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The New Hollywood Workshop: 2001, a DVD Odyssey (Part 3)

By Eliot Hochberg, April 24, 2001
[updated: September 7, 2001]

This series covers DVD Studio Pro (DVDSP), Apple’s high-end DVD authoring tool. It allows you to create all the menus, interactivity and groovy visuals you want to have available for professional DVD authoring. It is very different from iDVD.

Previously, we looked at making menus for DVDSP in Photoshop and dealing with file sizes for DVD authoring. This time, we look at making motion menus.

Setting up a cool still menu with rollovers is pretty simple, as you saw. It’s almost as easy to create a moving menu, like the ones in the example provided by Apple. You will note, by the way, that Apple’s sample, while it includes voiceovers, does not include synced sound. That is, there are no talking heads or dialog or singers. So if you look at the samples, you will not see the problems described in the last article.

To make my moving menus, I chose Final Cut Pro, which has a number of cool video motion features. The key to making a good moving menu is having content that loops well. There are really two ways to do this; one is a smooth loop, where the video flows from the end right into the beginning. The other is the jump loop, where there is a jump cut at the end of the loop, as well as several points along the way, making the otherwise jolting cut at the end seem natural. This is the method used in the Apple sample, and is the method I selected. Since my Sade footage uses numerous jump cuts, it was easy to find three clips that would fit the bill.

In FCP, I placed a .pict file captured from the video (it could have been any file) to act as a still background. I also could’ve made the entire screen animate, as is done in the Fantasia 2000 DVD. (By the way, if you are going to be getting into this work, you may find it instructional to look at a bunch of DVDs. The beauty of this is you can write off your DVD watching!)

Because I wanted the buttons to appear to animate, I chose to mimic the Apple sample completely, so I used a still background. I chose to have three buttons, so each button was a separate video clip. I picked clips which contrasted with each other and the background. Your content will dictate what you’ll have to work with. The trick is then to get each of your clips the same length. This is key, otherwise you’ll end up with blank space where you want a button. Using the jump cut method makes this easier, in that you don’t have to worry about whether or not the loop syncs up right at the end. Also, I didn’t use sound at this point, which adds another layer of complexity. We’ll look at sound in a later article.

When I placed each piece of video in the workspace, I resized them by the same percentage and lined them up the way I wanted them. I recommend working in image+wireframe mode to ease your ability to see which element you are selecting.

Next, I wanted some text next to each button, so I created a titling layer and did my labels that way. I don’t recommend this method, as the leading changes when you export the file (Screenshot). I think the best way to do it would be to lay the text on the background in Photoshop, then import that. If you do use the titling layer, make one layer for each word to avoid the leading pitfalls.

With the clips all the same length, and having allocated the same length for the background image, I was ready to export. I simply exported to MPEG-2 and loaded it into DVDSP. I used the same compression as the rest of the video, but in retrospect, I should’ve used the highest quality available for the menus. Otherwise, the text becomes oily and ill-defined. It would seem that in planning and executing a DVD, you should make all of the menus first, with only a rough encoding of the video, and then see how much space is left over after you’ve made your menus. Then, re-encode your video to be as large as your remaining space allows, and see how it looks. If you have planned well, your moving menus should not take up so much space that your main content suffers, but you want to get the most out of both parts.

The last stage of the process is creating the highlights and buttons for each menu item. This is almost identical to working with Photoshop menus, but is simpler. Make a menu using the "Add Menu" button. Select this menu, then set your "Picture" attribute to the video clip you just imported. When you double-click on the box below the title of the menu (which will appear blank) you will see the first frame of your video clip. Click "Add Button" and use the cursor to create a button box as we did in the still menu. Here you have a couple of choices. You can either make a map of the highlights or just have the whole box highlight. I chose the latter; we’ll look at highlight maps in another article. Set "Use Hilite" to "Set 1" and then set "Jump when activated" to wherever you want the button to link. Then move on to the next button. When you have set all of your buttons, you’re done!

Update: September 7, 2001
As I mentioned last time, since writing this article, I’ve made a DVD for my band. I did something I think is pretty cool using Photoshop and Final Cut Pro (FCP) 2, and generally learned a lot more about FCP.

What I did was create still menus using Photoshop, then make it work so when the user selects a video to play, the video appears to come out of the menu. I did this by importing the layered file into FCP, then animating each layer. AfterEffects can do this too, but I find it more efficient to just use FCP. A word of caution (and the main thing I learned about FCP): Make sure to do all of your editing with your raw footage before using your Photoshop layers.

FCP can be very efficient at editing if there’s nothing it needs to render. Unfortunately, if anything with transparency is layered on top of video – like, say, a Photoshop layer – FCP must render each frame. This seems obvious now, but as I was constructing my videos, I wanted to create the transition from the DVD menu first, then edit my video. It's also important to know that I wanted a graphic to remain on-screen throughout the video. As a result, I spent a whole day trying to figure out why FCP wouldn’t just let me edit the video, and instead kept trying to render everything. Hindsight is 20/20. So the bottom line is, unless you’ve got FCP2 and RTMac for real time rendering, do all of your edits first, then do special effects and graphics. I suppose this is the benefit that the AfterEffects/Premiere combination offers. They force you to work this way, whereas FCP doesn’t really spell that important point out. For those of you who are already video editing experts, this may be obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning anyway.

With regards to fonts, I’ve found that using Photoshop to set fonts is very efficient, and while anyone who has spent $1000 on FCP will tend to want to use its built-in tools, I highly recommend using Photoshop if you have it and know how to use it. Photoshop also encourages experiments with typography, shadowing, filters, etc. A reminder, though: Make sure to use the NTSC filter included in Photoshop under the Video menu to insure that your color is correct for television. This goes for any images made for a DVD using Photoshop. This feature is quite handy – I don’t know how foolproof it is, but it seems to have worked for me so far.

Next time, we’ll look at what’s needed to make sure your general settings are correct (like making sure you’ve set your default menu and other basic things).

The New Hollywood Workshop is dedicated to using Macintosh computers and software to do what the big boys do. Want an example? Go to TheForce.Net and check out “Duality,” a short made completely with Macintosh products.

Eliot Hochberg is a Web developer with over 6 years experience. Apple’s new professional tools are just the ticket for a sole proprietor like Eliot to go to the next level. Right now, he’s seeking DVDSP duplication services that support DVD Studio Pro. If your company does, let us know. We’ll list you in future articles.

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