Tutorial: Creating Blu-ray Disc Pop-up Menus in Adobe Encore CS4
Posted Nov 1, 2008

One of the coolest new features in Adobe Encore CS4 is the ability to insert pop-up menus over video in Blu-ray Disc projects, a feature unique among authoring programs in Encore’s class. In this tutorial, I’ll describe how to implement that feature, as I did in a simple project I produced in early fall.

We’ll start in Premiere Pro CS4, if only to have a brief look at one of CS4’s most significant advances. As with Premiere Pro CS3, you can add Encore chapter markers to your timeline. I recommend you take this approach, simply because it’s easier in Premiere Pro, where you have visual clues such as titles and waveforms to guide your efforts.

Step 1: Send Your Sequence to Encore
When you’re ready to begin authoring, click Adobe Dynamic Link > Send to Encore (Figure 1, below). This will send your Premiere Pro sequence, with all the chapter markers you added, directly to Encore without requiring you to render.

Encore CS4

Step 2: Start Your Project in Encore
The next screen that you’ll see is Encore’s New Project screen (Figure 2, below). That’s right, there’s no rendering between Premiere Pro and Encore.

Encore CS4

If you notice any changes you need to make in your Premiere Pro timeline while authoring in Encore, choose Edit > Edit Original and you’re back in Premiere Pro, where any saved changes are immediately fed back into Encore. If you’re a DVD producer, or you use Encore to produce your Flash presentations, this feature alone is worth the upgrade price.

You’ll need a Blu-ray project to use the pop-up menus, so choose Blu-ray and your intended Television Standard, Codec, Dimensions, and Frame Rate. Since I shot in HDV for distribution in the U.S., I’ll use the parameters shown in Figure 2, above.

Step 3: Create and Link Your Menu
Create and link your main navigational menu as normal. This is a quick DVD I’m making from video shot at a summer ballet training course my eldest child took at Wake Forest’s beautiful campus, so it’s a quick-and-dirty, template-based menu (Figure 3, below).

Encore CS4

Step 4: Create a Submenu
Now let’s create the pop-up menu that will appear over the video while it’s playing, allowing your viewers to navigate directly to another location without first stopping the video and returning to a traditional menu.

You can create a submenu multiple ways. In the beginning, it’s easiest if you simply choose File > New > Pop-up menu (Figure 4, below). Encore will create a new pop-up menu using the currently selected template in the library window. If you examine the new menu, you’ll notice that it looks just like a regular menu except that every layer that’s not a button layer is transparent. In essence, that’s what a pop-up menu is.

Encore CS4

Step 5: Or ... Copy and Rename the Original Menu
The other alternative that I used in my production was to simply copy the main menu that I had already created and rename it "Pop-up" to distinguish it from the original. Then, click the pop-up menu to select it, click its Properties tab, then click the Pop-up subtab and, finally, the Set as Blu-ray Pop-up Menu checkbox (Figure 5, below).

Encore CS4

This tells Encore that it’s a pop-up menu, and Encore accordingly makes all layers except the button layers transparent. I shifted the vertical text buttons to horizontal as you’ll see in Figure 7, but Encore preserved all the links and, of course, the text itself, saving me some work.

Once you create your pop-up menu, you link it to your content as normal (if necessary) and pretty much treat it like any other Encore menu.

Step 6: Choose Associations
Next you have to tell Encore which timelines you want the pop-up menu to appear over. Note that the same pop-up menu can appear over multiple timelines.

Click the timeline to select it. Then, in the timeline’s Properties window, choose the target pop-up menu, in this case named Pop-up, in the Set Popup Menu list box, as shown in Figure 6 (below).

Encore CS4

Step 7: Choose a Background Timeline and a BF Frame
Note that Encore’s traditional preview function won’t display the pop-up menu; the only way to view the menu above the timeline from within Encore is to return to the pop-up menu’s Properties tab, click the Pop-up tab, then choose a Background timeline and BG Frame in the appropriate fields, as shown in Figure 7 (below). Then Encore will display the pop-up menu over that frame so you can see what it will look like when you actually burn the project to disc.

Encore CS4

Note that you’re not associating the pop-up menu with the timeline in this step; you’re simply picking a frame to preview the pop-up menu over. To be clear, to actually make the pop-up menu appear over that timeline, you have to set the timeline’s pop-up menu as described in Step 5.

Step 8: Burn Your Blu-ray Disc
Then you burn your Blu-ray as normal. I used Pioneer’s BD-RW BRD-202 in my tests, which proved instantly compatible with CS4, which was nice, because some earlier Pioneer drives had problems with CS3. I produced using Verbatim BD-RE media, which I recommend (both Verbatim and using rewritable media) because it will probably take a few tries to get the pop-up menus right.

Playing back the project on my Samsung BD-P1000, the pop-up menus appeared on cue and performed perfectly, taking me to the target videos just like regular menus. However, my first pop-up titles were too thin and flickered onscreen, which looked awful. I then increased the font size and added shadows and outlines in Photoshop, which made the text presentable. I recommend that you budget some time to experiment with different text settings before shipping the disc to your client.

figure 1

In its press demos, Adobe presented a great looking pop-up menu with background shown in Figure 8 (above). With a bit of advanced Photoshop knowledge, you can create really impressive results.

Jan Ozer (jan at doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines and websites on digital video-related topics and the author of Critical Skills for Streaming Producers, a mixed media tutorial on DVD published by StreamingMedia.com.