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Part I: Transitions
Part I: Transitions

Apple has added a great new feature called Transitions with DVD Studio Pro 3. These transitions work with Menus or Tracks, and come in two flavors:

  • Standard Transitions
  • Alpha Transitions

The biggest difference between the two types of transitions is how they look visually while in transition. A standard transition will not have some kind of video that is part of the transition process itself. Instead, a standard transition will take both the end of the frame you are leaving and the beginning of the frame you will arrive at and join these two in a transition such as a wipe, a fade, a 3D box spin, and so on.

The alpha transition on the other hand will do the same with the exception that a video is part of that process described above. For example, you might want to have a fine cloth pulled away from menu one, exposing menu two. The two menus have their own distinctive look, while the cloth was added to enhance the effect of leaving one menu and entering the other. Another example would be of two menus you wish to transition between, that both involve race cars. You could use a checkered flag whipping across the screen to reveal the chosen menu. Both menus are in the transition, but the flag was used to join the two together in a way that enhances the menu design.

Where to use transitions:

  1. At the start of the DVD itself as you begin to play the primary menu.
  2. When going from one menu to another.
  3. When a button within a menu is selected.

I am going to build on a term Apple has coined within their own manual. I will call transitions that play before a menu or track starts an "intro-transition". Transitions that play when selecting a button or leaving a menu or track in general are simply going to be referred to as "transitions" hereafter.

Let's start with #1, and describe intro-transitions for menus.

Intro-Transitions for Menus

There are many methods used to create intro-transition menus:

  1. Intro-menu to Menu Transitions
  2. Track to Menu Transitions
  3. Single Menu with a looping parameter built in

Probably one of the best methods to create a menu with an intro-transition is to simply use option 1, Intro-menu to Menu Transition. The first menu contains the animated pre-sequence before the menu buttons actually appear as a menu onto itself. Once this animated menu has finished playing, a timeout and target parameter send control to another menu, where the menu buttons are made available to the user.

This is a good idea for a few reasons:

  • As the DVD author, you may wish to have the user return to just the menu with the selections after the menu has played once before.
  • Selecting Menu or Top Menu on the remote can be defined specifically to go to the menu where selections are made available without requiring the user to replay the opening intro-transition of that menu.
  • Menus are stored physically closer together than tracks are in the DVD's domain architecture.

I created this type of transition menu in LiveType by cutting a single LiveType timeline into a few parts. The first part is the menu itself, animating into position. The second part is a 26-second continuation of the first part with the exception of the text animating. The text remains stationary, providing us with an area in which to use overlays in our menu and offer the user the ability to make track and menu selections. There is a third part, where we create separate, per button, transitions. We'll go into that a little later on.

I have imported the first part of my menu into DVD Studio Pro as a menu asset for my pre main menu object. The pre main menu plays for a few seconds animating my text, then opens the main menu, which is a second menu object in DVD Studio Pro 3. That object contains stationary text, while music play and the rest of the menu continues to animate.

The single drawback to this method is that there is a slight pause between these two menu objects. The act of going from one menu to another causes a brief interruption in playback.

Let's look at the second option: Track to Menu Transitions

This is exactly the same as the above described method of Intro-menu to Menu Transition, except you use a track asset rather than a menu asset as the animated pre-menu area of the main menu.

The drawback here is a longer delay since the track asset is physically in another domain away from the menu asset on the DVD.

This brings us to the third method: Single-Menu with a Looping parameter built in.

Motion menus with a looping parameter set use a single animated sequence as the whole menu. The DVD author will create a pre-animated section in the first part of this single sequence that later becomes stationary for the purpose of giving users the ability to choose buttons on the menu object.

Here I have a single timeline defined for export in LiveType for my motion menu. The first area outlined in yellow contains the animated text that will form my menu selections. The second outlined area defined in green contains stationary text while the rest of the background continues to animate. Since the text is stationary, I will be able to use an overlay here that allows the user to make a selection from my menu.

At this point, I need to import this animation into DVD Studio Pro 3, and define it as my motion menu. Once I have done this, I will need to define when the overlay becomes activated. This activation of the overlay is known as the loop point in the motion menu.

