Adobe Encore CS4
Review Date: December 8, 2009 (updated February 8, 2010)
Purchase Price: Bundled with Premiere Pro CS4, upgrade cost was ...
Purchased From: Adobe
All week I've been editing video from a race held near here recently (motorsports, 24 Hours of LeMons) where I attended with a team with the idea of getting photos and video and putting together something the team and friends would enjoy. I got some good in-car and track-side video and was anxious to get this done and show it to everyone.
For this project I decided to finally try using Encore to create the DVD. (In the past I had used Sony DVD Architect.) The Sony software didn't do Blu-ray and I wanted to try that, too. So I start up Encore and when it finally loaded I started a project in the usual Adobe style then was presented with a screen I simply could not figure out. I poked around trying to figure out what the basic procedure was and found the "import" function, tried to import an mpeg file, and I got my first blue screen ever on this computer.
Rebooted, and restarted Encore, I explored more on my own. I can usually figure out these things on my own. I explored the menus and buttons, and figured out that an asset was probably anything I wanted to put on the DVD. Other than that I was pretty much stuck. I imported another mpeg file and that worked, but I finally gave up and decided to try "Help". That took me to the Adobe site, and that to the Lynda tutorials, which were just what I needed. I went through them one-by-one and they answered most of my questions. They were excellent. Quick, clear, and just the right amount of detail for a tutorial. Adobe did good with that one.
With Lynda's help I was off and running. I figured out how to create menu templates by examining the ones that came with Encore and I figured out how to change the order and other settings for each button. Everything was going smoothly now. I had a project that had a menu and three videos. The preview feature was also working great. But, the highlight I used for my buttons is a green dot that has an inner shadow. In preview I only get a green dot. No shadow. Later on the DVD itself, same thing. I later learned by reading in these forums that that is the fault of the DVD player.
I still had room for one more button, and I still had lots of photos I had not used, so I tried the slide show feature. It looked like it would a good job just showing photos, and for this project I thought it would be a nice little extra. I know that some people here consider it to be a consumer gimmick and just seeing it in Encore made me think the same thing, as if Adobe wanted to be able to match the features of (much) lesser DVD authoring programs. No matter. I'd also learn, by experience that this feature still needs a little work. Again, I am not a pro, so if I notice something that needs fixing it must really scream out at the pros.
It was pretty easy to import my photos and add them to the slide show, but I soon learned that 99 photos is the max for a slide show. I suppose that is OK. Next, I learned that the shortest time I could display a slide is about 1.2 seconds. I was hoping to be able to run through some of my photos quickly to simulate a stop-action sequence for those times when I just held the shutter release button and snapped away at the action, such as a car spinning off into the dirt. It could be that this limit is due to the cross-fade transitions I had set as the slide show's default transition. I'll try it again later without transitions to see what happens.
Adding and removing slides turned out to be a real pain. When adding slides in mass I'd get an error saying there was something wrong with a slide. I forget what the other errors were, but I got a lot of them. They were probably related to the number of slides I was placing in the timeline, over 99 total. But besides the errors, Encore really slowed down. It took maybe 10-15 minutes for it to get back to normal, or just about how long it took me to give up and go off and fold laundry. So then I tried to delete some slides and that took for ever, especially if the slide was near the beginning of the show. I figure Encode must be reprocessing the whole show somehow. But after these problems something seemed to be wrong with Encore. It was slow when doing anything. I closed it and started it up again. It was all better again.
In previews the slide show looked good, but I realized that I needed to resize the photos. I did this in Photoshop for a handful then came back to Encore, expecting it to update itself, seeing as assets like these are external to the Encore project itself, but that didn't happen. If I edited a video and came back to Premiere it would re-import the video. Apparently this doesn't happen in the slide show. I deleted the slide show and started again. At least it is easy to set up new slide shows, except as noted above.
The do-over worked. The slide show looked good.
I burned a DVD and the results were excellent, except for, again, the slide show. The show ran OK, but at the end of each transition there was a little flicker, more like a contrast glitch. Annoying, and it has to be fixed or else the slide show feature will be useless, even for me, except for personal use.
Other than that, all was good. I edited video and Encore re-imported it and the burn was successful and it looked great, well, on my analog TV. I still don't have digital as I canceled cable and quit watching TV nearly 2 years ago. But it was working, minor changes were easily handled, etc.
I then tried the Flash feature, and it worked well, except that the video frame is not centered (too far to the right). The HTML code was simple enough. The video plays in a table whose width is 99% of the screen the cell justification is centered. I'm sure I could deal with that in my own pages. But, a bigger problem, again involving the slide show. The VCR controls would pop up at the start, or end, of each slide, and then would disappear again on its own. Again, the slide show is a nice feature but I can't use it if the controls are going to be going up and down throughout the show.
I also exported an ISO image and will be trying that out later. Being able to create an image for the DVD is nice. It means I won't have to use Encode for future burns, and I might have trouble keeping up with the 130 GB of files I have in this project.
Update: February 8, 2010
I've had more time to work with Encore and I getting pretty used to is and am much quicker. It's no longer a matter of trial and error when editing a menu in Photoshop and I've started linking to the videos in my Premiere CS4 project and that is working very well. I've made some more DVD's and high-def Blu-ray disks for people and they are very impressed. I've also learned that many of the problems with replaying the Flash videos were due to Flash itself. Each slide is a different file so Flash pauses, displays the VCR controls, then resumes. The same thing happens with videos that have chapter marks. Now I know to avoid these issues, and I can put together a simple DVD or Blu-ray project pretty quickly, not counting rendering and transcoding time.