|A Creative COW Book Review
In this article, CreativeCOW leader Alex Alexzander reviews DVD Authoring with Adobe Encore DVD written by Wes Howell, and published by Focal Press, 345 pages, March 2004, ISBN: 0240805631, and finds it "...pretty close to perfection, in my opinion. If it had been printed in color, it would be over the top."
Without a doubt everyone working in any creative field has used Adobe's Photoshop application. This one single application is by far the standard in the print industry, and perhaps every other industry requiring any graphic work done in 2D.
Adobe owns quite a few standards in the industry. Adobe Photoshop is quite possibly the most well regarded of them all. In addition to that, one of the most widely adopted motion graphics applications is another Adobe property. Of course, I am talking about After Effects.
Not too long ago Adobe decided to completely redesign their non-linear editor application, Adobe Premiere, and in doing so, Adobe decided to add a few more properties to their already impressive lineup of digital video applications. These new additions are Adobe Audition and Adobe Encore DVD.
When Adobe decided to add DVD authoring to their arsenal of applications, they knew they had very powerful allies they could rely on, namely, After Effects and Photoshop, and of course the new Premiere Pro NLE, just redesigned from the ground up.
As you would expect, Adobe tightly integrated their DVD authoring application into their suite of digital video applications. Some of this integration is obvious, and some is not so noticeable. What should be obvious is the enormous benefit to the user that this kind of integration can and will afford you. Unfortunately, with all of this integration Adobe included a rather slim user's manual with the Encore DVD product, leaving many looking for a supplement for the manual. Now that Encore has been on the shelf for a while, there are a few books and videos from various publishers ready to meet this new demand.
I'd very much like to introduce you to a book from the folks at Focal Press called DVD Authoring with Adobe Encore DVD. This book is written by Wes Howell. This book threw me for a curve almost immediately. Its cover is quite impressive looking, but we all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. As I flipped through the pages I noticed that the book is printed in black and white. The graphics are not as carefully refined as I would have hoped either. Immediately my first impression was a sinking feeling from my own presumption that this book was probably a waste of my time. Well, let me assure you that this book is worth your time and then some.
I have a habit of pulling out a pencil and writing in books. I like to make lots of notes in the margins, and circle little things I know will be helpful later on. I found plenty of helpful information in this book right away. As I started to circle and underline noteworthy sections, I found myself really enjoying this book. So with the introduction aside, let's get started showing off this book a bit.
Under the Hood
Chapters One, Two, and Three are really preparation before you start your first project in Encore DVD. The author lays a solid foundation that I know will benefit first-time DVD authors. In Chapter One, he covers capacity, compression, and the various DVD formats available. You are immediately introduced to what actually is a DVD.
Once you have an idea for what those very basics are, the author expands into how to start a new project, what file types are accepted, and how to import assets. Immediately I found myself underlining and circling some great tips. Importing a Photoshop graphic as an asset flattens the document, while importing as a menu preserves the layers. So you immediately understand that how you import is as important as what you import. You will learn how to save a menu as a template for future use. The author covers how to encode AC3 for audio and what bit rates are common and will keep you out of trouble. And since you now understand storage, file types, and sizes, you are introduced to how to bit budget so you don't run into a situation where your encoded video doesn't fit on your DVD.
The author covers the interface and guides you through the application, its preferences, and all of its many tools and properties. By the time you are done with Chapter Three, you will understand what makes a DVD, how to get your assets imported and encoded, and how to work with all the windows needed to create that first DVD.
Building the Project
Chapter Four is where the action starts. You start this chapter by loading project files into Encore DVD and following the step-by-step instructions while you are taught what you are doing and why. By the time Chapter Four is complete, you have made your first DVD and have put to use the basic functions of Encore DVD.
Reading the first three chapters followed by this simple lesson in Chapter Four will go a long way for the first-time user. At this stage you are ready to move up to the next level and begin to consider more detailed functions and principles.
Chapter Five begins to dig deeper into Encore and how Photoshop integrates into the application. You can't have a discussion about DVDs and Photoshop without raising the whole pixel aspect ratio issue, and that's exactly where this chapter starts.
Immediately after, the author takes us through menu fundamentals. This section is great for first-time users. All the menu's layers are described with skilled detail, and there are quite a few lessons here that reinforce the text. This is a pretty big chapter in the book, but once completed, you will have learned to create everything from a simply static menu on through thumbnail menus with multiple color highlight sets. The lessons include plenty of stock footage, so in addition to following these lessons you also have lots of opportunities to experiment on your own if you are so inclined.
Working with After Effects and Premiere Pro
Chapter Six expands on what we have learned in prior chapters, taking us another step forward, this time into the use of full motion menus. Here we see and learn how to make use of menus created in After Effects and Premiere Pro. As the author says, it's beyond the scope of this book to actually teach you in intricate detail all that is required to design composite menus with these two applications; however, this section does include a full project for you to work through. You will learn what makes these kinds of menus desirable as you create a DVD that makes use of motion menus, transitions, and a loop point. You'll understand how to prepare your future After Effects projects for re-editing if needed, through the use of Adobe's tightly integrated "Edit Original" function.
Finishing Touches and Final Output
Chapters Seven and Eight focus on the remaining details that simply didn't fit elsewhere. These are subjects such as working with 16:9 and 24p, as well as multi-lingual authoring techniques, such as how to use the "Specify Other", which is great for creating Hollywood-style setup menus. You'll learn to subtitle your projects in Encore, choose color sets, and so many other functions before finally testing your DVD for any potential problems before you build, burn, or master for replication.
DVD Authoring with Adobe Encore DVD is pretty close to perfection, in my opinion. If it had been printed in color, it would be over the top. The author spends enough time in the beginning chapters of this book to familiarize you with all the concepts you need to understand before you author your first DVD. This is a book I could give to a complete novice who knows two things about computers: how to turn them on and how to turn them off. If you read through the first three chapters, you have the foundation and understanding of what the materials are that you will work with later on.
I have read books that read like an encyclopedia full of definitions (and those authors know who they are). Their books do little to walk you through the process of authoring a DVD. This book however is the other side of that. It's all about walking you through the process. Every chapter past Chapter Three is lesson-based. This book is a teacher beside you, guiding you through the process, teaching you the concepts, and providing you with valuable tips along the way. Best of all, you start with the most simple of DVD projects just to get you past all the basic tools quickly and easily. The author builds and continues to build on what you have learned in prior lessons. It's most obvious the author is quite a skilled teacher in addition to a DVD author. Absolutely a must-have book.
©Copyright 2003 / 2004 Alex Alexzander | Creative Cow
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