DVD Studio Pro 2 - Basic Mode

September 8, 2003

Authoring with DVD Studio Pro 2 - Basic Mode
By Ken Stone

System Requirements
The system requirements for DVD Studio Pro 2 are as follows:
Macintosh computer with PowerPC G4 processor (733 Mhz or faster).
AGP graphics card with 8MB of video memory (32MB recommended)
Mac OS X 10.2.6
QuickTime 6.3
256 MB of RAM (512MB recommended)
20GB of disk space
DVD drive required for installation
Apple SuperDrive or other DVD burner for writing finished projects

Full Version $499.00
Upgrade $199.00


This article is about DVD SP 2 in Basic Mode, hereafter referred to as SP 2. Some might say that SP 2 is like iDVD 3 on steroids and in Basic Mode SP 2 does resemble iDVD in look and ease of use but that is where the similarity ends. The awesome power and flexibility of SP 2 Basic Mode goes far beyond iDVD. Basic Mode of SP 2 sits on top of a completely re- written application and draws from the full feature set of SP 2 Advanced Mode which lies just beneath the surface. The integration of the Advanced feature set is so seamless that you will find yourself using Advanced features, like the Inspector, without even leaving Basic Mode. There is much to explore, so let's get started.


Installation is straight forward and all elements required by SP 2 will be installed automatically. SP 2 must be installed on your boot drive. There are several situations where you will want to perform a 'Custom' install. SP 2 has the ability to accept projects created in iDVD 3. If you plan to move iDVD 3 projects into SP 2 then you will need to install the item 'iDVD Theme Elements' in the Custom install window. SP 2 uses these iDVD Elements to build your iDVD 3 project so that it will look the same, same templates and buttons, as it did in iDVD 3. While these iDVD 3 elements are available to projects started in iDVD, they are not available for projects created in SP 2. SP 2 can not access these items on it's own. If you install 'iDVD Theme Elements' and then later decided that it is not needed - Boot Drive > Library > Application Support > DVD Studio Pro, drag to the Trash. You should also consider installing 'Pro Application Support' if it is not already installed on your Mac. Pro Application Support is required to access software updates for FCP 4, SoundTrack, LiveType, Compressor, etc. from the 'Software Update Panel' in the Mac System Preferences.

Saving A Project

Before you Launch SP 2 you'll want to create a Project folder and consider where to place this folder. By the time you have finished your SP 2 project with assets, encode and build, this folder will contain a number of very large files, up to 9 gigs. Whenever possible, export from FCP 4 (FCE and iMovie) as a QT Movie, Not Self Contained and from FCP 3 as a FCP movie, not self contained, a Reference movie. If you use a self contained movie you will be adding about 12 gigs per hour to the folder. If you place the Project folder on your desktop, the folder will actually reside on your boot drive. Check to insure that there is at least 9 gigs of free space. This figure would be above and beyond your system hard drive requirements for Virtual Memory. If you have a media or second hard drive you might want to consider placing the Project folder there. You can make an alias of the project and place it on your desktop.

Launching SP 2 for the first time you will be asked which Mode you wish to work in; Basic, Extended or Advanced. Click on the Basic mode. You can change the Mode at any time, even mid project, from the Window menu > Configurations. Name and Save your Project inside your Project folder. There is a reason for Saving your Project before doing anything else. One of the important Preferences, 'Destinations', will need to be pointed to the Project folder, so it must be in place before setting Preferences.


There are nine different Preferences panes and most are self explanatory. There are several that you'll need to set before you start work on your Project. When you have completed your settings in any of the Preference windows remember to click the 'Apply' buttton before clicking 'OK' to close the window.


  • Destinations Preference
    SP 2 generates a number of files and will scatter them all over the place if you do not set up the 'Destinations' Preference. The 'Show' dropdown menu will default to Encoding. In the Location section set the 'Specified Folder/Fallback Folder' radio button. Next click on the 'Choose' button and navigate to your Project folder which will appear in the 'Path' box. Click on Apply. This will send the encoded files to your Project folder.

