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It sounds like you want to use a generic text-only DVD template.
You can make one by taking about the PSD files that serve as the DVD templates and removing the links to the scenes.
I also created one for our complimentary products are at Muvipix.com.
As with all menus, you can change the fonts, text colors and text positions and swap in any photo or video for the menu background.
There are two basic approaches to having your "own" DVD Menu Template for use in Premiere Elements.
a. Create the .psd for the DVD Menu Template in Photoshop which has the Layer Group feature that is required for this work, using Adobe conventions for layer naming, layer sets, file naming, etc.
b. Or, have installed on your computer the specific combination of Photoshop Elements 4 and Premiere Elements 2. (I am not sure if it is possible to get these older versions anymore.)
Editing of Existing Menus
1. To edit the .psd for the existing DVD Menu, you need a program that can open the .psd and its Layer Groups so that you can get at the individual layers to edit them. I know from first hand experience that Photoshop will do that as well as Photoshop Elements 6 and 7. Photoshop Elements 2 will not open the Layer Groups of the .psd of the DVD Menu Template, allowing you to get at layers in the Layer Group.
There is always the choice to just modify what you can within Create Menu Section within the Program, that is, change text, move things around, maybe add audio (max 30 sec before looping).
"What I basically want to do is have a background picture with several text boxes as the buttons instead of the thumbnails."
You did not say if these buttons were going to represent scenes within one movie on the DVD or if these buttons were going to direct to several different movies on the DVD.
I will not go into detail now, but just offer a bunch of miscellaneous notes for your consideration:
1. If you are using existing DVD Menu, look for those that have at least the number of buttons/page that you need. The "Play Movie" button is not one that I have found that I could remove and replace or make invisible unless I went into the program files and got at its .psd in the DVD template. Of course you could always leave it be as a Play All. Remember, if you pick a template designed for say 6 buttons and you have 7, you will end up with two page of DVD menu (one with 6 and one with 1).
2. The buttons on the menus are directly linked to the markers that you place on the Timeline, so, if your menu is a main menu, then you need to use main menu markers...and so on....
3. If your buttons are going to represent several movies on the same DVD, then you are going to get into a procedure using Main Menu Markers and Stop Markers on the Premiere Elements Timeline.
I think that the fact that Photoshop Elements 2 cannot open the .psd DVD Menu Template is going to curb your flexibility in this matter. But, do not take my word for this, try it and see if you come to the same finding.
Steve and A.T.,
Thank you both so much. I really appreciate the ideas you gave. I decided to go out and purchase the PSE 7.0, I needed to upgrade anyway. I am making my own DVD Menus and they are comming out really well.
I still have one issue. On the highlight (=1) pictures I can only use very, very simple shapes. For example, I am making a DVD of my Grandmother and would like to use a picture of an angel when you highlight the Play All button.
It looks great on the preview in PRE but when I burn the DVD and try to play it, it is very blurred and only one color. If I use a simple shape in one color, like an arrow or something like that, it comes out very well.
Any ideas how to use more complex pictures for this?
Jeffrey C. Cummins
Some colors don't seem to work as well for highlights, so a continuous tone object (such as a photograph) won't work as well as something that's a flat color.
And, for best results, use a web safe flat color.
Unfortunately, the Button Subpicture Highlight is a 2-bit image. Now, one can "fool" the DVD-specs a bit, by creating the Highlights using the three available colors.
There might be limitations on doing this in PSE. I use PS CS2 and also Adobe Encore (for the acutal authoring). In PS, I can design my Button Subpicture Highlights with three colors (that's the +1, +2 and +3) in the Button Layer Set naming conventions. However, I cannot assign specific colors to these 3 choices in PS, as it does not access the Menu's Highlight Color Set - it stays on Automatic. Once into Encore, I have the Highlight Color Set available and can alter what those three colors are displayed at and also their Opacity (jut the opposite of Transparency).
You might gain some insight into the Highlights from the link that Ruud gives in this Encore thread:
Because of the bitmapped nature (by design in the DVD-spec.), one is limited and Steve's observations above are right-on. Still, one can find ways to work around this, if they have the right tools. Sorry that I do not know the full power, or the limitations of PSE.
With some other authoring programs, Encore, DVD Architect, etc., on can also create dupe Menus that "appear" to use 8-bit images as Highlights. These are, however, just images in the Menu, and not really Highlights. To the user, however, it "appears" that they are the Highlights.
Jeff Bellune (frequent poster in both the Encore & Premiere Pro forums) has a very good book on working with Highligts, along with other great tips and ideas for DVD production,
i The Focal Easy Guide to EncoreDVD 2
Focal Press. Now, it is based on using Encore, Photoshop, Illustrator and AfterEffects, but the prinicples stated can apply to other programs, as well. Do not be put off that it was written for Encore2, and that program (no longer a stand alone) is up to CS4. Ninety-nine percent of the material still applies. To learn what is possible, though maybe not in PE & PSE alone, I cannot recommend this book too highly. Amazon also has it at a reduced rate, as it was written for Encore2. First, however, see Ruud's link for full a explanation of Highlights.
That is some excellent information. I viewed the video just like you recommended. I tried using PSE 7.0 and created a play menu for a baseball as written below:
(=1) White Circle for use as a ball
(=2) Black outline for ball
(=3) Red stripe for stiches
(en_US(-)) Play button
Now when I import this into Adobe Premier Elements 7, and then click do the DVD Preview I see the outline (=2) and the red stripe (=3). When I choose the play button the white circle (=1) shows up as a highlight. Is this an issue with Adobe Premiere and it can only read 1 color instead of 3 like in Encore? Do you know where I might be able to find this information? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Jeffrey C. Cummins
I would *guess* that it is more likely a limitation with PSE and how it handles Subpicture Highlights with the Color Sets. Even Photoshop CSx has an inability to assign the Color Sets, and I have to then take the Menu into Encore for setting that aspect. Maybe with PS-Extended CS4, this one little feature has been added. As Adobe integrates their Production Suite more closely, I feel that soon, if not now, one WILL be able to do it all in PS. Do not have, do do not know, PSE, but it usually picks up features from "big brother," just more slowly.
Remember, just a guess here, but I'd think that you are only able to get the "Automatic" Color Set, and would need to take that into some other program, like Encore to "adjust" those colors.
If you would like to e-mail me your .PSD, and specify exactly which colors you'd like to assign to #1, 2 & 3, I'll be happy to open it in Encore and see if I can assign your choices to it.
In your construction, remember that Subpicture Highlights overlay each other. This means that you need to "punch holes" in the Highlight Layers, to allow the other colors to "show through."
You might get some ideas on this from an article that I posted to Muvipix: http://muvipix.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=4234
The actual use is different, than what you are doing, but the principles are the same. You will need to "read between the lines," a bit.
My e-mail addy is in my profile. Please put Adobe Premiere Elements in the Subject Line, so that Mailwasher doesn't trash your e-mail. Also, be as specific, as you can, with your color choices. I will attempt to match those, as much as is possible. Just remember that Subpicture Highlights overlay each other. If the top one is the full image, the other two will NOT be shown. One needs to Mask layers, to show through. Also, Jeff's book, that I recommended, has a nice tutorial on doing an American flag, in red, white and blue, as a Subpicture Highlight, with step-by-step directions. That one tutorial is worth the price of the book, and it's got so very much more.