of the ripple editing effects. In fact, I actually utilize this 'matte track' to color code my sections. To stop screwing up the timeline when using Time Stretch, click the link icon to unlock the Speed-Duration (still buggy though).

 

Music Remix - In your preferences under 'Audio' is a setting called 'Remix Options'. Change this to Trim to disable the remixing.

 

Title Editor - Total nightmare, use Photoshop instead and save as PNG.

 

Auto-doo-dahs - Agree, cannot picture myself anyone actually using this stuff. Tried them, most of them are total non-sence. For instance, I have tried 'Beat detect' on several different music files and not once got a descent result.

 

There are too many of these tiny annoyances and bugs to mention. Unfortunately Premiere PRO is waayyyyy out of my budget.

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