Do you have Photoshop?
If so, with a bit of background work and understanding, you CAN create your PrE Menu Sets, but there are several, very specific naming and construction conventions, that are extremely important, and those conventions MUST be adhered to perfectly, for things to work properly.
Even though I do this fairly often, to make sure that I do things EXACTLY as they must be done, I keep one of the Templates open, and used as a reference.
If one has PsElements, there are some things that cannot be done directly (creating Layer Sets, for instance), but customization can be done.
It is usually more efficent, and easier, to start with a Menu Set Template that provides most of what one wants, and then customize that Template, to suit the exact needs.
This Tips & Tricks article links to a discussion in the Photoshop General Discussions Forum, on creating, or editing Menu Set Templates for Premiere Elements: http://forums.adobe.com/message/2490848#2490848
I have PSE6 and CS4. I would have done this project in CS4, but unfortunately CS4 could not do the audio.
I infer that I would have to create the menu in CS4 and then import to PE12? That could be problematic, perhaps.
From your comments it would seem better to just work through the PE12 presets and customize them. (Will the day come when we have to shoot all footage in Auto mode and then "customize" the results in post? )
I will check out the link you mentioned.
I have looked at the links and made a test Menu/TOC. No problems inserting my own material, but I seem to be stuck with the amateurish-lookin "themes" that Adobe has created. They degrade the users' impressions of the entire project; I would prefer that people get off to a good start. (I design my own book covers for the same reason. Art work and layout is most of what I do.)
Is there any way to override or overwrite these "themes" (beach, sports, etc.)?
I don't want to waste too many hours looking for a tactic or technique that may not exist.
When I either create, or heavily customize an existing Menu Set Template, rather than overwrite the provided Templates, I just add my new versions, and have a folder (within the Template hierarchy), "Hunt Menus," and when I have set those up with the PNG files (thumbnails), and such, those appear in my Menus gallery. That allows me to retain the original Menu Sets, should I ever need to go back to one, but also to have my fully custom Menu Sets, when I want those.
As for Video in Ps CS 4, only the Extended version did much Video handling. That was true, though Ps CS 5.5, and then Ps CS 6 added more Video capabilities (the Extended version of Ps CS 6 was more about 3D work). Still, compared to even Premiere Elements, the Ps Video editing is somewhat limited.
Actually, I have CS4 Extended.
I may end up doing the TOC and final DVD produciton with WinX DVD Creator, for two reasons.
1. It is at least as good at making TOCs/Menus, and seems more flexible.
2. It gives much better IQ in the DVDs. I have done a number of tests burning to DVD using the PE12 choices, and the results aren't too good. One big problem is even though the project preset is progressive, and all the import files are progressive, the burn choices for DVNTSC and MP2 are interlaced; the resulting DVD looks very bad when played on PC, with horrible interlace artifacts. If you can enlarge, the right arm of the surfer is a fairly good example--and there are worse.
Since many people don't use their TV to view DVDs, this is not good. In addition, I was unable to play the DVD at all on my elderly Toshiba VCR/DVD player/copier. None of the file formats worked. Again, not everyone has new equipment, so I prefer to have something less restrictive.
So I saved as DVNTSC, also as MP2, also as MP4. I then burned a DVD-RW with each of these using WinX with "deinterlace" checked. They all played well both on PC and on DVD player & TV. No interlace artifacts.
IQ varied; DVNTSC looked OK unless you paused it, in which case the IQ was very poor (blurry). MP2 wasn't as bad, but it had a very slight lateral compression (maybe 2-3%).
MP4 gave very good results: no change of aspect ratio; the IQ was very slightly degraded from the original due to the copy, but if I didn't have the original AVCHD to compare to, I probably wouldn't notice.
So I am leaning toward doing all editing and assembling in PE12, exporting as MP4, and creating the DVD by inputting MP4 into WinX DVD Creator. So far this gives the best quality.