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Adobe Encore 2.0 reviewed

Adobe Encore 2.0 reviewed
A Creative COW Product Review

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Greg Mulvey Greg Mulvey
Las Vegas, Nevada USA


©Copyright 2006 Greg Mulvey and Creativecow.net. All Rights Reserved.
Article Focus:
In this article, CreativeCOW.net leader, Greg Mulvey takes a look at the new Adobe Encore 2.0 and concludes that overall this is a great upgrade. ''...if you are using the rest of the Adobe Production Studio then Encore DVD 2.0 is going to be your best choice for most DVD projects.''


I've been using Encore DVD since version 1.0, but was never able to use it for more advanced projects, until now. With the release of Adobe Encore DVD 2.0 comes new features that will allow for more advanced authoring.

While looking at the new features listed on the Adobe site for Encore DVD 2.0 I was surprised to see how many new features were not listed, especially ones that I consider very important for advanced DVD authoring. Below is almost a complete list of all the new features in Encore DVD 2.0 along with some comments on each one. If I missed anything let me know and I will add it to the list.

New Interface

With the new Adobe Production Studio, Adobe did a much needed revamp on the interface for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Audtion, and Encore. They now all share the same interface which consists of panels that dock and group together that make your workspace more efficient and less cluttered. I think Encore benifited the most from this new interface everything is right where you need it when you need it. You don't have to hunt around looking for windows and tools anymore.

Slideshow Editor
Encore has added a new tool for creating slideshows. Just import your images and put them in the order you want. You can then set up transitions, slide length, and add narration or background music. One of my favorite features is the "Random Pan and Zoom" option. Check this option and you have an instant Ken Burns type effect on all your photos. It is very easy to go through and adjust the Pan and Zoom on each photo if you need to do some tweaking. You are limited to 99 slides per show but you can create multiple slide shows and link them together to get around this. You can also define if you want the show to autoplay or if you want your user to manually advance each slide. Another useful feature is the ability to create a subtitle to go along with each photo that the user can turn on and off while watching the DVD.

There are many dedicated slide show editors out there, that can do a lot more, but this is a really quick and easy way to add a slideshow to your DVD without having to leave Encore. I would like to see something like this added to Premiere Pro in the future.

Flowchart
The Flowchart shows a graphic interface that lets you visually arrange your navigation as well as quickly see how assets are being linked or not used at all. I find this really useful on large projects when I have lots of assets that I need to keep track of.

You can actually build your navigation right inside of the Flowchart view. You can see individual buttons in each menu and link directly to them, or create links directly from them. Encore will also arrange the flowchart with animation so you can track navigation through the hings you've selected.

MENU ENHANCMENTS

Create Menu Templates- You now have the ability to create your own menu templates, including ones with motion backgrounds. These templates can be saved self-contained and shared with other users.

Automated chapter menus – This is a great way for doing chapter submenus. Link a slideshow or timeline with menus to a button and choose Create Chapter Index and Encore will generate all the submenus needed including navigation buttons, such as Next and Previous so the user can navigate to each submenu.  This is a real timesaving feature.



Royalty-free templates and menu art –  Encore 2.0 comes with almost 5gigs of extra content to use in your projects, including motion menus many of which are identical to the templates provided with After Effects so you can go back to the source and modify them as needed.

Menu replacement layers –  A replacement layer is basically a placeholder layer in your menu. When you drop an image onto a replacement layer, the new image is scaled to the replacement layer's size and any masks or effects are applied to the image you dropped in. Replacement layers are used in many of the pre-designed templates that come with Encore and are a great way to customize your menu. Unfortunately you can't use video assets in replacement layers in this version.


Rotate Tool – There is now a new tool that will let you rotate objects in your menu


Replace Menu – This is a new feature that will let you change the menu design after you have already created and edited a menu. It will keep all your buttons linked, but will change them and the background to the style of the new menu template you choose.

Sync Button Text & Name -  By default in the button properties tab there is an option named "Sync Button Text and Name" checked.  If you type in a new Name for your button it will also change the actual text on your menu for that button. This feature can be useful if you plan ahead and name your chapter points in Premiere Pro then link a chapter to a button on a menu in Encore, because Encore will name the button based on the chapter name. This feature also allows you to use the flowchart view to rename your buttons.

I can see how this feature can be useful in some cases, but personally I find it annoying more times then not so I end up just un-checking and not using this feature.