    But wait, there's more. Clicking on the 'Show' dropdown menu reveals three additional items that will be generated by SP 2; Image Encoding, MPEG Parsing, and Build/Format. Each one of these items will need to be pointed to your Project folder, one at a time. A bit of a chore. (grin)


  • Encoding Preference
    Set your Video Standard and Aspect Ratio for your Project. The Encode Mode dropdown menu offers three choices, One Pass CBR (Constant Bit Rate) fast but lower quality, One Pass VBR (Variable Bit Rate) encoding, good quality with longer rendering times and Two Pass VBR. Two Pass VBR encoding yields even higher quality with a proportionally longer encode time. Set Motion Estimation to Best. At the bottom is the Encoding Mode option. Selecting the Background encoding mode will enable to SP 2 to encode your assets while you work on your Project. A real time saver, however you might detect a slight slow down in responsiveness in the SP 2 interface.


  • Menu Preference
    With SP 2 we have the ability to change the Motion Duration of our motion menus loops, however this feature does not work when you are using one of the stock Apple supplied templates, these templates are locked into a 30 second loop. You can only change the duration of a motion menu loop when you start off with a new Project, a blank menu, where no templates have been applied and you apply your own motion background . Each menu or sub menu can have a different Duration loop, but for this to happen you must change the duration in the Menu preferences before you create the new menu or sub menu. In other words, changing the Duration Loop prefs will only effect new menus, menus that have already been created will retain their Duration loop time. This setting also controls the duration of any audio loops where audio accompanies the video or audio that you add to the background.

    Final Rendering defaults to Hardware based which uses your video monitor card to assist with the rendering process. Leave this set to the default.


  • Alignment Guides
    Positioning numbers of buttons and other assets on a menu requires good alignment guides and SP 2 offers several tools to help. In the Alignment Prefs is "Show Dynamic Guides". When these guides are enabled each time you move a button, horizontal and vertical guides appear on screen to aid in positioning. When the Ruler is enabled, you can click on either ruler edge and drag out as many guides as you need. If you then turn off Rulers the guides will remain. There is also a 'Show Guides' button at the bottom of the Menu Editor window.


When SP 2 opens in Basic mode you will be presented with two windows. The large 'Menu Editor' window and the Palette window.

Menu Editor

Across the very top of the Menu Editor is the Toolbar. Starting from the left is the Simulator. This opens a special preview window with an on screen remote control to view and test your project. The Burn tool provides a direct link to a built in SuperDrive. If you are using an external DVD burner, not to worry, there are several easy ways to burn a DVD to an external burner. The next item is Customize Toolbar which provides a dropdown palette with numerous tool icons that you can add to your tool bar. This palette is very similar to the tool palette found in the OS X system for customizing the Finder. To save your customized tool bar, Window menu > Save Configuration. Next is the Disc Meter which displays the current size of your project. The next two items open the Text palette and a Color palette. The last item in this row is the Palette button which will open or close the Palette window.


Below the first row of buttons on the left side are three tabs and a View dropdown menu. These tabs enable you to navigate between the different menus and slideshows that you are working on.

Selecting the Menu tab will place all menus (sub menus) in your project into the View dropdown menu. Selecting the Slideshow tab will display all slideshows. Selecting a menu or slideshow in the View dropdown will open that menu or slideshow in Menu Editor. The Viewer tab is for previewing slideshows and video tracks, however I prefer to use the Simulator mode for previewing.


To the far right on this row is the Settings dropdown menu. These settings are aids we can employ while working on our projects. Select to 'Auto Assign Buttons Continuously' as this controls the button selection order when using a remote control. Select 'Display Composite' when working in the Menu Editor. Title and Action Safe will show the portion of your menu that will be cropped when the DVD is displayed on a TV. When preparing a DVD for use with TVs, make sure that all buttons are inside the Title Safe area. While building a DVD, we are working on computer monitors that use square pixels to display our images and video. While the images looks good on our computer screen, viewing using square pixels does not display video rectangular pixels in the proper proportions. For an accurate facsimile of how video will display on TVs, select Rectangular Pixels. For the best presentation of interlaced video while working in SP 2 select 'Show Single Field'.

Along the bottom of the Menu Editor are additional tool groups.

