Import these files windows movie maker and export as WMV. This would slove most of the issue you are facing. Movie maker avi outputs are best in quality.
As Jackson says, the file format you want to edit with is a DV-AVI (an AVI using the DV codec). That is the ONLY codec Premiere Elements 1 will edit in natively.
These files are relatively large -- about 1 gigabyte for every 4 or 5 minutes of run time -- but that's the nature of video editing. In fact, there's no way around that. Even if you put a smaller video format into it (say, an MPEG) the program will need to convert it to a DV-AVI before you can work with it anyway.
So have lots of free hard drive space! Ideally, 30-50 gigabytes of free, defragmented space for every hour of video you're editing.
I'm still working in Premiere Elements 1.0 -- I guess I should upgrade, but I can't find an upgrade price anywhere. Will a newer version allow me to work better with MPGs natively, without having to convert?
Upgrading will get you more "features," but the workflow with later versions will be the same. They are still built around a DV-AVI Type II format w/ the DV CODEC. You are best to convert your MPEG footage to this format/CODEC, as Steve suggests.
Unfortunately, there is only one MPEG (Intra-frame, and it's just coming out in some high-end cameras and on PrPro CS4.2) format, that is meant to be edited. Everything else is a compromise, because of something called GOP (Group of Pictures), which use a real, full frame only about every 15 "frames." An editing program needs to "create" actual "Frames" to edit, so conversion must take place somewhere.
I use a program, DigitalMedia Converter (not freeware) to do this outside of my NLE (Non Linear Editor) program, and then Import the converted files. I choose DV-AVI Type II w/ 48KHz 16-bit PCM/WAV Audio as the conversion format w/ the DV CODEC. This works fine. There are freeware converters, and some get very high marks, but I do not use them, so cannot make a rec. for you on which ones work, and which ones do not.
Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.
I'll convert them to DV-AVI type II. I have hard drive space to spare, it just seems wasteful to take a lossy, compressed format like MPG and puff it up to several gigabytes -- it's like building a gold-plated 3-car garage to hold a Geo Metro. I was hoping there would be another compressed format that would edit smoothly in Premiere Elements without all of the MPG quirkiness.
1.) Any suggestions on specific settings/parameters I should set in the conversion, to get the best compatibility (and to avoid overkill)
2.) Someone suggested converting to wmv. Does Premiere Elements handle WMV files better than MPG?
With WMVs, you'd be in the same situation as with MPEGs. The program would need to convert them to DV-AVIs internally in order to work with them.
So you are wise to have lots of hard drive space! Even wiser if you stick with the DV-AVI workflow.
Here is our FAQ on conversions. It tells you the best settings in a number of programs for producing a clean, compatible DV-AVI.
>another compressed format that would edit smoothly in Premiere Elements without all of the MPG quirkiness
Go to my notes page http://www.pacifier.com/~jtsmith/ADOBE.HTM and click on the link to go to the section on trying to edit compressed files
There is a link in that section that leads to a site that explains why a compressed file will NOT edit well
I have hard drive space to spare, it just seems wasteful to take a lossy, compressed format like MPG and puff it up to several gigabytes -- it's like building a gold-plated 3-car garage to hold a Geo Metro.
Not sure that I agree with your analogy. What you are doing is taking a GOP format and "creating" all I-frames. That is what is needed to edit. Those I-frames take space to write out.
Here's a little look at GOP vs I-Frame:
Hope that this helps.