Creating a Motion Menu for DVD Studio Pro

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the June, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Last month, I wrote about how to create a DVD menu using overlays. This month, I want to talk about how to create a motion menu, and using overlays to highlight buttons. (Click here to read last month’s article.)

Several different ways are available to create a motion menu:

While all of these will work, the process is essentially the same once you get the movie created.

The easiest way to think of DVD Studio Pro (DVD SP) is that it is a wiring-and-plumbing program. You create the assets you need OUTSIDE of DVD SP, then hook them together INSIDE DVD SP.


I created a 39-second movie in Final Cut Pro entitled: “The Interplanetary Internet, hosted by Dr. Vint Cerf.” This will be the movie we use for our motion menu. Note that it was created outside DVD Studio Pro, then be brought into DVD SP for the menu.

NOTE: I am indebted to Dr. Cerf and Alcatel Corp. for allowing me to use this footage from an interview I did with him a few years ago. Also, this title is purely for this tutorial. If you are actually creating a similar program, don’t panic. This is just a demo.

Looking at the timeline, the movie starts with Dr. Cerf full screen, then some animation kicks in, followed by Dr. Cerf composited into the animated footage. The motion menu is him stating that research is being done to extend the internet into outer space. Cool.

The music bed was created in SonicFire Pro 5. The background and text animation were created in LiveType. The source footage is 4:3 DV, scaled and cropped to fit as a vertical image in the menu.

The menu timings are:

0:00 Fade in
8:24 Start animation
14:15 Animation complete
38:24 Motion menu complete

(If you want to see the finished movie, click here. Be sure to open this in QuickTime, it may want to open in iTunes.) I think an interplanetary internet is weird, but very cool.)

By the way, one thing I did in Final Cut before exporting the movie was to set a Compression marker at the exact point my text animation completed. I’ll make note of the timecode (14:15) and use this for a Loop point when the movie is imported into DVD SP later.

NOTE: When exporting a movie that contains markers, be sure to select: Include DVD Studio Pro markers in the Markers menu during export.

Now that the movie is complete, here are the steps we will follow:

  1. Create overlays in Photoshop to use as Button Highlights (you could also use templates from within DVD Studio Pro).
  2. Compress the movie. Normally, I’d do this in Compressor. However, as the movie is already in DV format, and I don’t want to take the time to explain how to use Compressor, I’ll compress it using DVD Studio Pro.
  3. Import the movie and overlay into DVD SP.
  4. Create the menu and add the movie, buttons, and highlights.

Let’s get started.


In Final Cut, put your playhead over a section of the motion menu where all button animation is complete and everything is in its final layout.

Select File > Export > QuickTime Conversion.

In the Save dialog that appears, change the Format to Still Image. Give the file a name and location and click OK. The default image format is PNG which is fine for what we want to do. (In the old days, I would change this to TIFF, but PNG is easier to use.)

Open Photoshop and import your freeze frame. It will look stretched and may also look interlaced. Colors may look dark as well. All of these are normal. We are just using the still frame as a reference, not as an actual image; so the quality is not an issue.

Add a new layer to your Photoshop image (Shift+Cmd+N) and name it Overlays. Click OK to save the layer.

A highlight is an object that changes color to show the DVD viewer what menu choice they have selected. This object can be something you draw, import, or create using one of Photoshop’s Shapes. In my case, I’m going to use the Shape tool.

NOTE: The one thing I strongly discourage is trying to change the color of text in DVD SP. It looks awful! DVD SP does not support text aliasing, which means that overlaying colors on text looks blocky, chunky, and unpleasant. A simple geometric shape works perfectly and looks far better.

Select the Shape tool from near the bottom of the tool palette. You may need to hold down the tool button, as it shares this menu position with other tools. If you haven’t used this tool before, the icon has the shape of the Line tool.

Go to the Toolbar at the top, and click the Shape menu. This shows all the different shapes you have available. The part of a shape that is black can change color. That part that is white will not.

Type D to set Photoshop’s colors to their default black and white.

Select the new layer and draw your shapes on the menu where you want them to appear on the DVD. The shape you draw must be pure black with no shades of gray.

