The menu templates included with most DVD authoring applications are too fugly for even ironic use. But that’s just as well, because creating a sophisticated animated menu tailored to your content can take less time than burning the DVD to disc! Using Photoshop and NeroVision Express 3, we updated the orientation DVD that all Maximum PC interns are required to watch, so you can see just how easy it is—and how to get around some of the quirks.
Step 1: Create a new background image file
Our first goal is to make a background image for our DVD menu. It’s possible to make the entire background image a looping video clip, but we don’t recommend it—animated backgrounds often make titles difficult to read. We’re going to create our own background image instead, so we have more control over the color and typography than NeroVision Express 3 offers.
Open any image-editing program, such as Photoshop, Gimp, or even Microsoft Paint. Create a new image file that’s 720 pixels wide and 480 pixels high at a resolution of 72 pixels per inch. This is the space you’ve got to work with for your DVD menu.
Step 2: Design your background image
Now paste into this file the background image you want to use. We went with a screen capture from one of our movies—you can capture a screen using DVD playback software such as WinDVD or PowerDVD. We converted our image to black and white for a classic 1950s documentary feel, and massaged it a bit using Photoshop’s Free Transform tool to fit the 720x480 work area.
Step 3: Create a title
This step can be done within NVE3, but we wanted more flexibility than the app offers to create an interesting image, so we used Photoshop to create our title. We scanned a piece of torn paper for the rough-edge look, and used Photoshop’s Add Noise filter to make it look more like newsprint; we then used a classic typewriter typeface (“Love Letter”) to create our title image. Now save the completed background image file to an “assets” directory—we like to keep each DVD menu’s assets in a separate directory, in case we want to tweak the layout later.
Step 4: Begin building your menu in NeroVision Express 3
Fire up NeroVision Express 3 and select Make DVD > DVD-Video. Select Add Video Files, and navigate to the folder containing your video files and load them one at a time. NVE3 shows you how much room you’ve got left on the disc near the bottom of the window; as you can see, we’ve got plenty of space. Click the Next button.
Step 5: Place your background image
You’ll now be threatened with NeroVision’s ghastly default menu template. Click Edit Menu. Right-click the “Island” title and delete it. Then, click the Background button, click the middle button to select your own background picture. Next, click the first blue button next to the Custom Picture window and navigate to your assets folder. Select your image and click OK.
Step 6: Make better animated buttons
Click Buttons, and under “Button settings” click “Animate buttons.” Under “Button frames,” select “Use no frame.” In the same menu, under “Text and numbering,” select “Text only.” Right-click your first video button and click Properties to select the start point for your video loop. When you’re finished, you can adjust the loop length—the length of time each clip plays—via the Automatization menu button. We generally avoid lengths of less than 10 seconds, which tend to make clips appear as if they are stuttering; try to keep the loop lengths the same for all buttons.
Finally, go to the Font menu and select a font and color (we used Love Letter again, in white). The option to change the font size only becomes available by clicking the “More >>” button near the bottom of the window and selecting Custom from the “Font height calculation mode” box. A font size of 7-point seems right to us.
Step 7: Arrange your buttons
NVE3 allows you to position your buttons wherever you’d like, so take advantage of this feature! Be aware, however, that some television sets won’t be able to display the full image area supported by the DVD-Video format, so the dotted lines you see in the menu preview screen represent the “safe area” where buttons should be placed so they won’t get cut off on grandpa’s wheezy, old color TV. When you’re finished with this step, save your work.
Step 8: Audition your menu
Now click the Next button on the bottom-right of the screen, and then click Next again to get to the Preview screen. Here you can preview your work as it will appear on your television or monitor, complete with a virtual remote to make sure the buttons link to the right videos. You can also preview the button animations and background music by clicking “Preview Menu Animation.”
Step 9: Burn your DVD
Click on the “More >>” button and then click the Default Video Options button if you want to adjust the video encoding options; otherwise, click Burn To and send your completed DVD to a recordable disc, or to a folder on your hard drive if you’re planning to make multiple copies. Enjoy the show!