Preview files are created when you render any part of the timeline. You can safely delete them at any time.
If you delete the preview files of an open project, you only lose the rendering. Just render again to recreate the files.
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I will just add on to what has been said already.
From my NTSC program installed perspective....
A project automatically generates preview files when you render the Timeline to get the best possible preview of what you are seeing in the Edit Mode Monitor. If you have a SD project, then those preview files are DV.avi 720 x 480 4:3 @ 29.97 interlaced frames per second (whether you rendered stills or video). If you have a HD project, then those preview files are MPEG2.mpg 960 x 540 @ 29.97 interlaced frames per second (whether you rendered stills or video) + a companion .xmp file for each.
For best results, have a maintenance program to avoid pile ups of the preview files as well as conformed audio and conformed video files.
Setting put a beforehand scheme for project assets is recommended. Consider setting up for a folder for each project rather than having these types of files go into a general pool which you have to sort through by name to find the ones that you want to delete for a specfic project.
More later if necessary.
ATR, Thank you for your reply.
What do you mean by a maintenance program ? How do I set it up, Also how do I set up a folder for each project? and do I save it in Elements or somewhere else? I saw this term somewhere else in another blog but didn't know who to use it.
By maintenance program, periodically
Documents/Adobe Folder/Premiere Elements/11
Adobe Premiere Elements Preview Files Folder....go through that and delete if pile ups...that could amount to GB amounts if you let it get out of hand.
Media Cache Folder...conformed audio files (cfa and pek).plus.....they tend to have a smaller file size than the preview files, but they do add up quickly...after deletion they will be regenerated by the program when and if needed.
Premiere Elements Expert workspace
Edit Menu/Preferences/Media...Media Cache Database, hit the Clean button there...it is quicker than going to the path shown in that location to do the deletion there. These are the conformed video files. They have a mcdb file extension. After deletion they will be regenerated by the program when and if needed.
A periodic running of ccleaner (regular and registry) is recommended.
For setting up a folder for each project scheme, this is the general idea...
1. Create a master folder in an area with adequate free hard drive space.
2. In that master folder, beforehand create a folder for each new project created.
3, And, then direct the Scratch Files and the project.prel to that folder for that new project
The project.prel is saved to wherever you have indicated in the new project dialog's Save In.
See Premiere Elements Expert workspace Edit Menu/Preferences/Scratch Disks for the save location of the choices there which include: Video Previews, Audio Previews, Media Cache.
This gets a little bit more complicated in version 11 since the program steps in between you and the new project dialog. So, you may have to step in by setting your own project preset to get at the new project dialog with its Save In field. Premiere Elements workspace File Menu/New/Project.
The end result after this is choreographed is to have a folder for each project and that folder should contain the folders and files just for that one project. So, when the second project comes around, then make sure you have the files saving to the second new folder.
Please check out the above and see if it comes together for you. If not, I will rewrite with a more specific example.