Here I have the property of the motion menu. I am using the General tab to choose the Start, Loop Point, and End of my motion menu. My opening menu, fades from black, followed by the animated text. The text becomes stationary at six seconds, where I have defined my loop point. When the motion menu reaches the end of its duration, it will begin again, but not at the beginning. Instead the menu will loop starting with the defined loop point.

There is a benefit and a drawback to this method.

The benefit is that it is one contained item. There is no transition or delay going from the animated text to the stationary text because it is one seamless animation.

The drawback is that each time the user comes back to this menu, either from an End Jump or a Menu or Top Menu call from the remote, the entire menu plays again. The loop is ignored, and only plays at that loop point if the menu itself reaches its duration time and restarts from within itself.

So, we have defined three methods of using an Intro-Transition. Now it is time to get knee-deep in the new features of DVD Studio Pro 3. We're going to go over the transitions from the point of view of the menu and the buttons within the menu, and go over track transitions a little as well.

Menu Transitions

Look at the three items in the graphic above. From left to right, we have a menu, the menu property inspector, and the transitions available for the menu object itself. This new tab, called the Transition tab, has a few features we'll go over now.

Once you have selected the Transition tab, you will see the three small preview windows as shown in the graphic above. When selecting a transition for the menu itself, you are allowing each button therein to subscribe to that transition with a setting called, "Same as Menu", which we will go over when we talk about button transitions. For now, let's focus on the transition opportunities with this menu.

If you look just under the three preview boxes, you will note the Transition selection pull-down menu. Once you select that, you will see many choices for canned transitions provided for with DVD Studio Pro 3. The third graphic on the right illustrates what these transitions are. Look at that third graphic; we see, "not set", followed by Blur and ending with Video Transition. There are some differences in this list however, and so we need to further break it down and categorize it.

Notice that some of the transitions have a symbol that looks something like a fish, or a tie lying sideways. This is a lower-case, greek alpha symbol, used to denote Alpha-Transitions apart from standard transitions. The alpha transitions start with Leader, and end with Wedding Classical. Above the alpha transitions are the standard transitions. That set starts with Blur, and ends with Zoom. Finally, all the way at the bottom we see Video Transition.

As we talked about before, standard transitions do not contain a video within the transition itself. You can use the standard, the alpha, or your own custom-made transition with the Video Transition option at the bottom. You can also choose, not set, and not use any transition at all.

Take a closer look at the center graphic. You will see that the start frame is my menu, but that the other two frames are of a crescent moon scene. This crescent moon scene is not part of any menu or track I have in my project. Instead, this is meant to describe in a generic way what the transition animation will look like when it is chosen. Since the transition doesn't yet know where it will go, this image of a destination is a generic image. By default, the start of the transition is the first frame of the menu we are leaving. The End is the first frame of the target menu or track we will arrive at with our button. If a script is the target, then the target transition will simply be black. The center item holds the transition itself. To see this let's begin the next section.

Button Transitions

This graphic above is the property of a button asset, not the menu asset. Notice the tabs have changed. This is the Transition tab for the button itself. Here I have a transition from my main menu to the chapter menu. If you carefully look at the property inspector, you will see this is Button 2, and that the target states, Chapter Menu.

Let's look at the three preview boxes again. See how they have changed. The menu transition was a generic representation of what the effect of the cube transition would be, where as the button transition has defined exactly where we are and where we will go. Again, the first frame of the menu is used as the start of the transition, while the first frame of the target is used for the end of the transition.

Now, there are other settings as you can see at the bottom of the graphic. These are the Start, and the End, which are currently set to Default each. When Start is set to Default, you are accepting that the first frame of the item you are making your transition from will be the start of the transition. Likewise, when you choose Default for the End setting, you are choosing the first frame of the target as the end of the transition. Button transitions also have the opportunity to use a "Same as Menu" which is a setting in the Transition selection pull-down. In addition to choices of Not Set, Standard Transitions, Alpha Transitions, Video Transitions, you also have Same as Menu, when using a Button Transition.

Let's continue with the settings of the Start and End at the bottom in the next section.

Setting the Start and End Transition Manually

The Start and End settings on the transition tab each pull down the same two menus. With these settings you may choose to modify how the start and end transition will start and end. This means you can modify what the start and end frame are based on within the transition you are using. Before I had said that the transition starts by taking the first frame of the menu we are in, and ends its transition with the first frame of the target item we are going into.

