Creating button templates, menus, and a chapter index automatically with DVD Studio Pro

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Have you ever had a huge DVD project come across your desk that you just knew was going to be a nightmare to author? One of the most tedious things to author in DVDSP is creating chapter index menus with links to all the various chapters within a project. If you’ve ever had a multi-hour long video with dozens of chapters, creating chapter index menus can take hours and be extremely frustrating, especially if you make a mistake or there are changes after the fact.

Well, fear no more, there is actually a function built right into DVD Studio Pro that will create a chapter index for you automatically! All you need to do is either use one of DVDSP’s pre-made templates or easily create a template of your own then drag and drop; all the menus, buttons, text, and links are automatically created and set.

In this 2 part tutorial I’ll first show you how to make custom buttons, complete with video/image drop zones, that can be saved and inserted into any other menu. Part 2, coming later, will demonstrate how to incorporate those custom buttons into a custom menu, save it as a template, then create an entire 24-chapter index with one drag and drop.

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The Traveling Editor

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Ahh the joys of being a freelance editor. You get to make your own schedule, take time off whenever you want, sleep in on weekdays, pick and choose only the best, most highest-paying jobs, live the jet-set lifestyle hopping from post-house to post-house all across the country…

ZZZZZZCHHHHSSSSSWOOOOSSSSHHH (sound of vinyl record scratching)!

Wait, that’s not what it’s like at all. Probably back when you were in film school some eccentric tweed-jacket-with-the-patches-on-the-elbows professor filled your head with romantic notions like that. Then what happened, you got into the real world and found that most of the time you had to scrounge for any job you could get, from cutting your uncle’s boss’s LARPER themed wedding to that gastric surgery post-operative care demonstration video.

It seems like it was just yesterday
It seems like it was just yesterday

But that’s not the point, the point is that either you’re doing what you love or you’re considering cutting the cable and going out on your own or just graduating and still have that un-blemished innocent vision of the wealth of opportunity that awaits you out there. In any case, as a freelance editor, you need to focus on three main objectives: being a good editor, being mobile, and getting hired again. To do this you need to have a slick and portable system in place that enables you to jump from place to place, dive right in a get to work without wasting a lot of time getting situated. After all, your client is paying you to edit, not set preferences and adjust your chair.

Here are a few things you can do to make your setup time at a new place quick and easy and add value to your service.

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From the Assistant’s Chair: Sell Your Crap!

So you’re at the local drive-in, sitting in your hot rod with a swell filly named Loralane, and you’re necking her like there’s no tomorrow. Then the roller skating waitress glides up to your car and asks if you’d like the Moon Over My Hammy special, and Loralane says she won’t go to the box social with you this Saturday night unless you get her some grub.  But you reach in your pockets, pull them completely inside-out until a moth comically flies out, and it indicates to both Loralane and the roller skating waitress that you are not only broke, but you’re too poor to even afford a wallet to not hold the money you don’t have in the first place. Then she goes off with Butch from the Green Cobras on his dirt bike, and you go crying home while “Earth Angel” by Marvin Berry ominously plays from a mysterious location in the distance.

You know what your biggest problem was? That’s right, associating with those dastardly Green Cobras in the first place! Second biggest problem? You need a bunch of money! Well, if you’re in charge of your own post-production company then you are bound to have a ton of out of date equipment, because this industry is a constantly upgrading, uphill climb. And the higher you climb, the harder it will become to keep carrying all of your old stuff that you barely use anymore. So sell it!

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Live Previews with Zaxwerks ProAnimator

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Zaxwerks ProAnimator plug-in for After Effects is a great tool for creating 3D object animations right inside After Effects. We use it all the time for text and logo animations, animated background elements, and  various other elements.

Recently a project came across my desk that called for an intricate and precise animation of an airplane flying across a globe. The graphic was supposed to be your typical red line that traces itself across a globe hopping from country to country. A job for ProAnimator? Yes. Was there a catch? Yes.

The problem I faced even before I started was that as far as I knew there was no way to preview custom layer maps in the ProAnimator interface. I was going to have to create the globe and then animate its rotation precisely to the points that the “airplane” was supposed to travel to at the precise times. By default ProAnimator displays a generic place-holder image on your objects when you apply layer maps to them, you can’t preview the actual layer map within ProAnimator. This would obviously make for a lot of tedious trial and error when trying to precisely rotate the globe to specific countries.

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Windows and Macs: Can’t We Just Get Along…?

My life is a lot like West Side Story. Even if you take away my constant dancing and occasional problem solving knife fights, it’s still pretty much West Side Story. Well, actually, I’ve never assaulted a police officer or had any reason to mess with the Sharks, but I did briefly date a Puerto Rican woman in college. I’m getting off topic, hold on, my original thought about West Side Story was that I use a PC at home, and Macs at work. And it tears my life apart! I’m in a constant struggle to maintain some sort of peace between the people I know, because I’m always in a state of betraying the other. My friends are all 100% Windows users, I don’t have a single Mac using friend. But at work I see the power of the Mac, something they do not see. To my friends, whenever I talk about Macs I’m pretty sure they just envision the uber-simple 1993 Macintosh computers that we used to play Oregon Trail II on in elementary school and think that Apple products are for the “slower” folks. And at work when I mention my Windows machine, I’m pretty sure everyone just imagines some horrible flurry of files scattered everywhere in all dark corners of the hard drive, a virus-ridden plague of a device that can only be turned off each night with a blue screen of death. The truth is, I use both, and when I look at them, all I see is a couple of computers…

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From the Assistant’s Chair: Communication Breakdown


Here is a chronicling of my life in terms of communication skills: I was born in 1984, George Orwell was incorrect about the future, and I had little to no communication skills aside from crying a lot to get what I wanted. Elementary school in the early 1990s came next. I was good at expressing myself, perhaps too good. I would often get bored with mundane activities and verbally tell the teacher so. Let’s just say that I would often explain to my parents that my poor grades were because “my teacher hates me!” (something I still stand firm behind today). Later in summer camp, probably about 1992 at the age of 8, Ashley Vinanek would tell me she likes me, and while her friends held me down in the ball pit of a Discovery Zone, she kissed me. I very loudly yelled “GROSS!” because of some insane childhood disgust with girls (i.e. cooties), and she hated me for it and didn’t talk to me the final 2 weeks of the summer. Perhaps brutal honesty and poor communication were at play, or just a lack of knowledge that having girls hold me down and kiss me wouldn’t be common in the near future, needless to say it could have been handled better.

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