The latest version of Adobe’s Premiere Elements arrives at an opportune moment. When Apple launched the new version of Final Cut Pro recently, it cut the price to £199.99 but also discontinued the less expensive Final Cut Express. That left a big gap between the basic editing tools found in its free iMovie and the professional-level tools of Final Cut Pro.
Adobe’s application fits right into that gap at just £79.10. The new colour correction tools are a good example of the power that Elements offers, with the AutoTone & Vibrance tool providing quick and easy image enhancement, while the Three-Way Color Corrector offers more precise and selective tools for manipulating colour.
Step 1: On the beach
Here’s some footage that was shot outdoors on a cloudy and overcast day. The lighting is dull and the colours are all a bit flat – especially when compared to the much brighter clip that follows it. To give it a bit more life we’ll use the new colour correction tools.
Step 2: Special FX
Click the Edit tab in the Tasks Panel on the right-hand side of the screen, then click on the FX icon to view a list of all the built-in special effects filters. The list is quite long, but you can use the pull-down menu shown here to quickly select the colour correction tools.
Step 3: In colour
We’ll start with AutoTone & Vibrance, which can be used to quickly boost the colours within a video clip. Let’s step forward to get a clearer view of the speaker’s face, and then use the mouse to drag the icon for this effect onto the video clip in the timeline at the bottom of the screen.
Step 4: Brighten your day
The effect works automatically, so you should see an immediate improvement. We can also fine-tune the effect by clicking the Edit Effects button (at the bottom of the FX window in Step 3). This shows all the effects currently applied to that clip, so click on the AutoTone & Vibrance effect to adjust its settings.
Step 5: Before and after
Immediately to the left of the AutoTone & Vibrance filter you’ll see a small icon that looks like an eye. Clicking on this allows you to hide and show the effect, so you can see the before and after versions of the image (we’ve created a split-screen effect to illustrate the improvement).
Step 6: Precision control
The AutoTone & Vibrance tool is handy for quickly improving the quality of your video, but the Three-Way Color Corrector provides much greater control and precision over the colours within the image. Let’s take a look by stepping back to the FX menu and quickly applying that effect to our video clip.
Step 7: In the shadows
You’ll need to adjust the Three-Way tool’s settings yourself. Start by clicking the Preview Tonal Ranges button. This divides the image into three zones – shadows, which are marked in black, midtones (grey) and highlights (white). You can then selectively adjust the colours in those three specific areas.
Step 8: Tone it down
We’d like to adjust the colour of the sky. However, the glare off the sandy beach is a highlight too, so we need to get rid of that somehow. We’ll use AutoTone & Vibrance again, making a small adjustment to the brightness level that brings the beach down into the midtone level.
Step 9: Spinning the wheel
Now that we’ve isolated the sky, let’s go back to the Three-Way Color Corrector. Deselect Preview Tonal Ranges and then click on the arrow by the Highlights item. This displays a colour wheel that allows you to completely change the colours within just the highlight sections of the image.
Step 10: Black and white
Click the button marked Impacted Frame Area In White. This blacks out everything in the image except the highlights – the sky – which are shown in white. This allows us to ensure that we’ve selected just the area we need. Turn this preview off again to activate the colour wheel.
Step 11: Mr blue sky
The sky in our original video clip is a rather dull white, but the colour wheel allows us to alter its colour. Just click the circular control button right at the centre of the colour wheel and drag it down into the blue section of the wheel. Rotate it around the wheel to select different shades of blue.
Step 12: Too blue
For even greater precision, click on the Tonal Wheel Parameters option. This displays slider controls for additional settings such as hue and saturation, giving you fine control over the colour you choose. We got a bit carried away here, but if anything goes wrong you can hit Reset Highlights to start again.
Step 13: Booster shot
One feature of the AutoTone & Vibrance tool is that it tries to avoid over-saturating skin tones. However, the colours are still a little under-cooked. Step 7 showed us that the speaker’s face and hands are clearly within the midtone range, so we can use the Three-Way Color Corrector to boost the midtones.
Step 14: Animated effects
These colour correction tools can be animated over time. Go back to the start of the clip, and then click the little stopwatch icon that sits right at the top of the list of effects applied to this clip. This displays the key-frame tools that are used to animate your effects.
Step 15: Crazy colours
You also need to click the stopwatch icon right by the name of the Three Way Color Corrector in order to animate just that specific effect. You can then create additional key frames at different stages through the clip – perhaps changing the colour of the sky to indicate passing time.
Bonus tip: Smartsounds
One new feature that was previously only available in the Windows version of Premiere Elements is SmartSounds. When you activate this option from within the Premiere Elements timeline, you’ll see a new window that displays a library of stock music and sound effects. There’s a small selection of tracks that are available for free so that you can use them in your Premiere Elements editing projects. To be honest, the software’s a bit clunky and seems more interested in selling you additional music clips than anything else, but it’s a handy option if you need some mood music in a hurry.