Easy DVD Menus?
December 2, 2005 7:10 AM   Subscribe

DVD Authoring software with easy visual interface?

I've googled the topic, and so am familiar with most of the major options for DVD authoring software, but after trying some demos and reading lots of reviews, I'm not finding the program I figure must exist...

What I want to do is create a DVD menu for a TV show compilation. I'd like a brief video/animation to play when the discs are loaded, followed by the appearance of a few standard buttons like 'Play All' and 'Episode Selection' and 'Extras'. The "selection' and 'extras' buttons should bring up new menu screens, and from the episode list I want to launch a further menu for each episode, where users can select chapters or play from the beginning as well as read a blurb about the episode.

So nothing unusual, just like every TV season I've ever bought on DVD. My problem is that the really easy authoring programs don't let me create enough layers or sub-menus or have enough control over graphic size and placement, and the programs that seem more "professional" and robust are kinda confusing me with features I don't understand.

I could fully create the the DVD menu of my dreams in PowerPoint, with all the submenus and transitions and buttons and animation timelines I'm imagining, so tell me:

Is there a PowerPoint-esque DVD authoring app with an intuitive, visual, 'click-and-drag'-style interface that I might like that will allow me to create the menu I've described? I have access to PCs and Macs to work on this, but would prefer a PC solution unless the Mac alternatives are, like, a million times better or something.

And barring something as idiot-proof as that, is there a recommended tutorial for one of the fuller-featured authoring programs that can show me step-by-step how to create a menu like this? Or as a third option, is there some sort of template I can download and simply modify with my own videos and graphics?

FWIW the video-related technology is the easy part to me; I have no problem encoding, editing, splicing, etc.
posted by chudmonkey to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
posted by sdrawkcab at 7:15 AM on December 2, 2005

Second on the iDVD suggestion. It's two-million times better.
posted by baltimore at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2005

Response by poster: I want to be polite, and I know that sdrawkcab didn't have to use his time and effort to post a reply to my question, but I'm hoping for more than the names of software programs in reponse. Testimonials and discussions of specific features that corrolate to the end-result I've described would be very helpful to me and quite appreciated.
posted by chudmonkey at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2005

Encore is really pretty simple and works like a dream with PhotoShop & AfterEffects. I picked up this book when I had to put some DVD menus together and I was up and running with the application very quickly. If you're comfortable with video editing apps you should be able to pick it up easily.

You can snag Encore and open up any of the standard preset menu files (psd) to get a feel for the naming convention. Layer names and prefixes control the activity of the graphics so it's fairly simple to see how it's all organized and mock something up off of that.
posted by prostyle at 7:48 AM on December 2, 2005

Response by poster: prostyle: Without actually looking at any Encore files, it sounds like you're saying that different menu screens are saved/stored as different files, is that right? And that the filenames determine the relationship/hierarchy between different screens?
posted by chudmonkey at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2005

Sorry Chud, I was running and just wanted to second sdrawkcab's emotion.

What I like most about iDVD is a combination of some very well-designed templates and the ability to essentially edit and re-edit the organizational tree of the sub-chapters visually with Map View (downpage, on the right).

It's also got that patented Apple idiot-proof UI which you'll be able to figure out without a manual (which is a good thing, seeing as how Apple never bothers to supply even the most rudimentary manuals). As long as you don't mind using the supplied templates, you'll have your project ready to burn in no time. If you want to design from scratch, it'll take a little longer. The tools to get there aren't exactly .ppt-like, but similar. There's a button designer, background selection, drop zones, audio selection, etc.

I haven't used anything on a PC, so I really can't back up my two-million times better claim from uppage, but I have seen PC-using friends drool in its presence.
posted by baltimore at 8:30 AM on December 2, 2005

In a sense, yes. In your example, you'd have your initial introduction animation or video sequence set up first in the timeline, and when that event ended it would display Menu1.

Menu1.psd contains a background, Chapter layers (ex: "(+) Chapter 1"), and in each chapter layer subsets of images like "(=1)highlight" which is the equivalent of a rollover/mouseon/selection graphic.

You set all the images up then you connect the layers to the video file you want the user to land on, creating the functional button. There is a 'pickwhip' you can use for this task which is about the closest you'll get to "visual intuition" in the application. For example you could import your menu file and video resources, select the layer you wanted as Button 1 with the pickwhip and then drag a "connection" from it to the video file of choice to create the link.

I think that's the most simple way I can explain it. You could always download the trial and crack it open, you'll see what I mean. This is totally on the other end of the spectrum from the iDVD recommendations though.
posted by prostyle at 8:31 AM on December 2, 2005

I'd suggest Apple's DVD Studio pro.

Literally, has a flowchart sort of view. It's incredibly easy to add a submenu....from a button...and see how the flowchart

It'll take you 20 minutes to scan over the manual to get what you want to happen.

*Building custom transitions* is a whole 'nother thing. You can do it, but not easily anywhere.

And yeah, it's better than encore.
posted by filmgeek at 9:05 AM on December 2, 2005

My problem is that the really easy authoring programs don't let me create enough layers or sub-menus or have enough control over graphic size and placement

It sounds to me like you're expecting your authoring software to do much more than is allowed by the DVD Spec, which for menus only allows you to have a static or motion menu with a subpicture. Typically all the graphic work for a DVD is done in another app (Photoshop, After Effects etc), then imported into the authoring software where buttons and programming are added.
posted by forallmankind at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2005

Windows or Mac?

For Windows, I prefer DVDLab. Been using it for a while to archive shows from my replay.
posted by Arthur Dent at 3:31 PM on December 2, 2005

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