Adobe Encore DVD runs on Windows XP only: it won't work with previous versions of Windows or the Mac OS. It's a fairly significant limitation, but it's necessary for Encore to take full advantage of Microsoft's new digital media architecture. (You are also required to update to "--="">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Emicrosoft%2Ecom%2Fwindows%2Fdirectx%2Fdefault%2Easpx%3Furl%3D%2Fwindows%2Fdirectx%2Fproductinfo%2Foverview%2Fdefault%2Ehtm" target="_blank">Microsoft's DirectX 9.0.) Encore may ask you to update your video card drivers to avoid video playback glitches, as well. Once all of that's taken care of, installation is quick and easy. The program directory uses about 80MB of space for a basic library of buttons, graphics, and menu backgrounds. The installation disc also includes some 280 additional buttons, images, and menu backgrounds. Adobe's downloadable maintenance release 1.0.1 from December 2003 includes a variety of bug fixes and speed enhancements.
Encore's interface should be familiar and comfortable for users of other Adobe products. There's a Project window to assemble and organize assets and Premiere-like Timeline and Monitor windows. Adobe users will also recognize Menu Editor windows; Toolbars; and Layers, Character, and Library palettes similar to those in Photoshop. Multiple windows can be nested with tabs to save space, but the interface has limitations: you can't resize the palettes or save window layouts.
Encore lets you drag and drop to add clips to menus or to create links between menus and clips. For more hands-on control, palettes let you view and set attributes individually or in a group; you can add a background audio track to a group of menus in one operation, for example, or select buttons on several menus and change the associated link for all of them simultaneously. The Project window lets you keep things organized with sortable lists of Menus and Timelines to make sure clips are consistently defined and linked. There's also a helpful Check Links feature that keeps tabs on orphaned menus.
Encore gives everything you need to create great-looking DVDs. The integrated Menu Editor lets you build custom menus with still or video backgrounds, graphics overlays, titles and text, buttons, and links. Buttons are highly customizable. You can use Photoshop layers to determine a button's graphical shape, highlight colors, and text label; you can even include a thumbnail image or a video from the linked video clip. Best of all, you can transfer menus directly between Encore and Photoshop for more sophisticated design work without flattening layers or making conversions required by other DVD tools.
When you're ready, assemble clips and chapter points on the Timeline with up to 8 audio streams and 32 subtitle streams (the DVD maximums). You can easily add a few subtitles by typing text directly into the Monitor window or subtitle an entire movie by importing a file with a list of time codes and associated text or images.
Encore can import AVI and DirectShow video files and common still image and audio formats, but not QuickTime formats. It's best to import DV AVI files that are already at DVD resolution and let Encore do the thinking; it will automatically transcode them to MPEG-2 at the appropriate DVD-compatible rates. Encore uses the same MainConcept MPEG encoder as Premiere Pro, giving you full control over the compression parameters in your video if you want it. You can also always encode externally and import the final MPEG-2 into Encore.
After using the Preview window to check the DVD design, Encore will burn your file to DVD. (Like most higher-end authoring products, it can't create VCDs.) You can also export your file as a DVD folder on hard disk, save a disc image file to burn later, or create a DVD master on DLT tape for replication, complete with double-side/dual-layer and content-protection options.
Adobe provides solid documentation. Encore comes with a 155-page printed user guide; an electronic version of the guide is also available under the Help tab. It features two tutorials, and you'll find another 28-page tutorial on the product DVD with associated example project and media files. The DVD also contains hundreds of additional buttons and images, plus menu backgrounds and templates to use in your designs. You can find additional tutorials on the Adobe Encore and Adobe Studio Web sites.
Adobe's new support system is due to kick in February 2004; the company will provide free phone support for registered users of current versions of Adobe software, but there's no toll-free number. You can also check the user forum and search the broad but clumsy knowledge base for help at Adobe's "--="">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eadobe%2Ecom%2Fsupport%2F" target="_blank">support site.