There's more to authoring a DVD than just burning video to disc. But most authoring software packages give you only limited design options – and this includes many semi-professional apps. Adobe's Encore DVD has taken a different tack, bringing the firm's unquestionable design expertise to bear on the task of menu creation.
In the past, Encore DVD has offered design control at the expense of simplicity. With version 2.0, Adobe has attempted to give users a bit of a helping hand. For a start, Encore DVD 2.0 has the same standard Adobe interface as the other members of the Production Suite. Instead of floating palettes, all the elements are stitched together.
An entirely new interface window, however, is the Flowchart, which gives you a handy visual schematic of how your menus link to each other and to your media assets. You can drag links around to add or change them, too.
To make Encore DVD more useful for everyday authoring tasks, Adobe has added a few mundane but nevertheless useful capabilities.
You can automatically add chapter points to a video clip at fixed intervals, which is handy for rapidly creating a scene-selection menu without having to watch the entire video and choose chapters manually.
Chapters can be grouped into playlists in any order. Although playlists were available before, this now includes the ability to play just the intended chapter – not the rest of the clip onwards. Encore DVD even has a slideshow editor, for the speedy creation of a DVD from still images.
A slideshow is treated like a clip on the timeline, and you can add a default transition between each image plus random pans and zooms for a bit of onscreen animation.
File support has been extended to include DTS (digital theatre sound) soundtracks. However, only stereo Dolby Digital can be encoded, so you'll have to create your DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio elsewhere, then use Encore DVD to mix it with the video.
Adobe has been almost suspiciously silent about support for the forthcoming high-definition optical rivals, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD. You definitely won't be able to use Encore DVD 2.0 to create discs in either of these formats, and Adobe hasn't made any public statements about future versions, either – unlike competitors such as Sonic.
With Dynamic Link, it's easy
Integration is Adobe's watchword for its Production Studio products. All of them are designed to gain benefits from being used alongside other members of the bundle. Much of the extra functionality comes from Dynamic Link, which provides the ability to 'call' one program from within another, and see the results fed straight back to the host application. Encore DVD already had direct support for Photoshop, allowing you to import PSD files as menus, and even call Photoshop to edit menus created within Encore DVD.
But Dynamic Link has now been extended to After Effects. Encore DVD 2.0 uses Premiere Pro's video-rendering engine and brings with it the ability to directly interpret After Effects files. So you can import After Effects compositions into Encore DVD using Dynamic Link, then place them on the timeline and no prerendering will be required to preview the video immediately. You can also call up After Effects using Edit Original, without the need to render any output as you did with Encore DVD 1.5. Any changes you make will be fed straight back into the Encore DVD timeline.
Encore DVD 2.0 supports Adobe's XMP (extensible metadata platform), so you can make use of the tags you've created in Adobe Bridge to keep track of your assets. This will be handy for larger organisations with lots of assets to manage. However, adding the extra data in the first place takes time, so may be counterproductive in smaller-scale production environments.