The first grouping on the left is Send to Back/Bring to Front. The second group is Backward one Layer/Forward one Layer. The Menu Editor in SP 2 is, in good part, a compositing tool. It works in layers with transparency much as FCP does by stacking clips on ascending Video tracks. In SP 2 we can start with a background layer, add a shape or tint bar over part of the background, overlay these with additional shapes, then place text and buttons on top of the shape. These two sets of buttons enable us to change our layer order, to move items backward or forward in the stack by selecting an item and then clicking on the appropriate button.


In the center are three buttons; Add Submenu, Add SlideShow and Add Track. These buttons represent a one click approach to adding to our menus, but there's a caveat, isn't there always. When building slideshows and tracks using these buttons, there will no menu return or 'jump back' when the track or show is over. When done it will just sit there on the last frame or still. There actually is a better way to create submenus, slideshows and tracks and these do return to the main menu when done, which we will see later.


Bottom right of the Menu Editor are the remaining set of tools. The first group of three tools; Normal, Selected, and Activated, will preview how menu buttons will appear to the viewer when using a remote control with the finished DVD. The next tool Show/Hide Button Outlines is probably one of the more important tools. When creating buttons and when using templates that come with a number of buttons it is not hard to lose sight of the buttons. In the early stages of building buttons, when no shapes or assets have yet been applied to the button, clicking away from the button makes it disappear from the screen. This is also true for drop zones and other elements placed into the menu. Turning this feature on will place outlines around all buttons and drop zones with additional information about each element. These button Outlines also show the amount of space that the button requires and will help prevent you from placing one button too close to another. The next tool is Show/Hide Guides. Guides are thin vertical and horizontal yellow lines that run through the menu enabling you to to align your buttons and objects in the menu. You can click on these yellow Guides and drag them into position. The last tool Start/Stop Motion menu is for turning on/off motion menus and background audio while you work.


The Palette Window

The Palette Window in SP 2 is much like the Browser in FCP, it's where all the material used to build DVDs is kept. Templates, buttons, shapes, text objects, drop zones, video audio, stills. Some of these assets are supplied by Apple, others are the unique elements to be used in the DVD like video clips, still images, background art and audio. There are six tabs in the Palette window. The first three tabs contain elements supplied by Apple; Templates, Styles, (which contains four additional sub tabs; Buttons, Text, Drop Zones and Layouts), and Shapes. The remaining three tabs; Audio, Stills and Video display the Libraries for iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie. If you do not use these iApps, it's a simple matter to add any media files and folders to these tabs. To add any elements to your project from the Palette window, simply drag the item into the SP 2 interface. It is not necessary that your assets be in the Palette window as you can drag from the Desktop or Finder directly into the SP 2 interface. In addition, if you have created custom menus you can save these as 'Custom' templates which will be available to you for any future projects, or you can save to the 'Project' that you are working on.

  • Templates Tab
    SP 2 comes with 12 Apple template sets or Themes. These templates are pre-built with buttons (with their own names), a title and sub title, blocks of text (text objects), shapes, tint blocks, guides and drop zones. You can modify and customize these stock templates to suit your needs. More on these Apple Templates later in this article.


  • Styles Tab
    The Styles tab is where many of the elements that we use to build our menus are located. It is divided into four sections.

    The first section, Buttons, is probably the most important. Buttons are our means of moving through the different menus of a DVD. All buttons in this section will display the three button highlight states; Normal, Selected, and Activated, which are essential to navigating the menu on a TV using the remote control. Many of the buttons shown below are taken from the provided templates though you can mix and match as you wish. Each button has a very different look and a different way of displaying its highlight states. Some will display a white line under the button when the remote control is positioned on them. Others have yellow highlight boxes surrounding the button, some will display a red X, box or dash in front of the button.

    The Text section offers different font styles, sizes and colors for building text objects, which are simply blocks of text that we may wish to place on a menu page. Clicking on a Text object in the Menu Editor will select the text which can be changed at any time to a different font, size or color. Text objects are static and can not be used for linking purposes. Considering the ease with which we can change the text you might wonder why Apple placed all these variations of just a few font styles. The reason is that all of the items that you see in the Text section are used in the stock Apple templates and as such, Apple had to put them somewhere.

