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How to Create a Professional Motion Menu for a DVD

The goal of this tutorial is to demonstrate some basic tools in developing a DVD motion menu from scratch. In our example, the motion menu will play back for 30 seconds, and the specifications will be NTSC format, using a 4:3 aspect ratio. For this tutorial, we will be creating a typical "main menu" from a feature-length movie project. The menu itself will display a 30-second clip from our movie, as well as three buttons for navigation. The three buttons will be Play Program, Scene Selection and Bonus Features.

Read the full article DVD Motion Menus.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Brian Brodeur from New York DVD. Thanks for joining me for my DVD Motion Menu tutorial. Today, I'll be walking you through the basic elements of creating a motion menu from scratch, which will include a 30-second clip, three buttons and a background. I will be walking you through some basic elements of using Photoshop and After Effects, and then the final rendering, and all the specifications you need to understand to create a professional, simple motion menu.

This tutorial will feature a motion menu that is NTSC format and four-by-three aspect ratio. Here is a short piece of the motion clip that we'll be using. The three buttons we'll be using in our motion menu will be play program, chapter selection and bonus features. That's pretty typical for a feature-length film. Here is a short clip of our final rendered motion menu.

Our first step will be to create our basic menu layout in Photoshop. When we're done this Photoshop file will be imported into After Effects, but for now, let's start by launching Photoshop and we'll create a new Photoshop document. Okay, our basic menu layout will comprise of a background, the three text buttons, and then we're going to save that file for importing into After Effects.

Now, Photoshop usually comes with a lot of different templates that we can open and create a new file and it will be all set for us to use. The template that you want to use will be NTSC D1 Square Pixels, 720 by 540 with Guides. If you have that, that's a great start, if you don't, here is how you create a custom template that will suit our needs. Set the document width to 720 pixels, set the document height to 540 pixels, set the resolution to 72 pixels per inch. Set the color mode to RGB Color, also with eight-bit depth, and the advanced settings should be set color profile SMPTE C, and make sure the pixel-aspect ratio is square.

Okay, let me talk a little bit about square pixels and rectangular pixels. You can find out a lot more about this on the web but I'll touch a little bit on it here. Now, we've been doing DVDs for ten years and we have a workflow and a policy that works in square pixels and then converts to rectangular pixels for the encoding process and then playback off the DVD. Many software packages will eliminate this process for you and automatically compensate, but for us, creating motion menus from scratch, this is our process. We will create the Photoshop document using square pixels, 720 by 540. When we go to After Effects, that composition will also be 720 by 540, and when we render out, we will squish the menu down to 720 by 480, then we encode it, and it will be assembled into the DVD authoring. When that menu is played back, either on an LCD or a broadcast monitor, the pixel ratios will appear correct and the images won't be distorted.

Okay, let me touch on title and action safe, take two. Okay, let's discuss title and action safe. When we view our motion menu on a computer monitor, we see the entire image. When we view or menus on a broadcast monitor some of the edge may be cut off because of the tube. This is pretty standard in the industry. What we need to do, or what we need to be aware of is a 10 percent border around the edge of our menu, and we will design all of our graphics and buttons within that 10 percent border. Now, that 10 percent border is called the title safe or title safety. Another 5 percent outside of that is called the action safe. Now, you can test your menus when you burn them to a DVD-R and you can see exactly how they play back on computers and broadcast monitors, but for our use, we like to keep that full 10 percent border for our buttons and any other titling or graphics that we will really want to see on our menu. For our example, our menu has the clip and the buttons nicely centered in the middle, so it's really not an issue, but it's very good for you to know about no matter what project you're designing for.

Now, once we have a 720 by 540 Photoshop document created, we want to start by creating the background layer for our motion menu. Now, for this tutorial, what I've done is taken the foreground and background color and used the render fibers filter to created a striated simple background. You can do any number of things, render clouds, that's another filter, you can put an image, a gradient, a solid color, whatever you want to do. But for this tutorial, we used a dark green and a black and it creates a simple background.

Okay, next, create a new layer in your Photoshop document and use your text tool to create three lines of text that say play program, chapter selection and bonus features. We have formatted this text in this tutorial to be all caps. It's generally 90 percent white with a drop shadow and it's centered, but you can use whatever design sense you want.

Now, for readability during your DVD playback, we recommend that you use 18 point type or larger. For this tutorial, something between 30 and 36 point would work just fine, but when you get below 18 point it becomes hard to read and you'll get some buzzing of the text that won't look just really right.

With the background and the text layer complete, let's save this file as menu.psd. This Photoshop document will be imported into After Effects and then our clip will be added and we'll go through the rendering process.

For this part of the tutorial, we'll be working with Adobe After Effects. This is an industry standard, motion graphics compositing software. I'm sure some of you have the most recent version of this software, but we will be using Version 5.5. It's the oldest version that we have in our studio.

