About Menus

Menus provide the buttons that the person viewing a DVD uses to configure the disc’s playback and to choose the tracks and slideshows that supply the DVD’s content. DVD menus are made up of a background, which can be a still image or a full-motion movie, and buttons. For the most part, the elements that make up a menu are created outside of DVD Studio Pro. You use DVD Studio Pro to combine these elements into a complete menu and assign actions to the buttons. See Preparing Menu Assets for details on creating the graphics used in your menus.

DVD Studio Pro includes templates and styles that can make it easier to create menus. You can use the supplied templates and styles to quickly create your menus, or you can create your own templates and styles. Using templates and styles lets you apply a standardized look to your menus for all of your projects—for example, to maintain a corporate image. See Using Templates, Styles, and Shapes to Create Your Menus for more information.

Before you create your menus, you need to understand the two different methods used to create menus in DVD Studio Pro, and be aware of special considerations for menus with a 16:9 aspect ratio. If you are authoring HD projects, you also need to be aware of special issues when creating HD menus.

In DVD Studio Pro, you can create menus using either a standard, or overlay method, or a layered method. You can use menus created with both methods in a project, so you can use the method best suited to each individual menu.

The menu creation methods differ primarily in how each button’s states are displayed. Each button in a menu has three states:

Standard Menu Creation Method

The standard method uses an overlay structure to display each button’s states. As described in detail in Creating Overlays, an overlay is a four-color image used to identify the highlight area of each button. Each of the four colors is mapped to the actual color and transparency values that appear for each of the three button states.

The standard method provides the most flexibility when creating menus.

  • The background can be static, or it can be a full-motion video clip.

  • The background can contain the normal state of the buttons, or it can be plain, with the overlay supplying the normal button image.

  • You can use DVD Studio Pro to type text over the menu. The text can be used to title the menu or just provide basic information.

  • You can add text to buttons or even create text-only buttons.

  • You can use shapes on the menu as either buttons or drop zones. Shapes are self-contained graphics that include the normal state image, a graphic that defines the highlight area, and that can even display a full-motion thumbnail image of an assigned asset. Some shapes, called patches, contain animated effects. Shapes can be fully positioned and resized. DVD Studio Pro includes many stock shapes and can import shapes you create. The stock shapes are particularly useful when you are creating menus with minimal reliance on graphics programs.

  • You can create drop zones on the menu. A drop zone is an area of the menu you can assign an asset or shape to. You can reposition, resize, and rotate drop zones. Drop zones become a part of the menu’s background when you build the project. They allow you to add graphic elements to your menu that are not text- or button-related, making it possible to create complex menu backgrounds.

  • You can use templates and styles.

  • You can add audio to the menu.

The drawback of the standard method is that using overlays limits your creativity when showing the different states of a button. While the normal state of a button can be a full 24-bit image, you can only use up to four colors (as defined by the DVD-Video specification) to modify the normal image to show the selected and activated states. Because one of these colors is typically used as a transparent background color, that leaves only three colors. This is sufficient to add an outline or highlight to show when the button is selected or activated, but it is not enough to allow you to radically alter the button.

See Creating Menus Using the Standard Method for details on creating standard menus.

Layered Menu Creation Method

The layered method allows you to create independent 24-bit versions of each button for each of the three states (normal, selected, and activated). This gives you great flexibility in changing a button’s appearance when it is selected and activated.

The layered method requires an Adobe Photoshop (PSD) graphics file that contains a separate layer for each state of each button, in addition to the background graphic. This means a menu with 12 buttons requires 36 layers to show the normal, selected, and activated states of each button. You can combine overlays with buttons created using the layered method.

There are several drawbacks to using the layered method:

  • You cannot have motion in the background; backgrounds must be still images.

  • You cannot use the text or shape features.

  • You cannot use templates and styles.

  • You cannot add audio to the menu.

  • Viewers may experience a slow reaction time while navigating around the buttons on DVD players.