    The third section contains Drop Zones which add excitement and uniqueness to our menus. Aside from the ability to have full motion menus we also have drop zones which are smaller areas in the menu into which we can drop moving video or still images. So it is possible to have a full menu in motion and then have smaller windows insets that play video clips as well. The video clip or still placed into a drop zone fills the zone, different zones styles provide different style borders around the video or still. Some of these drop zones also change the video or still by applying a color tint or softness to the media, and some even add animation. All drop zones can be resized and repositioned. Apple templates have drop zones and the items found in this section match in style the drop zones found in the Apple templates. This would be for adding additional drop zones to an existing Apple template or for use in designing a custom menu or template.

    The fourth section in the Styles tab is Layouts. The Layouts section contains the same templates that are found in the Templates tab, the difference being that templates brought in from the Layout sections contain no background art but do contain all the elements found in the corresponding template in the template tab; buttons, drop zones, text and shapes. The Layout template called 'Leader Index' shown below, shows six lite blue squares that are drop zones, drop zones in SP 2 are indicated by large thick arrows. You will notice that there is no background art with this menu. The layout shown here has the yellow 'guide' lines showing as well as button outlines.


  • Shapes Tab
    Shapes provide us with the ability to further customize our menus. There are a number of graphic elements in Shapes that we can use. Vertical and horizontal lines, circle shapes that can be modified, tint colors that can be used to create background color blocks, gradients, arrows and others. These shapes can be use purely as graphic elements to enhance the look of a menu or they can be applied to existing buttons and drop zones. Again, many of these shapes can be found in the pre-built Apple templates.


  • Audio - Stills - Video
    The three remaining tabs; Audio, Stills and Video display the iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie libraries. Any assets that you have in these libraries can be dragged from the library right into the SP 2 interface. If you don't work with these iApps, you can still make use of these tabs. Top left of the widow is a '+' sign. Clicking on it will enable you to import your assets into these windows for easy access. This is one way of organizing your assets though, as we will see later, there are other, better ways to organize your media.

Authoring with SP 2 Basic

Did you think that we would never get here? (grin). The templates provided by Apple are cool and fun to play with and can be customized to a high degree but when I build DVDs for my customers they want menus that are totally unique. It is also easier to demonstrate the building process by starting off with a blank project and building from the ground up. The methods used here can be applied to stock templates as well, it's all the same thing. We will look at the supplied templates later on.

SP 2 uses a contextual Overlay menu, Apple calls it a "Drop Palette", which will provide an easy means of placing assets in the menu. These Drop Palettes are not unlike the Overlay menu found in the Canvas window of FCP. Using the Drop Palette is an easy affair. Select your asset and drag into the Menu Editor window, then choose from the Drop Palette the action you want to apply. It's that easy.


Build and Burn
Before we begin the burn process it would probably be a good idea to test our DVD. Click on Simulator and use the remote control to run every link, play every slideshow, and test every button. In addition use all the navigation buttons on the remote to insure that everything works properly.

If you have a SuperDrive burning a DVD in SP 2 is very simple, just click the Burn button, SP 2 will do the rest. If you are using an external FW burner it's still easy and you can take advantage of several options along the way.

Let's take a look at what is going on with this entire process. Go to the Window menu and select Assets, which will open a browser like window. Inside will be all the assets that you are using in your project, video, audio and stills. There is a Usability column. In this column are colored buttons, red, amber and green. These three colors show the state of the encoding process, which is the conversion to MPEG 2. Red shows that the encoding process has not yet started, Amber shows that encoding is still in progress and Green denotes that encoding is done. If you have Background Encoding turned on in Encoding Prefs, the encoding process will start as soon as you place an asset into the menu. There is another way to use the Asset window. Depending on your encoding settings, the encoding process can take a great deal of time, even overnight. If you drag all your assets into the Asset window even before you start laying out your menus, the encoding will go on as you work. To use the assets just drag from the Asset window into the Menu Editor.

