Adobe Encore DVD 2 review

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When Adobe released Encore DVD, it looked like a professional graphical design tool was finally arriving for authoring discs. But alongside greater options comes greater complexity, and Encore has never been the easiest DVD authoring app to use. So, in a bid to help out more occasional users already familiar with Adobe’s other products, the interface has been streamlined with the rest of the Production Studio.

Adobe Encore DVD 2 review

As well as losing the floating palettes, Encore DVD 2 has a few extra interface elements. Particularly handy will be the new Flowchart view, similar to Sonic’s ReelDVD. A schematic diagram has always been useful for planning the navigational properties of a complex DVD menu system, and Encore DVD’s Flowchart allows you to drag links between items or change links. You can drag new elements into the project, even from Windows Explorer, in which case they’ll also be imported and converted into DVD elements. Since Encore DVD has always focused on design, it’s reassuring to see more emphasis being placed on the raw mechanics of DVD interactivity.

To this end, Adobe has added another couple of features that could save a lot of work. It’s now possible to automatically add chapter points at fixed intervals of five minutes or greater. This will be handy for quick authoring jobs, where you want to provide a chapter menu but don’t have time to figure out where the points should go. Similarly useful is the chapter playlist feature. You could already create these with version 1.5, but it wasn’t possible to single out individual chapters – the video would play from the chosen chapter onwards. Now, you can use playlists to entirely reorder chapter playback.

Another prosaic but useful addition is the Slideshow editor. You can import image files as a slide show, which automatically groups them into a timeline. With the addition of a default transition plus random pan and zoom, a library of photos can be quickly turned into a DVD.

As with other members of the Production Studio, Encore DVD 2 gains benefits from its associations. In particular, there’s a Dynamic Link with After Effects. Encore now also uses the Premiere Pro video playback engine to power its timeline, which has a number of benefits. When you import After Effects projects using Dynamic Link, you can play them back directly without prior rendering, just like you can in Premiere Pro. You can also put multiple clips along the timeline in succession and trim them easily by dragging their ends, but you wouldn’t want to use it for more extensive editing work.

Support for DTS audio has been added, albeit only to the extent of importing it – you can still only encode to Dolby Digital stereo. Existing surround soundtracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS won’t be transcoded, although they can be muxed and burned to disc, but you’ll need to create them with another application.

In tandem with Bridge, the Adobe Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) lets you embed info with a file to create searchable asset databases. However, this will only be useful for larger organisations with lots of assets. More royalty-free menus and media have been included too, so you don’t have to create as many assets from scratch.

The encoding engine has been improved considerably, using the same transcoding interface built into Premiere Pro. It’s still based on MainConcept, but offers a lot more control over settings. However, there’s no mention of support for the forthcoming Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats, when other DVD authoring vendors are already pledging full support. So while Encore DVD is a powerful authoring app for now, unlike Premiere Pro it’s not ready for the High Definition future.

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