By Michael Burns | on November 17, 2003
When you open Encore DVD, you are greeted with a faintly familiar tabbed palette setup – but with a cut-down five-piece toolset. The timeline comes from the likes of Premiere, and the layers from Photoshop, so users of other Adobe products (particularly those within the Video Collection) will have little trouble navigating it. It’s pretty sparse at first, especially compared to the overkill of Apple DVD Studio Pro 2 (reviewed on page 74), but Encore soon clutters up. Users hoping that Encore would have a flowchart palette for helping lay out the assets of the project will be disappointed.
If all you are looking for is a way of creating menu-driven DVD presentations, this application is ideal. Creating a DVD is simple. You open a new project and click in the empty Project window to import a menu. For this you can use the pre-defined menu designs from Encore’s Library palette, some of which come with buttons already. Then, import a couple of video files as assets and drag them onto the Menu Editor window. Motion menu backgrounds are created by Alt-dragging the video files. If there are no buttons present, Encore DVD has a default set (this is customizable) and your video elements are packaged within these. Click Build Project in the Disc tab and it’s done.
Of course, any of Encore’s competitors on both Windows and Mac platforms can offer similar shortcuts, so we have to turn to the application’s advanced authoring and integration capabilities to see what makes this worth buying.
For creating menus, you can import your own custom designs created in Photoshop. Layers are preserved intact from Photoshop files, and making custom buttons for menus is a case of following some naming conventions. For example, a plus sign is used to identify a nested group of layers that define one button. The numbered layers within identify subpicture layers, which are used to highlight the button when it is selected. As the .psd file is preserved, button layers can use any of the effects from Photoshop.
Again, this is nothing unique, but the key strength of Encore is its ability to switch between menu creation in the application and in Photoshop. The Edit In Photoshop command springs the file over as a temp file to Adobe’s image editor (assuming you have it installed). This is a useful function, as it gives you full creative control over all aspects of the look of the menu. Once you save the file in Photoshop, the changes you made are automatically updated in Encore’s Menu Editor. There’s no need to flatten layers or re-render the files, and changes can be made at any time. If you change your mind, you can choose the Undo Edit In Photoshop command, returning the image to its original state.
According to Adobe, there’s meant to be a similar command for transferring AVI files between Encore, After Effects, and Premiere Pro, but for every file we tried, the Edit Original command couldn’t be used. Nor was there any information about this procedure in the online Help files or the rather slim manual. You just have to import them as Assets in the normal way, but making sure that the composition settings in After Effects and the video settings in Premiere Pro match those of the DVD project in Encore. Encore automatically splits compatible AVI files into their audio and video streams, while MPEG-2 files exported from Premiere Pro need to have their associated Audio files added separately. QuickTime is not supported by the application.
Encore inserts a chapter point at the beginning of each video or still image in the timeline, and uses chapter points as the basis of linking menu commands to various parts of the final DVD.
Markers set in Premiere Pro and After Effects timelines are imported into Encore along with the files, allowing you to use these as chapter points in the creation
of your DVD. This transition is not always successful, unlike Apple’s handling of it.
Encore DVD gives you control over relationships between multiple elements, either through automatic linking via drag-&-drop, by changing links in the Properties palette, or by targeting them directly with a Pick whip. In this way, buttons are linked to play videos and set to return the user to the Main menu once they are played. You can override the default end action
for each timeline to send the user to another destination once this is done.
You can create subtitles either by typing them into the Monitor window or importing them from an external file. This is more extensible than Apple’s approach, with the import options including text script files, Captions
Inc, and FAB format.
Another nod in the direction of the professional studio is copy protection. Encore DVD offers three types: Content Scrambling System (CSS), Macrovision, and CGMS (which restricts the amount of copies that can be made). This takes place in Encore’s Disc tab, where project management steps in. Before you come to burn the DVD, you can use the Check Links button to search for orphaned menus and broken links. There is a GUI to check the project size and a browse function to add data files as DVD-ROM content to the disc.
Unlike Apple’s process of background MPEG-2 encoding in DVD Studio Pro, transcoding is not automatic in Encore. However, if your files are in AVI format beforehand, they’ll be compressed during the DVD burning process. You can manually transcode your files by clicking their timelines in the Project windows, and choosing Transcode Now. Encore can be set to transcode audio to Dolby Digital audio, to save space on the disc for higher video encoding quality.
Once you’re ready to go, there are plenty of output options. Four options can be accessed from the Build DVD submenu under the File menu. These are DVD disc, DVD Folder, DVD image, and DVD Master for writing to digital linear tape.
Encore DVD is an attractive component of Adobe’s Video Collection, but as a standalone product, only professional enhancements like copy protection and the Photoshop integration, elevate Encore DVD above its cheaper PC competitors. DVD professionals should stick with Apple.