This is not always the case. An example of this would be when we use chapters or stories within a track asset. Going from a chapter menu to a story or a chapter within a track will use the first frame of that chapter or story as the end of the transition. This is what you might expect to happen; however, the same doesn't hold true for looping menus, which is why I bring it up.

In a looping menu, you might expect the loop point to be the end of the transition, but instead, the start of the looping menu is the end of the transition. Since the user is starting the menu over from the start, you will see that start frame as the transition end. If you started your looping menu from a complete black field you may wish to modify the transition so as to reflect the menu we are going to, and not an empty black target. This can be done by setting the End setting in the button transition property.

To accomplish this, change the End of the transition to the same timecode as the start of the loop in the looping menu. Take a look at the graphic above. Here I have the End setting altered to Video > Menu 1 > Looping Menu.m2v. This is the Looping menu asset. Selecting a video asset such as this will yield the following option:

Looking at the graphic above, you will notice I adjusted the end of the transition to an offset of six seconds of the looping menu MPEG asset. The end of the transition no longer uses the first frame of this asset as we said earlier.

There are other settings in these menus as well. You may, if you choose, decide you want to go to a solid color, or a still image, or some other timecode location in some other video that is not related at all. It's completely up to you. With that, let's move on to the next section, and talk a little about fine-tuning these standard transitions.

Transition Properties

Take a look at the graphic above. Look at the center area. As you see, the standard transition is the selected transition. By default, the direction of the cube spin is Left. You can change this to right, or top or a bottom if you like. As the cube spins, the background is black. You may choose another color. Each of the transitions has varying options that are associated with it. There is a very nice ripple transition that allows you to change just how pronounced the ripple itself is, for example. It's up to you to explore these transitions to create the effect that best suits your menu's style.

So far, we have a pretty good idea of how to work with Standard Transitions. Alpha Transitions function in usage the same as the Standard Transitions. The added benefit with Alpha Transitions is that you can create your own. We'll go over that in the next article after this one. For now, let's skip to the final section, which is using Video Transitions.

Video Transitions

So far, everything we have discussed has been very menu centric. The transitions have all been focused on the transition of the menu. Whether the transition has been set using the menu's transition tab or the button's transition tab, the transitions themselves have been the same. This is where Video Transitions add that extra value you might be looking for. A Video Transition is a transition you make yourself, and set using either the button's or menu's transition tab.

Making the transition yourself is no different from how or why you made transitions in the past without these new transition features inside DVD Studio Pro 3. What is different and much better now is the ease of implementing your transitions. Prior to version 3, all your transitions were in the form of a menu or a track asset. You had to create a separate track or menu asset for each transition. You then had to point the end jump of your menu to the transition, and in turn the transition pointed to the track the user had intended to go directly to.

With Video Transitions in DVD Studio Pro 3, in most cases you only need to create the transitions, and not the track asset that would normally go along with it. Instead of creating lots of tracks, you simply appoint an MPEG video transition you create to a menu or button through the transition property and DVD Studio Pro 3 does the rest for you. There is no need for the middle man.

Let me provide you with a good use for such a transition. Let's assume you have a menu and that menu has buttons on it. Rather than a standard transition that flips the entire menu, you would like only the button that was activated to transition off the screen. This is so specialized that it is beyond the scope of Apple's implementation of canned transitions. However, that doesn't mean you can't accomplish your goal. Just as easily as I created animated buttons for my motion menu, I can also create tiny videos for each button. These videos are animations of one button at a time in transition off the menu.

Using the button's transition property, I can assign Video Transition and apply my little transition video, on a per-button basis, thus giving me the exact transition I am looking for.


I think it is easy to see how great this new feature is. Transitions in menus have always been one of those extra features that required a lot more work just to add that extra polish to the final product. With this new feature, much of that work has been simplified. Even if you didn't want to use the built-in transitions, you still have the ability to create your own alpha transitions. The video transition workflow for your button actions is so much easier now. That alone makes this a great time-saver. Keep in mind that all these transitions do add to the size of the final DVD.


©Copyright 2004 Alex Alexzander
All Rights Reserved

All artwork and screen shots are the property of Alex Alexzander
Box art in title courtesy of Apple Computer, Inc. ©Copyright 2004 Apple Computer, Inc.

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