Creating Playlists in DVD Architect

by Gary Rebholz

With DVD Architect software you can give the viewer as much—or as little—control over the viewing experience as you want. For instance, you can create a wide open menu system with which the viewer decides what to watch next and selects the option that plays that portion of the DVD. Conversely, you can also create a very narrow path of choices where the viewer doesn't have much say in where to go next. Many times you'll want to create a hybrid disc where you give the viewer the option to take the wide-open or narrow route to viewing your content.

That's what you do for instance, when you provide a button to watch the entire movie along with a separate scene selection menu. In another example, with our Seminar Series training DVDs, I always provide the viewer with separate paths to view each individual instructional video independently of the others. At the same time, I also provide a Play All button that the viewer can select in order to watch each movie—in the order I dictate—one after the other without selecting each individually.

In this article, I'll discuss playlists that you can use to direct the viewer's experience.

Let's take the case of the Play All button that I mentioned above. I'm frequently asked the same question in many different ways. No matter how it's asked, it boils down to something like, "How can I let the viewer play all of the movies on my disc without making them select the next movie manually?" Although DVD Architect software offers a couple of different methods for making this happen, the playlist feature is most often exactly what these people are looking for.

In DVD Architect software, you can create a playlist that you populate with the media you want to play in succession. You control the play order of the media and give the user a way to select the playlist from your menu system. Let's see how it works.

In order to create a playlist, you must first add the media that you want to include in the list to your project. You may have already added several media files to your project and provided links to this media on one of your DVD menus so the user can watch each of them individually. In this case, creating the playlist is your next step.

However, you may want to create a playlist that includes media for which you have not provided a link. For instance, maybe you want two movies to play in the playlist, but you want to insert a short promotional movie between them to remind the viewer of the name of your production company. You probably won't provide a link to that small promo on its own, so you probably haven't already added it to your project. But you still want the viewer to see it before the second movie in the playlist starts.

Let's follow through with that scenario. Specifically, let's add two movies (which I'll refer to as Movies 1 and 2) to our project for which we provide a user interface that enables the viewer to see each of them separately. Then, let's create a playlist that plays Movie 1, then a short promo movie (that cannot be viewed separately and which I'll refer to as the Promo movie), and finally Movie 2.

First, drag Movie 1 and Movie 2 from your Explorer window directly to the workspace area. The two movies are added to your project and buttons for them are added to your menu. You can see my menu in Figure 1.

Figure 1

I've added two movie files to my menu. The buttons that DVD Architect software has created will give my viewers a user interface through which they can choose to watch these movies individually.

Now, since you don't want a button for your Promo Movie, drag the Promo Movie from the Explorer directly to the Project Overview window. Drop the file onto the disc icon that represents the root level of your project in the Project Overview window. As you see in Figure 2, the Promo Movie now appears in your Project Overview media list, but no button exists for it on the menu.

Figure 2

The Promo Movie has been added to the project media list, but notice that it does not appear beneath the Brazil menu which indicates that no button exists on the menu for the movie.

Now, let's create the playlist. Choose Insert | Playlist. The Select Titles dialog box opens and lists all of the media that appears in your Project Overview window's media list, including the Promo Movie despite the fact that there is no menu button for that movie. If you have created other objects in your DVD such as music and picture compilations, those would appear in this list as well.

You can choose just the titles that you want to include in the playlist and sometimes you'll want to be selective about it. But in this case, we want all three movies, so click the Select All button and then click OK.

This adds the playlist to your Project Overview window's outline. Right-click the Playlist 1 icon in the project media list and choose Rename. Give your playlist a descriptive name. As shown in Figure 3, I've called mine "Play All".

Figure 3

The Project Overview window now includes the new playlist which I've renamed "Play All."

Now look at your menu. You now have a new button for the playlist (you might have noticed the link to it under the Brazil menu in Figure 3). You can see in Figure 4 that I've renamed my button, given it a piece of thumbnail artwork, and positioned it along with the other buttons on my menu.

Figure 4

I've labeled my new button "Play All" and positioned it along with the other buttons on my menu.

Now, preview your project and select the Play All button. As you preview your movies you'll see that they play in succession. However, you might find that they don't play in the proper order. Close the Preview window.

We've created the playlist, but there's still a little work to be done. Specifically, you need to make sure the movies are playing in the desired order. Click the Playlists tab in the window docking area to bring the Playlist window to the front.

The drop-down list shows all of the playlists in your project—at the moment you likely only have one. When you choose your playlist from the drop-down list, you can see its contents in the lower portion of the window. The movies will play in the order in which they appear in this list. If they are out of order, just drag them to reorder them.

For instance, say the last movie in the list is your promo movie. Drag the name of that movie up. A red bar indicates the position into which the title will drop if you release the mouse button. Position the red bar between the other two titles, as I have in Figure 5, and release the button. This reorders the titles so that the Promo Movie sits in the second position. Use the same technique to reorder the other movies if you need to.

Figure 5

The red bar indicates that I'm about to drop the Promo Movie between the other two titles.

Click one of the titles in the playlist. Notice that the Properties window now lists Playlist Properties. Click the General tab. Here you can set the play mode to either sequential (if you want the playlist to follow the order you specified in the Playlist window) or random. If you set it to random, you can further define whether the playlist will continue to play infinitely or for a specific number of times.

Click the End Action tab. Here you can specify what you want to happen after the playlist finishes playing. This enables you to direct the user experience even beyond the playlist. For instance, you can stop the DVD, link to another object on the disc like a specific menu button on any menu, play another movie, and so on. You can even set alternate audio, video, and subtitle tracks here.

Finally, click the Playlist Item tab. These properties relate specifically to the title that's currently selected in the Playlist window. In addition to setting the audio, video, and subtitle tracks here as well, you can target a specific chapter marker if the title is a video that contains multiple chapters.

This can be useful if you have a single movie that you want to include in a playlist but you want it to start somewhere other than the first chapter when it’s viewed through the playlist. For instance, maybe the movie has an introduction that you don’t want the viewer to see if they’re watching in the context of a playlist. You could insert a chapter marker after that introduction and set the Start Chapter property to start at that chapter instead of the beginning.

You can add multiple playlists to your project, so you can provide all kinds of different paths to viewing the content on your disc. With playlists in your bag of tricks, it's easy to create a DVD that directs the viewing experience as much or as little as you want.

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