Encoding or converting to MPEG 2 is the first step. Once all the assets have been encoded the next step is Build. I used Customize Toolbar to add a Build icon on my tool bar, or File menu > Advanced Burn > Build.

Selecting Build you will be asked to 'Choose a Build Folder', where to put completed files. Choose your Project Folder.

SP 2 will keep you informed as to its progress as it performs different tasks and will announce when it is done. Open your Project folder and look for two folders. AUDIO_TS and VIDEO _TS. These two folders are your DVD. If you check the AUDIO_TS folder you will discover that it is empty, you still need it though.

When we tested the DVD it was in Simulator but it had not yet been converted to DVD format. Now we have an opportunity to test the finished project as a DVD. Open your Mac DVD Player. From the File Menu, Open > VIDEO_TS Folder.

Now navigate to the VIDEO_TS folder, select and choose, This will load your project into the DVD Player. Using the on screen remote control, click on the Play button and again, test all aspects of your DVD. As you are now testing with the actual DVD files, this test will be the most accurate and complete.

Once you are satisfied that everything is working properly you can do your burn. Using Roxio Toast Titanium 5.2.1, control click on the 'Other' button and from the drop down menu select "DVD".

Return to your Project folder and select both the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders and drag them into the Toast window. Give your DVD a Title and click on the Toast Record button.

Caution. When SP builds your project it creates two files found inside the VIDIO_TS folder; 'title.layout' and 'VOB_DATA.LAY'. These two files are specific to DVD Studio Pro, not the DVD-Spec. When you use SP to burn your projects, SP will not include these two files. When you use Toast to burn your project you must manually remove these two files from the VIDEO_TS folder from inside the Toast window. Only the .IFO, .BUP, and .VOB files are what should be in the VIDEO_TS folder on a formatted DVD-R. Including these two files on the DVD may cause playback compatibility problems.


Okay, there is yet another way to burn your DVD. We will use SP 2 to create a Disc Image. From the File Menu > Advanced Burn > Build and Format. A dialog box will open. In the 'Destination' section click on 'Output Device' and select Hard Drive. When you do this the 'Output Format' will change to read ".img".

This will produce a disc image which you can select and burn from the Finder (File menu > Burn Disc ) or in Toast you can control click on the Other button and choose 'Disc Image', drag your disc image into Toast. Once you have burned your disc, if you need to clear off your hard drive, you can keep the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders or the disc image and delete everything else in your project. Having either the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders or the disc image will enable you to burn additional discs in the future though you will not be able to modify the project any further.


I have been on the Mac for 11 years now, starting with Photoshop, which is why I bought a Mac in the first place. Over the years I have purchased my fair share of applications, but I must say that I have never been as impressed as I am with SP 2. I have been hammering away at SP 2 day and night for a month now and considering that this application has been completely re-written, it is amazingly stable. I have opened and closed projects hundreds of times, made countless changes and have burnt several test DVDs. Aside from one morning when SP 2 was a little grumpy and quit a few times, I have experienced absolutely no problems.

There are a few minor issues like no 'jump back' to the menu upon completion of a slideshow when the slideshow is built using the Slideshow button at the bottom of the Menu Editor. But, there is a simple and as easy way to build a slideshow that does jump back so this is not much of a problem. The only short coming that I see is that you can have only one project open at a time. On the plus side, SP 2 offers 99 levels of undo.

$499 dollars is a lot of money (but version 1.5 was $1,000) and if you only do the occasional, very simple DVD then iDVD 3 will suffice. Given the ascension of DVDs today and the fact that DVDs are an excellent way to deliver video content, I think that you are going to want to add DVD Studio Pro 2 to your collection of video tools.

Special thanks go to Jeff Warmouth and his upcoming book "Authoring with DVD Studio Pro 2" published by Focal Press. Not only was Jeff invaluable in helping me with this article but I was able to persuade him and Focal Press to let me run an excerpt from his book, a section on one of my favorite features of SP 2, the Inspector window.

Enjoy, I know you will, this one is a winner.


copyright © Ken Stone 2003

The Inspector - Excerpt from 'Authoring with DVD Studio Pro 2' by Jeff Warmouth.