When you launch After Effects, it usually creates a new project. We want to create a new composition. You can do this in a variety of ways, but under the pull-down called Composition you'll see new composition. When you do this, we want to create, again, a square pixel, 720 by 540 composition that's 30 seconds long. We used a preset that was labeled NTSC D1 Square Pixels, 720 by 540. We called the composition motion menu. The width and the height, of course, are 720 and 540. We locked the pixel aspect ratio to four-by-three. We made sure that the aspect ratio was square pixels. The frame rate will be 29.97 frames per second. We're using the resolution at full, and we're using the start time code of 0 frames across the board, and of course, the ending time code will be 30 seconds 0 frames. Now, this 720 by 540 After Effects composition will exactly match the setup of our Photoshop file which was square pixel and 720 by 540 as well.

Once you have created your composition, you'll see a timeline window appear. Now we're going to import our Photoshop file into After Effects to bring down into the timeline. Let's import the menu that we created in Photoshop into After Effects. Use the File pull-down to select Import File, with that dialogue box, then go find the menu.psd file that we just created, select that. And After Effects will give us the choice to import that as merged layers, so all of those layers into one layer, or individual layers. For sake of this tutorial, I think we can just use merged layers, the background and the text buttons will come in as one layer. In more complex animations that we may do in the future, we would do individual layers so that we could treat them as motion graphics separately during an animation.

The next step will be importing the motion clip that we'll be using in our motion menu. For sake of this tutorial, I'm using a 30 second piece of stock footage of Santa Monica. It fades in and fades out. It's not really anything special, but it is full screen. What we want to do is we want to eventually get it down to be half-screen, 320 by 240, and that motion clip will play just above the three buttons of text. Here is another clip of our finished motion menu so you can see what I mean.

So using the same technique as the menu, use the File pull-down, select Import and File, and go find your motion menu clip; in my case, it's called clip.mov and the file will be imported into After Effects. You'll see in the project window that we have our menu.psd and our clip.mov, as well as the composition name, motion menu. What we'll do now is drag those two elements, the clip and the menu, down into the timeline. Drag and drop the menu.psd asset into the timeline under where it says source name. In doing this, this will import the menu.psd, which is the background and the text buttons, as a layer in the timeline and it will justify it to the 0 frame.

Now that we have the menu background in the timeline in After Effects, we want to add the motion clip to a new layer above the menu background. Let's do this by dragging and dropping the clip.mov into the timeline source name column above where the menu.psd is. When I drag the clip.mov file in it naturally obscures the buttons that we've created in the background. Well, we're going to resize that motion clip to 320 by 240 so that there is enough room for the buttons and the clip to live on the menu.

Okay, let's resize our motion menu clip. Make sure you have the layer called clip.mov that you just imported into the timeline, make sure you have that selected. Go to the Layer pull-down, choose transform and then scale. That will open a dialogue box that will allow you to change the scale to 50 percent. Here are the settings that you want to use, the width and height should be 50 percent, the units are percent of source, preserve the current aspect ratio and include the pixel aspect ratio should not be checked.

Now that we've resized the clip to half its size, use your mouse or arrows to reposition the clip above the three buttons. Now your After Effects composition is ready to render. We have our resized motion clip, we have our three buttons and our background, they all sit in the timeline and play for 30 seconds. We're ready to add this composition to the render queue. To add the composition to the render queue, use the pull-down under Composition, and add to render queue.

The render queue window features four sections under the render details. These sections are render settings, output module, log and output to. The render settings should display a hyperlink of current settings. Select this link, which will open a dialogue box. Specify the following parameters using the dropdown menus and change only the applicable settings that I'm specifying. For composition motion menu, we want to select the quality as best, resolution as full, the time span should be the length of composition, which we set at 30 seconds.

Once these render settings have been specified, hit okay and choose the output module hyperlink. This will open another dialogue box. This stage of the tutorial is perhaps the most important because this is where we are going to squish the menu from 720/540 square pixel to 720/480 rectangular pixel or DV format.

With the output module dialogue box open, ensure the format dropdown is set to quick time movie. You could choose MPEG 2 if you have that installed, but for this tutorial, let's leave it at quick time. Ensure the video output checkbox is checked and select the format options button. Set the following parameters within the dialogue box that appears and choose okay when you're finished. Compression type should be DV, DVC Pro NTSC. Motion should be frames per second equal 29.97. The compressor should be quality equals best and that's a slider setting. The scan mode should be interlaced, and the aspect ratio should be 4.3.

Next, select the stretch checkbox, which should show the current rendering settings as 720 by 540. Select the stretch to dropdown menu and change the selection from custom to NTSC DV 720 by 480. Make sure the scaling quality dropdown is set to high.

For this tutorial, we will output this file without audio, so the audio output checkbox should remain unchecked at the bottom of the output module settings dialogue box. Now select okay to close and save the settings for the output module settings dialogue box.

Returning to the render queue dialogue, leave the log dropdown set to errors only. Use the output to hyperlink to set a destination for the quick time file to be saved. With all four of the settings set up in the render queue, you can now hit the render button in the upper right. This will begin the process of outputting your file to the destination that you specified. Once that's complete, you can open that quick time file and review the final motion render that we just created. Of course, from this step, you could go to an encoder and create the MPEG 2 file that will be added to your authoring and played back in your DVD.

Thank you for joining me for this DVD Motion Menu tutorial and good luck with all of your authoring and motion menu development in the future. Take care.

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