Link transition – This is one of my favorite new features and is a huge time saver. When setting a button link you can also specify a video asset to use as a transition. In the past I had to create separate timelines for each button transition and then set different end actions for each timeline to go to the targeted link. Now it only takes a few seconds to define the transition and you can use the same one for every button if you want.

If you have the Adobe Production Studio, then you can also use an After Effects project as a link transition without having to render anything in After Effects. In fact, right insdie of Encore you can create a "New After Efects Composition..."


TIMELINE & CHAPTER FEATURES

 

Multiple clips on a single timeline track – You can now place more then one video asset on a single timeline track. This can be a real timesaver when you need to combine a bunch of videos that you want to play seamlessly. Before the only way to do this was to first edit everything together in Premiere and export a single video clip.

Chapter End Actions – I am really happy Encore finally supports chapter end actions. This was probably one of my biggest feature requests for this release. You can now set an end action for a chapter so that when the chapter is done playing instead of going to the next chapter it can go back to a menu or another timeline. This is something that is really useful for doing a training DVD when you have one video track with many chapters for each training section. The user probably would not want to watch the entire training from beginning to end, instead they can choose from a list of chapters on a menu and watch only the chapters they want. Before in order to do something like this you would have to have separate timelines for each chapter.

Chapter Playlists – In many ways even more powerful then Chapter End Actions is the new Chapter Playlist. This will let you create a playlist of a timeline's chapters in a different order. You can also set the end action of the chapter playlist to go somewhere else then the main timeline's end action. When combined with Chapter End Actions you can do some very advanced authoring such as setting the end actions of all your chapters to "Return to Last Menu" and then creating a Chapter Playlist of all your chapters and linking it to a "Play All" button.



Set Main Timeline- In the Disc Properties tab you can now set a "Main Timeline". This will be used as the first VTS on the final DVD.  

Add chapter points at intervals -  This is a quick way to add chapter points to a timeline at an interval that you specify. This is good for when it doesn't really matter where the chapter points are; you just want to give the user a quick way to navigate thru the video.

Last Chapter executes end action – I am not sure what to call this one, but in older versions of Encore when a user reached the last chapter of a timeline if they hit "Next" on the remote it would take them to the next timeline on the DVD. Which isn't something most people want to happen. Now when a user reaches the last chapter in a timeline and hits the "Next" button on the remote it will execute the end action for that timeline.

The Premiere Pro Engine is now used for video playback, instead of DirectShow which allows for much smoother playback and scrubbing.

Native QuickTime support – You no longer need to transcode when importing a QuickTime asset.

You can now duplicate subtitle tracks

Closed caption support –  You can import line 21 files for closed captions. This will only work for NTSC titles.

DTS audio support

Adobe Integration

Dynamic Link to After EffectsThis is another one of my favorite new features, but you only get it if you buy the Production Studio. It allows you to import an After Effects comp into your project without having to render. If you make a change to it in After Effects, it will automatically get updated in Encore. This really lets you save time and experment with your menus and transitons.

Adobe Bridge – With Adobe Bridge you can browse for your assets and search by keyword as well as choose "Open in Adobe Encore DVD as Asset, Menu, Timeline, Slideshow" This is especially useful when it comes to finding and importing photos to use in slideshows.

XMP metadata support – You can search for assets with XMP metadata as well as add metadata to your files.

 

 

What I would like to see in Future Versions.

While Encore DVD 2.0 is great for most projects, there is still a lot it can't do, especially when it comes to more advanced interactive authoring. Here are some things I would like to see in future versions of Encore.

Scripting Control and GPRM Partitioning – Encore does a lot of scripting behind the scenes for things like "Return to Last Menu" or "Link Back to Here" which is great the less scripting I have to do the better, but right now Encore doesn't allow any scripting or access to GPRM.  To really take advantage of the DVD spec we need access to this.

Menu Transitions – Encore DVD 2.0 took a step in the right direction with allowing you to define an asset to use as a button transition but now they need to add some pre-made menu transitions with alpha support.

Multi-Angle Support

Conclusions:

 

Overall I think this is a great upgrade. Chapter End Actions, Chapter Playlists, and Button Transitions are probably my favorite features and using the Premiere Pro engine for video playback just makes everything much smoother. If you are using the rest of the Adobe Production Studio then Encore DVD 2.0 is going to be your best choice for most DVD projects.  I give this upgrade 4 cows.

 

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