DVD Menu Design:
May 8, 2002 4:28 PM   Subscribe

DVD Menu Design: The Failures of Web Design Recreated Yet Again. We've all been thinking it.
Very Nielsen-esque, for obvious reasons, but without a lot of what we hate Nielsen himself for.
posted by Su (18 comments total)
I always figured that the ideal DVD player, would be a piece of software that allowed you to override those goddamn useless menus. Add the ability to dissassemble the menu code, macros, and annotations for manually indexing everything on the disc, and you'd have a killer app.

I bought the disc, I'm not going to pirate the thing, now let me do whatever the hell I want with the contents.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:38 PM on May 8, 2002

Of course then you would be modifying a copyrighted piece of software and would be subject to legal penalty in that case. How f*d up is that?
posted by eyeballkid at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2002

I can plop in a VHS and press play, fast foward through crap I don't want. With DVDs not only do I have to sit through FBI warnings, but I have to deal with a 2 minute intro to a cute but complex interface. It's all nifty the first time, just the first time.
posted by geoff. at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2002

you know what, there's been plenty of times i've had trouble navigating a DVD-menu, and i think the same thing then that i think when i have the same sort of issue on a website... "i can do better".

so my question is, how are DVD menus made and how do i get a job doing them?
posted by jcterminal at 6:32 PM on May 8, 2002

There is nothing wrong with modifying some copyrighted material that you own, as long as you don't reproduce it for other people.

Also, you can sell 'diffs' if you really want to.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on May 8, 2002

"modifying some copyrighted material that you own, as long as you don't reproduce it for other people. "

Not according to the end user license agreements on most software (it is the software the runs the DVDs we're talking about, not the actual movie footage, right?)
posted by eyeballkid at 7:07 PM on May 8, 2002

This quote worries me:

Nobody quite knows what the DVD movie medium is.

I can just imagine the programmers working on the DVD menus. "We're just a dozen monkeys banging at keyboards hoping we code correctly".
posted by Neale at 7:25 PM on May 8, 2002

My Hitachi has a nice button, called "Disc-Navi". It brings up a screen with tabs for each title on the disc. Within each title, you get a thumbnail of each chapter. You can jump to any title on the disc almost instantly. Much better than sitting through copyright warnings.
posted by chrismear at 7:46 PM on May 8, 2002

I'm regularly stunned by to the cryptic crapulence of DVD menuing interfaces. Ever tried switching the language to Japanese and turning on English subtitles with an anime DVD? Arrgh. "Blood - The Last Vampire" took this often mysterious process to new lows, though random button pushing eventually saved the day.
posted by sad_otter at 9:34 PM on May 8, 2002

I personally just love when they disable the subtitle/audio buttons on the remote, and force you to use the menus to switch between them. Makes switching between commentaries and the real audio just that much better.
posted by smackfu at 9:46 PM on May 8, 2002

The software that runs the DVDs is built into your DVD player, though. The menus and such are just data files.

I'll take a cue from Roger Ebert's suggestion for making third-party commentary tracks available for download and suggest that players also accept third-party menu systems.
posted by kindall at 10:19 PM on May 8, 2002

Am I the only one who doesn't have much trouble with DVD interfaces? The only problem I've encountered has been with turning on the DTS, which is sometimes hidden in the language options. I've never had to wait long for the menu page to load or had trouble toggling between the elements. My only gripe is that the fantastic extra features are often pretty rubbish. But DVD's worth it for the ability to jump to any scene - only they should be named, not numbered.
posted by Summer at 4:09 AM on May 9, 2002

I prefer my menus non-interactive
posted by kahboom at 7:26 AM on May 9, 2002

I don't understand the appeal of being able to jump to an arbitrary spot in a movie. Doesn't the scene, viewed out of context, fall a bit flat without the dramatic build-up that came before it?

What the engineers bring, the lawyers take away, it seems.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:33 AM on May 9, 2002

No, Mars, not if it's a musical. Or a comedy with a particularly funny scene.
posted by Summer at 7:43 AM on May 9, 2002

Summer: on many DVDs the scenes are named as well as numbered. And I quite like most DVD interfaces myself, if they're well done (like Alien, which still has one of the coolest menus I've seen), so no, you're not the only one. Aside from all the other things I like about DVD, I simply can't watch VHS anymore, the picture and sound quality just doesn't compare to DVD.

Mars: I like watching certain scenes of my favourite movies, I don't always want to watch the whole film. And much of the time the scene markers are placed in logical spots in the movie, so that a given scene often includes enough of the lead-up to make sense. Besides that, if you've seen a film a few times, you don't always need to watch the whole thing to appreciate the impact of any given scene.

Many DVDs either have the copyright warnings at the end of the film, or allow you to skip them using the up button or the menu button (ones that don't are evil). Also, many DVD players can be set up to skip the menu and go directly to the start of the film on most DVDs by pressing the play button (depending on how the individual disc is configured). The manual should tell you how to set this up.

And I love Roger Ebert's idea about third-party commentary tracks. Count me in, I'd love to do some, and I'd love to hear some.
posted by biscotti at 7:45 AM on May 9, 2002

Mars: For some movies, yes. But for a movie like, say, Pulp Fiction, which actually appears as a bunch of semi-connected scenes if you watch it in order, being able to skip to a certain scene to watch just it is very cool.

[I have a weakness for the Jack Rabbit Slims scene and the following overdose. . . ]
posted by AdamJ at 8:07 AM on May 9, 2002

i see the boycott of the dvd format due to the outrageous actions of the mpaa is going well.

oh wait.
posted by lescour at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2002

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