Being an online video fan, yesterday was the first day that I had to create a DVD using Adobe Encore DVD creation software. A couple online tutorials and I was almost there. The menu user interface in Encore isn't exactly what I would call user friendly. Frankly it's still a mystery.
However what I found through an Adobe sponsored tutorial is that the DVD menus can be created in Photoshop. What? Photoshop, you say? Yes, Photoshop. It's fairly counter intuitive to me as well, but I found it actually easier to use Photoshop than Encore for setting up the menus (unless you want to use one of their pre-configured templates - but who does that besides people making birthday party videos?).
Let's start with the simplest part; the background. The background is just layers that make up the background image. Nothing special. The picture below shows just the background image layers; consisting of a the bodybuilder and some slanted text overlaid on the back of the bodybuilder. Nothing complicated about that, right?
We all know that DVD menus have buttons that you navigate, so the question is how do you create a button in Photoshop. This wasn't totally obvious to me at first, but the image in the online tutorial and playing with menu templates in Encore gave me a couple clues. What you need to do is create a layer group in Photoshop. You do that by clicking on the folder icon (fifth from the left) at the bottom of the layers tab in the lower right. Here's the special sauce. When you name the layer group, prefix the name with "(+) " as shown in the picture. For instance, I created two groups called "(+) PLAY" and "(+) About" (don't ask me why I all-capitalized one and not the other). The prefix tells Encore that you intend this group to be a button. You can include an image or text on the button. In the picture below I expanded the PLAY button, which consists of two text layers. The first is the "START FILM" text and the second is the right pointing chevrons.
Now, some keen eyed folks might be wondering why the "start_arrow" layer has a "(=1) " prefix. That's because this layer is shown when the user navigates to this selection on the DVD player. In Encore the chevron layer will normally be hidden. The exact same configuration is used for the "(+) About" group with a two text layers consisting of "THE STORY" and another hidden chevron.
Once all this is setup, save the file as a normal Photoshop ".PSD" file. You're done in Photoshop unless you want to change the menus. Now open Encore and import the photoshop .psd file as a menu. Right click in the project tab and choose "Import As -> Menu..." This tells Encore to treat the Photoshop file as a menu and all the layer prefixes will work properly to create navigation buttons. See image below. Now, for doing the remaining options in Encore; the Adobe TV tutorials should get you where you need to go.
Just...please...no more lame-o corporate templates.