To display the Inspector, choose View > Show Inspector. The Inspector is a constantly updating window that will allow you to view or change information about virtually any aspect of your DVD Studio Pro project. Notice that the top of the window reads "Menu 1." This means that the Inspector is displaying properties of the active menu, Menu 1. If you were to select a button, the Inspector would update to display information about that particular button. Since we are sneaking into this Advanced feature, you only need to know about features that are relevant to editing menus. I cover the Inspector much more thoroughly in the Advanced section of this book.

Click on your menu background to make sure that no buttons are selected, and take a peek at the Inspector. At the top is the Name bar, which should read "Menu 1." To rename your menu, simply click in this bar and type a new name. Choose the name "Main Menu" or another descriptive title. If you click back onto the Menu Editor, you will see that the new name appears in the View pop-up menu in the upper left corner. This is one of the most useful menu properties to change in the Inspector, especially when your project fills up with menus.

Click on your menu background to make sure that no buttons are selected, and take a peek at the Inspector. At the top is the Name bar, which should read "Menu 1." To rename your menu, simply click in this bar and type a new name. Choose the name "Main Menu" or another descriptive title. If you click back onto the Menu Editor, you will see that the new name appears in the View pop-up menu in the upper left corner. This is one of the most useful menu properties to change in the Inspector, especially when your project fills up with menus.

To change the highlight color of the buttons in your menu, choose the Color Settings tab in the Menu Inspector. In the middle of the tab are the properties of the three button states: Normal, Selected, and Activated. Each state has a Color and Opacity value assigned. To change the Selected highlight color, simply choose a new color from the Selected Color pop-up menu. The colors you choose here will affect all the buttons on your menu.

The Inspector can also be used to change characteristics of individual buttons. Select one of the buttons in your menu. Note that the Inspector updates to display properties of your button - the title bar changes to "Button" and the tabs are all different. Near the bottom of the Style tab is a Text box. Here you can directly edit your button's text, which is often easier than trying to select the text in the Menu Editor. The button text on your menu will update in real-time as you type. However, to change the Font you must still select the text in the Menu Editor. Clicking the Drop Shadow checkbox will automatically create a soft drop shadow.

Below this is is a section called Text Formatting. You can use the Position pop-up menu to change the position of the text on the button: Bottom, Top, Right, Left, or Center. You can also fine-tune this position by changing the Offset coordinates.

To the right is a checkbox labeled "Include Text in Highlight." Selecting this option will effectively tint the text with the highlight color when selected or activated, and will also include the text within the Button Outline box in the Menu Editor. Deselecting will keep the text out of the Outline box and will not tint the text when selected or activated. Some of the Apple Template buttons & button styles have this feature selected, and others do not. There is no "right" way to set this feature, it simply gives you another option for customizing your buttons.

Since you're in the Inspector anyway, I'll show you a couple really cool features. You can use the Inspector to change the duration of your menu loop. To do this, click on your menu background and choose the General tab in the Inspector. Near the top are three frames with sliders: Start, Loop Point, and End. By manipulating these sliders you can essentially set new In and Out points for your menu loop.

You can also set the In point of video assets assigned to individual Buttons or Drop Zones. Simply select the button or drop zone and change the Start Frame by dragging the slider or entering a new timecode value. The video asset will begin at the Start Frame, and loop for the duration of the entire motion menu.

When you are finished with the Inspector window, you can close it. If you find that you use the Inspector window on a regular basis, you can create a button for it on the Toolbar, just like the Palette button. To do this, click the Customize Toolbar button in the center of the toolbar. This will open a palette of buttons that you can drag in to the Toolbar. Find the Inspector button and drag it next to the Palette button, and click Done.

To make sure that this button is visible on your Toolbar the next time you open DVD Studio Pro, you will want to save your window configuration. To do this, choose Window > Save Configuration. In the resulting dialog box, choose a name for your configuration, such as "My Custom Layout." Now, when you choose Window > Configurations, your custom configuration will appear in the menu, complete with its own F5 shortcut key!

copyright © Jeff Warmouth 2003
copyright © Focal Press 2003


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