To draw a symmetrical shape, hold the Shift key. To draw the shape from the center, hold the Option key.

It is really important to position the shape where you want the highlight to appear on the DVD menu. To make copies, hold the Option key and drag the shape to a new position.

NOTE: You can not reposition graphics in DVD SP. So take time to be sure they are correct in Photoshop. This is why we created the still frame, to give us a position reference for placing our shapes.

When you are done, you’ll have as many new layers as you added shapes. Because shapes are vectors and video wants bitmaps, we need to convert each shape layer to a bitmap.

Go to Layer > Rasterize > Shape. This does the conversion. Do this for as many layers as you have shapes.

Turn off the background layer by clicking the small eye to the left of it in the Layers menu. Make sure only your shape layers are selected.

Then, choose Layers > Merge Down. This combines all the shape layers into a single layer, which has the name of the layer we created a few steps ago.

Be sure the eye is still turned off for the bottom layer, since we don’t want to see the freeze frame we used to set the position of the overlays, and File > Save the file as a Photoshop document (PSD).


Open DVD Studio Pro and import your motion movie and the overlay file you just created. Click the Import Asset button in the toolbar to open the import dialog.

The yellow dots next to the name of the file indicate that it needs to be compressed, which DVD SP can do IF you give it standard-def media. DVD SP can not compress HD media into standard-def, for that you would need to use Compressor.

Click the Graphical tab to select it, and drag the video file of your motion menu on top of the Menu 1 graphic. Feel free to rename this menu, if it helps you keep track of your project.

NOTE: When a QuickTime movie is imported into DVDSP, it is converted into two separate files: one for audio and one for video. These are called MPEG-2 Elemental files. If you drag the video file into a menu or track, the audio file will follow automatically.

Click the menu tab to display your new motion menu. Now we need to add buttons. If you started with a fade up from black, as I did, click the small “running man” icon in the lower right corner to playback your menu.

Drag the PSD file containing your overlays directly on top of the menu and wait for an overlay menu to appear. Drop the file on Set Overlay, since we want to keep the movie as a background.

In the Inspector, go to the General tab. Notice in the center of the Inspector, it shows your PSD file as the source of the overlay. From the Overlay layer menu, select the name of the layer that contains your overlays. In our case, we named this Overlays.

Play your animation and drag a rectangle around your button text in the menu window itself. This sets the region where a mouse can click to trigger a button, as well as telling DVD SP how many buttons are on the menu and where they are located. Be sure to include room for the overlay graphic as well.

Be sure to create the region after the animation is complete. Repeat this process for every button so that every button has a region drawn around it.

The problem now is that the buttons appear at the beginning of the menu. What we want them to do is to appear when the animation is complete. The point where repeats start is called the Loop Point. To create one, select the menu by clicking it. Don’t select a button, just the menu.

NOTE: The Loop point also determines when buttons become active. You won’t be able to click a button until the DVD playback reaches the Loop point.

In the General tab of the Inspector, the Loop point determines where a repeating menu will jump to after the menu has played through once. In our case, the animation is complete after 14:15. So that’s what we will set for the Loop point.

Below the three windows, is the At End menu. This tells the menu what to do when it is done playing. By default, this should set to Loop. If it doesn’t, set it to Loop.

NOTE: Because of the way video for DVDs is compressed, you may not be able to get the exact frame you need. This is the reason we set a Compression marker at the beginning of this tutorial. Also, Motion has a special marker, called the Loop marker, that automatically sets the loop point for menus created in Motion that are imported into DVD SP, which will automate this process.

Finally, select a button and assign a color to it. Since we are only using one color for our overlay, select “Simple” overlays. We talked about the three selection states of a button in last month’s article.

And that’s it. Amotion menu, with overlays. Done.

NOTE: The actual time to complete this task, includingcreating the movie and writing this article, took about 90 minutes. So, while there are a lot of steps, once you understand the process, it doesn’t take long at all.


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2 Responses to Creating a Motion Menu for DVD Studio Pro

  1. mark riese says:

    my question:

    how to add an audio loop on a layered menu in DvDStudioPro4?

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