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Custom Patches in DVD Studio Pro 4, Part 2

Adding custom highlights to patch-based buttons By Dave Nagel
Patches in DVD Studio Pro are custom elements that you can use to change the appearance of buttons in your menus. Functioning somewhat like Photoshop-based buttons, patches can take you far beyond simple still masks and styles with motion masks, motion shapes and even special effects like tinting and blurring. And, despite what DVD Studio Pro's user manual states, it is possible even to create your own custom patches for virtually unlimited possibilities.

Creating custom patches, however, can be tricky. There's no front-end mechanism in DVD Studio Pro for modifying existing patches or creating new ones. It's a separate process altogether, one in which you create the individual pieces and then assemble them, along with pre-existing patch elements, to form a new patch.

In our previous look at the creation of custom patches for DVD Studio Pro 4, we explored the basic process of creating a new patch shape with a motion mask--a useful technique that allows you to fade (or otherwise transition) a button's asset in and out over the duration of a motion menu. This first article forms the basis for all subsequent tutorials in this series, so, if you have not already done so, you should go back and read up on this. You can find it by clicking here.

This time around, we'll look at a second aspect of custom patch shapes--custom highlights. This is possibly the simplest step in the patch creation process (in that it doesn't require you to modify any property list files), but it still bears some explanation.

What the highlight file does and how it's limited
In our previous custom shape project, we defined a motion mask based on a QuickTime movie. Its sole purpose was to transition in the button asset at the start of the menu and then transition it out at the end. But, if you followed this procedure, one thing you probably noticed was that there was no way to tell when the button using this custom patch was selected or activated. This is owing to the fact that the previous custom patch lacked an element that defined a highlight. No highlight file, no highlight.

As with button shapes created as layered Photoshop files, custom patches require something to define the highlight region in a button so that when the button is selected or activated, it will give the viewer some visual feedback as to this fact. In the case of Photoshop-based shapes, the highlight is defined within a layer of the shape file. But in the case of custom patches, the highlight is defined by a separate TIFF image that's placed into the package (a .pox folder) containing all of the patch elements.

We'll look at how to create such a file and where to place it in your .pox folder.

Two notes before we move on. First, unlike other patch elements, the highlight file must be a still image. So you can't have a motion highlight flitting around your button. The highlight must be contained in a TIFF file, and the TIFF file must contain an alpha channel. Therefore, when you create your custom highlight, you'll need to do so in a program that can embed an alpha channel in a TIFF file. For this project, I'll be using Adobe Photoshop CS2 to do that.

Creating the highlight file
To begin, launch Photoshop and create a new document that has the same dimensions as the original elements from the patch you're working with. In the case of my new patch, based on "RectGradientRevealLeftNTSC" (which we used in our previous tutorial) that dimension is a whopping 1,200 x 623 pixels, even though the current mask I'm using in that patch is only 160 x 120. You need to make the highlight the size of the original patch elements, or it simply won't fit properly into the space of your button when you use it in DVD Studio Pro.

When you create the new document in Photoshop, make the background white, rather than transparent, so that you wind up with a "Background" in your Layers palette, rather than a standard transparent layer.

Now switch over to the Channels palette and add a new channel. Cal it "Alpha 1" (no quotes, but with a space between the "Alpha" and the "1").

Select this channel, if it isn't selected by default. This will turn your canvas black, which is the way we want it right now.

Now, it's within this alpha channel that we need to define our highlight shape. And in this respect, this will work a lot like the highlight layer in a regular Photoshop-based button shape. That is, you'll use varying degrees of gray to define where the highlight will appear, and you can use up to three shades of gray for that: White, light gray and dark gray

If you go into the Colors palette in Photoshop, you can set the proper values by switching the color model from RGB to Grayscale. Use the following values for your three shades of gray:

White: 0%
Light: 33%
Dark: 67%

It's best not to use black, as black will define the background.

Now, keeping the Alpha channel selected, start creating elements on your canvas. In my case, I'm just going to create a frame to define the highlight element using three shades of gray. (You'll see what to do with the shades of gray in the next section. They're used for mapping highlight colors to the highlight file later on. If you want to use only one highlight color in your project, then by all means use only one shade of gray to define the highlight region.)

Make certain that you have a sharp edge with little or no anti-aliasing when you create your highlight shapes. DVD players can't deal with anti-aliasing, and you'll cause yourself problems if you create highlights with soft edges.

Now I'm done with the creation of the highlight file. I just need to save it in the right format and put it in the right place. To save the highlight, choose File > Save As. Set the Format to "TIFF," and make sure you have the Alpha Channels checkbox checked. Save the file as "Highlight.tif" (one "f" in "tif"), and save it into the Contents directory of your patch folder (NOT the Materials directory).

And here are the TIFF options I used when saving it.

And now you're ready to use the patch and adjust the highlights in DVD Studio Pro.

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Related Keywords:dvd studio pro, custom patches, highlights, motion masks, apple dvd studio pro, final cut studio


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