Like its stablemate Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements attempts to make one of Adobe's pro-grade applications -- the $699 Premiere Pro video editor -- affordable and palatable to non-enthusiasts. It covers all the phases of home movie-making, from capturing video (you'll need a digital camcorder with a FireWire connection, plus a corresponding jack on your computer) to editing it to burning it to DVD (your computer will need a DVD burner, not just a CD-RW drive).
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Thanks to its lineage, Premiere Elements doesn't make these tasks as simple as its competitors, but an extensive help system and a good set of templates and pre-made effects do a lot to make beginners comfortable. It helps that Elements automatically detects scene breaks and lets you rearrange the order of clips or delete some outright just as you'd revise a Word document: drag and drop to move things, hit delete to get rid of them.
Trimming a particular scene or fixing its contrast is also simple, as is adding dissolve, page-peel, wipe and other transitions. Preset effects, including pans, zooms, warps and picture-in-picture overlays, allow you to add a professional touch without being a pro yourself -- but some of these effects take effort to understand, especially those labeled by technical monikers ("ProcAmp" comes to mind) instead of plain-English identifiers. The help file also provides less guidance on the more esoteric tasks.
Audio editing doesn't extend beyond such standard effects as fade-in, fade-out and reverb on multiple tracks, but that's probably enough for most users. A large collection of ready-made titles ties into related DVD menu themes. Throughout all these steps, the most useful feature in Elements is its infinite undo -- no matter what kind of a mess your movie has become, you can always step back and redo it.
Even on a fast PC, we still had to wait as some operations in Elements paused or stuttered, and a few crashes delayed us even further. But if your computer has the right hardware -- a non-trivial if -- it will be hard to find a video editor with the power and relative ease of Elements. -- Daniel Greenberg
Win XP, $100
EVERQUEST II, Sony