Because layered menus use separate layers for each button state, DVD Studio Pro performs some behind-the-scenes processing, creating separate hidden menus for each possible state of the menu. In the above example with 12 buttons, 25 versions of the menu would need to be created (one with all buttons in their normal state, and one for each button in its selected and activated states). These menus are not visible as separate elements within your project, but are displayed when you use the arrow buttons on the DVD player’s remote control to navigate to a button and activate it.

Due to the number of menus that are created using the layered method, some DVD players may have a slight delay in displaying the menus as viewers navigate around the buttons, which may confuse impatient viewers.

See Creating Menus Using the Layered Method for details on creating layered menus.

Working with 16:9 Menus

When using 16:9 menus in your project, you need to be aware of several things.

How the Menu Will Be Displayed on a 4:3 Monitor

Be sure to choose the proper display mode in the Menu tab of the Menu Inspector. Also, a default Display Mode setting in DVD Studio Pro Preferences sets all new menus, tracks, and slideshows to the proper display mode.

The options include 4:3, 16:9 Pan-Scan, 16:9 Letterbox, and 16:9 Pan-Scan & Letterbox. If you select Pan-Scan, be aware that areas at the left and right edges of the menu will not be visible. See Choosing an Aspect Ratio for more information on this and other aspect ratio issues.

Fewer Buttons Can Be Used

When you set a menu’s display mode to 16:9 Pan-Scan or 16:9 Letterbox, you reduce the total number of buttons you can have on the menu. For SD projects, the total number of buttons drops from 36 to 18; for HD projects, the total drops from 48 to 24. This is because DVD Studio Pro must create two menu overlays, one for each aspect ratio, and automatically select the one to use based on the DVD player’s aspect ratio setting. When you set a menu’s display mode to 16:9 Pan-Scan & Letterbox, the total number of buttons you can have on a menu drops to 12 for SD projects, and 16 for HD projects, because three menu overlays must be created.

16:9 Graphics Must Be Anamorphic in SD Projects

All graphics for 16:9 menus in SD projects must be anamorphic (horizontally compressed to fit the 4:3 aspect ratio). See What Exactly Is a 16:9 Asset? for details on creating graphics for 16:9 menus.

Creating Menus for HD Projects

Creating menus for HD projects is not much different from creating menus for SD projects. The most common issue is understanding how the HD-based DVD menus handle background video assets with respect to their resolutions.

There is a Resolution setting in the General pane of DVD Studio Pro Preferences that defines the default resolution of all new menus (and tracks and slideshows) you create. However, the actual resolution of a menu is usually defined by the background video asset you assign to it.

For example, if your default resolution as defined by the preferences setting is 1280 x 720p and you create a new menu, its resolution is 1280 x 720p. If you set the menu’s background video to a 1920 x 1080i asset, the menu’s resolution automatically changes to match it.

If you set a menu’s background asset to something that is non-standard, for example, a still that is 800 x 600, the menu’s resolution changes to the highest resolution that is smaller than the non-standard size (in this example, full D1, which is 720 x 480 for NTSC or 720 x 576 for PAL), and the image is scaled to fit. If you set a menu’s background to something that is smaller than full D1, it is scaled up to the full D1 size.

Note: As with SD-based DVD menus, when a menu’s background asset does not match the 4:3 or 16:9 display mode, the empty areas are filled with the menu background color, as defined in the Menu pane of DVD Studio Pro Preferences.

You must also be aware that the limit on the number of buttons your menu can have is different than with SD-based DVD menus. Menus using the 4:3 aspect ratio can have up to 48 buttons. Menus using the 16:9 Pan-Scan or 16:9 Letterbox modes can have up to 24 buttons. Menus using the 6:9 Pan-Scan & Letterbox modes can have up to 16 buttons.

Adding Intro and Transition Clips to Menus

You can make the DVD viewing experience more polished by adding short video clips that play at the beginning of a menu (intro clips) and when buttons are pressed (transition clips).

There are several approaches you can take to add these clips to your project. See Adding Intro and Transition Clips to Menus for more information.