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You will want to get Adobe Photoshop. If you're going to do this at any level, I'd suggest the full PS, and not PS Elements, as there are some things (Layer Masks, for example), where PS Elements doesn't have. PS Elements can do most of the things that you would like to do, but then kinda' runs out of tricks.
The reason that PE7 does not offer Menu editing, is that PSE is often bundled with it.
I would strongly advise that you make a copy of several of the Menu Templates and work on those copies. Notice the Button Layer Sets in these Templates, as that will be what you will need to create. The naming conventions are extremely important. They MUST be used for any Template.
Also, the Menu Templates in PE7 are in sets, i.e. Main and Scene Selection. Take notice of how these are named, and also how they display in the Menu section of the Project Panel. PE also does a lot of Menu linking automatically, and also will create the number of the proper Menus, based on the number of Chapter Points in the Timeline. It also automatically creates the number of Buttons needed, plus determines the language. This takes place behind the scenes, but the materials to do this are in the Templates. That is why I strongly suggest starting with those to explore and edit, first.
In Adobe's other authoring program, Encore, the Menus are a bit more simple, as one manually adds the Menus and arranges their Buttons. More power, but all manually done, and with NO automation. Were you to bring similar Menu Templates into PS (one from PE and one from Encore), you would see that the Encore one had a lot less in it, though the end result will be very similar.
I also recommend that you pick up a copy of Jeff Bellune's "Focal Easy Guide to Adobe EncoreDVD 2," Focal Press. Do not be put off by it being for EncoreDVD 2 (now up to CS4), because his coverage of Menus and especially Sub-picture Highlights is the best. You WILL need to understand these things well, and Jeff makes it easy. It is available from Amazon.com.
Next, I recommend that you go to the Adobe Encore forum, and read every post in the "Menus and Buttons" sub-forum. There are a ton of great articles there, and also invaluable links to other articles, that you can't live without. Afterwards, it's a great tool for getting questions answered. Note that most subscribers use Encore (remember that those Menus are more simple), and not PE. For PE Menu questions, I'd recommend Muvipix.
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I've written a Steve's Tips article that will walk you through the process. It's available on the Muvipix products page. Unfortunately, it's not one of the free tutorials on the site. This one is for site subscribers only.
As Hunt says, the naming conventions, layer sets and the order the layers are stacked all affect how the templates function. If you study an existing template, you may be able to revise it to meet your needs. Otherwise, my article explains it all and how to do it.
Another solution is to do your editing in Premiere Elements and use a DVD authoring program to create your DVD from the final video files.
My personal favorite is Sony's DVD Architect Studio, which sells for $49, or $39 if you download it from the site. Using this program, you can create your own custom DVD menus, including rather complicated menu structures. It's easy to use, but I've just published a book on how to edit with it. (It's available on Amazon.)
Meantime, if there's something specific you have a question about how to do, I'll be glad to field it for you. Obviously, I can't go into the kind of depth I could in my article -- but maybe I can guide you toward getting what you need to get done.
Thank you both very much for taking the time to reply to my post.
Unfortunately, after buying my new Canon Vixia HF20 HD camcorder and all the accessories that go with it, plus the software I've purchased (such as Adobe Premiere Elements 7 and other tools), I've blown my budget for the entire year (and then some).
So adding another $700.00 for Photoshop CS4 just isn't an option for me.
I will install the trial version of that Sony software and see if it will fill in the blanks left by Premiere Elements 7. Thanks very much for that suggestion. It should save me some money.
Adobe Premiere Elements 7 comes very close to being perfect. It is a great product. But not having the ability to create your own dvd menu templates is like selling a car without any passenger seats. It works, but it just isn't complete. I'm betting that the programmers were not the ones who made the decision to not include that feature in the product.
Note: I downloaded the trial version of Photoshop Elements 7 and was unable to figure out how to create menus. So perhaps someone would be kind enough to point out why that feature was available in Photoshop Elements 4 but is not in Photoshop Elements 7? If it is, tell me how to access it.
Also... after installing the downloaded version of Premiere Elements 7 I noticed that there are only a few menu templates to choose from (5 or 6 including those from photoshop.com). I've read that the CD comes with a lot more. Where can I get those and not have to pay for them?
Well, PE is an NLE (Non Linear Editor), and offers rudimentaty DVD authoring capabilities. That it offers any is above many NLE's, including its "big brother" PrPro, which requires Adobe Encore (now, only bundled with it, and not as a stand-alone), is a blessing to most. The creation of a Menu is the domain of a digital image manipulation program. In lieu of PS, the full version, look at PSE, which very often comes bundled with PE. It does lack a few things, that can enhance Menus (plus other forms of images), and costs less than 1/6th of what PS costs.
It probably would be nice if PE contained PrPro, Encore and PS, for the same price, but that is not going to happen. One of the best "deals" is to upgrade from PE to one of the "suites" with PrPro, Encore, PS and AfterEffects (talk about doing some cool things with Menus!). PE is designed for the consumer, who wants "big button" features and enough Templates to do most of their DVD authoring. For that, PE does a good job. For more, there is Steve's Tips, and a few other programs. Since PE offers a lot of Menus, and many can be customized, it offers more than many other NLE programs, at similar price points. Muvipix also has a lot of additional Menus, plus stock footage, to be used, and some of that is free. The rest available for a nominal subscription.
The analogy of the auto is not quite right. It's more like saying that MB C-350 is a nice car, but does not come with all the neat things that the S-550 does, and I do not want to pay for an S-550. Adding the PSE program to one's toolbox, is like getting the AMG package for their C-350.
Well, as I said, the amazing DVD Architect Studio is only $39. And you can create almost any kind of DVD menu with it!
As for the additional DVD templates for Premiere Elements, you can download the additonal content from the same place you downloaded the trial.
The FAQS to the right of this forum offer more information.
Thank you so much Steve. You are very kind to spend your time helping people on these forums. Be well.
My pleasure, CodeDreamer.
As you probably know, I receive no pay for hosting this forum. But, like many who regularly offer help here and at our "sister" site http://muvipix.com/phpBB3/ , I want everyone to be able to enjoy this program as much as I'm able to.